No to One Barnet!

One Barnet is a scheme Barnet Council is trying to introduce which involves gambling with £1bn of taxpayers’ money. The Tory council wants to hand 70% of our services over to private outsourcing companies. These services will include planning, highways, cemeteries and crematoria, trading standards, environmental health, council tax collection, the council’s IT, human resources, finance departments and more. Although it is claimed One Barnet will save the council money if it proceeds, it will cost Barnet residents more for public services such as cremations and burials. It is an experiment, one which other councils are seeking to follow, but one which people are worried will end up as catastrophic failure.

Under the proposals, if One Barnet goes ahead, when you contact Barnet Council, whether by phone, e-mail or even visiting the council offices, you will be dealing with a private contractor, not someone employed by the council. The council call centre might not even be in London, let alone Barnet. The contract will be run from 2013 until 2023, possibly even 2028. This means that if One Barnet goes ahead, we will be stuck with it for at least ten years, possibly more. The upshot is that Barnet residents cannot vote out One Barnet at the next election; once it begins, the contract cannot be ended democratically.

To make matters worse, if in ten years’ time people decide to end One Barnet, there would still be a huge financial bill to pay for the complex and difficult task of re-establishing local control of all our services. Two local examples prove this. One is Connaught, which was an external contractor that Barnet Council brought in to run repairs for social housing. Connaught went bust, leaving many sub-contractors out of pocket. The other is Catalyst, which was a care home provider to the council. Barnet Council signed a long contract but found out later on that circumstances had changed. To get out of this contract, Barnet Council ended up shelling out £10.5m in compensation and costs. If One Barnet proceeds, the exact same thing could happen but on a much larger scale.

Connaught and Catalyst show the dangers of outsourcing. Not only does it bring financial problems for working class people, it undermines local democracy. If One Barnet goes ahead, it will be a disaster for the people of Barnet.

Samar Barakat

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013


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