Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Residents' associations anxious about Future Shape

The Federation of Residents Associations of Barnet (FORAB) have written an open letter to Mike Freer (28 November 2008), sent to the local papers. It expresses their concerns about the Future Shape process:

Dear Councillor Freer,

Future Shape of the Council

I am writing on behalf of FORAB to express our grave reservations on the current proposals for the future shape of our Council.

We expect Councillors to keep under constant review the services that the council offers and the way in which they are carried out to ensure that they are the services needed and that best value for money is delivered.

From the report that is going to Cabinet next week we see no evidence how either of these expectations will be delivered.

The thrust appears to be that outsourcing is the future for most if not all services based on contracts with the Council. Unfortunately the public are sceptical about the efficacy of such an approach eg NHS and cleaning and all Government departments' IT replacements. These shortcomings have been repeated in Barnet eg the inability to change the former recycling contract, the sale of the site at Underhill and the recent major expense on IT and visual equipment to name but three examples. The only winners are always the lawyers.

We are greatly concerned at the secrecy to date and undue haste with which it is being proposed to take the matter forward.

There may be some merit in the proposals but this will only become clear and possibly acceptable to the electorate if all of the proposals are exposed to examination and discussion with the people of Barnet who will pay for the services and are in the best position to decide if they are value for money. Furthermore they will be able to spot what is flawed and what is workable.

If the proposals are sound you will be able to implement them with much public support and if they are flawed the Council tax payers of Barnet will be saved from a very expensive disaster.

We urge you to slow down the programme and consult widely with all interested parties including individuals and groups who have a variety of expertise.

Yours sincerely,

David Howard, Chair of FORAB

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