Monday, 13 September 2010

Connaught's bottom line: a cautionary tale for fans of Future Shape

While I was helping out with the trades council stall against cuts and privatisation in Burnt Oak on Saturday, a Connaught van pulled up at the side of the road. I waylaid the passenger as they got out. They were from Hammersmith and Fulham. They too had been sacked - by text message - last week, but quickly re-employed by Lovell, the company that has taken over Connaught's more lucrative contracts. They had a lot of sympathy for the sacked Connaught workers in Barnet.

This story tells us a lot about what it means to rely on the private sector to provide public services. Basically, Connaught's contract with Barnet, due to be ended by Barnet itself in February, is just not worth any private company's time or effort. So now the workers are idle, and the repairs are going undone. Barnet Homes is negotiating for the contract to be taken on by a new company (and the 45 workers will have their third employer in a row), but if there isn't enough clear profit in it, no company will want to take it on. The workers will still be idle, and the repairs will still be undone.

Why should much-needed public services only get done when they can make a profit for someone? It doesn't make sense. The need is there, and the people are there to do the work. Where does profit come into it? It's the public purse that will pay for it in either case. Why wouldn't we want all of our money spent on the service, instead of some of it going into private pockets?

Barnet council should have done and bring the council house repairs back inhouse. The workers can go back to repairing people's houses and Barnet residents will be getting the best value for their money.


Anonymous said...

On Friday you stated tha Morgan Sindall had taken over the more lucrative contracts. "Lovell is a wholly owned subsidiary of Morgan Sindall plc, the construction and regeneration group we also retain that crucial local perspective."

Don't be surprised if Balfour Beatty's property maintenance division are also in the Barnet tender as they have done a lot of work on the Decent Homes upgrades. There is also the odd London ALMO with their company.

Barnet should have kept maintenance in-house, unfortunately it became the price for creating a Barnet Homes company. Whatever happens, lets hope we get better standard of repairs and plumbing in future

vickim57 said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

You're right, of course, Lovell is part of Morgan Sindall. That's another aspect of the whole privatisation problem: it's very hard for us ordinary punters to know who owns what, and who to complain to if things go wrong.

There's also the fact that companies can be bought and sold all the time, and go bust. At least one thing you can say in favour of Barnet council is it isn't going anywhere, and, nominally, we all own it!

vickim57 said...

Actually, that's two things!

Anonymous said...

No, only the first thing is something you can say in its favour.

The 'nominal' bit in the second thing is true, because the Icelandic banks partly own it.

At least Barnet cannot be towed across the North Atlantic as security.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous *1 (1st comment)
The Icelandic banks that partly 'own' Barnet are gone!and own zip.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous *1

Note the English High Street

so don't stop buying or Barnet definitely won't get their money