Your report on Barnet's madcap privatisation schemes (Auditor challenges Tory 'easyCouncil' model, 24 September) left out one other fact which incenses local residents. The Barnet councillors trying to slash services have given themselves huge allowance rises. The council leader recently got a 55% rise to £54,000 a year, while other leading councillors saw their allowances double to £35,000. The best-known of these councillors, Brian Coleman, was quoted in July as saying: "I don't have to justify what I earn. Councillors are worth every penny they earn."* Not to be confused with David Miller of "Not the Barnet Times" blog fame.
Roger Kline, Barnet, Hertfordshire
Just to be clear, the phrase "generally robust" used to describe the governance and planning of our Future Shape change programme was not the council's defence, but the words of Grant Thornton, the independent auditors.
As Future Shape has moved into the delivery phase, Grant Thornton also made a series of recommendations about changes to governance that reflect this. These recommendations are sensible and have been adopted.
Nor has the council any policy of closing libraries. We are, however, asking residents how they would like their library service to be delivered. Changes may involve the current building stock – or a more innovative solution. But protecting public services cannot mean the simple replication of last year's model.
Cllr Lynne Hillan, Leader, Barnet council
One of the biggest casualties of Barnet council's new policy is likely to be the voluntary sector. The charity I work for provides advice on a range of issues, particularly welfare benefits, debt and housing, to disadvantaged members of the community. Just the sort of activity David Cameron has been encouraging us to do. But Barnet has now stopped our modest grant and told us we will have to vacate our premises early next year, so we will probably have to close, with the loss of 30 trained volunteers. The "big society"? It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.
David Miller*, Secretary, East Finchley Advice Service
Monday, 27 September 2010
Replies to the Guardian article on Future Shape/easyCouncil/One Barnet
Guardian letters has some responses to the article last week about the Grant Thornton report on Future Shape/easyCouncil/One Barnet, and the more recent report on Suffolk council's plan to outsource all their services.