Thursday, 10 March 2011

Strike against easyCouncil - planning and regulatory services

Press release today from national Unison HQ


UNISON, the UK’s largest union, announced today that more than 140 staff at Barnet Council’s Regulatory Service’s Department*, are to take industrial action, in a bid to remain directly employed by the council**.

Barnet council is a flagship for the Tory’s small-state vision of outsourced public service delivery. Instead of directly providing services, the council plans to shrink the workforce down to a small core of a few hundred staff, who will commission services from outside providers – the current workforce is 3,500.

The Regulatory Services Department is first in line for sell off, which includes Trading Standards and Licensing, Land Charges, Environmental Health, Planning and Development, Highways, Cemeteries, Registrars, Building Control. The programme of action is designed to cause maximum disruption to councillors and to their plans, but very little inconvenience to local residents.

Vicky Easton, UNISON head of local government in London, said:

“Barnet’s easyCouncil project should not be allowed to get off the runway. From the start it’s been poorly run, it’s bad for democracy and it’s not what local people want. We know the council failed to do a proper business plan, and so far they’ve spent more money trying to generate efficiencies than they’ve saved.

“In Margaret Thatcher’s old constituency, council bosses should have learnt the lessons from the doomed 1980’s mass privatisations. Once big companies come in, they trim services back to the bare bones - regardless of local people - happily creaming off profits. By contrast, in-house bids mean that cash-savings can be re-invested into giving the public better services.

“Many council workers are Barnet residents too – they wont just stand aside and watch the council take a wreaking ball to local services. This department is well run and staff want to remain directly employed by the council. We’ve tried to negotiate, we’ve presented the council with alternative proposals, but they stubbornly refuse to listen. Staff do not take action lightly, but they’ve tried everything else – they have no other choice.

“The action starting next week will cause maximum disruption for councillors and for their agenda, but have a minimum impact on the public. We remind the employers they could avoid action by getting into talks.”

Action will begin on Wednesday 16 March. Staff will stop answering calls, attending meetings and other support work.

Information to editors:

*Full list of departments

Trading Standards and Licensing
Land Charges
Planning and Development
Building Control and Structure
Registration (births, deaths and marriages)
Environmental Health
Highways Strategy
Highways Network and Management
Highways Traffic and Development
Highways Transport and Regeneration
Strategic Planning and Regeneration
Cemeteries and Crematoria

**The trade dispute is over identity of employer – the workers want to remain directly employed by the council.

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