Barnet TUC hired the venue for the occasion, and the anti-cuts group, the Barnet Alliance for Public Services, did much of the work to publicise the event, and stewarded on the night.
A lot of people have put a lot of work into this project, in the first place, naturally, the director Charles Honderick and the producer Roger Tichborne. They have done an excellent job.
"A Tale of Two Barnets" is a film about aspects of life in Barnet today, under the current Conservative regime, both national and local. Yes, it was critical of both. (Although it could have been a lot worse!)
The film focused in on some of the issues that have exercised Barnet residents lately. These included the rises in parking charges, and the rises in charges for adult social care services. They have a common theme: Revenue Income Optimisation (RIO). The council, responding to a smaller grant from central government, is casting about for ways to increase its take from those services it charges for. RIO (a lot less fun than it sounds) means that someone visiting a resident living in one of the borough's Controlled Parking Zones must now pay £4 for the privilege if they want to park - until recently, the price of a visitor permit was £1.
And RIO means vulnerable adults having, for example, to pay more in order to visit day centres. As a consequence some decide that they cannot afford to - then they miss out on social interaction, and their carers can miss out on vital respite. (I know how important this is, since I share in the care of an older person.)
And a third theme covered in depth in the film was the One Barnet programme: the plan to privatise most of the council's services through offering (to date) three large contracts to the private sector. Part of the justification given for this alarming leap in the dark is, again, the cuts in the money from central government. (Few of us who know anything about One Barnet believe that it will ever save any money at all. Indeed, it could end up costing residents more, and is likely to lead to worse services.)
I could go on all night. You must see the film for yourself! Its stars include: bloggers Mrs Angry (Broken Barnet blog) and Mr Mustard (LBB Spending blog), Professor Dexter Whitfield, Julian Silverman, Linda Edwards, David Attfield and so on...
The council was given the chance to have their say in the persons of the Chief Executive Nick Walkley and council leader Richard Cornelius.
Richard Cornelius is a politician, supposed to be in charge of what happens in the council. In this film he has all the best lines - and, of course, completely unscripted. Memorably, this, for example:
“I’m not sure there is much I can change about Barnet, so I have set my expectations quite low.”Gobsmacking, but at least he delivers this line with a disarming smile.
Nick Walkley is a charmless, overpaid local government technocrat, who, with his friends, is behind the drive to privatisation. His salary, £200,000+ per year, puts him among the top 1% of earners in the country. (Chancellor George Osborne is likely to grant him a tax cut in the Budget today.) Yes, those people going on recently about being the 99% were defining themselves against... the Nick Walkleys of this world. Makes you shudder.
Go and see the film, which will have many more showings around the borough in the coming weeks. See for yourself what you think. This should be a real eye-opener for many residents!
New screenings will be publicised on the film's official website here, and I hope to plug them as they come up. If you would like to screen the film in your area, enquiries please on 07754 910425.