Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Who is right for Brunswick Park?

This Thursday, 31 May, the voters of Brunswick Park ward will choose a councillor to replace the late leader of the council Lynne Hillan.

Labour and Conservative are hotly contesting the seat. After the strong showing by Labour in the ward on 3 May (Labour's Andrew Dismore outpolled Conservative Brian Coleman), it looks as though the ward could begin to fall to Labour (the current 3 councillor places are held by the Conservatives).

But no one is taking anything for granted. It is all to play for!

The temptation for the broad coalition that defeated Brian Coleman is to think that they might steam into Brunswick Park as if it were just the next domino to topple. I hope we have not done that. We have done a lot, however!

The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) discussed this election a few weeks ago, and we identified one key aim: to use the election as a chance to explain to one whole Barnet ward electorate something of what Barnet council is planning with its One Barnet mass outsourcing plan. That's more than the council has ever troubled to do!

We produced a rather professional looking leaflet (for which I wrote some of the copy). And BAPS volunteers have delivered it to every household - around 10,000 of them - in the ward over the last two weekends: a considerable achievement. More copies are being distributed at local stations and shops this week.

(The Barnet Bugle put the leaflet on his blog - which is more than I've had time to do! Please ignore his comment about BAPS being "unabashedly left wing" - we are unabashed, but we're not all particularly left-wing!)

BAPS volunteers have visited different parts of the ward; we organised a screening of the "A Tale of Two Barnets" film. (The film has now been shown in nearly 20 screenings around the borough; again, all organised by BAPS volunteers.)

I hope that the work we have done will have an echo in the vote on Thursday. How will we know? A lower relative score for the Conservatives would be the most obvious indicator, although the result will be the result of several factors, including how the voters judge the national political scene.

Other bloggers have talked about the candidates, Mrs Angry has the most detail. If one were only to judge on character, I think the Labour candidate Andreas Ioannidis would make a fine councillor.

But the election is also about local, Barnet policies. Every resident needs to know about the One Barnet plan and its likely impact on services and the quality of life here in the borough - things that will affect us all.

One Barnet is, quite simply, a huge gamble: two enormous contracts handed to two (potentially, just one) large multinational company, to run practically all of the services in the borough for the next 10 years.

If this outsourcing plan goes pear-shaped (and there are good reasons to fear it might), residents will pick up the tab. Whatever happens, in order to pay for a multinational's profits, and to make the meagre savings that One Barnet is supposed to deliver to Barnet, we will have to put up with worse, less accountable, and more remote services.

The vote on Thursday is, in part, a referendum on the current Conservative administration's One Barnet policy. Labour is pledged to stop the privatisation process, and seek savings from within the council, while working with staff and residents to improve efficiency.

Brunswick Park residents have an important choice this Thursday. For their own sake, I would urge them to vote Labour.

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