Saturday, 16 June 2012

The guinea pig is still alive... but for how much longer?

I started this blog in 2008 as a diary of the campaign against Barnet council's privatisation plan "One Barnet".

In 2008 "One Barnet" was called "Future Shape", as in "the future shape of the council". Naturally, people made lots of puns about "pear shaped", as in "it's all gone pear shaped".

For a while the privatisation plan was known - at least in the national news media - as easyCouncil, a phrase adopted with some bravado by Mike Freer (now an MP, then leader of the council).

I added a small picture of a guinea pig to the sidebar of my blog, to show that what the council were trying to do in Barnet was an experiment, and one that could be very dangerous to the subject.

Each year I have added an apt quotation about Future Shape/easyCouncil/One Barnet to convey the risk involved.

I had been wondering what to use for this year's (!) quotation but the recent damning APSE report (see here) provides more than enough chilling examples.

So, to remind us where we've been and where, alas, we might still be headed, here are the quotations from the years, finishing up with the quotation for this year. None of this is anything but dismaying:

"This model has a sound theoretical basis... [sic] However it is unproven at this scale." Future Shape cabinet report, 3 December 2008

"Nobody has said this is going to be easy, it's a work in progress, some of it will never see the light of day." Barnet council leader Mike Freer, 16 November 2009

"I do not believe Soviet bureaucratic initiatives like One Public Sector, Labour’s Total Place (and Barnet’s Future Shape / Easy Council) ideas are... the way forward." Barnet councillor Mark Shooter, 4 September 2010

“There are... many examples of long-term partnerships where the commitment and enthusiasm of the provider has waned over the duration of the contract. Major... organisations will generally resource extensively during the first year, or two, of a new contract but this level of resourcing diminishes as the contract moves to a more stable business as usual position.” One Barnet Procurement Principles, 1 March 2011

"...there can be little confidence that Barnet has the capability, and perhaps more worryingly the culture, necessary to meet the challenge posed by the letting and management of contracts that, under the One Barnet plan, will be far bigger than anything the Council has previously dealt with. The risk of implementing a strategy based almost entirely on contracting out is high and can only be magnified by the reduction in client capacity envisaged in the commissioning model. A reasonable council would take account of this and if it is unable to take the necessary steps to increase confidence in its procurement and contract management, could only conclude that moving forward to an unprecedented level of outsourcing would be reckless to the point of being unlawful." 'London Borough of Barnet: Procurement and Contract Management', Association for Public Service Excellence, March 2012

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