Monday, 9 July 2012

Labour calls for referendum on One Barnet

Tuesday night's (10 July) Barnet council meeting promises to be interesting. Go along if you can! It is from 7pm at Hendon Town Hall, the Burroughs, NW4. The paperwork is here.

The Labour group have submitted a motion calling for a referendum on the Conservative group's One Barnet privatisation programme. Under this programme, the vast bulk of council services will be handed over to be run by the private sector.

It is the scale of this programme that is most frightening. For 10 years, two companies (or perhaps just one, if Capita win both contracts) will run most of Barnet council's services, in return for £1bn of our money. This would be a frightening prospect even if Barnet were good at procurement and monitoring contracts. They aren't, so it's truly horrifying.

The text of Labour's motion is:
Let local people decide if they want the £1bn ‘One Barnet’ gamble

Council notes the Conservative’s One Barnet plan to gamble around £1bn of council tax-payers’ money by selling-off 70 per cent of council services to the private sector this autumn.

Council notes this will tie the council in to 10 year contracts, with no direct control by elected councillors and limited ability to bring services back inhouse should the plan fail.

Council believes the risk of service failure to local residents, and the financial risks to the council of the One Barnet programme are too large and that it should be stopped – particularly given the council’s appalling track record of procurement failures.

Council also believes that local residents deserve to have their say on whether they want the One Barnet programme to go ahead.

Council calls on Cabinet to hold a referendum on the One Barnet sell-off programme with immediate effect.
Labour's motion should be supported. The Conservative ruling group on Barnet council say that residents don't care who runs services. Let's find out, shall we? The One Barnet programme was not in the Conservative group's manifesto for the local elections in 2010 (in fact, very little was). Giving residents the chance to say a simple 'yes' or 'no' to the programme should tell us what they really think.

Of course, that will be after a proper public debate, the thing that the Conservatives have completely failed - no, refused - to have.

I predict that the Conservatives' main argument tomorrow night will be the cost. 'When we are cash-strapped, etc, why spend money on a referendum?' 'We are tied in to this process - competitive dialogue - already, we have already spent so much money on consultants, etc...' (They're not wrong about that: the figure now for consultancy, etc, on the One Barnet Programme is £25 million.)

However, the cost if the One Barnet programme goes ahead, and the contracts are awarded, could be absolutely enormous. Let Barnet residents decide whether they want to take the gamble!

P.S. If Labour's motion falls tomorrow night, Barnet Alliance will go ahead with its petition calling for a referendum. I will share the details soon: the petition will be hosted on Barnet council's own e-petitions website as well as collected on paper.

P.P.S. Tuesday's meeting will also see the debut of Brunswick Park's newly elected Labour councillor Andreas Ioannidis, and Helen Michael, North Finchley traders spokesperson, will present the traders' petition against the council's disastrous parking policies. What a packed programme!

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