2008 – 2011 Barnet Council draft procurement strategy proposes that the Council
will “develop a detailed assessment of the overall model for public service
commissioning design and delivery … procuring a capacity vehicle… and a number
of service delivery vehicles”. No, they aren’t setting up a pizza delivery
business, or employing the age old salami tactic. This is pure Thatcherism, a
return to the lunacy of the 1980s, where Tory ministers dreamed of the day that
the council would get elected, turn up to the Annual General Meeting and dish
out all of the contracts.
the proposal calls for the establishment of a new regime where, “The
future Council should be strategic rather than operational, focused on
convening and working with its partners to prioritise and commission the public
services that should be provided in the borough, rather than delivering
In this brave new world the senior officers in the
Council should be the ‘senior officers
of the whole borough’ working across current organisational boundaries,
leading programmes of work relating to key problems and challenges rather than
To do this the Council will “work
closely with markets to test and develop models of service delivery. It would
not deliver services itself but would be responsible for managing the alliances
intend to set up a “joint venture company” with the private sector, transfer
4,000 workers out of local authority employment and leave a skeleton staff of
commissioners and auditors. They are proposing to privatise the Council!
is the only proposal that’s been made and, in true Thatcherite fashion, “there
is no alternative” proposed. The report commissioned by Barnet UNISON makes the
obvious point that this proposal drives a coach and horses through a whole
range of government regulations that the council is supposed to adhere to, in
respect for example to “Value for Money”.
the Union report points out: “Furthermore,
to proceed to a Business Case, a procurement process and organizational change
without this being underpinned by a full options appraisal could leave the
Council open to judicial review and performance criticism under the
Comprehensive Area Assessment”.
Tories change the goalposts
many readers of Socialist Appeal will remember the hard work and diligence that
the Tories employed in the 1980s to attack local democracy and attack Labour
Councils, that they accused of wasting money and “playing politics” with
government money. Every bright idea that the Labour authorities employed to get
round the rules and use “creative accountancy” was jumped on with all the force
of “the law”. In other words the Tories changed the goalposts at every
opportunity and gradually tightened the noose on local authority powers.
proposed cuts in this year’s budget such as the highly effective Welfare Rights
Unit and £950,000 of cuts in Sheltered Housing are a sign of things to come.
The proposals for the future shape of the council mean massive outsourcing and
privatisation, mean only one thing – wage and staff cuts. Most local authority
services are very labour intensive. The only way to attract the private sector
is to offer them “fields of profitable investment”. This means fewer workers on
less money doing more work.
workers may ask, “Haven’t we got the TUPE Regulations?” – the rules aimed at
protecting employment rights when jobs are hived off. The Barnet Tories intend
to use the TUPE process, but the Union points out that the Council hasfailed to
protect workers who have been TUPE’ed in the past. The intention is quite
clear, to dismantle the democratic structure of the Council and hand over the
services to the cowboys.
How can the Tory plan
is extremely unlikely that the current New Labour government will act to stop
the Tories from carrying through this programme; in fact it’s quite possible
that the Tories will seek to use Barnet as a flagship for the future shape of
local authorities in Britain. In this respect the fight against this proposal
is a forerunner for every council under a Tory government. From the point of
view of any struggle to fight the plans it is vital not to put too much faith
in “the law”.
UNISON has produced an excellent website which carries a wealth of material
about the Tories plans. This material needs to be spread as widely as possible
and Barnet needs to become a strategic battleground for UNISON nationally.
Labour and the labour movement as a whole are in opposition now in large areas
of the country. The Tories are looking to set the tone in local government,
which is a very important political platform for any opposition party.
campaign around the defence of the Welfare Rights Unit and against the cuts in
sheltered housing needs to be expanded to draw in the whole membership of the
union, service users and workers in the local area.
Tories no doubt feel they are on a winner. They need to be met by the
collective strength of the entire labour and trade union movement in North West
London. Unless we fight this one, we face the prospect of twenty Barnet Councils
attacking workers up and down the country.
It’s not just Barnet.
Here’s a press release from Essex UNISON.
COUNCIL CABAL PLOT ‘CLOSING DOWN’ SELL OFF
Essex County Council has disclosed a secret credit crunch plan to sell
off a broad swathe of public services to private bidders. The news, which
emerged in the form of a statutory notice in the obscure Official Journal of
the European Union, has been kept a closely guarded secret, even from the
Council’s own members.
The deal, which is worth over £5 billion over an eight year period,
offers virtually any public service for sale. These could include management of
schools, social care and environmental services. None of the proposals were
discussed by any Council Committee.
Kumar Sandy, UNISON Regional Officer said:
“This deal is the brainchild of tiny cabal operating in the inner
sanctum of the Council. In simple terms, they want to sell off Essex County
Council like it was Woolworths.
A few ideologically driven Councillors, working through senior officers
want to turn your Council into a market place which sells off chunks of our
public services at knock down prices to private bidders.
All that would be left of the Council would be a few highly paid
administrators auctioning off public services to cut throat contractors. It is
the polar opposite of the ideals of democracy, transparency and public service
we want to see in local government.
Figures from the Audit Commission demonstrate that 70% of schemes of
this kind fall flat on their face, at a huge cost to taxpayers. The only
difference here is that, in complete disregard of the evidence, Essex plan to
upscale the experiment. It’s ‘everything must go’ in a closing down sale.
Kumar Sandy added:
“We have only seen a precedent for a scheme of this kind and that was in
Bedfordshire when a few services were sold off to a company called HBS. It was
a complete shambles, and the services had to be bought back into public control
at a cost of £7 million. Essex now plans to repeat the experiment on a far
bigger scale and with far bigger risks. These ideas represent a return to the
Thatcher-like ideology of the eighties and would be a disaster for the people