The more opposition to One Barnet grows, the closer it comes, as the ruling Conservatives look to force it through, after their choice of Capita as their preferred bidder. It is not often that I agree with Brian Coleman, now suspended from the Conservative whip, but his apparent late conversion against One Barnet is right.
The problems of privatisation are well known. Ever since I was appointed to the London Fire Authority this Summer, we have been bogged down in sorting out the mess of the failed AssetCo fire brigade fleet maintenance contract, with the last straw sacking of the contractor for persistent underperformance a couple of weeks ago, as the bank pulled the plug on them too.
What is clear, is that once a service is privatised there is no going back, especially if the jobs are moved hundreds of miles away, as the Council propose. “TUPE” is of little use to our loyal staff who want to stay in London, rather than move to Belfast.
Whatever the Conservatives say about safeguards in the details of the contract, in practice the proposed 10 year deal will allow the contractor to hold the Council to ransom, with all our eggs in one basket. The people of Barnet may be able to vote out the councillors responsible at the next election-but they cannot vote out Capita, and that will be the case for the next 3 local elections, too!
This is just the start. The Council plans to privatise more services, like planning control. Where will this be run from? As it is, one of the biggest complaints is that the Planning Inspectorate appeal system is run from distant Bristol, with no local knowledge! How much worse will it be if the Council’s own planners are based elsewhere, too?
The Conservatives have no electoral mandate for what they are doing, as leaked emails show. It was not in their last council election manifesto. Yet we are told the Council Tory boy leadership behind this crazy idea intend to impose a heavy whipped vote on their colleagues. when I was MP for Hendon, my view was that if I was asked to vote for something not in the election manifesto, then I was entitled to use my discretion whether to follow the whip or not.
I urge the Conservative backbenchers on the Council to adopt the same approach and at the 11th hour to reject this awful scheme.