The public should know what some members of the public, some of them from Barnet Alliance for Public Services, learned in meetings with councillors in their ward surgeries during August and September:

  • That Cllr Joanna Tambourides of East Barnet, a Cabinet member, did not read any of the reports of the Association for Public Services Excellence offering constructive criticism of the One Barnet Programme of privatisation; nor did she attend any of the briefings about it that were held for councillors. Neither did she know about the £10.8 million that Barnet Council had paid in compensations to Catalyst, which runs our elderly care homes for profit, just because it didn’t make the profit it expected.

But she thinks that 25% risk of failure of the One Barnet Programme is nothing to worry about, that petitions signed by thousands of residents don’t mean a thing, and though we are all ‘entitled to our views’, these should not be considered when Cabinet makes decisions about the future of the borough. (18 August & 1st September ward surgeries)

  • That the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius, thinks a ‘further’ meeting with the Association for Public Services Excellence (APSE), which advises about 300 local authorities around the UK and which can help our council get the best value for money, ‘will not gain anything’ (Email 9/9/12), yet he did not report to the public what was discussed in one such meeting that apparently took place.
  • That all the offers by Unison, residents with relevant expertise and APSE to help develop a better alternative to the unprecedented and untested programme of privatisation (Cllr Longstaff, meeting Chipping Barnet 15 September) were ignored.
  • That Cllr Andrew Strongolou of Underhill didn’t read the critiques about One Barnet and takes ALL his information from senior officers, whose vested interests in outsourcing were proven again when one of those overseeing the privatisation of parking to NSL got a job in this company straight away. Cllr Strongolou didn’t seem to have a clue about One Barnet, but thinks it is a good programme.
  • That Cllr Rowan Turner of Underhill seemed at a loss when residents at his ward surgery (15 September Chipping Barnet) asked some simple questions about the considerations leading to the decision about the One Barnet Programme of privatisation. However, he had the good sense to fetch Cllr Cornelius, who came promptly to help…
  • That Cllr Longstaff of High Barnet was the only councillor who kept his promise and asked the CEO, Nick Walkley, whether residents and the unions who want to offer a viable alternative to the One Barnet Programme could have access to the data needed for developing an in-house bid. (The public should know that for the past four years requests to allow in-house bids have been blocked by the the CEO, who prefers the outsourcing of 70-90% of all council-run services.) Cllr Longstaff, a Cabinet member, asked Mr Walkley and accepted his ‘NO’ as an answer, as if Mr Walkley were the boss. As a Cabinet member, Cllr Longstaff could have, and should have, instructed Mr Walkley to allow this access. The Council would then be able to compare the resulting in-house bid with the bids of the multinational organisations and make an informed decision in the best interests of residents.
  • That the Cabinet, only a 10-member body, is going to sign off our lives in this borough for the next 10-15 years without listening to its residents or to serious professional critics.
  • That councillor Brian Coleman had the gall to mention a potential rise in councillors’ allowances while council staff salaries are being frozen and redundancies are being made. In fact, no rise is needed anyway, as councillors won’t need to work as hard as in the past after One Barnet is implemented, because they will have no power to monitor quality of services or advocate on their constituents’ behalf for the 10-15 years’ duration of the contracts. (Cllr Jack Cohen column, The Press 13/9/12)

Councillors should know that the least we can do in this age of ‘drive for relentless efficiency’ is revise their remuneration to reflect their lighter workload. Savings need to be made – we cannot afford to continue to pay £1 million in allowances to councillors who have less to do – and reducing councillors’ allowances by the same percentage of services they are outsourcing, hence will no longer have to oversee, would seem fair to taxpayers.

Those councillors who approve the One Barnet programme should know that we, the residents who will need to pay for the profit on Capita or BT or not get a service, will not vote for them again, because they have proven themselves unwilling to listen to their constituents or to act in their best interests. Residents paying for councillors’ mistakes will be voting for those people who will try to restore services and democracy to Barnet.

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