Monday, 26 September 2011

Death and Taxes in Broken Barnet - another outsourcing opportunity

They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.

In Broken Barnet, Mrs Angry supposes, you have to make that three certainties: death, taxes and Brian Coleman. And here, citizens, is a post which neatly addresses all three of these grim subjects.

On Tuesday night - tomorrow night - we have the next Broken Barnet Cabinet Resources committee meeting. Sounds awfully dull, doesn't it? Worse than dull, the Chair of the meeting is the glacial young Tory councillor Daniel Thomas, surrounded by the committee from hell that is Brian Coleman, Richard Cornelius, Andrew Harper, Sachin Rajput and Robert Rams. Oh, and on the agenda is one very interesting item, given an innocuous heading, in the hope that we will not see it for the disgusting, greedy little One Barnet business venture that it really is.

Item 10: Replacement of cremators, building works, renovations and compliance with mercury abatement legislation at Hendon Cemetery & Crematorium

Mrs Angry has several close family members interred in the grounds of Hendon Cemetery, as it happens, and was alarmed to see it listed on this agenda, knowing what she does about the One Barnet profit hungry drive to squeeze every last business opportunity out of our community resources. Oh, but surely, Mrs Angry, you may be asking - despicable in every way though they may be, surely the Tory councillors of our borough will draw the line at making use of the dead for their grubby little easycouncil agenda?

Wise up. This is Broken Barnet.

Hendon Cemetery was opened in 1899, and the crematorium added in 1922. It has forty acres of grounds. As the report admits, the facilities have been neglected by the council and have left the place in a dreadful state, which to anyone who has to arrange a funeral there, or attend the grave of a family member, is frankly very upsetting. In addition, the 'cremators' ie the incinerators are 'living on borrowed time' - prone to breaking down, a potential health and safety risk, and simply not fit for purpose. The whole enterprise has been allowed to deteriorate to a disgraceful and dangerous condition by the authority, in other words. Or, as the report puts it:

9.12 The dilapidations, disrepair and lack of modern, fit for purpose facilities act as a deterrent to using Hendon as a venue of choice. Upgrading and bringing back into use buildings within the gatehouse will provide a new modern public facing reception and office facility.

9.13 Renovation and improvement to the buildings and site generally will provide an enhanced and more appealing customer experience for the bereaved.

Ah yes: a more appealing customer experience. Hendon Crematorium, a venue of choice.

For f*cks sake, councillors of Broken Barnet. You are talking about grief, and loss - not a marketing opportunity.

But no, Mrs Angry is being foolish and sentimental. Everything that our councillors can get their sweaty little hands on is now a marketing opportunity. And the only reason our elected representatives are suddenly gripped with anxiety over the state of the place is because of its inclusion in the £275 million DRS package of services being out to tender (in parallel with the £750 million written about elsewhere).

Believe it or not, the slavering outsourcing companies waiting in in the parlour of the One Barnet knocking shop have a necrophiliac like interest in the substantial revenues offered by crematoria. There is profit in death, you know, being something that can't easily be avoided, even in Broken Barnet.

Earlier this year, of course, Cabinet member for the Environment Councillor Coleman upped the charges for those residents foolish enough to dare to die under the rule of One Barnet, thinking they can get away with the old rate of burial fees. Even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Brian Coleman and the One Barnet manifesto will be at their side. With a whopping bill.

One of the committee reports a few months ago coolly listed, in clinical bureacratic detail, the scale of increased new charges for still born babies, and children under three years old. This part of the report had disappeared, Mrs Angry noted, by the next meeting. But the lesson was clear: nothing is more important in One Barnet than profit, and even grief has its charge.

In order to make Hendon Cemetery into the attractive proposal it could be, the report going to committee tomorrow night is asking for a capital sum to pay for a list of improvements. A truly staggering sum of £1,743,734 is needed in order to prepare the Cemetery for outsourcing.

It is claimed in the report that 'the works will be funded from capital receipts'. This is of course nonsense: how on earth can you depend on capital receipts you do not have, in order to pay for this? Where is the money coming from? How can we afford it? And when the cemetery maintenance and cremation service is sold off, the charges will rise even more in order for the company to take its profit.

In other words, here we have another example of the stinking truth of the One Barnet programme: it is costing us, the residents, millions of pounds to support and has saved us NOTHING in return.

Oh, and here is a funny thing: almost forgot - really, Mrs Angry, standards are slipping - take a look at this part of the report ... (Mrs Angry's highlighting in red to make it easy for even the dopiest Tory councillor to understand):

Options Appraisal

9.9 HCC has, as a result of the decision by Cabinet Resources Committee on 23rd April 2009, mentioned in paragraph 2.1, undergone an options appraisal and soft market testing with the major providers within the industry, which found that when considered as a standalone business, an in house delivery with the required investment would be most attractive from a financial perspective.

In other words, it was recognised that - HELLO - spending nearly two million pounds on doing up Hendon Cemetery in order to give it away as a nice present to an outsourcing company might not be the best use of residents' money.

What has changed? This is a question the Tory councillors might like to consider.

What has changed is that those pushing the One Barnet balls, for whatever reasons we may imagine, are desperate to throw the cemetery services into the DRS package as a sweetener for the outsourcing tendering companies. And they are prepared to spend whatever it takes with our money to acheive this. We, the residents of Broken Barnet, are paying to enable the future profitability of private companies engaged in a process we are told is purely to save us money. It is a disgraceful, blatant betrayal of the best interests of the residents of this borough.

We are continually being forced to listen to the mantra of One Barnet, better services for less money, ruthless drive for efficiency: citizens - this is absolute drivel. Neither efficiency nor savings will ensue as a result of the massive outsourcing that the council is pushing through. Why are they pushing it through?

Of course the senior management team has its own agenda, and won't be around when the implications for this borough are all too plain for us to see - the terrible services, the continual rise in costs. Why should they care?

And the Tory councillors of Broken Barnet?

Most of them are too stupid to understand the implications. And the rest of them are scheming bastards who don't give a damn about the consequences.


Anonymous said...

Reading your post, it strikes me as having the same impact as the revelations about Milly Dowler and the News of the World. People could laugh off actors and sports persons having their phone hacked just as few people really care about things like refuse collection being outsourced. You can't pass over hacking into the phone of a missing girl who was later found dead. Likewise, you can't making the outsourcing of cemeteries look anything other than the actions of a mercenary bunch of bastards. This is a place to grieve and remember, a place of rest and love and memories, not somewhere to be hawked out.

I hope the local Barnet press cover this story in the way you have and start getting some local people active against the outsourcing plan.

Mrs Angry said...

Yes, Andy: there is something gruesomely symbolic about this particular marketing venture. No money to maintain the cemetery on behalf of grieving residents, but happy to mug them to pay for its make over to keep potential tendering companies interested. Just appalling.

Rog T said...

At my mother in laws funeral we had a film crew filming on the other side of the chapel. A surreal experience that didn't exactly help. They've been on about this crap for years and it is sickening

Mrs Angry said...

I have five relatives interred there. The contrast between this place and the town cemetery up in Durham where other family members are buried is acute: the grounds there are beautifully maintained, with great care and conscientiousness. The difference is that, despite the area being a not particularly affluent, former mining area, the local authority has always been a Labour one and supports the community, and does not see a burial place as a marketable commodity.