Sunday 2 September 2012

We put our trust in you: a letter from Barnet Alliance to our councillors

Mrs Angry has just been sent a copy of an open letter, a remarkably restrained and polite letter, in the circumstances, sent to all Barnet councillors by Barnet Alliance, a cross party organisation of residents campaigning to defend out local council services from the dire consequences of the One Barnet programme of privatisation:

Open Letter to all 63 Councillors in the London Borough of Barnet

Dear Councillors,

It must be a challenging task to make decisions on behalf of all the residents in the London Borough of Barnet. These decisions involve so many areas of our lives – education, social care, health, housing, the environment. It must be even more difficult at a time of austerity when you are forced to make such difficult decisions about how to spend our money wisely and to the benefit of all of us.

On 29 November 2010 those of you who were members of the Cabinet approved the programme sponsored by the Chief Executive, the One Barnet programme of privatisation, which will award two contracts worth more than one billion pounds to private companies for a period of 10 years. In November 2012 all of you will be asked to approve this programme of privatisation. What a heavy burden of responsibility it must be to make such a huge financial commitment on our behalf.

It is inevitable that residents will assume all of you are equally responsible for decisions made regarding the One Barnet programme of privatisation, and will hold you all accountable for its impact on their lives, its cost and its success or failure. Experts in local government and on the impact of privatising services, as well as residents and council employees, have voiced concerns, but there seems to be a great reluctance on the part of representatives of Barnet Council to discuss or reveal details about the One Barnet programme of privatisation, despite residents, Unison and the Association of Public Services Excellence inviting them to attend discussions on the implementation of this programme.

Have all of you been given the information needed to understand the impact of the privatization plan? Have all of you had enough time to debate the issues and difficulties in effective
implementation of this plan?

When a new policy is implemented, there is always the risk of something going wrong and, with the amount of money being committed to the One Barnet programme of privatisation, any failure could have a huge impact both on Council finances and on services. Is there a Plan B if the One Barnet programme of privatisation is found to be unfit for purpose? If, as part of the privatisation programme, 70% of council employees become employees of a commercial company, how many staff will the Council retain to help put things right if or when something goes wrong?

When we elected you, we put our trust in you to make wise decisions on our behalf, using our money, but we did not give you the right to introduce new policies without consulting us. As you weigh up the pros and cons of committing us to the One Barnet programme of privatisation, with all its financial and legal implications we implore you to act in the best interests of all of us, residents and council employees alike.

We, as a group of residents, voters and taxpayers, are not satisfied with the proposed privatisation of services, as we believe the quality of our services will diminish.

Ask yourselves this question: you will no doubt put the interests of the residents you represent first, but will a private company be concerned about our best interests as much as the interests of their shareholders and making a healthy profit?

Yours sincerely,

Barnet Alliance for Public Services

Our Tory councillors will no doubt largely be inclined to dismiss this letter as coming from a bunch of lefty activists, and disregard it. That would be foolish. Barnet Alliance is composed of residents of all political persuasions, and none. They are mostly the sort of people who would not normally take part in any sort of activism: just ordinary residents simply horrified by what is happening in their borough, and appalled by the way in which the council is being run. Any councillor with any common sense, or any stirrings of unease over the diminishing prospect of being re-elected to the council will be well advised to take this letter seriously, and consider the message it carries.

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