THE LONDON Borough of Barnet last week announced that it is to hand its regulation responsibilities to the private sector, according to a report from the public sector union Unison
Barnet council staff were told at a series of briefings that Capita Symonds is the preferred bidder to deliver a whole range of council regulatory services to Barnet residents and businesses.
This is the latest step in the council's plan to mass-outsource services at Barnet council. This plan – which is extremely unpopular with residents – is called One Barnet.
The services to be handed over to Capita include: Trading Standards & Licensing, Land Charges, Planning & Development, Building Control & Structures, Environmental Health, Highways Strategy, Highways Network Management, Highways Traffic & Development, Highways Transport & Regeneration, Strategic Planning & Regeneration, Hendon Cemetery & Crematoria.
Barnet Council has a number of statutory responsibilities to monitor the private sector in order to ensure the health and safety of their residents.
The recent high-profile national public-health scandal about the use of horsemeat in processed foods emphasises that private companies do not adequately monitor their own activities, leaving the public at risk. If
Barnet council is allowed to privatise these services, it will set a dangerous precedent for other councils. It has been promoting itself as an innovator for the future of public services by adopting the Commissioning Council model.
In the last 12 months, the Council has overseen a significant number of services outsourced to other providers.
John Burgess, Unison branch secretary said: “Barnet Council is making a huge mistake in handing over these critical services to the private sector.
“It is not just about the risks this brings, but what it means in term of democratic accountability. Next year, we have the local elections in May 2014. What options will there be for the electorate if all the council spend is tied up into complex contracts?
“As for all the remaining staff the message is stark: no matter how loyal you are, no matter how hard you work political dogma is dictating all services are to be outsourced. Today a number of our members have chosen to wear black armbands/ black clothing as a sign of the demise of the public sector ethos in Barnet council.”