Barnet residents send out powerful message that they want to keep their public services

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UNISON’s campaign against a Tory-controlled London borough’s plans to outsource all of its services has achieved a significant boost, with the spectacular by-election victory of a  Labour councillor.

Andreas Ioannidis’s triumph in Barnet’s Brunswick Park ward represented a 13% swing from the Tories.

UNISON Barnet branch secretary John Burgess said the result sent a “powerful message” to the Tory-controlled council that residents would not tolerate its One Barnet outsourcing scheme.

UNISON members worked in their own time to support the Barnet Alliance For Public Services, which delivered 10,000 campaign leaflets to residents exposing the potential damage to services if the council carried out its plans.

John Burgess said: “We are still buzzing with the news. This was a great victory. We were told that we did not have a chance, but we achieved this massive swing. This gives us real momentum in our campaign.”

The union published research conducted on its behalf by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), which concludes that the borough does not have the ability or capacity to manage multiple contracts for the benefit of local residents.

The report states that over the past few years those at the council involved in the awarding and managing of private contracts have often ignored both council guidelines and UK competition law.

And it notes that instead of a thorough monitoring process, Barnet now intends to ask companies to guarantee they will meet certain “end-of-contract” performance targets.

Such a hands-off approach to the way in which services are provided and contracts monitored could be “catastrophic”, the report says.

“This confirms our very worst fears,” commented Greater London regional secretary Linda Perks. “The way in which council contracts have been handled in the past gives council staff and Barnet residents no confidence that the authority is up to the huge One Barnet challenge.”

John Burgess added: “Councillors must abandon the high risk One Barnet programme and genuinely engage with staff, residents and unions to find solutions which benefit the community, not the profits of private sector companies.”

UNISON is now looking ahead to the council cabinet meetings, in October and December, when the authority plans to award two massive contracts – embracing all its services – to private contractors.

In the coming weeks, the union is to hold a series of separate briefings, for councillors, residents and staff. And it will be playing a major role in the Barnet Alliance conference on July 7th.


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