Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Sunday, 7 October 2012

How One Barnet will affect children

My colleague, Cllr Barry Rawlings of Coppetts ward has the following article on the Better Bernet website.

Barnet’s Conservative councillors have started on the next wave of council service reviews under their ‘One Barnet’ transformation programme.
To re-cap, here are just a few examples of how your local services have already been ‘transformed’ under the ‘One Barnet’ programme:
  • Friern Barnet Library has been closed
  • Parking charges were hiked by up to 300% in one year
  • Sheltered housing wardens have been cut
  • Charges for disabled Blue Badge permits have been introduced
  • More vulnerable people are being charged for home care help
  • 8 children’s centres have been closed
  • Affordable child care funding has been cut
  • Funding for Day Centres for the elderly is being cut
  • More private events in our parks are being allowed
  • The welfare rights service that helps vulnerable and elderly residents claim the benefits they are entitled to has been axed
  • The council is gambling £1 billion of council tax payers’ money by selling-off 70% of critical council services like planning, licensing and environmental health to large multi-national companies
In Wave 2 of ‘One Barnet’ the Conservatives running the council are now turning their eye to ‘transform’ the 30% of services that are left.  One area they are looking at that has cause for further concern is “Early Intervention and Prevention Services” (EIP).
EIP services are designed to ensure that children and adults at risk are prevented from coming to harm, whether through poverty, poor health, poor educational attainment or abuse, and, where they are in danger of coming to harm, by intervening early to try and stop it.
As you can see from the list of examples given above, EIP services have already been cut under ‘One Barnet’ – 8 children’s centres have been closed where early intervention and prevention services were provided, and child care funding has been cut. In addition, the council have been given extra money by the government to provide 800 more affordable child care places in the Borough, but they are refusing to spend all this money to do this. They are only planning to try and provide around 500 extra places and admit they will take much longer than the specified time to do it.
This is the reality of ‘One Barnet’ service transformation.
The latest plans for EIP under Wave 2 of ‘One Barnet’ are theme rather than service based, and, unlike the Wave 1 ‘One Barnet’ £1bn sell-off, there is a hint that the resident or service user is being thought of.
To use the council’s own words in a recent presentation to councillors on the review:
“It emerged that successful Early Intervention & Prevention tends to be multi-agency. For work to succeed it requires all agencies involved to have: a strong cultural commitment to early intervention and prevention, a willingness to work in partnership and high-quality data and information flows, when any one of these three is less than solid, programmes of work will suffer.”
Quite so!
What will happen when one of the multi-agency partners the council commissions services from is a multi-national corporation like Capita or E C Harris as is proposed under Wave 1?
  1. Cultural Commitment – this commitment is based on a public sector ethos, a commitment to public service and the desire to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged. It is based on co-operation rather than competition. It brings the public and voluntary sector together rather than selling parts of it to the private sector.
  2. Willingness to work in partnership – this is vital and involves partnership working for those groups, both statutory and voluntary, whose main focus is Barnet and its residents. It involves donating time and resources to make Barnet a Better place. This will never be the primary focus of a multi-national company whose main legal commitment is to their shareholders and not local people.
  3. High-quality data and information flows - while private sector companies often own and use data effectively will they willingly share it with others? Early intervention and prevention is for both children and adults at risk and there is a duty to share information, but large companies often have this work sub-contracted several times. This may mean many different companies can have access to sensitive data that may not even be stored in the country. Is this a risk too far?
As the council itself says “when any one of these three is less than solid, programmes of work will suffer”.
It is not only the programmes of work, but real Barnet people who could suffer.  This should be of concern to everyone.
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and Labour's Spokesperson for Adults Social Care & Health
What I find interesting is that Cllr Harper, the Cabinet member responsible led quite an attack on our comments, calling is scaremongering. Well, We said this was going to happen a while back, and guess what? There were huge cuts to children's services, like the 35% cut to the Newstead Children's Centre in my ward, or the closure of Friern Barnet Library. People should be concerned about the choices of this Tory Council.