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

Friday, 31 August 2012

We're going on the offensive against One Barnet!

Barnet’s Labour Group of Councillors has called a Full Council debate on developing a different approach to the Council’s unpopular ‘One Barnet’ service transformation programme.

Key themes of the Opposition Policy Item include:

· Restoring public faith in the democratic process
- There has been no consultation of local people on ‘One Barnet’ despite the risks involved, and the fact that it is a fundamental change in the way local services are delivered. Labour would have a proper community engagement plan in place.
- There is confusion over whether it is officers taking decisions or members – this needs to stop, and there needs to be proper member oversight and monitoring of the programme through a dedicated scrutiny committee. Labour would re-instate the dedicated One Barnet Scrutiny Committee.

· Keeping jobs local and supporting the local economy
-‘One Barnet’ plans to allow local jobs to be re-located out of the Borough, and so far the Conservative administration has refused to require contractors to keep jobs and services in Barnet. Labour believes this should be a requirement.
- Local Traders have felt left out of discussions around skills, enterprise zones and apprenticeships. Labour would work in partnership with local traders and businesses when developing their local economic development plan.

· Assessing and minimising service transformation risk properly
- Council procurement practices are still poor resulting in contract overspends and financial risk – e.g. the cost of the contract for the ‘One Barnet’ implementation partner, Agylisis, has already exceeded by £1.24 million the specified upper limit of the contract, and we are only in year two of the three year contract. Labour believes the external auditor should investigate LB Barnet’s procurement practices before any further large contracts are let – including the two ‘One Barnet’ contracts for Development & Regulatory Services, and Support/Customer Services that are due to be signed by the end of this year.
- No Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) for residents have been done for either of the two ‘One Barnet’ contracts – both include services that have a huge impact on local residents, e.g. planning, licensing, environmental health, Revenues and Benefits and Customer Services. Labour believes EIAs must be completed before the contracts are signed.
- Risk assessments for the ‘One Barnet’ outsourcings have not been published – the public have the right to know that proper risk assessments have been done where £1 billion of services are being outsourced to a private contractor. Labour wants these published as a matter of urgency.

· The ‘Commissioning Model’ of One Barnet should be abandoned

- The commissioning and monitoring of council services should not be outsourced to a private company. Labour would stop this model.
- The council should stop wasting millions of pounds on expensive consultants, and use a little of it to undertake proper in-house services reviews, comparing the potential for in-house improvement against outsourced solutions to ensure value for money is achieved. Labour would do this.
- The council should not hand over its valuable income streams or savings to the private sector for their profit. This has already been done with re-cycling and parking – 50% of the income from the sale of re-cyclables goes to Barnet’s re-cycling contractor, and 50% of the savings made under the parking contract go to NSL – the new parking contractor. Labour believes income from council services should be re-invested in local services, and would use the new General Power of Competence to increase trading opportunities to do this.
- ‘One Barnet’ is supposed to be a ‘one public sector approach’ – this has not emerged. Labour would investigate sharing more services with other public sector partners and local authorities, and would look at providing more services through mutuals, co-operatives and co-production

Labour’s motion on creating a Better Barnet will be debated at the 11 September Full Council meeting.

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore said: "One Barnet has been a damaging process and is fraught with risk. We need to restore public faith in the way the council does business – ours would be a very different approach, one that engages local people, traders and businesses. We are here to serve them, not ourselves – I think the current Conservative administration has lost touch with that."