“What has been going on in the consultation meetings?”
“Isn’t this just a smoke screen for getting rid of staff.”
I don’t know. From the start I was justifiably cynical that the Future had already been ‘shaped , the only outstanding issue…which services will be the first to move out of Council control?
In the meetings I have been consistently raising the need for in house services to have a level playing field with other service delivery options. The Project Director and members of the team have consistently reiterated that there is no set agenda and the outcome is not set. This has been reported in answer to questions to staff on the Councils intranet.
“If we provide a good service and have an in house transformation plan will we be safe from privatisation?”
No, in recent weeks the dominant theme that is emerging from our discussions is the following paragraph from the 6 May 2008 Cabinet report
“1. Developing capacity, shrinking organisational scale
The authority will look to scale down to a size which would mean it delivering only what the local authority must deliver in order to achieve efficiencies and improved services for residents (which might mean them being delivered by another organisation), what implications would that have for the council. This work stream will seek to address this.”
The Joint Trade Unions have been looking to establish a level playing field for in house services. Our Briefings have been looking to establish clear parameters by which in house services will be compared to other delivery options. However it seems the ‘shrinking’ element appears to be the key driver to Future Shape.
As we draw closer to 3 December Cabinet Committee’s decision on the Future for Barnet staff, the Trade Unions and Council staff need to know:
1. What do the Council mean by developing capacity?
2. What do the Council mean by Shrinking organisational scale? (In Plain English this surely means getting rid of staff. The question is which staff and how many?)
3. What does ‘Delivering only what the local authority must deliver’ mean?
4. Which services would they want to stop delivering?
In the past when the Council has carried out consultation on privatisation, the Trade Unions have been accused of scaremongering and misrepresenting the process. This was a familiar tactic to undermine the attempts of the Trade Unions to try and ensure elected members are fully appraised of the options. We do still live in a democracy and we are fully entitled to lobby councillors.
What is different this time?
In this consultation the Council has made a serious commitment by providing significant resources; they agreed funding for The European Services Strategy Unit to provide research and critical analysis for the Joint Trade unions in the consultation process and extra resources for both Trade Unions.
The Joint Trade Unions have made it clear to the Project team that they need to respond to the recommendations published in our five Briefings to date. In light of the real risk that some services may face privatisation, the Council must respond urgently.