History of the outsourcing of Schools Meals and Education & Skills services

For the past 18 months Barnet Council has prepared plans for the future of School Meals and Education & Skills.

From the outset the fate of approx 430 workers was always going to be outsourcing. However as per previous practice the outsourcing pantomime was played out in a number of committee reports to the Children’s, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committee (CELS).

Barnet UNISON responded at each stage.

1. In September 2014 we produced “Commercialising Education and Skills Future Delivery of Services to Schools London Borough of Barnet” click here

2. In January 2015 we produced “Education & Skills and Catering Analysis of Options Appraisal” click here

3. In June 2015 we produced “Education & Skills and Catering, Threat of large-scale subcontracting”click here

4. Later in June 2015 when we heard Capita had pulled out of contract talks we produced “Education & Skills and Catering UPDATE 30 June 2015” click here

5. Finally in November 2015 we produced Catering Services “Jewel in the Crown”, Privatisation of Education & Skills and Catering in Barnet click here

There is a significant lack of transparency over the award of this contract exacerbated by the lack of financial details made publicly available and the fact there was only one bidder as the two other bidders had withdrawn from the bidding process. Furthermore the Council is handing over the Schools Meals Service to a private contractor without any competition. Under this arrangement the Council will now have to share the profit with the contractors at a time when they are proposing cuts to frontline services.

UNISON in our final report have made the following recommendations

1. The Council should retain the Catering Service in-house and place it within Family Services Delivery Unit in order that all the profits can support frontline services, which are threatened by budget cuts. It should draw up a Public Service Innovation and Improvement Plan for the future of the Catering Service jointly with schools and staff.


2. Elected members should require a detailed breakdown of the £1.5m cost of the Education and Skills outsourcing, in particular the £250,000 expenditure on ‘commercial advisers’ cited in the Full Business Case (p35).