Barnet Tory 'Easy Council' is facing industrial action over its outsourcing of services to private companies. 87% of Unison council workers have voted for strike action over the five commissioning projects that were agreed at the March 5th Full Council meeting.
The proposals would mean outsourcing the majority of the Council workforce into one of five 'alternative delivery models':
1. Education & Skills and School Meals services
2. Library Service
3. Early Years: Children’s Centres
4. Adult Social Care
5. Street Scene Services
In a press release Unison said the Education & Skills and School Meals services is already in Competitive Dialogue discussions with the following contractors:
· Capita Business Services Ltd
· EC Harris LLP
· Mott MacDonald Ltd, trading as Cambridge Education
Looking at Capita’s track record LINK in bidding and winning contracts it is highly likely they will win this contract making it the third big contract they will have won with Barnet Council.
Unison Branch Secretary John Burgess said:
The vote was never in doubt. The workforce in Barnet is amazing and resilient. The vote confirms that our members have had enough of the ideological obsession with outsourcing. The Council does not value the workforce which can be seen when unpaid overtime and long hours are never recognised when putting together bids for outsourcing projects. The fact that the Council refuses to run in-house comparators has made it clear to our members that their future employment with the Council is threatened.So where does this leave Brent Labour 'Increasingly uneasy' Council and their own 'alternative models'? Using the Brent equivalents of the five Barnet services:
1. Brent Council's School Improvement Service has been run down and provides a core service only with many functions handed over to the Brent Schools Partnership. and schools buying in other services from a variety of providers, School meals have been out-sourced for a long time. In addition the Brent Cabinet on April 14th will be deciding on future provision of Additional Resources Provision and English as an Additional Language to pupils through a variety of contracts with Academies and Independent schools LINK
2. Brent Council proposed transferring the management of the library services to an established trust or a new model with similar features.
3. Early Years: Children's Centres - Brent Council has agreed to a partnership arrangement with the voluntary sector or charities.
4. Adult Social Care: There is a proposal going forward to the Brent Cabinet on April 14th for Extra Care to be provided via Direct Payments and a contract with Plexus/Mears LINK
5. Street Scene Services (parks refuse etc) Brent has already outsourced street cleaning, recycling, waste collection, parks maintenance, and cemeteries to a sole contractor, Veolia. The Cabinet will also be discussing extending the contract with Gristwood and Toms for Arboricultural services (dealing with trees beyond what Veolia do as part of the parks maintenance contract).
An additional item at the April 14th Brent Cabinet is a proposal to pay Penoyre and Prasad LLP £831,250 for work on a hybrid planning application for the Peel Site on the South Kilburn estate. LINK
I will leave readers to judge the similarities and differences between the approaches of the two council - one Conservative and the other Labour. You may also want to consider why Unison's reaction appears to be different in the two councils and whether as a result of the Coalition's cuts to local government that outsourcing is inevitable...