Government Minister, Jeremy Hunt has recently confessed it is “completely normal” for a contractor to fail to deliver on a major project.
It is refreshing to have such candour from a Government minister. Jeremy Hunt was attempting to downplay the disaster that was the G4S contract for security at the Olympics. The public sector - in this case the armed forces - had to step in after the failure of the private contractor to deliver. Who will step in if (or when) a One Barnet contract fails?
Relying on the market to deliver public services has many dangers. Markets work when they are based on competition, and use price as the mechanism to regulate and ration delivery. The One Barnet Programme is based on a political ideology that the market is the only system to use – as much for the council planning department as for selling fruit and veg.
This won’t work for several reasons:
Barnet intend to have 10 year contracts with one or two big providers. Before the ink is dry we are in a monopoly. It is not only money and services that are transferred to the private company but also power. This dominant position can be used to increase profit by cutting corners or increasing their prices and because Barnet is tied into a contract we will have to pay up.
Nationally, if contractors over promise in order to win a contract and then find they cannot deliver, the government may be able to step in. However, with the One Barnet Programme there will be no-one to take over if the contractor fails to deliver because Barnet intend to hand over the staff, their expertise and knowledge to the contractor leaving only a 'thin client' behind to mind the store. This makes it very difficult for the council to bring services back in-house should a contractor fail to deliver. As with any asset once it is sold it is gone forever.
When you are shopping for fruit and veg you can visit different shops, compare quality and price, and then make your decision whether or not to buy. The One Barnet #BillionPoundGamble is being negotiated behind closed doors. You, as a resident of Barnet, will not be given a say as to whether you agree with it or not. That is why Barnet Labour councillors demanded a local referendum on One Barnet, but the Conservative majority on the council voted against letting you have your say.
So we are faced with a monopoly position when it is “completely normal” that it may fail, and you have no say in it. This is what One Barnet is all about.
If you are concerned about this, there is something you can do. You can lobby your councillor, sign the petition for a public referendum on One Barnet, and share the campaign for a Better Barnet with your colleagues, friends and family.
Let's keep working together on this!
Cllr Barry Rawlings, Deputy Leader of the Barnet Labour Group & Coppetts ward councillor.