Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Plan to privatise local services

Barnet Council leader Mike Freer
Council leaders say they have to consider all options

Services within a north London borough came a step closer to being privatised after councillors approved a 250,000 feasibility study into the plans.

Cabinet members at Barnet Council gave the go-ahead for the report into the proposals.

The plans would see basic services contracted out to firms and voluntary groups, while the council retained overall control.

Union leaders oppose the proposals saying it could lead to huge job cuts.

'Significant challenges'

In a report entitled 'The future shape of the council', the authority proposes a radical shake-up of its structure.

"A failure to implement this will result in the inability of Barnet Council to meet the significant challenges ahead," the report says.

If the private sector can't look after itself, what makes Barnet Council think the private sector can run council services?
John Burgess, Unison

Under the proposals, a three-tier system would come into place. At the top would be elected representatives who would oversee the delivery of services, forming the core of the authority.

This body would contract out services to the group below, the voluntary and private groups bidding to carry out council services from rubbish collection to children's services.

Below this group would be frontline staff who would carry the work out.

But union leaders say the plans would effectively shrink the council, which currently employs about 4,000 people, to around 200.

John Burgess, from Unison, also said the private sector is not best placed to be delivering council services.

"We find it bizarre that if the private sector can't look after itself, what makes Barnet Council think the private sector can run council services?", he said.

But council leader Mike Freer insisted the status quo was not an option.

"We have to review the way the council operates," he said.

"We simply can't stand still and as a responsible organisation we're here to provide good services for our residents and we have to look at all the options."



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