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Disabled pensioner set for High Court battle with council over One Barnet scheme

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 March 2013

Campaigner Maria Nash outside Barnet House in Whetstone. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Campaigner Maria Nash outside Barnet House in Whetstone. Picture: Polly Hancock.

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A disabled pensioner is preparing for a High Court battle with Barnet Council this week in a bid to topple its controversial £320million outsourcing plans.

Lawyers instructed by New Barnet resident Maria Nash, 68, will go head-to-head with the council’s legal team in the Royal Courts of Justice tomorrow for a three-day hearing challenging the legality of the One Barnet outsourcing scheme.

Ms Nash, who has received government aid to fund the legal bid, called for the judicial review, citing a lack of consultation about the plans to outsource a swathe of council services to two private companies.

She also insists the council has failed to meet equality obligations in relation to the plans, which attracted a petition with 8,000 signatures in January calling for a referendum on One Barnet.

In a cabinet meeting last month it was revealed that should the High Court rule in favour of Ms Nash, it would cost the council £15million annually to deal with the collapse of One Barnet and would force a re-think on plans to freeze council tax over the next two years.

“This is a warning to everybody else that there is a better way of doing things,” said Ms Nash. “If a council consults with residents they can give more insight on how better to spend money and how better to cater for the needs of the citizens – much better than a private company which only caters for profit.”

Ms Nash is confined to a wheelchair due to severe arthritis and requires a full-time carer to help her with daily life. She also suffers from osteoporosis and diabetes.

The mother-of-one, whose husband died in 2001 after contracting a hospital bug and who lost her 13-year-old daughter to meningitis in 1992, has an autistic son she also helps to care for.

She fears that if council services transfer to private company Capita she will have difficulty accessing the vital care she requires. “Capita doesn’t have a centre in Barnet,” she said. “How will I speak to them? How will I get services from them?

Barnet Council was forced to freeze its One Barnet timetable after Ms Nash’s request for a judicial review was accepted by the High Court, sparking a series of delays and headaches for the council.

Deputy council leader, Cllr Daniel Thomas, said: “We have to make some difficult decisions and while it is right these decisions should be open to scrutiny it is ultimately the taxpayer who bears the financial brunt of these legal challenges.”

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