easyCouncil set for Barnet residents
PUBLISHED: 11:47 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 07 September 2010
Susanna Wilkey BUDGET-airline-style services could soon become a way of life for the residents of Barnet as the council embarks on a relentless drive for efficiency, dubbed by insiders as easyCouncil . Council chiefs are looking at the no-frills business
BUDGET-airline-style services could soon become a way of life for the residents of Barnet as the council embarks on a relentless drive for efficiency, dubbed by insiders as "easyCouncil".
Council chiefs are looking at the no-frills business model of budget airline companies, who charge customers extra for services once considered part of the standard fare, in an overhaul of services.
Proposed reforms include a "personalised" service for recipients of adult social care, who will choose how to spend their limited budget - for example, on a cleaner or a respite carer - and reducing the size of waste bins to cut the costs of collections.
The scheme will also centralise and outsource tasks such as customer services and street cleaning to private firms. It is set to save the council £15million in the next 18 months and significantly reduce the size of its 3,500-strong directly employed workforce.
Leader of the council Mike Freer, who is the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, said: "Given that everyone expects local government grants to be squeezed whichever party is next in power, the next stage is how we are going to prepare ourselves and what we should be doing.
"Barnet residents should see improved services at a lower cost. It will not mean service cuts in any way.
"We would be daft not to look at other successful business models such as Ryanair. You might not like Ryanair but you cannot deny they have shaken up the airline industry and made the costs of their products very transparent.
"We are looking at how their relentless drive for keeping costs down has worked for them and we are looking at doing the same."
The management of housing, refuse, recycling and residential care could go to private companies under the scheme.
Critics have slammed the proposals, claiming they are a return to the privatisations of the 1980s, and one council officer for the Tory Council reportedly labelled the scheme "easyCouncil" at a recent meeting.
Julian Silverman, from the Barnet Community Campaign, which is petitioning the council for a referendum on the proposals, said: "Ryanair and easyJet are notoriously cheap firms but we pay them and they give us a service. The idea of local government and the NHS is to provide essential services regardless of paying. This is a form of surreptitious privatisation. It is not a way of dealing with a problem."
He added: "There will be more and more of these cuts and it will get worse and worse. Barnet Council cannot see what the problem is because they look at themselves as a business.
"That is not how we see it. Handing over council services to private companies is an attempt to return to Dickensian London if they take it to its conclusion. That is the end result of the creeping de-democratisation of Barnet." And Labour councillor Kathy McGuirk added: "Having no-frills council services is ridiculous.
"It means people who do not have the money cannot pay for the services. There is no Rolls-Royce service in Barnet at the moment - if they cannot manage services at the moment with frills, what will it be like with none?