Barnet Capita row: Labour’s John McDonnell slams ‘stark failures’ of outsourcing but Barnet Tories defend controversial outsourcing

John McDonnell slammed Barnet's Capita contracts this week. Picture: Barnet Unison / BAPS

John McDonnell slammed Barnet's Capita contracts this week. Picture: Barnet Unison / BAPS - Credit: Archant

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell slammed Barnet Council’s controversial Capita contracts as “a really good example of the iniquities of outsourcing” – but Barnet leader Cllr Richard Cornelius hit back and appeared to rule out bringing the outsourced services back in-house under his administration.

Mr McDonnell made his comments at a Barnet Unison event in the Houses of Parliament this week.

The trade union, along with the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) campaign group, held what they called an “inquiry” where they heard testimony from Barnet residents and opposition councillors about their experiences with Capita.

The senior Labour figure added: “Barnet has been a testing bed. It’s interesting how stark the failures have been.”

But Cllr Cornelius told the Ham&High the meeting was “a Christmas pantomime” and claimed Barnet’s contracts with Capita save taxpayers millions each year and services perform at least as well as they did when in-house.

He added: “If Unison and Mr McDonnell really want to ‘kick out Capita’, they will have to win an election, find another specialist outsourcer, and raise taxes to pay them.

“The world has become much more specialist and we can not go back to the past and bring all services back in-house. Almost all councils outsource some things. This is the way the world works.”

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At the meeting, speakers including Mr McDonnell, deputy opposition council leader Ross Houston and Cllr Kathy Levine put pressure on the borough’s ruling Tory group to bring the contracts managed by Capita back in-house when the council reviews the contracts at a December 11 meeting of its policy and resources committee.

Criticisms from Barnet residents focused on the fraud committed by Capita employee Trishul Shah, who siphoned off £2million of council money while working on its Re (Regional Enterprise) contract.

The fraud was one of the key triggers for the review of the contracts, but the damning Grant Thornton audit commissioned by Barnet has yet to be discussed in full publicly.

This is set to take place on November 22.

A Capita spokesperson said: “Our partnership with Barnet Council has achieved significant financial benefits and we continue to focus on strengthening our performance where we need to, and delivering quality services across the borough.”