Staff in revolt at �1bn Barnet ‘EasyCouncil’

Disgruntled staff and residents are trying to force Barnet Council to rethink its policy of privatising swathes of public services.

A group of protesters gathered on Friday to wave their placards in frustration against the ‘easyCouncil’ plans to pay private companies �1billion to run services over the next 10 years.

Up to 300 staff have already started their own resistance movement, defying councillors when they ask for help, refusing to work on the council’s efficiency programme – One Barnet – and refusing to work overtime.

Barnet Unison branch manager Helen Davies said: “The mood is more determined as we’re going along. People are not seeing anything coming from the council in terms of slowing down the process or wanting to renegotiate any of their decisions to privatise. But the staff are becoming firmer in their stance as every week goes by. They’re talking about what else they can do to up the action.”

The council’s parking sector workers are voting on whether to join the industrial action this week. Staff based at the North London Business Park honked their horns in support of members of the Barnet Alliance for Public Services, who had mustered in the rain at the council offices to protest as more than 60 delegates from 40 private companies arrived to bid for lucrative council contracts.

Group member Vicki Morris said: “You don’t want them (private companies) to think it’s easy to come in and chat with the chief executive and get the lawyers to sort it out.

‘‘There are many other big groups of people, including council staff and residents, who should have a say in what happens.

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“I think we will lose quality if our services are privatised. Private companies are interested in making money which means they could reduce staff pay and holiday entitlements, which means you get a much quicker turnover of staff who are less interested in their jobs.”

Councillor Robert Rams said: “The people [in the private companies] I spoke to said they were really struck by the council’s commitment to developing more responsive support services as a way of driving real improvements in our services to residents.”