Outsourcing may be controversial at times – depending on who’s writing the report it’s either a constant source of embarrassment and incomplete tasks or a back door to morally wrong privatized services. On the other hand if you live in the London borough of Barnet you might note that Westminster now says you’re likely to get a council tax cut in future, and it’s entirely because the council decided to outsource some services to the people best placed to provide them.
Granted it’s only going to be £14 in each pocket in Band D, for example, over the next year but the principle is established: along with Conservative-run Hammersmith and Fulham, Barnet is discovering that a properly-run piece of outsourcing can save actual people actual money.
The irony is that the One Barnet outsourcing idea had been controversial and to many it still will be. Recent reports suggest that Barnet’s critics and opposition regard the outsourcing that has happened not as straight outsourcing but as large scale privatization of important services. Indeed, as recently as February the This Is Local London website was reporting that the scheme was jeopardizing 130 jobs for staff who refused to be redeployed in, for example, Carlisle.
The outsourcing partner is Capita, which promised to make £125m in savings over ten years. The problem is that it’s doing so by offering to redeploy redundant staff in remote geographies, not only Carlisle but also offering one staff member a place in Sheffield.
However, the savings still appear to be on course. Earlier this month the council reported that it had plans to save another £39m in the next two years and that it would pass these savings on to the council tax payer in the form of further cuts. The Labour opposition, meanwhile, has published an alternative budget that also allows for the same cut the Barnet residents will be getting next week. You’d almost think these politicians were just in it for the votes – or that getting better value from items bought with public money wasn’t actually a party political issue. This is probably dangerous leftie thinking, which suits us perfectly OK at PO Magazine.
It’s notable, though, that according to the local Ham and High paper, even taking the cut into account Barnet will have higher than average council tax compared to the rest of London.