Dear Councillor Freer,
I am writing you an open letter regarding the current Future Shape of the Council discussions. I am hopeful that you will read this letter and be prepared to accept some constructive input regarding the process.
Given the importance of this process for many residents of the Borough and the huge implications of any poor decisions regarding the future of the council, there can be no argument that it is in everyone's interest for the right decisions to be made. As the Conservative group on the council has a working majority, in effect this means that the opportunity is there to impose whatever they decide, regardless of the quality of the decision.
Although the various stakeholders affected by these decisions will all have different views on "the best way to do things", the dominant position of the Conservative Council allows for the process to be implemented in a manner of their choosing. As with any tough decision, there are two ways this can be done.Decisions can be taken in secret huddles, behind closed doors, using the majority block to "rubber stamp" the decisions. The alternative is to hold genuine, open, honest discussions where outcomes are not prejudged and decisions are not foregone conclusions. Input from stakeholders into the process may give valuable insights, which Councillors in darkened rooms, far removed from the nuts and bolts of the daily functioning of a department may be unaware.
It seems to me that an open and honest process with input from all sides being welcomed is far more likely to result in an efficient, well run and capable Council. If the proponents of outsourcing can make a strong case that can withstand proper public scrutiny, then this is far more likely to be a successful project than one devised and delivered in secret. I cannot see why a council should be so scared of input that it is worried about holding open discussions and public consultations. If organisations such as the trades unions, the opposition and the public in general make observations, the comments either have merit and can be shown to have merit or are fatuous and can be shown to be fatuous. Ultimately input from critics can only strengthen a process and remove obvious pitfalls. It may well be that 90% of the input is ignored, but if the 10% you adopt improves the process and saves money, surely the process of consultation has been justified.
There is a great fear in the borough, not just on the left, that decisions have been made for ideological reasons, behind closed doors and will be steamrollered through Council. If this is not the case, then prove it by opening up the debate and having proper scrutiny. If it is the case, there is a strong likelyhood that the process will fail and cost the hard pressed taxpayers of Barnet even more money and deliver a poorer quality of service to the most vulnerable people in the Borough.
I cannot believe that an open, honest and modern leader of a London Council would wish to implement a flawed process so please consider the points I have made and open this process up to proper scrutiny. Please allow all affected stakeholders a fair say in the proceedings and do not make any decisions until all of the facts have been considered and the best case options identified.