Wednesday, 13 June 2012
How many Barnet Councillors care about council efficiency?
Tomorrow, the councillors of Barnet have been invited to a seminar featuring a presentation from Andy Mud, who works for an organisation called The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE). Who are APSE? Their website (http://www.apse.org.uk/) says this
APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit local government body working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority front line services, hosting a network for front line service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.
APSE are engaged by many councils to advise on efficiency and are highly regarded by both Conservative and Labour councils committed to efficiency up and down the country. The seminar has been organised by UNISON. It may seem strange that a Trades Union should organise such an event, which may presumably result in efficiencies, which could result in job losses for Union members. I asked the branch secretary, John Burgess to explain "We live in a world where cuts to public services are a fact of life. The government has removed huge chunks of finance from local government. It is no use burying our head in the sand. If we have to have changes, we must all work together to ensure that these are done in the least damaging way possible". John emphasised that whilst opposing such cuts is a vital part of the work of Trades Unions, when faced with a Conservative government and a Conservative council, with two years until the next council elections, a pragmatic approach to efficiency was needed. An organisation such as APSE, with a track record of delivery and a highly respect reputation, clearly represent an opportunity to get the best out of the existing and shrinking resources.
What concerns me is the fact that the One Barnet program, which Barnet Council are promoting, which is the wholesale privatisation of the whole council, is viewed as an extremely high risk option by APSE. This was the reason for John Burgess engaging them. APSE believe that far lower risk approaches to efficiency are the way forward. As the Union have clearly bought into these, there is no risk at all of industrial disruption as a result. It is the job of the councillors to ensure that the council executive are kept in check and to listen to viable alternatives. Failure to do so, amounts to negligence. There is absolutely no reasonable excuse for any councillor who can attend such a briefing to miss it.
The Barnet Eye is today emailing all Councillors to ask whether they will be attending the seminar. If they are not, we will ask for the reason. The results will be published on this blog. If your local councillor cannot be bothered to attend a free seminar, detailing ways to save your money, given by a highly respected and trusted organisation, I would suggest that they really should not be doing the job.
I believe that failure to attend, without good reason is tantamount to negligence.