Monday, 19 November 2012

Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble at The Houses of Parliament

At 7pm this evening, Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble is being shown at the Houses of Parliament. As producer of the film, I'm very proud of the fact that a project I've been so intimately involved with is receiving this accolade.

Sadly, not a single Conservative member has bothered to see the film. I'd be more than happy to show the film to them, in fact they are the one group who really should watch it. The film shows a whole side of life which it seems many of our Conservative Councillors have no experience of and no interest in.

I don't believe that our Conservative Councillors are really that heartless that they din't care. I believe they have just never experienced the trials and tribulations of people with disabilities living on benefits. In the film we show Councillor Tom Davey saying "You can't help people who won't help themselves". Let's think about what he says. In the film, we show Lauren Ferebee, a young carer who looks after her younger sister Jordan. Her sister is 11 years old and she can't and won't look after herself. That is why her sister and her mum have to. What would Councillor Davey suggest we do with a young girl such as Jordan who can't and won't look after herself? Should we throw her to the wolves and let her starve to death? What would she do for her mother, who has been in unsuitable temporary accomodation for 11 years. Their mother Michelle has had a constant fight to keep the family together. Lauren recently did GCSE's and got good grades, despite having to share a bedroom with her severely disabled sister. She was given the honour of handing the Olympic torch to Matthew Pinsent, as the last public stage of the Olympic Torch relay, as recognition for her work for her sister.

Sadly for Lauren, Councillor Davey,who lives with Mummy and Daddy in a lovely big house in Langley Park Mill Hill, clearly has no sympathy for the predicament which the family find themselves. I  invited him down to meet the family, but he wasn't interested. Sometimes, I find that I preach to the converted, and the people who should be listening simply stick their fingers in their ears and shout "la la la". Sadly I can't do anything about that, but collectively we can. Collectively we can all get involved. In May 2014 there is a council election and we have the opportunity to send the likes of Tom Davey packing.

In the next few weeks, Barnet Council will be voting on whether to outsource 70% of the councils functions to private contractors. These contracts will be for ten years and there has been no proper democratic scrutiny. The business case is based on all manner of elements which are pure guesswork. The risk register is over 100 pages long and no one apart from a few Council officials has seen the contracts.

I do not subscribe to the notion that all outsourcing is bad. There are many cases where it is clearly and quantifiably the best way forward. For instance, it is far cheaper and more efficient for the Council to let specialists maintain their vehicles. The One Barnet project is different. It involves uprooting whole departments that currently perform rather well and transfer them to private companies. The majority of the financial benefits in the business case are from selling services to other councils, which the outsources claim will deliver profits. There is no proven market for these services and no guarantee that any customers will emerge. One in four major outsourcing projects have failed in the UK, each time lumbering the taxpayer with costs.

The latest of these has been G4S at the Olympics, where the army stepped in. In Barnet, there will be no army to bale us out. My family have been residents of the London Borough of Barnet (and it's predecessor Hendon County Council) since the 1930's. My parents and grandparents are buried here. I don't want to be forced out by massive Council tax bills, if it all goes wrong.

That is why I made the film. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have had to and tonight I'd be sitting in front of the telly watching West Ham play Stoke City on Sky. Someone asked me if I had always wanted to be a film maker. The answer is no. Like most things in my life (including blogging), I got into it by accident. We've shown the film several times now and hundreds of people have seen it. I am very proud of the work I've done, but like the work I do at the Passage centre for homless people on a Thursday morning, I really wish there was no need for it.

I have been asked if I will be making any more films. I have no idea, I have quite enjoyed it, but I can only do things I have a passion for. I'd like to make a film about dyslexia and also about the way cancer effects peoples lives. If anyone out there has a few grand they want to invest get in touch.

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