I kid you not. Barnet Council is offering residents the chance to win £25,000 in a draw of people paying their tax by Direct Debit, full details here http://www.barnet.gov.uk/news/article/489/one_lucky_barnet_resident_could_win_25000
Barnet have a history of gambling. Former Council Leader, now Finchley MP Mike Freer gambled with £27.4 million of council money, investing it in high risk accounts in dodgy Icelandic Banks that had had well document credit warnings, to gain high interest rates. Freer had actually borrowed the money on lower interest rates.
The current Leader of Barnet Council has gone one step further and taken a Billion Pound Gamble with the huge One Barnet outsourcing contracts. These contracts take running of council services and many local jobs out of Barnet to far flung call and operations centres. Hundreds of local jobs have been lost. Barnet Taxpayers even gave the winner, Capita, a £16 million bung towards new systems, despite telling residents before the signing that the services were being outsourced so that Capita could invest in the systems and save Barnet money! The contracts are a gamble because one in four public sector outsourcing contracts have gone wrong.
It seems to the Barnet Eye that the Tories may have a gambling problem. Their latest punt is on a 3p a day tax cut for residents just before Council elections. They are hoping that this bribe to the public wins them another four years in office. After the last election in 2010, the first act of the Tory cabinet was to award themselves huge payrises. We wonder what surprises they have in store for us this time.
Now don't get me wrong, I like a flutter (with my own money of course) and the plan to get higher usage of direct debits is actually a very sensible aspiration. If I win the £25 grand I'll be more than happy and won't be complaining. I see this as a sensible way to promote a money saving service. I would urge all Barnet residents to sign up for direct debit, as this is a better way to pay and will save the council money and lower all our tax bills. So unlike Iceland, One Barnet and the Tax cut it is a case where some good may come of the scheme. As it is a free draw and all council tax payers are entered, it is not even a gamble for us In the truest sense of the word.
My only concern is that given our lords and masters predilection for a bit of a flutter it will tempt them into thinking that they can make all manner of unpopular policies work by having a prize draw. Maybe we'll have a situation where everyone who gets a parking ticket in Barnet will be given the chance to win £25,000. Or if everyone who is kept waiting in A&E at Barnet General for more than four hours will get a free National Lottery Scratch card. With our current council, nothing would surprise me, apart from them doing their jobs properly. It is interesting to note that Barnet had the most pothole complaint in London last year http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11115458.Barnet_had_most_pothole_complaints_in_London_last_year/ which demonstrates how the most basic things are simply not being done, whilst crackpot schemes abound.