The Barnet Eye is always very suspicious of anything where it appears that there is any hint of lack of transparency and secret meetings are top of the list. Our sources inform us that the reason for the meeting is that members need to be brought onside with regards to a "plan to address serious budget issues" and there are rumours that this involves yet more council work being parcelled out to Capita.
The Barnet Eye can only speculate as to what this is but we suspect that it may be something to do with refuse & waste collection as this clearly falls within the remit of the Environment committee. We have been expecting this, given that the council have just released this decision (taken you will note by officers and not councillors) http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=5444 which clearly is designed to reshape the management of waste services for outsourcing.
According to the paper the objectives of the restructure are as follows
1.1 Aims and objectives of the Waste and Recycling
The proposed structure is designed to enable the service activities within the Waste and Recycling
Service to provide and uphold an efficient, streamlined and exemplary service to serve existing and future residents and across the Borough whilst achieving service efficiencies and financial and performance targets.
The restructure relates to office based and supervisory staff within the Waste and Recycling service
• Redesign and develop a strategic and performance focused team that complements service delivery, enhancing the service’s ability to optimise performance and budgets;
• Enable an improved commercial approach to maximise business opportunities.
Anyone familiar with "councilspeak" will know that this is simply jargon for outsourcing. Whenever you see the phrase "Enable an improved commercial approach to maximise business opportunities." in relation to Barnet Council and an in house service, it always means "We intend to outsource this". Think about it. How can you maximise "business opportunities" in waste collection?
The answer is simple. You outsource it and then the company who takes over can do what they like. Your rubbish collection becomes a "business opportunity". The way you get charged for it becomes part of an "Improved commercial approach".
Now of course I have no idea how this might work, but the only way I can see that you can "improve the commercial approach" is to either charge you by the kilo of rubbish or to charge you by the number of collections you have. It would save the council a fortune if they cuut collections to every fortnight, but if they say "you can keep the weekly collection for another £20 a month" then they can claim they are giving you a choice and improving services. Lets face it, they are keen on selling things as a choice, when there is none. Barnet Council actually outsourced refuse collection before in the 1980's. It was a disaster with cowboy operators providing shoddy service and dustcarts bashing into peoples cars and driving off all over the Borough. It was so bad that the Tories lost control of the council. When Labour and the Lib Dems inhoused the service back in the 1990's many Tories privately said this was the best thing to do. It appears they've forgotten this lesson.
Of course all of this is speculation, as we don't get invited to these secret meetings. Furthermore as this restructure isn't even signed off by elected councillors, they can wash their hands of the whole thing.
It stinks, doesn't it?