Here is some exciting news for you. The Barnet Eye has been working with the other Barnet bloggers and community campaigners on an exciting secret project. Unfortunately, I can't say too much more about it right now, but I can say this. We are looking for stories to tell in our community. We believe that our wonderful local community is being failed by our local council and by Capita, the contractors who they have sold the running of services to. On Monday night, many residents attended that Capita Service review at Hendon Town Hall. These were not what local Tories refer to as "The Usual Suspects". They were ordinary people, outraged at how local people are being ridden roughshod over by Capita's planning department. Local concerns are ignored in favour of rich developers and vested interest. Local democracy and accountability appear to be dead. We have identified various themes where there are recurring horror stories. These are
* The lack of democracy in Barnet as a result of Capita outsourcing. The removal of democratic control and the end of proper oversight of Council services. Local resident John Dix outlined the issues around this back in 2014. Everything he said inthis interview with The Barnet Eye has been proven to be correct
* Housing - Social cleansing of less well off tenants, towers clad in flamable panels and a chronic shortage of homes for families.
* Libaries - The Council has embarked on a massive program of cost cutting and closure by stealth. In Mill Hill, the Childrens Library has been cut and local people forced to step up and save the remaining bits, running the place in their precious spare time.
* Adult Social Care - We've have ten years of cuts, closure of services for disabled and vulnerable people, hiking of charges (even for things as trivial as coffee and biscuits at day centres), withdrawal of transport for the diabled and vulnerable, withdrawal of wardens from sheltered accomodation and a general decline in service standards. This video from 2012 shows a local resident discussing why he was forced to launch a legal challenge on behalf of his disabled daughter opposing changes to adult social care. Sadly the situation has not improved as a result of Capita.
* Cemeteries - Maintenance of Cemetaries has been outsourced to Capita and cemeteries that were previously kept in an immaculate state are now looking untidy and unkempt.
* High Streets - The council and its contractors declared war on our High Streets and retailers in 2011 by abolisshing Pay and Display parking. This lead to a slump in takings for many business, sadly most of which are no longer with us. This is well documented. More recently this has extended to aggressive use of bailiffs for minor delays in paying business rates and now we are seeing what appears to be aggressive tactics regarding waste removal. I spoke to a local trader who recieved a demand for £400 for fly tipping, which was apparently withdrawn by the council when the trader asked the council to provide evidence. This video from 2012 shows the anger of traders in North Finchley at the parking changes. Most of the traders seen in this video have since closed down
* Roads - Do you have a favourite pothole? Barnets roads, despite huge payments to contractors, are still riddled with Potholes. My road was resurfaced recently, however this is already crumbling. This is being reported all over Barnet.
These are just a few of the themes we've identified. Barnet is a big story. I went for lunch yesterday with a friend who is a Conservative Councillor in Wellingborough Town Council. They have recently been rated as excellent in an audit. I asked whether they were going down the Capita outsourcing route. He said that in the view of their council that would be bonkers. If anyone suggests it, he simply refers them to the Barnet blogs and points them at a few choice stories. This is not ideological. It is not anti Conservative. It is as simple as the fact that the Barnet Conservatives who brought this all in are simply not very good at running a council. We need a change. We either need the Conservatives to get real and dump these expensive contractors (did you know that if Capita identify a saving to the council, they are entitled to a cash payment of a percentage of the saving under the gainshare scheme). If the local Conservatives won't see sense (as Wellingborough have), then we need a new council after the elections next year. It is as simple as that.
To make this happen, we need to identify the whole Big Barnet Story. Do you have a chapter of this story? If so please get in touch.