Thursday 25 August 2016

Has One Barnet changed Barnet Council for residents?

I spent years fighting the One Barnet outsourcing project. Despite a huge battle and a court case, the Barnet Conservatives got there way. Now Capita and a host of other private companies have taken over the majority of council fiunctions, have you, as a local, noticed.

Over the past month, I've seen and spoken to a whole host of people who have had dealings with the councils private contractors for issues such as parking disputes, planning applications, freedom pass issues and business rates issues. What has their experience been?

Planning. I know of two cases where the council have taken well over twice the stated 8-13 weeks to grant straightforward planning permissions. Both are for businesses and both will generate jobs. In one case, the application, submitted in December has just had a request for basic information, which was supplied on the original form in December, after a period of 13 weeks with no contact at all. If this is what happens for simple matters such as moving loading bays and rebuilding derelict industrial property, it will massively damage the local economy.

Freedom passes. It is now clear that Capita made a monumental mistake in withdrawing them for hundreds of vulnerable and disabled people. Sadly the council has not had a public inquiry into how such an awful policy could be implemented by a private contractor without public debate or oversight. This was a primary objection raised by opponents and sadly we've been proven right.

Parking. My sister in law was bullied into paying a parking fine, which she should never have been issued, by the councils private contractor. A review of the audio tape of the conversation proves the contractor mislead her.

Local businesses report that Capita are using there own bailiffs as a standard tactic to harass businesses in rates disputes. Previously bailiffs were only called in when amicable solutions were untenable. This has lead to major costs and stress for small businesses trading on a difficult environment.

I hear stories like these all the time. When will our local politicians admit One Barnet is failing local people?

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