SAVE BARNET COMMUNITY - NO PRIVATISATION
NO PRIVATISATION WITHOUT A REFERENDUM 1. Even before the recession has fully set in, Barnet citizens are under attack: unemployment is already 40% up on last year: the County Court has already had to cope with 45 attempted repossessions in a single day: there are 15,000 families on the housing waiting list: life-expectancy in poorer parts of the borough is 13 years shorter than in richer parts. 2. It has never suited business to care much for those who cannot care for themselves. There are charities and voluntary workers who give all the help they can, but had things been left to 'private enterprise' and to 'benevolent' institutions there would be no free universal education or health care today, no clean water, regular rubbish collection, no adequate provision for the old, young or infirm, few libraries, parks or recreational facilities and no chance at all of decent affordable homes. It would be back to the workhouse, slum landlords and cholera epidemics. The ideas of elected municipal councils, a ‘public sector’ and elements of local democratic accountability, came into existence precisely to rescue populations from the catastrophe wrought by free market capitalism in the period of its greatest success. 3.2009 is the beginning of the era of its most spectacular failure. It cannot survive another day without unprecedented public subsidy. The time when it is making such a dog's dinner of its own affairs is hardly the time to think of entrusting it with ours! Local authorities' main role in recent years has been increasingly to provide profitable investment opportunities and other generous deals to multinationals, developers, speculators, banks etc. (e.g. £2.75bn interest payments to the banks in 2006/07). For a long time Barnet has played its full part in transferring public property into private hands – often to disastrous affect on the old, the poor, the infirm and their hard-working underpaid carers. Recently a council spokesperson admitted that they are not willing or able to meet their quota of ‘affordable’ housing – and that the reason is: "we rely solely on private developers.... ..[who] can't borrow money and there is no guarantee they will be able to sell the properties at the end". 4. Never has there been a greater need for a council plan which called upon the experience, imagination and initiative of the whole community: the people who actually provide the services and those who use them. But the council is going quite the other way. They are working on a plan which goes further than all the many previous attempts to undermine accountable elected local government as we have known it. Under the FUTURE SHAPE OF BARNET COUNCIL, No longer would Barnet citizens elect a local council in the old sense, employing staff and running services: instead, the new model envisages setting up a ‘special purpose vehicle’ as a ‘joint venture’ with ‘strategic partners’ in the private and voluntary sector. 5. The council denies that this amounts to wholesale privatisation. They also deny that any decision has been reached so far, and they insist that, although they are already committed to a £250,000 study with private consultants they will keep the public informed at every stage. 6. Bearing in mind all the above considerations, we, residents of Barnet, would remind the council of its "powers under Section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 expressly to hold local advisory polls or referendums on: • any matter relating to the services for which it is responsible (including where these may be delivered by a third party), or • the finance that it commits to those services, or • any other matter that is one relating to the authority’s power under section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000 (authority’s power to promote well-being of its area)" and also of the "further legislation passed in 2006 enabling local authorities to use the full electoral register in order to hold local polls and referendums" Furthermore, bearing in mind that other local authorities have mounted local referendums on congestion-charging, elected mayors and a host of minor issues [and one parish referendum on EU membership!] and bearing in mind that the 'Future Shape' proposals are extremely bold, ambitious, radical and potentially controversial measures, we call upon the council to pledge now that before any transfer or further outsourcing they will publish the exact terms of their plan and put them before the whole community in the form of a simple YES or NO referendum.