Sunday, 2 December 2012

'One Barnet' makes it onto 'Sunday Politics'


So 'One Barnet' has made it onto 'Sunday Politics', no less. The air in Barnet is filled with excited anticipation.  Will this level of public exposure make a difference?  

There will be three local representatives on the programme. We have Brian Coleman, former-Mayor, current embarrassment to the Conservative Party from which he has been suspended in disgrace after being charged with the criminal offence of assault against local cafe owner, Helen Michael. No sooner was he relieved of the party whip, then he abandoned his sustained support of 'One Barnet' and strongly warned against it in the Press, calling it "the longest death warrant in history".  

Next is the Richard Cornelius, Tory Leader of the Council, who received the 8,000-page 'One Barnet' contract for the first time last Tuesday and recommended that it should go ahead on Wednesday morning, writing in an email that it would take a week to read and scrutinize. Coleman and others have accused Cornelius of bullying the increasing number of Tory doubters into voting for 'One Barnet' as they begin to fear repercussions in the 2014 local elections.

Third is the people's heroine, passionately opposed to 'One Barnet, Barbara Jacobson, who has come to be known as Barnet Barbara. She is representing BAPS (Barnet Alliance for Public Services) which describes itself as "residents, local organisations and trade unions campaigning for high quality public services in the London Borough of Barnet." She is articulate, wise and appears to be more informed about 'One Barnet' than any of its champions.  

Hitherto, the Council has avoided giving a straight answer to a straight question. Its members have avoided any challenge by keeping themselves at arm's length behind a veil of secrecy. They have side-stepped, patronised, failed to consult, dismissed, cut short, ignored or just been plain rude to, any questioners or opponents. They have been in control and appear to be accountable to no-one. As John Harris wrote recently in the Guardian: "Put simply, democracy is close to being snuffed out". 

So it has fallen to the scrutiny of 'Sunday Politics' to get some answers out of Cornelius. His sole justification for going ahead with the £1 billion, 10-year outsourcing of most of Barnet's services without an exit clause is that the contract "guarantees" £111 million savings over 10 years. However, he has been told by impartial experts, and common sense will agree, that there can be no such guarantee in practice. He is taking a massive risk with taxpayers' money, services and jobs. With only a few days to decision time, 'Sunday Politics' will provide the opportunity for those opposing the scheme to express their views and for Cornelius to be brought to book by a skilfull political interviewer.  He may finally have to produce some serious answers; that is if he has any.

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