London suburb of Barnet. I visited last week – and it’s not pretty.gnore the economists quibbling whether public spending is returning to the era of George Orwell. If you want to see the future of your local public services, it’s already here: in the north
Not that there’s anything wrong with the area. I’ve known Barnet forever; it has provided me with countless walks, and the odd Saturday job. It remains the home of Jewish grandmothers holding forth on both Keynesianism and why you haven’t finished your supper, and second-hand record shops run by greying Don Quixotes.
But what’s fast changing in Barnet is how residents access their local services – everything from parking tickets to paying council tax to how their corpses are disposed of. In the past few years, the Tory-run council has taken almost every public service it can lay its hands on – and outsourced it.
Between January 2012 and October 2013, Barnet farmed out its care for people with disabilities, legal services, cemeteries and crematoriums, IT, finance, HR, planning and regeneration, trading standards and licensing, management of council housing, environmental health, procurement, parking, and the highways department.
This evening, a full council meeting will vote on whether to consider cuts and “alternative delivery models” for another tranche of services, including libraries, rubbish collection, street gritters and children’s speech therapy, among others. Should they go the way of the rest and be outsourced, the local Unison branch calculates that Barnet council will shrink from having 3,200 staff in September 2012 to just 332.