Over the last few years, the activities of the current Conservative administration in Barnet have been closely monitored and reported by a group of bloggers, determined to hold to account the elected members who have so blatantly defied the principle of democratic government, and fundamentally betrayed the best interests of the residents of this borough.
We have covered every faltering step of the course followed by the Tory councillors, from their first act, on being re-elected, and lecturing residents and staff on the stark economies necessitated by the demands of austerity, but voting themselves a big fat rise in their own allowances, to the shortly revealed MetPro scandal, which set the tone for the next four years.
The MetPro affair involved the use by the Tory council of an illegally operating private security company, which barred residents from a council meeting, secretly filmed local bloggers and activists, had close contact with vulnerable children, and was being rewarded by casual but substantial payments, in the total absence of any contractual agreement.
Barnet’s bloggers subsequently revealed that far from being a single case of failure in proper regulation of procurement and contractual management, the council had thousands of legally non-compliant arrangements.
Local tax payers’ hard earned cash had been given away in these casual agreements, unquestioned: a real scandal, and on an unimaginably wide scale.
The next outrage we reported was perhaps one we should have foreseen: the silencing of dissent at all residents’ meetings, with enforced censorship rules, backed by a deliberate amendment to the local constitution, meaning no member of the public was allowed to criticise, or even refer to anything deemed to be ‘council policy’.
The reason for this soon became clear.
Barnet was to be privatised, with a massive outsourcing programme, from which an in-house solution was excluded because, we were told, we needed a large amount of capital investment from a commercial partner.
There had been no mention of these plans in the 2010 Conservative manifesto.
Despite the lack of mandate, the Tory administration pushed these plans through, at the behest of senior management and private consultants.
Needless to say, as well as failing to present these plans to residents at the time of election, there was no consultation over the privatisation: a serious breach of regulations, and one criticised in the High Court by Judge Underhill last year.
Another policy imposed by Barnet Tories that was brought to account in the High Court was the catastrophic parking policy, which overnight sent the borough’s high streets into fatal decline, and alienated vast sections of the Conservatives’ own natural electoral base.
The Barnet Conservative manifesto for the 2014 elections is even more enigmatic than the version they offered voters four years previously.
When asked by the Barnet Press why there was no mention of One Barnet leader Richard Cornelius declared that it is a brand that ‘has served its purpose’.
Indeed it has, but whose purpose, and for whose benefit?
Certainly not the residents and taxpayers of Barnet.
Already we have seen the real motives of Capita exposed by their attempts to begin the commercial exploitation of this borough in the form of the development of ‘memorialisation’ of the dead in Hendon Crematorium, and the grossly insensitive removal of benches commemorating loved ones in the grounds, taken away and dumped in a corner of the grounds.
It seems an apt metaphor for the exploitation of our borough, by private enterprise, at our expense, sanctioned by our Conservative councillors.
And we must ask, if the privatisation of our borough, and the sell off to Capita of our local services has been so successful, why are Barnet Tories not rejoicing in this fact, and sharing their sense of satisfaction with voters? Why are they being so evasive about the real plans that they intend to impose, should they be returned to office this coming week?
Is it because the One Barnet brand is now so toxic, it must be dropped, and forgotten, and voters duped into approving another Tory council whose agenda is unstated, but is clearly going to endorse the privatisation of council service and expand this policy wherever possible?
We have read this week of plans to privatise child protection services. There can be little doubt that if they are returned to office, without consulting residents, Barnet Tories will be likely to extend the process of privatisation to any other council function they care to delegate. And increased pressure to make massive savings will inevitably lead to cuts in services on a scale as yet unprecedented.
There will, of course, be no proposal to deprive themselves of the same level of allowance they still enjoy, despite the limited function they will retain, in a borough where our vital services will be run not for our benefit, with direct control by them, but by a private company, for profit, at our expense.
In the accompanying footage below John Dix, blogger Mr Reasonable explains why the takeover by Capita of our council services presents such a threat to the wellbeing of our borough, and what the future will hold for all of us in Barnet, should the Conservative administration be re-elected this week.
The choice for voters on May 22nd is clear – vote Conservative, approve the delegation of control of your borough to private enterprise, and the shareholders of Capita – or take a stand, and begin to reclaim your democratic right to control your own destiny.