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Latest council outsourcing plans 'risk public health', says Barnet Alliance for Public Services
Campaigners have warned council plans to outsource departments including environmental health will put public safety at risk.
Barnet Council is looking to move its regulatory services - which also include trading standards - to the private sector to save cash.
The deal would be the latest in a series of privatisation plans under the authority’s One Barnet scheme.
Campaign group the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) has fought the scheme from the outset and is gathering a new petition opposing the latest move.
The council says it will save in the region of £26million over the contract period, depending on the successful bidder, but BAPS co-ordinator Tirza Waisel believes the strategy is “extremely risky”.
She said: “They are exposing our very health to risk. It is a big issue if environmental health officers are employed for profit. We believe that if they have targets in certain areas, they could be more concerned about that than public health.
“The same goes for things like building safety – people should be extremely worried about this.”
The council was due to announce its two final bidders for the regulatory services contract in January.
But negotiations have been put on hold pending the outcome of a judicial review into the outsourcing of the council’s customer services contracts – in which regulatory services is also mentioned.
The council’s deputy leader Daniel Thomas said: “Our plan is for a joint venture with a private sector company that will add commercial nous to our in-house team to generate both savings and income for the taxpayer.
“In practice this will mean that we will probably be the only council actually investing in, and growing, services such as environmental health, while other councils cut theirs.
“BAPS seems to have a policy of opposing any use of private companies in delivering any public services. I honestly don't care whether we use private, public or, as in this case, a joint venture. I just want the best possible value for our residents.”
BAPS gathered a petition of more than 8,000 signatures when it opposed the recent outsourcing of the customer services departments.
The petition forced a council vote on whether to abandon the plans, which was rejected by the Conservative majority.
Ms Waisel said: “They didn’t listen to 8,000 residents last time and unless they have learned their lesson, which they will at the next election, I imagine it will be the same.
“But the alternative is to just lie down and take it and we won’t do that – we’re willing to keep fighting.”