An expert in public sector reform has sparked fears Barnet Council is planning to outsource services to multinational companies, at a serious cost to its employees and the borough’s economy.
At a trade union meeting on Tuesday night, Professor Dexter Whitfield told around 180 council workers to expect the worst when the authority unveils its money-saving proposals at a cabinet meeting in December.
The council is conducting an internal consultation, called The Future Shape of the Council, to look at ways to deliver services in the face of a diminishing budget.
Addressing the meeting at North London Business Park, New Southgate, Professor Whitfield said: “Future Shape has the aim of shrinking the services provided by the council.
“We’re talking about multinational companies bidding for contracts. It means building a wall between clients and contractor. It means a loss of the ethos of public service values.”
Professor Whitfield has been brought in by the Barnet branch of Unison — the public sector union — to conduct a parallel consultation and provide alternative proposals.
He said in his experience of working with more than 30 authorities facing the same challenges, privatising services erodes the quality of services and accountability to residents.
He warned there will be job losses if backroom offices are moved elsewhere, at a cost to the borough’s economy, while staff transferred to employment with private companies could face cuts to their terms and conditions.
“The quality of services will be dictated by market forces,” he added. “There is a higher risk of contract failures with massive cost overruns on deals.”
Barnet Unison and Professor Whitfield are pushing for council departments to bid for contracts, with staff looking at how they can operate more efficiently themselves.
The council has refuted the suggestion all services will be privatised, but that it must look at who is “best placed” to deliver services in the face of increasing budget pressures.
A spokesman said: “The status quo is not an option for the council, and delivering how we always have will ultimately lead to the erosion of the quality and range of services provided across Barnet.”
The Future Shape of the Council proposals are due to be delivered to the council cabinet on December 3.