Barnet councillors scrutinise outsourcing proposals, despite vote loss

Councillors in Barnet will continue to scrutinise a £1bn outsourcing programme, despite the council leader surviving a confidence vote over the issue

Councillors in Barnet will continue to scrutinise a £1bn outsourcing programme, despite the council leader surviving a confidence vote over the issue.

The council's leader, Conservative Richard Cornelius, had the support of 32 councillors, while 24 voted against him. Three councillors did not vote and four were absent.

The motion, which included a confidence vote on the council's leadership, was brought by councillors unhappy with a £1bn outsourcing programme known as One Barnet, under which council services are outsourced.

The area's Labour leader, councillor Alison Moore, said that now the leader had won the confidence vote, the council did not have long to debate the proposed contracts. 

"We will keep on scrutinising the detail and challenging the proposals in these last few weeks before contracts are let. We owe it to the people of Barnet to do our very best in that,” she said.

The council agenda for the meeting during which the confidence vote was held said that many councillors believed the Conservative administration had “completely lost its way over the One Barnet Programme".

It said: “The council believes the process to outsource 70% of council services in two large contracts under One Barnet has been dogged by a lack of transparency. Scrutiny of One Barnet by elected councillors has been severely compromised by the administration scrapping the dedicated One Barnet Scrutiny Panel and by preventing administration and opposition councillors outside the Cabinet from having sufficient time to scrutinise detailed financial information…"

Those councillors opposed to the outsourcing plans said the One Barnet programme, now in its third year, had so far not made any net savings, but incurred a net cost of at least £663,000.

There are significant new contracts soon to be signed as part of the One Barnett programme, which is why opposition called for the confidence vote to give them time to debate the programme.

"So many of these large-scale outsourcing and privatisations are failing or running into problems, and yet the Barnet Tories are just carrying on regardless. They really need to stop and learn the lessons before risking £1bn of council tax payers' money,” Moore told Computer Weekly in a recent interview.

Cornwall Council recently saw its leader Alec Robertson ousted after losing a confidence vote in relation to a large outsourcing contract.

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