Outsourcing, privatising and gerrymandering. That’s what the Tories do in local government – and that’s why Labour victories in May are so important.
Last week, the Conservatives lost their majority on Barnet Council after three councillors were deselected for doubting Brexit and one resigned the whip. (There’s a pattern here – the Tories have collapsed in Camden too, with candidates dropping like flies over the government’s inflexible anti-EU position.)
The north London administration was dubbed ‘easyCouncil’ when it gained infamy for its extreme outsourcing of every public service it could offload. As Aditya Chakrabortty wrote in The Guardian, “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”. That exhaustive list was just between January 2012 and October 2013.
Writing for LabourList today, former Camden councillor and Hendon’s 2017 parliamentary candidate Mike Katz describes Barnet as “a textbook lesson on why outsourcing fails public services”. The local authority was found by Ofsted to be failing vulnerable children. Its recent regeneration scheme was rejected by mayor Sadiq Khan, who recognised that the net loss of hundreds of social homes was “completely unacceptable”. Tory Barnet’s failures are numerous and shocking.
Labour must be careful not to get too cocksure about turning metropolitan areas red in May – the Tories will undoubtedly use this as an opportunity to spin the election results as a failure for Labour unless it takes control of every council in London. But, with a further push on the doorstep, you can bet on a win in Barnet.