‘Future Shape’ ‘easy Council’ ‘One Barnet’ = Failure: How mass outsourcing was stopped

This is a story of how the London Borough of Barnet was stopped from becoming the capital of outsourcing and privatisation with its ‘Future Shape’ ‘easyCouncil’ and ‘One Barnet’ programme.

Capita were awarded 2 large multi-service contracts, 3 contracts were awarded to other private contractors and 2 awarded to the Local Authority Trading Company. But the last 4 services – Street Scene, Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Libraries have been retained in-house. There are very significant problems with the quality of outsourced services, particularly the Capita contracts. Capita is still in crisis – it had a £513m pre-tax loss last year and plans to spend heavily on transformation, investment and achieve cost savings over the next three years – and it still has £1.1bn debt and a pension deficit of over £400m.

The report sets out an immediate action plan for Barnet Council and a national plan for remunicipalisation. It centres on a commitment to in-house provision with public service innovation and improvement plans and the abolition of commissioning.

Barnet is a vitally important lesson that every outsourcing proposal should be challenged from the start, if necessary through the options appraisal, business case and procurement process, whilst promoting alternative policies, workplace organising, building community support and taking selective industrial action.