Search This Blog

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Privatisation, Jeremy Corbyn and Brent Council

Yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn argued that private sector involvement has had its day in local government.  I have two observations on this.

The first is that its not really true as there are still a large number of outsourced contracts out there.  Some of the biggest, like Barnet's huge outsourcing, are the hardest to reverse.  Secondly, there are still groups and Council leaderships that actively desire privatisation in some pretty unpalatable forms.  The academisation of schools is one example often cited.

A Brent specific, much more outrageous, example is the former Preston school annexe.  A "community group" appears to have had a number of not always documented meetings over several years with Cllr Muhammed Butt to effectively hand over this taxpayer owned building (which the Council regards as potentially worth £millions) to them for free.  They even claim to have received a written offer to that effect.  The wording of the offer is:

"So Preston Community Library; I believe there is an opportunity over the next twelve months, and by January 2015 we will know whether the previous library building will be needed for school places as we know there is a massive school place shortage across the borough, but this is unlikely as there has already been a local school expansion in the area.

Therefore this Labour administration the Labour party in Brent will offer the building at a peppercorn rent to any local community group who can provide a sustainable community Library and that is our pledge.

We will not open to competitive tender in order to give preference to local groups if they can demonstrate health and safety sustainability etc. and we will offer help and assistance through Brent CVS the voluntary sector and continued support and networking through the Brent libraries forum which has proved successful for the likes of the Friends of Kensal Rise."

I think such an offer might well be illegal, which probably helps explain why (almost three years on from when it was reputedly made on 7 May 2014), it has still not been implemented.  It is after all, a privatisation that even Margaret Thatcher might balk at.  At least when she privatised tax payers assets, she made the new owners pay for them.

The second observation I would make is that whether the Council directly provides something or pays some one else to do it doesn't actually tell you much about the quality of the work or whether it is value for money.  In my view, value for money should be the crucial test as to how to proceed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment