The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) is a coalition of residents, community and campaign groups, and trade unions in the north London borough of Barnet who want to protect our quality of life, our public services, and our local democracy. We believe we should participate in and contribute to the place in which we live.
That is what we have in common, but we come from a range of backgrounds: young and old and in between, shopkeepers and union members, workers and retirees, carers and those cared for, British-born and immigrant. Individually, we are of many different political persuasions but together we are non-partisan.
BAPS opposes the privatisation of public services and the erosion of democracy in Barnet. In the absence of consultation from Barnet council, it has produced newspapers and leaflets and provided public meetings and conferences to inform people of what the council is and has been doing and proposes to do. It has promoted the screening of the films A Tale of Two Barnets and Barnet: the Billion Pound Gamble, and shows the explanatory animation Barnet Casino on its website. Because of the restrictive nature of the Residents’ Area Forums run by the council, BAPS runs open forums where residents from anywhere in the borough can come to air their views on any subject.
BAPS’ biggest battle is against the One Barnet Programme of privatisation, under which the council wants to hand over the many customer services in a single, bundled contract to private firm Capita for 10 years, and to form a joint venture, possibly again with Capita, to run our development and regulatory services.
Our members have read the published plans and business cases, and have asked questions and made presentations at council and council resource, cabinet and scrutiny committee meetings in repeated efforts to make the councillors aware of the risks of the proposals and the residents’ opposition to them and desire for consultation. We have presented a petition with more than 8,000 signatures asking for a referendum. The Tory councillors have responded with contemptuous remarks, insults, name-calling and a stubborn refusal to listen to the people.
But the people’s voice has had an impact. BAPS was and continues to be instrumental in the campaign against the privatisation of and changes to parking enforcement, which have angered residents and businesses and badly damaged our local economy. So far the campaign has resulted in the defeat of Brian Coleman, who was responsible for this policy, when he ran for re-election to the London Assembly in 2012, and a decrease in some of the parking fees.
BAPS’ campaign in the Brunswick Ward by-election in 2012 helped turn the Tory majority into a resounding Labour victory. BAPS supported the Save Friern Library campaign, which prevented the building being sold against the wishes of the community. BAPS campaigns to save the NHS and to oppose cuts to benefits.
BAPS has held marches and rallies to support its campaigns in 2011 and 2012. The latest ‘Barnet Spring march’ to save our services will be this Saturday, 23 March, just days after current judicial review against Barnet council’s proposed contract with Capita is heard at the High Court. Whoever wins, there is likely to be an appeal; whoever wins, there is still the proposed joint venture for development and regulatory services to oppose.
Privatisation of public services affects all of us, not just people in Barnet. Barnet’s One Barnet Programme of privatisation is the government’s pilot scheme for dismantling the welfare state – If it succeeds here, it will spread like a plague across the country. Join the Barnet Spring march to show the government that we will not accept this vandalism. There are positive alternatives to the cuts to the NHS, libraries and benefits.
Meet on Saturday 23 March, 11am, at Finchley Central Tube Station. Supported by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services, the Occupy movement, Unison, the TUC and many more. The march will move off at noon and proceed to the Friern Barnet Community Library.