Monday, 8 October 2012

One Barnet - Generator of Social Despair

I watched some of George Osbourne's speech today and I was overcome with an impending sense of doom and despair at the shortsighted nature of his solutions. Cutting benefits to the unemployed is treating the symptom not the problem and the problem is not enough decent paid jobs. In Barnet, the Council has set upon a madcap scheme called One Barnet which, over the next 12 months, will outsource 90% of the council's workforce. Some of these jobs will go to other boroughs in London like Brent and Harrow, some will go to other towns and cities where pay rates are lower and some may end up going to India where pay rates are rock bottom.

But what happens to all those Council staff who are made redundant or have their terms and conditions cut - they end up on benefits because at the minute there are very few new jobs in the private sector. In Barnet this wholesale demolition of the workforce will end us costing us, as a society, a great deal more. It will also have an impact on community cohesion. Cutting benefits will not make people any more able to find a job if there aren't any. It will just make their situation worse.

In Barnet we have just one business park where the Council's offices are located. This could have been used as a springboard to generate more high skill and well paid jobs in Barnet. Instead the council has pushed through proposals to allow hundreds of new executive homes to be built on part of the site. Short term gain but constantly diminishing the potential jobs pool. Many years ago I lived in a northern city where the council had a business development unit specifically targeting new business to come into the city. They brought in many high tech and well paid jobs. But what about Barnet - its not even on their radar.

If we want to get people off benefits we need to create opportunities not simply outsource jobs to the cheapest possible provider. Sadly, like Mr Osbourne, our ruling group in Barnet have such a short term perspective they fail to see the problems they are stacking up for the future. One Barnet is the wrong policy at the wrong time.

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