Last night, one of London’s longest running anti-austerity campaigns reconvened with a packed meeting at Finchley’s Greek Cypriot Centre. At our last trades council meeting on Thursday, we had resolved to get organising the re-elected Tory council as soon as possible, and this was an excellent start.
The initial presentation came from the one and only Mr Reasonable, John Dix, who had a comprehensive report on just how bad the past five years of mismanagement by Capita, the woefully incompetent and self-serving outsourcing giant to which the Conservatives have entrusted almost our entire borough. The Tories claim that the deal saves money, which might even be true if over-billing, contract variation and “special projects” weren’t absolutely rife. Combine this with the Tories failing to make even the most limited council tax rises for many years (even when their associates in other councils were doing so!) and the fact that Capita fees, astonishingly, rise with RPI inflation and there is a multi-million pound shortfall coming in Barnet’s finances. Auditors have expressed severe doubts that the Tories can possibly fill the gap by 2020 or 2021. You can read John’s full report on his blog.
John was followed by fellow campaigning blogger, Roger Titchbourne of the Barnet Eye. Roger issued a call to arms for activists from across the movement and different parties to unite under a simple slogan: Kick Out Capita! This is going to be the new focus for BAPS, and we’ll be starting with a series of musical and cultural events around the borough.
Finally, we were joined by a very special guest and great friend, John McDonnell MP. The shadow chancellor joined us fresh from address the PCS public sector union’s conference, and spoke about how that union was taking its own action to save essential services. He reiterated that the Labour Party has committed to ending privatisation and bringing failing contracts like Capita back in-house where they belong. Research by the University of Greenwich has shown that far from costing money, this approach would pay for itself in a matter of years. Answering question from some of BAPS’ members, John also touched on some other areas:
- Labour intends to crack-down on the massive tax evasion and money laundering that goes on in London, which is estimated to be of the order of £92 million annually and strongly tied to international crime.
- Labour has realised that simply dragging voters to the polls when election day comes will not win the next election. There has to be a turn to community activism and the party is appointing community organisers to help make this happen.
- There has to be a renewed assertion of a right to a commons in Britain – including of land itself – in order to make society more just, and Labour is working with figure like George Monbiot on policy.
The relaunch was an excellent step in the right direction. Now we have to get the message out there and take the fight to Capita. BAPS will now be meeting every Tuesday at 6.30pm in the Cypriot Centre. Why not come along and join the movement against corporate greed to make Barnet a better place to live?