A Tory-run London council is to offer "Ryanair-style" public services in a radical experiment that could provide a blueprint for a David Cameron government.
Here’s David Cameron trying to come across as all cuddly and caring, the acceptable face of the new Conservatives. But those of us at the coal face fighting the Tories at council and constituency level know that if you scratch the surface it’s the same old, nasty Tories underneath. The Tory council in the London borough of Barnet have taken Tory victimisation of the poor, weak and vulnerable to a new height of awfulness.
The Tory councillors are proposing to charge residents extra to ‘jump the queue’ for planning consents. But it doesn’t stop there. They also propose that recipients of adult social care in Barnet will be forced to choose to spend a limited budget on whether to have a cleaner or a respite carer or even a holiday to Eastbourne. Other examples of proposed reforms include reducing the size of waste bins to minimise the cost of council rubbish collections.
You might think that Cameron will have stepped in to prevent such raving right-wing policies. But you’d be wrong. Barnet is seen as a trail blazer amongst the "new Conservatism" which is spreading among Tory-controlled boroughs. Observers believe "radical outriders" such as Barnet offer a glimpse of how a David Cameron government could overhaul public service provision in an era of heavy spending cuts.
The council also plans to make savings of up to £15m a year by outsourcing services and reducing the size of its 3,500-strong directly employed workforce. Private sector organisations and charities could take on contracts for services looking after streets and parking, planning and the environment, residential care, housing, refuse and recycling.
Mike Freer, the Conservative leader of Barnet Council said: “"Going back to the Ryanair example, some things will be cheap and cheerful and in other areas we will provide complete services.”
Many Tory councils are also looking at "micro-charging" for previously free services. And a Tory MEP last night suggested that the idea of charging could spread to the NHS. Charles Tannock said people should pay £10 to see their GP.
So there you have it. Under a Tory government essential services such as adult social care will be “cheap and cheerful” or you’ll even have to pay extra.