The future shape project is really just out sourcing by another name, and we have been down this road before. The problem with outsourcing is that most Council services are not capable of being competitively tendered in a way that puts any market pressure to bear that would provide better services and /or reduce costs. In the world of budget airlines there can be competition between traditional carriers and budget carriers on a particular route. How many Council services can operate on that basis? I would contend that the answer is not many.
The examples given are ludicrous if you actually think about them. In the planning application example there is a set time period defined by the need to allow consultation with interested parties. This can’t be altered so there will always be a minimum period before any planning application can be determined. Why should anyone have to pay more to get a service that they should be getting in the first place? If the Council cannot determine planning applications in a timely fashion then it needs to look at its organisation and practices to see where it is going wrong. Barnet could easily fund more planning officers if it stopped wasting money elsewhere.
There is a simple answer as to why this is all happening now. The leader of the Council Mike Freer is the Tory PPC for Finchley and Golders Green. Under its new boundaries the constituency is notionally the 2nd most marginal Tory / Labour seat, (although currently held by Labours Rudi Vis). If the Tories win the next election then this seat will have almost certainly been won by them.
Freer therefore expects to be an MP and will want to have done something to attract David Cameron’s attention and this is obviously meant to be it. Freer of course will no longer be at the helm of Barnet Council and therefore not left with the responsibility of trying to work out how to implement the future shape proposals.