Councils are entering a "dark age" as government cuts herald an invasion of profit-hungry and unaccountable privateers into public services, local authority insiders warned today.
The latest local council to sell out to the money-grubbers is the notoriously right-wing London Borough of Barnet which hopes to "outsource" most of its responsibilities in a £320 million firesale.
Farm-out giant Capita has beaten off BT to be named as preferred bidder for the 10-year deal in a competition run by the council, which wants to contract out up to 70 per cent of its activities
Over 500 posts will be privatised under plans to hand Capita control of the north London council's call centre, payroll, information technology and HR operations.
The firm is reported to be planning to shift 200 jobs to its centres as far afield as Belfast.
Local Unison branch secretary John Burgess said: "It is a dark, dark day in the history of Barnet Council.
"The implications for our members are awful. I thought the morale of the workforce had already hit rock-bottom.
"This news, I believe, will drag it down deeper."
Unison warned the extreme measure could have a negative knock-on effect for jobs as well as front-line services.
The news comes days after Newcastle City Council unveiled plans to axe at least 1,300 jobs in a budget-cutting exercise - and its Labour council leader Nick Forbes said: "This is one of the darkest days for public service in Newcastle."
Barnet says it will be "saving" £125m over the life of the contract which covers nearly all the council's administrative functions - it has already been dubbed "easyCouncil" for its privatised business model Future Shape.
Tory council leader Richard Cornelius claimed the only alternative was more cuts to front-line services and jobs - but opponents claimed elected councillors would not be able to properly hold Capita to account.
Barnet Labour group leader Alison Moore said: "We will only know if this risky gamble pays off after the council signs a contract for 10 years."
Barnet is expected it will announce a preferred bidder for its second wave of outsourcing in its environmental and planning services early next year.
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