Despite a lively campaign against the plans, Barnet’s Conservative Cabinet voted on 8 June to axe the borough’s sheltered housing wardens.
They will be replaced with ‘floating support’ — a much reduced number of wardens operating out of a handful of local ‘hubs’. In theory the floating supporters will also serve elderly residents not in sheltered housing schemes. Since the budget for all of this has been cut from £1.4 million to £950,000 it’s clear that services to elderly people in the borough have been reduced.
Cuts like these are happening around the country; it’s a shame that there has been no national debate on it. Belatedly the government has announced its unease at steps like this, but it is their removal of ring-fencing around sheltered housing funding in the Supporting People budgets that has allowed councils to raid the sheltered housing piggy bank. In Barnet the campaign has moved into another phase, with a legal challenge by some of the sheltered housing residents.
We are building up a good network of campaigners in Barnet, and getting experience at using the limited channels for protest available. On 6 July we will be protesting outside the Cabinet meeting again, this time over the council’s ‘Future Shape’ plan. This initially aimed at outsourcing council service delivery wholesale, but over time they have realised that it will not be as simple as the dogma suggests. For one thing, there is not always a provider that wants to provide what they need, by law, to provide. The market is failing them!
They have deliberately not consulted council unions or residents about their plans, even though we are the people who know best what services we need and how best to deliver them.
The council had a rethink about outsourcing the running of cemeteries and crematoria after a challenge from the council unions.
Council unions and the trades council are mobilising council workers for 6 July, but also workers in the PCT, Jobcentres, Middlesex University, etc, who are all expected to come under an eventual pan public service umbrella. Barnet Community Campaign, which organised the protests against the warden cuts, is campaigning among Barnet residents. Our slogan is ‘Shaping our own future’.