Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for August 28th, 2009

Ryanair-style Public Services? No thanks!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 28th August, 2009

Barnet logoThe spectre of Britain under the Tories if the radical right gets its way loomed today, as the story broke about Barnet borough council in London adopting the business model of low cost airlines: offering no frills services, which would mean that some services now taken for granted in most local authorities would have to be individually paid for as surcharges. Fine and dandy for the affluent inhabitants of Mill Hill, maybe, but a dire prospect for the poor, especially needy elderly. Barnet Council — one of whose own spokesmen has informally dubbed the approach ‘EasyCouncil’, as a bow to EasyJet — says this is all part of its ‘relentless drive for efficiency’. Rather as with Ryanair — which reportedly investigated the possiblity of putting passengers in the hold, if only they could find some way of stopping them freezing to death — Barnet’s relentless drive could lead to some very uncomfortable as well as unfair outcomes.

Barnet is the borough which spawned the inimitable Brian Coleman, now ensconced in the Greater London Assenbly. But the new bete noire for opponents of Barnet-style Conservatism is the current Council leader, Mike Freer, who cheerfully told the Guardian, ‘Going back to the Ryanair example, some things will be cheap and cheerful and in other areas we will provide complete services.’ The interesting thing to watch will be David Cameron’s reactions to all this. Will the supposed Prime Minister-in-waiting hail Mr Freer and his colleagues as visionaries, who have provided a template for a future Conservative government’s approach to public services? Or will he realise that the model is about as appealing as a sandwich with no filling and is therefore an electoral liability?

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