UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Capital cities join to back public services during festival

Edinburgh and London UNISON members are bringing the acclaimed "A Tale of Two Barnets" film to the city during the Edinburgh festival today to highlight the dangers of wholesale privatisation of council services. The film has had the rare privilege of being shown at the House of Commons and has been warmly received in over 30 showings across the London borough and beyond.

John Stevenson, Edinburgh president of public service union UNISON said: "The film title reflects the fact that the London Borough of Barnet was the site of the infamous workhouse from Dickens' Oliver Twist. Ironically, 200 years after the author's birth, Barnet council plans to turn the clock back to those squalid Victorian times by selling off almost every council service."

"Thankfully, Edinburgh's own plans to hand over local services to big business were defeated earlier this year. We are now proud to stand with Barnet UNISON, as one capital city standing with another, to back them in protecting their services for the community now and in the future".

Film maker Charles Honderick spent six months interviewing diverse local Barnet residents, business people and councillors about the challenges they face in 2012 with austerity biting, the Olympics looming and their high street under threat. The film is stark and enlightening.

The film publicity sets the scene: "In 2012, Barnet is faced with the biggest economic crisis since the Second World War. The council, faced with budget pressures has embarked on a massive outsourcing program under the title of "One Barnet", which removes all democratic accountability, but keeps all the financial risk. They have sought to plug gaps in finances by bringing in a whole raft of parking charges, which threaten the very existence of the local High street."

John Stevenson added: "Like in Edinburgh, the community is fighting back. Many natural Conservative voters in this Tory stronghold are deeply concerned about the plans and the lack of democracy, as the film shows. They feel they are not being heard. That has led to a wide community campaign and huge election swings this year with the longstanding Greater London Authority member unseated and Labour securing a shock win in a local by election".

John Burgess, UNISON Barnet Branch Secretary said: "The film makers welcome the chance to show the film in Edinburgh during the iconic festival. We thank Edinburgh UNISON for recognising the importance of the message contained within the film and hope that the experience of campaigners in Barnet can help our brothers and sisters who are under threat across the country."

"A Tale of Two Barnets" will be shown at 6pm on Monday 20 August at Douglas House, 60 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3UQ. Tickets are free from www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk