CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Bid to solve contracts maze captures Grenfell spirit

21 June, 2018

Last summer’s evacuation of the Chalcots estate towers

ONE year has passed since the sweltering summer night of the Chalcots evacuation.

Four seasons have come and gone. And yet the workmen are still buzzing in-and-out of the blocks every day. The towers are still propped up with scaffolding. Fire wardens still linger in the blocks. Contractors are everywhere.

Fundamental questions about the rotten Private Finance Initiative are yet to even be floated by the council’s internal inquiry.

As the saga drags on, doesn’t Cllr Meric Apak appear to be onto something when he calls on the Town Hall to start making meaningful moves towards setting up an in-house workforce?

Cllr Apak says that it is “fundamentally wrong” to have so many layers of subcontracting in outsourced major works. He particularly singles out the extraordinary system that sees private companies essentially supervising the standard of their own work. This has been regularly raised in tenants’ meetings.

It was a concern during the Decent Homes building programme and leaseholders too have repeatedly warned of a lack of accountability when it comes to major work bills.

Cllr Apak says it is time for a major shift in Town Hall thinking away from the “default concept that insourcing is bad”.

Some sceptics may regard this as an impossible dream for a Town Hall mummified in red tape.

There are no clear plans for how this would be done. Or how much it would cost. But what is clear is that Cllr Apak’s arguments, in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, appear to capture the spirit of the age and a new desire to detangle a web of contracts.

The Labour Party, nation­al­ly,  has called on councils to move forward from the era of privatisation. Is the rest of the Camden Labour Party on the same page?

NHS moves

THE 70th anniversary of the NHS is to be celebrated next month, on July 7. It has over the years become of the country’s best-loved institutions and its hard-working staff – everyday heroes – have become a great source of national pride.

But what is has not been celebrated so well for is its democratic accountability.

This week, a Royal Free patient discovered they would have to travel 13 miles for a routine opera­tion. This follows a decision by the NHS Trust’s board, earlier this year, to move almost all its elective surgery appointments away from Hampstead  to Chase Farm in Enfield. This follows a decision by the Free to save funds by merging with Barnet and Chase Farm hos­pitals in 2014, and later by setting up a new “group model” of care.

At no stage was the public ­consulted on what could be be a significant change for patients living near the Free.

Laud it as we do, so many of the big decisions in the NHS take place behind closed doors.

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