The independent London newspaper

Treating the caretakers badly

07 March, 2019

• IN reply to Fiona Gilbert (Our councillors are definitely not New Labour, January 24), bringing the cleaning of the outside parts of estates back in-house is, if taken at face value, the very opposite of New Labour.

However the New Labour cabinet did this through gritted teeth because even they could see what an unmitigated disaster the contracting out of this particular part of the caretaking service has been for us all.

As if to emphasise this they have chosen to do it on the cheap by scrapping the premium for Saturday work and decimating the one for working on a Sunday.

Thus New Labour Camden, through its across-the-board new contract for the caretaking service, has enacted a race to the bottom where instead of treating everybody well they have made a political choice to treat all caretakers equally badly. This is a disgrace and the silence of the unions and Jeremy Corbyn-supporting councillors equally so.

Although my own estate has an excellent caretaking service, I quite accept that this is not necessarily the case for all estates. And, to that end, I believe tenants and residents should be given a meaningful input as to how their caretaking service is delivered.

There should be a forum where managers, front-line staff, and those who are ultimately paying for the service, should come together and be able to speak freely without fear of sanction.

That way a caretaker would be able to convey the pressures that might be behind the year-on-year decline in service that Ms Gilbert mentions having suffered. Such transparency is the best way to achieve an improvement in service.

Ms Gilbert fears that what I advocate for the caretakers would lead to a “hike in service charges”. This does not need to happen. There is plenty of money in this world. Oxfam’s recent study titled Public Good or Private Wealth? showed that in 2018 the global wealth of billionaires rocketed by £700billion.

New Labour Camden and their red Tory colleagues in local authorities up and down the country made a political choice to manage austerity (punishing the caretakers, service charge payers, and others) rather than fight it.

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