The London Borough of Barnet has short-listed two private companies bidding to run its services - including the entire built environment department

Consultancies Capita Symonds and EC Harris are bidding for the ten-year contract. The two firms made it through to the second round after the council scored them highest of the four companies that pitched for the contract.
Last June, the local authority announced its intention to outsource the built environment function as part of a major reform of how it delivers services. It is seeking ten per cent cost savings from the deal.
EC Harris originally bid as part of a consortium with infrastructure service provider FM Conway, but that company pulled out of the process last month.
A council document leaked on a local blog has revealed that Capita was scored highest of the bidding companies. The document said: "Capita Symonds is the clear leader in this evaluation."
Trade union UNISON, which represents almost 90 per cent of the council's planning and regeneration staff, said its members were worried about the transfer to a private firm.
Barnet UNISON branch secretary John Burgess said a survey by the union of the council's planners showed that 91 per cent are looking for jobs elsewhere.
Planning, highways and regeneration officers have been holding one-day strikes in protest against the plans since September.
Burgess said there would be less opposition to a secondment model - as opposed to the proposed direct transfer - such as that used by Urban Vision in Salford, a joint venture company set up between the city council, Capita Symonds and Morrison Highways Maintenance to run property and planning services.
Barnet Council said employees had had meetings with both bidders and it has also been communicating with affected staff through weekly updates and regular meetings between staff representatives and the project team.
A council spokesman said it was too early to provide details on the impact on jobs, but added: "Staff will be transferred on current terms and conditions for at least 12 months. Both of the bidders have made it clear they are keen to grow the business in Barnet."

London Mayor: planning to blame for London housing shortage

Speaking at a National House Building Council (NHBC) event in London this morning, Johnson talked about the "glacial slowness" of some planning decisions for new homes.
He said: "I don’t want to see loads of ugly sky scrapers sprouting in people’s back gardens but I do want a more expeditious approach to planning. I think one of the difficulties I’ve noticed in the past few years is some borough planning departments are much better than others and we are now working to see what we can do to try to assist boroughs, if I can put it that way, to try (to) bring expertise together in order to help them to make planning decisions in a more effective and speedy. Planning is the biggest obstacle to getting enough housing built in our city at the moment".
Later, Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) chief executive Trudi Elliott said the issue was of "political leadership" and a lack of proper resourcing for planning departments.

She said: "Local authority planning departments across the country have been reduced at a greater rate than other service areas. They are losing expertise at a time when the demands upon them are growing. So what are you doing with the boroughs to encourage them to look at capacity as well as culture and political leadership?"
Johnson pointed to cooperation between the London Boroughs of Kensignton and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham on planning issues as an example of councils trying to "amalgamate and maximise the power of the resources that they have". But he added that "some councils clearly need bolstering".
"One of the things I’m endlessly tempted to do, now that we have the possibility for (Mayoral Development Corporations), is to say ‘why don’t we do that here’. But I’m a localist, I believe in subsidiarity, I don’t want to go around substituting my judgement against the judgement of local people but things need to be moved on more rapidly.
He added: "We will do incredible things in the Stratford area, that’s because there is a planning regime that is very transparent, very clear, it will involve local people, it will involve local consultation. But in the end, there will be single committee that will get things done very quickly and in my view I’m starting to think that there are other places around London where that might be a good way forward though I can imagine that that will be difficult with some boroughs. But if that’s the political leadership that it’s going to require then believe me, we’re all set to do it in City Hall."
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Elsewhere, the mayor made a pledge to publish a "Doomesday book" of all London public land holdings. Johnson said: "We know where all the Greater London Authority land is and that’s all being brought forward, but what about the National Health Service and what about the Ministry of Defence?"

"There is lots of land around London that could be united with sensible developers and sensible schemes for houses and over the next four years you’re going to see the publication, I make this commitment now, of a full easy to understand digestible account of all the land held publicly in London so people can understand where it is and how it can be made available for good housing."