A controversial Capita outsourcing project has taken a step closer to being rolled out across Barnet after a judicial review lodged against it was dismissed.
Barnet Council claimed a "clear and complete" victory after a judge ruled that resident Maria Nash's complaints that the authority failed to consult on the programme came too late.
Barnet signed up Capita as part of its £320m One Barnet plan which is set to outsource back-office support including IT, human resources, finance and customer and commercial services over the next 10 to 15 years.
The council insists the project will save it about £111m in total, but Nash claims the council failed to consult on the plans. The 67-year-old disabled Barnet resident fears that the Capita outsourcing deal will remove vital support services which could put her life at risk.
Following a three-day hearing at the High Court, Lord Justice Underhill ruled in favour of the council, claiming that Nash had submitted her concerns outside of the three-month window in which she was able to.
Barnet Council's leader Richard Cornelius said the victory will benefit Barnet residents.
In a statement he said: "We can now get on with making budget savings of £12m a year in our back-office costs while investing in service improvements and protecting our frontline services. The alternative cuts to frontline services we would have had to make would have been horrendous."
An appealing decision?
Nash, who was backed by a range of local residents, bloggers and campaign groups is reported to be planning to appeal the decision; a move the council's Cornelius advised against.
He said: "Lord Justice Underhill could not have been clearer in ruling the application for judicial review as out of time and in accepting that the council had met equalities criteria. I hope the applicant and her lawyers will carefully consider the wise words of the judge before embarking upon an appeal and incurring even more costs that will have to be met from public funds.
"This judicial review has already cost the council in excess of £300,000 and I would rather be spending that money on services to residents. The applicant's legal costs are also being met from the public purse as she is legally aided."
Earlier this year, Capita took on an ex-2e2 contract with Barnet in the short term. The council hoped the contract would be rolled into the wider outsourcing plan pending the decision of the judicial review. The council did not comment on what the hearing's outcome meant for the former-2e2 contract as the seven-day window in which Nash can appeal is under way.
The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS), which has supported Nash's case, said that despite the setback, it will continue to campaign against the plans.
BAPS' co-ordinator Tirza Waisel said: "The One Barnet programme continues to be a disaster for Barnet. The consultant spend is enormous, there are no discernible savings yet. Council staff morale is rock-bottom, and jobs are haemorrhaging out of the borough.
"This decision gives the green light for the council to sign the contract with Capita which will see up to 400 local jobs transferred to Capita centres across the UK."
Capita confirmed that the judicial review ruled in favour of the council and the details of the agreement, but declined to comment further.
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