Monday, July 13, 2015

Nasty business in Bromley

Eviction threat to diabetic carer and daughter

 AS a responsible council worker and trade unionist, Paul Rooney thought it his duty to criticize the policy and workings of Tory-controlled Bromley borough council.

As well he might. Bromley is closing libraries and other services - a day care centre for disabled adults is next in its sights,  - with little or no consultation or concern for what service users and workers think.  It isn't just a matter of saving money. It's policy. The Tory council plans to cut its workforce from 3000 to 300. Critics say it has over £150 million in its reserve fund alone, yet is still refusing to spend this.

Like their counterparts on Barnet council over in north London, the Bromley councillors not only want to cut services to a minimum but to become a commissioning body, farming out work and service provision to private firms who can make a profit.   

You'd almost think they'd be glad to see the back of Paul Rooney, when he gave up his job as a social work manager. 

As for the rumour that someone had said they were out to get Paul Rooney, if it reached him he probably shrugged it off.  What could they do? This is England. Leafy, respectable Bromley. 
Anyway, enough of rumours. Here's what's happening. A statement from Unite the union.

Eviction threat to diabetic ‘facing £51,000 council tax bill is cruel’, says Unite

The attempted eviction of a Bromley insulin dependent diabetic, who looks after his severely disabled daughter and was wrongly charged a total of £51,000 for his council tax bill by outsourcing giant Liberata, was branded as ‘ham-fisted and cruel’.

Unite, the country’s largest union, has rallied in defence of Paul Rooney, who gave up work as a social work manager to look after his 14-year-old daughter Roisin, as bailiffs today (Monday 13 July) descended on the home he owns at 22 Yew Tree Road, Bromley BR3 8HT to take repossession.

Liberata, which runs the council tax collection service on behalf of the controversial Tory-controlled Bromley council, claims that Paul Rooney allegedly owes just over £2,000 in council tax. Liberata, it is alleged, has also tacked on £49,000 in solicitors’ fees.

Unite said that the mistakes made by Liberata were in not processing his application for council tax benefit correctly and this resulted in the council tax not being paid on time – which the union said was ‘an astonishing cock-up and a catalogue of outrageous incompetence’.

Pilgrim Tucker said: “Bromley's notoriously bad outsourced council tax collection service has repeatedly messed up the processing of Paul’s council tax, and now his home is threatened with repossession today.

“Paul, a former Unite rep, gave up work to care for his daughter Roisin, who has a brain tumour and chromasome disorder, with consequent physical and learning disabilities.

“Liberata has presided over an astonishing cock-up and a catalogue of outrageous incompetence – it is shameful. It is ham-fisted and cruel.”

About 30 community activists from Unite and local residents were at Yew Tree Road in a bid to stop the bailiffs from evicting Paul Rooney and Roisin, who has a brain tumour, a chromasome disorder and, as a result, physical and learning disabilities. He gave up work to care for his daughter.

Unite’s London community co-ordinator Pilgrim Tucker said: “This is a horrific case that is inhumane and proves that the outsourcing of council’s services to the private sector is a shambles and they should be brought back in house immediately.”

Bromley council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves. The accelerating privatisation programme has been opposed by Unite’s council members who recently staged a fourth wave of strikes over the plans.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab, who represents members at the council, said: “This appalling case just reinforces the case that Unite has repeatedly made that privatising council services has been a horrendous mistake.

“Our members at the council will continue to fight for the maintenance of decent in-house council services and the jettisoning of the deeply flawed privatisation agenda.”

On its website Liberata claims to be “a business process innovation company that helps customers reinvent complex services, transactions and processing. Our strategy is simply to create value with our customers by building better services for theirs.”

Bromley trades union council  as well as Bromley Unite members are rallying to the side of Paul Rooney, and have raised the issue in the Greater London Association of Trades Union Councils (GLATUC). They are also supporting a lobby at the Civic Centre on Wednesday 15th July, at 6pm to defend the Astley Centre against privatisation.The Astley Centre provides essential support for adults with learning disabilities and it is now being hugely threatened by privatisation efforts.

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