Barnet council follows easyJet business model

Conservative-run council adopts budget airline model as part of an efficiency drive

A Conservative-run council is using the business model pioneered by budget airline such as Ryanair and easyJet in an attempt to reduce public spending.

Barnet council plans to allow residents to pay charges in return for priority service as part of "a relentless drive for efficiency". Householders, for instance, will be able to pay a surcharge to jump the queue for planning consents, in the same way that passengers pay extra for priority boarding.

The plans, which would also allow elderly residents to manage their own care budgets, have led to the Barnet being dubbed "easyCouncil".

"Some things will be cheap and cheerful and in other areas we will provide complete services," Mike Freer, the council leader told the Guardian.

"This is not about rolling back the frontiers of the state, but about targeting our interventions."

A spokesman for the council said the measures were designed to make services more response and to offer choice but insisted that traditional services would be unaffected.

"The traditional model of public services has been like walking into a shop and finding everything is a size 35 and medium blue. People are getting used to having choice, and public services have to follow."

Some have suggested that Barnet is acting as a laboratory for measures that may be introduced under a future Conservative government but a spokesman for David Cameron said the reforms did not reflect national policy.

"This is not seen as a blueprint. Barnet have gone there way and that's fine but there is no wider significance as far as David is concerned," a Tory official said.