Sunday, 9 October 2011

How Richard Cornelius can win the One Barnet war

If you are in a hole, what do you do? If you fall into a hole someone else has dug what do you do? This is the situation the Leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius finds himself in. The previous leaders, Freer and Hillan commissioned the One Barnet project and have spent millions on it. Whilst for many of us, the most sensible move would just be to cancel it, this would destroy the credibility of the Conservative administration. As the GLA election is next year, and Brian Coleman quite likes the £75,000 odd he ears through the GLA and associated grace and favour jobs, an embarrassing failure is a problem for them. Any climbdown would be manna from heaven for Labour rival Andrew Dismore. Whilst persisting has huge political risks, at least the true damage can be deferred until after Coleman has had his bunce guaranteed for another 4 years.

Of course, it is clear that what is good for Barnet and the taxpayer is not being considered. What amazes me is the fact that Richard Cornelius hasn't seen the obvious answer. This is one that would allow the Tories to claim a huge victory, sparing the taxpayer the bill for years of picking up the pieces (as has happened in other local authorities who have tried this path). All Cornelius has to do is ask his CEO Nick Walkley to provide a figure which the consultants working on One Barnet for the last year have said they can save. They must have a figure by now. If they haven't they could guess or make one up. Lets say that figure is 7% of the budget. This will realise tens of millions of savings.

Get the "notional figure" and call the Leader of Barnet Unison John Burgess. The proposition is simple. Richard puts this gambit to John "John, we've identified that we can save 7% of our costs by adopting One Barnet. If you agree to in house savings which deliver this amount, we'll wind the program up". It really is as simple as that. Burgess then has a dilemma. Agree to work with Barnet to find the cuts or loose the game. Once outsourcing has completed and unravelled, their will hardly be a union left, so her really has no choice. If he takes the offer, Cornelius can claim "One Barnet was about delivering savings and we've achieved these". If the union refuses to play, then Cornelius has won the propoganda war and can say "Union intransigence".

Brian Colemans boss at the GLA, James Cleverly has taken to organising "Beer and Sandwiches" sessions with the Union, to promote an adult dialog and to try and avoid unnecessary disputes - - it is high time Barnet Council and Unison sat down and had a proper dialog. Anything else is abject failure, which the taxpayer picks up the bill for.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

You suggest that the Conservatives do not want to cancel the One Barnet project as this would destroy their credibility. It's too far gone for them to be worried on that score.

Mr Mustard said...

Unison could not deliver sufficient savings because payroll is only part of the annual spend, they don't represent the really expensive Assistant Directors and consultants, I presume. They have no control over the cost of goods or temps. The union didn't cause the aerodrome bridge overspend, the funds stuck in Iceland or increase allowances for councillors.

A joint effort to replace One Barnet is however required.

vickim57 said...
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vickim57 said...

Barnet services are shoestring as it is, I don't think we can bear any more cuts. We could do more with the money we spend, though!

There is a temptation for unions to offer to deliver savings. And I'm quite sure they could it.

They are not the recalcitrant party here. They have offered innumerable times to talk to the council about making savings. But the council simply wasn't serious.

The odd suggestions box left about the place inviting ideas from staff or residents is not a serious attempt to harness the intelligence of staff and residents.

I don't think there has ever been a serious attempt by this administration to think where they could save money. The easy, lazy option is to believe what the outsourcing companies and their champions in local government (naming no names) say, and agree to 'privatise the lot'.

That's the road Barnet has gone down.

The complacent road has been to accept that there have to be cuts. Pickles says cut by this much; how much fight did Barnet put up? Not much. Because they're too lazy to think about whether or not we need to make cuts.

With imagination, real engagement with staff and residents, and simply by abiding by their own rules - in the matter of procurement, for example - I truly believe they wouldn't need to be making any cuts at all.

Rog T said...

I think you guys have rather missed the point. I'd be intrigued to see the figure that the Tories think One Barnet will save. Any savings delivered by the program will be cuts by another name. I'm sure that once Unison got hold of the figures, it would be rather easy to deliver a better package for less (once you include the legal costs etc).

At the moment, we have nothing to work with. I agree with Vicki's attitude to cuts, but we have a Tory administration who don't. We are in damage limitation mode.