Wednesday, 2 November 2011

If there is nothing to hide, why are the One Barnet Procurement Principles a secret document?

Yesterday, five Barnet bloggers sent the following communication to Barnet Councillors to draw their attention to a secret council document, with a restricted viewing list, which details the One Barnet Procurement Principles. We did this so that at the very least, our local Councillors are taking this huge punt, with your money, with their eyes open and no excuse that they didn't know about the risks. The time has come for these councillors to stop burying their heads in the sand and to start doing the job they get paid to do. Here is the letter we sent :-
The One Barnet Programme: a high stakes gamble

Dear Councillor,

As you know the Council is embarked on a massive outsourcing project, the One Barnet Programme. This programme has never been put before the borough’s residents for their comments let alone their approval. It was not in the manifesto of the winning party at the local government elections.

No Conservative councillor or senior Council officer has ever appeared in a public forum to defend the programme. It has been left to concerned residents such as ourselves to make their own investigations into the scope and implications of the planned changes.

We have recently seen a copy of the procurement principles adopted by senior council officers in March 2011, early in the process of beginning the outsourcing. They would alarm any resident who cares about the state of the borough. You can read the document here:

We do not know whether these principles have been modified in the course of the process. The fact that that we do not know is in itself a matter for deep concern and only highlights the problem that residents are being kept in the dark about what the Council is doing with their services and their money. We must insist on residents’ right to know more about One Barnet.

It might well be that councillors themselves are also in the dark about what the Council is doing. Yet you have a duty to represent your constituents and we think you should therefore seek out and share information about One Barnet with them. You should feed back any concerns residents have to the Council Cabinet and senior officers.

The document was produced before the MetPro and other existing procurement failures came to light. Nevertheless and in spite of this, we think that the principles we have seen probably are those along which the One Barnet Programme is proceeding. Those aspects of them that alarm us most and which we think particularly need public discussion are detailed below.

One Barnet is likely to cost jobs in the borough

The Council appears to have decided that there will be no requirement on the companies awarded contracts to create new jobs within the borough. Moreover, they have decided that services do not have to be delivered locally: that is, staff currently employed by Barnet Council could be made redundant and their jobs done by people in another part of the county or even overseas, most probably in a call centre.

Staff made redundant will be offered basic TUPE terms, which, as we have already seen with outsourced services in Barnet, usually means that sooner or later staff will be re-employed on worse terms. That is bound to affect the quality of the service to residents.

There is a high risk that residents will foot the bill if One Barnet fails

The document is shot through with anxiety about who will bear risks, including financial risks. For example, the Council is looking into taking out insurance against contract failure, and it is worried about the implications of outsourcing for paying the pensions of transferred staff. Here is one particularly startling quotation regarding the pension fund:

“At the end of the contract period, there are risks of potential large deficits being built up by the new employer during the contract period. A recovery plan will need to be put in place well before contract ceases.”
The ostensible reason for going down the outsourcing path is to save money, but if contracts fail in any way, it will cost us money and disruption in our services. Other areas of provision will wind up needing to be cut to make up gaps in the Council’s budget.

The quality of our services is in jeopardy

In the document senior officers acknowledge that contractors are interested in the One Barnet Programme for one reason alone: to make money. Take this, for example:
“There are... many examples of long-term partnerships where the commitment and enthusiasm of the provider has waned over the duration of the contract. Major... organisations will generally resource extensively during the first year, or two, of a new contract but this level of resourcing diminishes as the contract moves to a more stable business as usual position.”
Residents, however, care about the quality of their services, and councillors should too.

We believe that councillors have a duty to inform themselves about these issues as a matter of urgency so that they can discuss them with constituents.

The One Barnet Programme has major implications for the future of the Borough’s services and finances and for the way it is governed. One day the discussions behind closed doors must spill out onto the streets, as residents feel the impact of the changes to their services. That will be too late for them and you suddenly to be involved in the debate.

We therefore urge you to take an active interest in One Barnet now. Speaking for ourselves, we oppose the programme; we believe One Barnet will jeopardise local finances, the quality of services and democratic control over them.

You must act now.

Derek Dishman
John Dix
Vicki Morris
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne

2nd November 2011

1 comment:

princessp said...

please see attached a letter that an employee has had published at hendon times:

Wake up & face reality
As a union member, employee & resident I stand by & defend the Union in its action regarding the One Barnet Project. Daniel Thomas is quick to comment on the fact that the amount paid to the Union is too high & that the Unions should not be paid from the public purse. He fails to publicise that the Barnet leader & councilllors are allowing the administrators to outsource the majority of the services to the private sector. The private sectors would not be interested in tendering with local authority unless they were able to make a profit from the venture. So is it ok for the private sector to make profit from the public purse? The leader, councillors & management (which includes highly paid consultants) are happy for the profit to be made from the taxpayers money to be used to line fat cats pockets rather then be used within the authority to provide better services to its residents.

The Chief Executive, Nick Walkley recently wrote to all employees as follows:

" As you will be aware, the council has made an offer to Unison that protects the pension rights, and other terms and conditions, of staff who transfer which goes beyond the statutory TUPE requiremens. We have informed unions that this, which goes far beyond what is demanded by legislation, is our full and final offer. I believe it is a reasonable offer at a time when both publiic and private sectors are facing difficult times and we need to protect staff & public services."

The Chief FAILS to guarantee the location in his offer. Without this any offers are unattractive & hold no value to the employee.

I urge all residents & employees to wake up & face reality. The One Barnet project will be devastating for Barnet. There are so many examples of where the outsourcing has not worked, However, our leaders still continue to regardlessly plough into outsourcing. The already deplated services will get worse & there will be job losses. We currently are one authority, ONE BARNET but in the future if we allow this to continue on we will be many Barnets with services being branched all over the country & there will be no such thing as a local authority. Councillors beware the highly paid consultants & the likes of Nick Walkey won't be around when it comes to cleaning the mess they have left behind but you will still be around & will have to answer for what you are allowing to happen. I will stand by the Union who is trying to protect Barnet resident's services & employess & will support them more as a resident than an employee to protect the Barnet that I once used be proud to live & work for. "

The leaked procurement document confirms that there is no point in offers been made under tupe when the location is not going to be in barnet

Decision 6 Delivery location

I am also sure that there is an inside deal going on - two of barnet ex employees are now working at BT - Sean Powley who was an assistant director for organisational development of libaries & customer services left Barnet in September 2008 & is now working for BT as the Client Industry Executive-local government. Richard Grice Assistant Director of Customer service left just last week to join BT & there is also another rumour that another Head of Service is also planning to BT - is this competitor dialogue? They are all interested in outsourcing for their own personal movtives
& senior management & highly paid consultant do not care what happens to barnet & its residents or what is best for Barnet as long as they can line their pockets