Saturday, 7 January 2012

What exactly are Barnet spending this £374,000 on?

Barnet Council are at it again. They are planning to spend £374,000 of our money, to buy a load of gear for a play scheme to put into storage. Once they've bought it, they will spend another £10,000 per annum on storing it. You can read the full sorry story on the council website here - -

I've loaded it up onto Scribd and here it is in it's full glory.
Youth Spending

You may wonder how Barnet Council can be so profligately wasting our money in this time of cuts. The answer is simple. They are so disorganised that they have been unable to organise a proper use of the money, that if they don't spend it by March they'll lose it. The tragedy of this is that there are all sorts of
local youth groups which would hugely benefit from some of this cash.

My son belongs to a local scouts group, which did a bagpacking exercise at Waitrose in Mill Hill before Xmas. They raised £2,000 towards replacing the troop's camping gear, much of which was over 30 years old, smelly and falling apart. Why on earth didn't the council contact such groups and ask if they needed some equipment. There are all manner of youth groups.

As it is, they are going to buy over 1/3rd of a million quids worth of equipment and store it. This is absolutely criminal.

The financial tale of woe is in section 5. It says :-

5.1 Staffing
The proposal set out in this DPR will not have any impact on staffing levels within
the Youth Support Service. Oversight of the equipment will be maintained by the
Youth Support Service.
5.2 Finance
The Playbuilder’s funding has been allocated to LA’s to develop and provide
activities for children and their families. We propose to use the £374,000 capital
funding to purchase equipment which will support community groups in delivering
Positive Activities. This funding must be spent by 31st March 2011
5.3 Property
Equipment will be the property of LBB and stored at existing Youth Support Service
or provider/partner property.
5.4 Sustainability
Purchasing this pool of equipment will support a more sustainable approach to
Positive Activities. By Barnet supplying high quality equipment and relevant
training, the cost to the third sector in establishing engaging and innovative
programmes will greatly reduce. Any hiring charges made to groups will support
ongoing maintenance costs. Ongoing running costs (c£10k) will be met out of the
Positive Activities Budget.

They give the game away in section 8.

8.1 The service has developed the ability to reach large numbers of young people
through a range of engagement methods including positive activities. However, the
Youth Support Service currently has very few resources that can be loaned out to
groups within Barnet. By making available a central pool of resources it will enable
the service to target needs within the community and to quality assure the activities,
ensuring agreed standards are met.
8.2 The Local Authority has been working with third sector partners to identify
appropriate equipment that will best enable them to meet the needs of children and
young people. This includes equipment that will support the delivery of activities
such as tools, sports and media resources to reduce economic disadvantage by
increasing young people’s knowledge, skills and increasing employability.
8.3 Equipment will be allocated and agreed by the Positive Activities Steering Group.
The Positive Activities steering group brings together a range of partners such as
the police, schools and the voluntary sector to share information and data to ensure
that we focus the resources at targeted groups.
8.4 The Youth Support Service is committed to supporting capacity building within the
third sector. As well as making available a central pool of equipment it will deliver a
training programme to support the use of the equipment, facilitate the Positive
Activities steering group, and identify, train and support a group of young people to
become ambassadors for Positive Activities across the borough. This group have
already supported in identifying relevant equipment to be purchased.

I've highlighted section 8.3 in red. The reason? Well it is clear they are buying all of this equipment before they actually know what people need. In other words, they are trying to second guess what all of the diverse groups in Barnet may actually need. They will buy the gear and store it. We could have the ridiculous situation where Barnet Council have spent £374,000 on such equipment. They could then contact a group like Edgware Scouts and say "We've got £374,000 worth of equipment for young people, can we help you?" The Scouts would then say "Yes, we need tents for 20 boys for our camps" and Barnet would say "Oh sorry, we didn't buy any of them".

What is most bizarre is that Barnet is a Tory regime. One of the big criticisms the West always aimed at the "planned economies" of the Soviet Bloc is that a bureaucrat would draw up a "masterplan" for producing items for the economy without taking into account what the economy actually needed. This resulted in tractors being built and allocated for areas where there were no farms and beach chairs being built for areas that there were no beaches in. This blog has charged Barnet Council with being Stalinist on a few occasions. We hadn't realised that the Stalinism had spread to procurement in this way.

The tragedy is that there are so many groups who could have spent the cash on something really useful, yet the stuff will all be put in storage. Even worse, they will have to employ a team of bureaucrats to decide how it will eventually be allocated. Needless to say that the "positive action steering group" mentioned in section 8.4 will all be on nice fat salaries, which you my friend will be paying.

Sadly this £374,000 seems to be more about jobs for the boys than toys for the children. Needless to say, all of this was in a delegated powers report, that you'd never have seen if it hadn't been for the bloggers of Barnet.


Mrs Angry said...

Hold on: have you noticed the real giveaway detail, point 5.4: the mention of hiring charges? Just what we might expect from our grasping, greedy little Tory councillors. Shame they can't be forced to engage in some positive activities, with or without extra equipment.

Rog T said...

Good spot, there are lots of things in there that are not quite right. I often read these, write a blog, then read them again and realise they are worse than I thought

Hope you feel better

Mr Mustard said...

They don't know what day of the week it is at Barnet Council. The money has to be spent by 31 March 2011. Well that was 9 months ago !

Mr Mustard said...

The DPR went through 11 stages. How can 11 people fail to spot a basic error? Is it because they just shut their eyes and sign? Either they are sloppy or they don't care. Imbeciles.

Every DPR should be perfect by the time it is published.

Rog T said...

Mr Mustard,

It has now gone thru it's 12th stage and the bloggers have declared it deeply flawed