Thursday, 14 June 2012

More evidence that Barnet Council wastes money and just doesn't get it

Sometimes I read documents produced by Barnet Council and truly despair. This statement is not some hyperbole, written out of a desire to write a sexy blog. It is borne out of a genuine frustration with the total inability of Barnet Council to spend our money wisely on highly important issues, which affect all of our lives. I was looking at the Council papers for the forthcoming Council meeting and was horrified when I came across this paper, detailing the council's plans for addressing the issue of young people excluded from education or training (see bottom of post for full report)

Having read the paper, I have sent this email to the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius and Council CEO Nick Walkley (copying in Legal boss Jeff Lusti). Here is the text, which sums up my views on the initiative (the text is contained within **************** )


Dear Councillor Cornelius,
I have a question for Barnet Council cabinet. Please can you ensure that this question is submitted.
Barnet Council Cabinet is reviewing a paper entitled "Cabinet approval of The Barnet Skills,Employment and Enterprise Action Plan; and apackage of targeted support to help young peopleinto employment, including support to localbusinesses."
The total cost of the initiatives outlined in this paper are £1,000,000. One of the strands of the scheme is to work with Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SME's) to develop pathways for getting young people not in education or training (NEET) into employment.
I am highly concerned by the fact that Barnet Council has embarked on such an initiative, yet has seemingly not bothered to engage with any SME's, especially those who have some experience of working with NEET youngsters. As a member of the Federation of Small Business, I would have expected Barnet Council to have consulted the Federation with regards to initiatives involving SME's. Furthermore, I would also have expected Barnet Council to have engaged with organisations and companies engaged with working with NEET youngsters in Barnet.
My business, Mill Hill Music Complex, together with SoundSkool, have in association with Youth Music and YMCA developed a program for such youngsters and delivered a series of courses for such young people, which also offered practical experience for the young people with paid work experience outcomes.
Myself and Simon Gordon of Sound Skool have attended many meetings with various parts of the Barnet Council organisation to discuss the subject of improving opportunities for NEET youngsters. Simon also applied to attract funding via the former Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Lisa Rutter for initiatives related to the Sound Skool project. Simon has been successful in securing funding from (one of the UK's leading advertising agencies) for a further term of Sound Skool courses.
Given the fact that there are companies involved in this area, with a proven track record of success, why have they not been consulted? With a budget of one million pounds, which is a not insignificant sum, surely any scheme which is designed to involve SME's should do the following:
a) Work with organisations such as the FSB which represent SME's to develop a program, working with SME's to deliver appropriate programs.
b) Identify local businesses (many of which alredy work with Barnet Council) which have experience of NEET youngsters, to develop and build upon existing programs.
c) Consult with established local business, to develop schemes, rather than to develop the schemes, spend the money and then wonder why they haven't delivered.
It is instructive to see that not a single SME or organisation representing them is featured in the action plan included in the report.
The culture within an organisation such as Barnet Council is completely different to that within an SME. Any scheme which is targeted at SME's should include board members with solid SME experience in Barnet and good contacts within the SME business community. Will Barnet Council commit to reviewing this program and adopting the suggestions above before progressing the scheme?
The current Sound Skool term is ending shortly. In her role as Deputy Mayor and Mayor, Councillor Lisa Rutter was a steadfast supporter of Simon Gordon and SoundSkool. We formally invite the Leader, Deputy Leader and CEO of Barnet Council, as well as the Current Mayor, Councillor Brian Schama to attend the final week of the Sound Skool term next Tuesday at Mill Hill Music Complex, to review the work and meet the youngsters involved.  
The current term has been 100% funded by the private sector. We believe that Barnet Council must seriously consider ways to promote such schemes and encourage private/public sector cooperation. We believe that this would be a far more cost effective method of actually delivering opportunities for NEET youngsters than the plans outlined in the report. As a first measure, the FSB and other local businesses should be encouraged to contribute and participate. I consider it rather strange that this initiative was not discussed at all at the recent "business breakfast" I attended with the Leader and CEO of Barnet Council. Surely this was the ideal opportunity to raise the matter? Surely the main purpose of such meetings should be to brief local business on initiatives which affect them?
Given that the report involves a substancial amount of money and directly references the SME business sector in Barnet, surely not even bothering to consult the sector or seek feedback on plans, is potentially discriminatorty, if not actually negligent? As this involves taxpayers money, I cannot see any justification for excluding the sector.
Please confirm that this question has been submitted for consideration.

Roger Tichborne
Here is the report. 

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