On Satuday 7th July, the Barnet Alliance for Public Services held a conference, featuring presentations by Andy Mudd from the Association for Public Service Excellence, Professor Dexter Whitfield who is an expert on the subject of outsourcing in local government and was originally engaged by Barnet Council to assist the local trades unions get to grips with the issues of outsourcing and John Dix, AKA Blogger Mr Reasonable, who is a consultant who advises organisations on outsourcing and management transformation.
Each speaker gave interesting and informative presentations. As you will see from the highlights presented here, none of these speakers are wild eyed lunatics, speaking beyond their pay grade. All gave reasoned arguments to support their case that transforming Barnet into an unaccountable and opaque commissioning Council presents a huge financial risk to the people of Barnet.
How has Barnet Council responded to repeated attempts to engage in a grown up discussion? Councillor Robert Rams described APSE as a left wing organisation, despite the fact that it works with over 300 local authorities of all political persuasions and is generally held in high esteem. Needless to say that Councillor Rams didn't attend the presentations given by APSE. How he formed this opinion is a mystery. It is clearly not evidence based (unlike the information presented by Andy Mudd).
Here is a section of Mr Mudd's presentation, where he outlined the risks of outsourcing and how commercial companies have largely abandoned the strategy as a means of achieving efficiency.
Here is John Dix explaining the One Barnet program in lay mans terms. This is probably the best description of the process I've seen. Every Barnet resident should watch this clip, as it sums up what is happening and what how we are spending £20 Million pounds of taxpayers money
Here we have Professor Dexter Whitfield detailing how similar "experiments" at other councils have floundered. Of 44 major outsourcing projects, 11 have failed. That is a 25% failure rate. As Professor Whitfield asks, would you buy a car which had a one in four probability of going wrong?
Not a single Barnet Conservative Councillor attended the conference. They do not want to listen to the potentially calamitous risks associated with the project. They are planning to spend another ten million pounds (on top of the nine million already spent) purely on consultants reports into the process. The project has been running for four years and no savings at all have been delivered. The figures and business case are based largely on finger in the air guesses. Barnet has a poor record of dealing with private companies. We have seen major scandals with both the Metpro contract (£1.4 million) and RM Countrysides (£2.4 million). We are also hearing reports of major issues with the NSL parking contract, which is another major outsourcing, which was completed this year as part of One Barnet.
We urge all councillors to watch these presentations and get in contact with APSE to schedule a proper presentation for the Barnet Council decisionmakers.