What is that sound I heard? Was it thunder? was it a crash on the M1? Nope, I think it was the sound of the penny dropping. Over the last two weeks, I've been immersed in work making the follow up for A Tale of Two Barnets. We've had many local people into the studios for interviews as well as driving around the Borough interviewing people and shooting footage of local areas and other stock footage.
One Saturday, I had a day off, so I did a stint on the Barnet Alliance for Public Services stall in Mill Hill. It was a beautiful sunny day, so it was most pleasant to stand outside and chat to people. One guy I vaguely know who is a Conservative, but also drinks at the same watering holes as myself said "You've got two minutes to persuade me to sign that petition, if you can I'll sign".
I responded "The One Barnet program is an outsourcing program. The Council plans to do to it's services, what the Olympics did with its security and G4S. The only problem is that they are gambling with taxpayers money. If it all goes wrong, we don't have the army to bale us out. The last contract they outsourced was parking in April and its already gone wrong. They are losing money and locals are getting shafted". At this he responded that he's had three tickets since April and signed.
The new parking warden service is a One Barnet project. It was brought in by Brian Coleman before he lost the GLA election and got the sack. At the recent Budget OSC, he criticised his own project. As usual he blamed everyone except himself (Quelle Surprise).
If One Barnet screws up, the Army can't bale us out. The Barnet Taxpayer will have to. As the project is worth £1 billion, even a small cock up in the drafting of the contract will cost taxpayers millions. Once the contracts are signed, then they last for ten years. The expertise will be lost and jobs will also be lost.
Councillor Alan Schneiderman asked a question about what happened at South West One at the Budget OSC, where a similar mass outsourcing screwed up. As you can probably guess, he didn't get a sensible answer. Here is Brian Coleman in what is possibly his swansong meeting, not answering a perfectly sensible question :-
The sad thing is that Outsourcing projects go wrong. The G4S contract at the Olympics went wrong. Many railway franchises have gone wrong. When the railways were privatised we were promised faster, cheaper and better trains. What we got was failed franchises, where companies hand back the contracts when they can't make any money. In Barnet, the council got sued for £10 million by a company called Catalyst, who weren't making the promised profits from an outsourcing contract. The taxpayer bore this expense. The council have had numerous contracts with suppliers, which bloggers have identified as defective. One has to ask, if they get it wrong with a £1.4 million supplier such as Metpro, what chance have they got with a £1 Billion project. The One Barnet Zealots of the right say "Ah, but the new contracts are more robust". If that is the case, what has happened with parking?
None of the One Barnet bidders are in this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are in it for big profits. Their solutions take jobs away from Barnet and remove democratic control.
The message is slowly getting through to the voters. Councillor Brian Coleman did us a service when he made sure that Parking was the first One Barnet contract. He allowed us to see the future of all of the other council services. If there was a robust business case for One Barnet, surely the council would have shown it to us by now? The fact they haven't is the clearest possible sign that despite spending millions of pounds on One Barnet, they can't even convince themselves that it will deliver the savings they've promised. Many of the savings in the documents we've seen are designated as "Aspirational". This means they'd "like to achieve them". I'd like to win the lottery jackpot, but I'm not basing my household budget on that premise. Sadly Barnet Council are with One Barnet. The difference is that the National Lottery has a jackpot of a few million. The One Barnet Lottery jackpot is twenty times that and it is multi national companies which stand to win it. In this lottery, you buy the ticket and they win the prize.