Monday, 7 January 2013

*** Updated *** Barnet Council - One Barnet - what are the DRS and NSCSO projects

I note with interest that Barnet Council have updated their website to include details of the One Barnet project. You can see this here



Interestingly the info on the Council website makes much more modest claims for the savings than those bandied about by Leader of the Council Richard Cornelius. With NSCSO Cornelius claimed that £120 would be saved. The Council website says £41 million over ten years.

The full business case is here

This document is highly dishonest. It lists an options appraisal of four choices, giving the advantages and disadvantages.

1. Do nothing - abandon the  procurement and retain the services in-house

• The Council retains complete control over service delivery and how savings are achieved
• No services are re-located
• The Council would avoid the effort involved in transferring the services and setting up a contract
management team
• The Council would avoid the risks of poor contractor performance and poor contract management

• The Council has limited capability to secure and manage the significant investment, transformation and remodelling required for these services to preserve service levels, achieve strategic objectives and reduce cost
• The services will have to be reduced in order to deliver the savings required by the Medium Term Financial Strategy, and this would severely jeopardise the ability of frontline delivery units to work effectively
• The services are unlikely to contribute to any of the Council’s strategic objectives of new relationship with citizens, one public sector approach or relentless drive for efficiency
• The Council retains all risk relating to the quality of service delivery and how future savings are achieved
• The Council would still need to invest substantially in replacing IS infrastructure that is now at the end of its useful life.

2. Proceed to contract signature on the Preferred Bidder recommendation

• The Council secures upfront investment in the technology and transformation required by the services which it is able to pay back over the life of the contract
• The Council achieves, and in many places exceeds the financial and nonfinancial benefits required by the Outline Business Case
• The Council transfers the risk of the quality of service delivery and the achievement of savings to the partner
• The Council benefits from the external expertise, innovation and commercialism of a long-term strategic partnership
• The Council frees itself from day to day delivery of non-core services so that it can focus on strategy,
evaluation and commissioning
• The Council is able to hold the service provider to account pursuant to the contractual arrangement
and incentivise performance through a price/performance mechanism

• Whilst the risk of delivering these benefits will be substantially transferred to the Partner under the contract, the Council retains risk that may be broadly summarised as:
(i) the partner fails to fulfil its contractual commitments
(ii) the Council does not fulfil its own obligations thus preventing the benefits from being achieved.

3. Proceed to contract signature on the Preferred Bidder recommendation but reduce the scope of the contract


• The Council can select those services the Council believes would benefit most from outsourcing or carry least risk

• The Public Contracts Regulations (Regulation 18(29)) limits what an authority can do following close of
dialogue to "clarify and confirm commitments" – reduction in scope would contravene this.
• The size of the contract provided the bidders with scope to offer the Council significant financial and non-financial benefits. Reduction in scope would require recalibration of deal and affect the attractiveness of the business case to both parties, and potentially result in the preferred bidder walking away and initiating
a legal challenge
• Any reduction in scope of service also has to be considered in the context of the European Regulations governing procurement. Removing services from scope widens the field of companies who would have
viewed themselves as having the requisite capability to deliver the contract, and there is a risk that such companies would bring legal action against the Council for denying them opportunity to
provide the reduced scope of services.  This would result in the current contract being suspended or deemed void and the Council would have to undertake a further procurement exercise incurring further costs and time delays

4. Abandon this  procurement and research alternative delivery models

• Council would avoid the effort involved in transferring the services and setting up a contract management team
• Council would avoid the risks of poor contractor performance and poor contract management by the Council

• This has the same disadvantages as option 1
• This would incur more funding from the Council’s transformation reserve than is budgeted for
• This would further delay the timetable for releasing the savings required by the MTFS leading to
immediate pressure on front line services over the next 12-24 months;
• The Council would need to build in substantial provision for the risk of not achieving the planned


Option two was the one the Cabinet recommended. As you can see the "disadvantages" seemed to be fairly minimal. What isn't mentioned is how the preferred bidder, Capita, have got on when implementing similar projects elsewhere. Surely if we are looking at disadvantages, we should look to see what sort of form our supplier has. If you google "Capita week", you'll soon see that the whole thing is not nearly as cut and dried as the business case makes out. We've identified 18 major public sector outsourcing projects, where significant problems have become public. We can only speculate as to what has been swept under the carpet elsewhere. Here is the list we put together. Tell me, do you really believe that there is only one disadvantage to signing this contract.

1. Capita faces fresh attack over Arch Cru scandal
“Capita has come under further pressure over its role in the Arch Cru scandal after ex-directors of the cell companies that make up the funds alleged it was responsible for flaws in the structure of the investments.”

2. Capita's £1bn Service Birmingham venture falls short
“According to a news report, the review concludes that Service Birmingham, as the JV is called, needs "serious improvement" if it is to meet its targets.”

3. Capita poises axe over 1000 staff – jobs headed to India

4. Capita to axe 84 more jobs at Belfast office

5. Capita loses its lucrative CRB contract after a decade
“Kevin Lapwood, at the brokers Seymour Pierce, said: “There’s a suspicion that Capita has been earning too high a margin on certain central government contracts.”

6. Capita to lose congestion charge

7. Capita blamed in schools' data loss

8. Capita IT staff strike over Indian offshoring plans

9. FSA censures Capita Financial Managers for Arch Cru failings

11. Government urged to ditch Capita after ILA failure

12. 30 Capita staff in Darwen face axe”
13. Capita and administrator renew Arch Cru blame game
Former Arch Cru administrator Bordeaux Services has filed its defence against allegations that it breached its fiduciary duty in relation to the failed Arch Cru funds, blaming the losses suffered by investors on the “unforseeable actions” of the funds’ authorised corporate director Capita.
14. Top-of-the-range perks enjoyed by Birmingham City Council officers
15. Service Birmingham heads off dispute with city council over bill for new server equipment
16. Probe launched into how Birmingham library contract was won by Capita
17. More trials being disrupted over interpreter failings

Updated - as if by magic

After posting this blog, one of my loyal army of readers contacted me and sent me an FOI response detailing what exactly was in the "investment plan" referred to in the Business Case. Would you believe that this plan doesn't actually exist even though it is part of the contract which has been approved. Could you make it up? - Here is the question and the response


London Borough of Barnet,
North London Business Park,
Oakleigh Road South,
N11 1NP

3 January 2013

 Our ref: 202343


Thank you for your request received on 17 December 2012, for the following information:

In the Full Business Case of the NSCSO submitted on the 21/11/12,
table 7.3, it is stated that the bidder will invest £6,973,478 in
Information Systems (IS), as part of larger investment of £17.5M.

This investment by the bidder will be repaid by the Council during
the lifespan of the contract (which makes it a loan rather then
'investment', but this is a different issue).

This IS investment plan has no breakdown for its components, so it
is impossible to validate. But since the investment is specified
down to the pound, I expect its details to be readily available.

Please provide the full detailed IS investment plan. You can use
the detailed questions below as to what is expected to be included
in the answer (but not limited to):

If IS is on co-hosting platforms, please provide the following
Mass storage:
> Total storage size. If storage is tiered, please provide raw
storage size for each tier.
> Cost of 1GB storage per annum, including backup and disaster
recovery. If storage is tiered, please provide those details per

> Type of charging units, number of units, price per unit. If
tiered, please provide a breakdown.

If IS to be hosted on its own dedicated platforms, please provide
the following details:

Per each server in the investment plan please provide:
> Manufacture Model, number of CPU/Cores, RAM size, operating

Per each mass storage device:
>Manufacture model, spindle model, number of spindles, any extras
provided with a device (e.g. VFLEX, BCV)
SAN switches (if used): manufacture model and price.

Per each software (including end user desktop software) please
provide the following details:
> Software name, provider, cost per software, annual support cost.
> Licensing price model:
If charged per users, please provide number of users and cost per
If charged per CPU/Cores, please provide number of charged units
and price per unit.
If charged for unlimited usage please provide global price.

Network devices (e.g. routers, switches)
> Manufacture model, number of ports (if relevant), price per unit.
For other network devices, e.g. firewall, IDS. Please provide
manufacture and price or usage price if shared.

> WAN charges
If paid for unlimited usage, please provide bandwidth, and price
per annum
If paid per usage, please provide price per 1MB of traffic

For end users computing devices (desktops, laptops etc.) please
> Manufacture model, price per device, annual maintenance cost.

We have processed this request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


I am writing to inform you that the information you request is not held by London Borough of Barnet.

The IS investment plan will be contained within the financial model of the contractual agreement for the provision of the New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO), which has yet to be finalised. Therefore the detailed IS investment plan is not yet held. The final document will be completed once the contract is signed. This is currently expected to occur between January and March 2013. Following this, it is our intention to publish the contract including details of proposed investment on the council's website having redacted any elements considered to be commercially sensitive.

Your rights

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request a review within the next 20 working days by writing to the FOI Officer at: The London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1NP (email

If, having exhausted our review procedure, you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint, you will have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 0303 123 1113; website  There is no charge for making an appeal.


Morris Hickey said...

And Capita (so beloved of Tony Bliar) appears to have made a complete balls up of a contract it holds with the UK Border Agency.

Ron said...

Imagine that you were committed to buy new home, but you will be told where the house is,how many rooms it got, and when you will be able to move in just after you signed the contract. would you sign it? after all the Council will...
This contract seems more and more like one of those phising emails scams.

MickeyN said...

There is a very interesting (one could say "brutally honest") appraisal of our Council's ability in Option 1: Advantage "the Council retains complete control over service delivery"; disadvantage "the services are unlikely to contribute to any of the Council's strategic objectives etc etc". Eh? Even with complete control they can't contribute to their own objectives? The Council can't manage service delivery yet they expect an outside company to do so AND make a profit for themselves AND make a huge saving for Barnet?

What have I missed?