As the new Barnet Labour administration act to wind up the One Barnet project and the huge Capita outsourcing experiment, I've found it really hard to find anything to say (other than 'I told you so' which isn't exactly exciting or enlightening). If the Barnet Conservatives had bothered to listen to me or voices such as John Dix (Mr Reasonable) or outsourcing expert Professor Dexter Whitfield, then the Council wouldn't be in the mess it is in now. Eight years ago, John Dix said these prophetic words as part of a series of films I made entitled Capita the Movie
I tried to get the financial support to make the film as a proper documentary, but sadly there were no rich benefactors willing to underwrite the costs of properly exposing the mess we were walking into. I pitched it to a couple of well known TV documentary series who told me "It's not good telly until the disaster happens". I get their point, but in some ways I understand based on what happened with the Y2K bug. In that case, the powers that be listened, the bugs were fixed (I know, I worked on it) and the worlds IT systems survived. Because the problem was dealt with in advance and properly managed, the now prevailing wisdom was that it was all a media hyped lie. If Barnet Council had listened to us, there would still be evangelical outsources claiming that Barnet could have saved billions if they'd not listened to 'those silly bloggers'.
As the horror show unfolded, we saw ever more opaqueness from the Barnet Tories as they sought to obfuscate the mess they made. The evidence was there for all to see, but the powers that be in the council simply refused to admit there was a problem or release any proper accounts that showed the scale of the mess. Now the new administration has committed to undoing the mess. This will not be straightforward. Whole organisations have been dismantled and moved elsewhere Expertise has been lost and the staff who knew what they were doing have long since found new jobs.
Everyone who has a stake in Barnet has a vested interest in making the new systems work. If they don't it will cost us more money and lead to even worser services, bigger potholes, more litter etc. When the Council were outsourcing, Barnet Unison made many sensible suggestions as to how money could be saved. I hope some of these are revisited and the council positively engage with the Unions.
It is worth recalling that mass outsourcing did not start under a Tory administration. It was actually a Blairite initiative that set up Barnet Homes which became "The Barnet Group". This organisation is now in dispute with its own workers
#BREAKINGNEWS Barnet Outreach workers 88% turnout and a100% vote for strike actionhttps://t.co/3XhM0ocqaF@unisontheunion @John_Burgess001 @organiserjo @unisonglr @cmcanea @MikeShort8 @tiddymoke @ValerieABossman pic.twitter.com/aqPo9arYbh— (((barnet_unison))) (@barnet_unison) July 25, 2022
I do hope that when Barnet Labour have sorted out Capita, they have a long, hard look at the structure of "The Barnet Group". I see no evidence that this has delivered what it was supposed to. These Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO's) are simply overly bureaucratic monsters that seem to generate jobs for managers, accountants, lawyers and pen pushers, without seemingly getting to grip with their main job, in the case of The Barnet Group this is increasing provision of socially and affordable housing. It really is ridiculous that young people cannot afford to live in the Borough of Barnet unless the banks of Mummy and Daddy subsidises them