Friday 17 January 2014

Guest Blog - How Not To Spend Fifty Million in four years - By John Sullivan

By John Sullivan,

The NHS affects us all, including Barnet residents whose MPs have all willingly voted for the privatisation of the NHS, and our local Tory councillors will support said privatisation, because they privatise everything that moves.

They have a housing policy for the haves but no housing policy for the have nots, which applies in many aspects of government policy, they have a policy to protect the perks of councillors and bankers and the exorbitant salaries of senior management, but no such policy to protect the wages of the actual front line workers. In fact Your Choice Barnet are about to once again savage the wages of front line workers attending disabled people, a deliberate attack on the quality of life of the most vulnerable people in Barnet, because they can't fight back. Whilst retaining the excessively high wages for officers and the unearned perks for our lazy councillors.

Basically they are creating a two tier system and are aiming for the same policy in the NHS, in effect a first class NHS for the haves and a second class system for the have not's, the whole conservative approach is about a two tier system.

Which is affecting Barnet residents like a cold creeping up on you, you ignore it until it is to late. But the NHS is not the only threat to Barnet residents. We are sailing towards a financial Iceberg with the Tories at the Helm. ( see the recent report from Barnet Eye On the subject of the number two, two is a relevant number in Barnet with the film  A Tale of Two Barnet's, now we have A Tale of Two Tiers in Barnet, in Health, housing, employment rights, and disabled rights.

But let us not forget the One Barnet Programme, a good film title for OBP would be" How Not  To Spend Fifty Million " in four years  ( with your fingers crossed) , in the hope you will save a hundred million over ten years with no guarantees you will save a penny. For example the first promised One Barnet saving was to be the Capita investment in IT, an in-house comparison was refused on the grounds we desperately needed this investment in IT from Capita. But the reality is that was either an error or an untruth, because Capita have not invested those promised millions in IT, you the Barnet taxpayer have, so hundreds of jobs may have been lost to local people for no good reason. The worrying thing is no matter which Tory councillor you approach on the handling of this indirect £16.1 million investment in Capita all you get is a wall of silence  They say silence is golden, but so were those hundreds of jobs now lost to local people and their families, along with revenues lost to local traders. How can these useless lazy councillors (to clarify I believe they are lazy/idle because they have admitted they didn't read the contract and useless because they seem not to realise that is a problem) sing the praises of the OBP contract with Capita, when they thought Capita were going to invest the millions in IT that you the Barnet taxpayer have now funded,  they got that very important point wrong, that has potentially cost hundreds of local residents their jobs.

The worst of it being that Capita will gain the most from your multi million pound investment in IT, because by the end of the Capita contract be it 10 years or 15 years, the IT you have invested in for them to use for that period of time will not be worth two bob at today's money. The real question is, if we could find the investment after signing the contract with Capita, why could we not find that same money prior to the signing of the contract with Capita, and I repeat potentially save hundreds of local jobs, and protect hundreds of local families from the misery of unemployment , many of whom no doubt now having to make the choice between heating & eating .  

It is vital that the local blogs keep doing the job our local press no longer appear to have any interest in, because they unlike the bloggers appear to be in the pockets of the Council (presumably because the council keep the papers afloat with large advertising spending).  Contrary to the Conservative spin machine (funded by donations from multi millionaires with deep pockets), Baps and the Fantastic Five Bloggers represent the ordinary people of Barnet, and not as the conservative spin machine suggests, trade unions, crackpots, reds under the beds, cranks or anybody else. Baps like the bloggers are of many political opinions and none, furthermore the majority unlike our lazy idle councillors, are far to intelligent to have signed contracts with Capita without having read them , discussed them , consulted with all interested parties on the content and been sure of what they were signing before they signed it. The Tory spin machine which appears to be spontaneously  supported by our local press can brand them crackpots, but the reality is it is only crackpots that sign contracts without having read them.

These so called Barnet Alliance & Fab Five blogger crackpots were trying to engage in meaningful consultation with the council  on the One Barnet Programme, concerned with what was happening elsewhere in the country between local authorities and Capita and the fact it could happen here in Barnet.. But rather than engage with them in constructive debate consultation and discussion, our local councillors chose to ridicule bad mouth and abuse these folk, the fact they were Barnet residents with the right to be heard was irrelevant to these ideologues. However time has shown that had our incumbent councillors engaged in consultation with these so called crackpots now proven to be far wiser than our councillors, they might not have got things so badly wrong, and blindly committed every Barnet resident to a ten year contract with Capita they had not even read. For example would you have been so stupid so irresponsible so reckless, as to sign  the One Barnet contract with Capita, when you were being made aware what was going on in Birmingham ( )and other areas of the country with Capita, particularly without reading it.

This crass act of folly and stupidity beggars belief, and the consequences are yet to be fully realised as they are now being realised in Birmingham and other parts of the country, where Capita has its greedy fingers in the public sector  cash register.

The human cost of the ongoing privatisation and decay of the NHS is there for all to see, no matter what spin the conservatives and Lib Dense put on it they have made a complete balls up of the NHS and blaming everybody else but themselves, and repeatedly misrepresenting the facts as is there want. I for example have now waited six months for a prognosis on a cancerous tumour, six bloody months yet under the last government 8 years ago when I had cancer I waited six weeks for a prognosis. A wonderful system being split up to line the pockets of the Tory donors, like British Gas and all Utilities, The railways, BT ,and now our public services and virtually anything that moves the most recent rip off of the British people being the cut price gift of the Post Office .. When I look back on all these privatisations I ask, who has benefitted? have the benefits we the people were promised been realised, and we all know that the answer to that question is a definitive "NO". So I did a couple of rough sums on the question of the One Barnet Contracts with Capita , how true are the local Tory claims the signing of these contracts will save Barnet residents £120 million over ten years.

As with much of this, I can but estimate. Capita  have taken a minimum of 300 jobs out of Barnet and that is a very  conservative estimate, it is probably nearer 500, an average wage (I believe) of £28K a year. It is estimated that of that 60% would go to the local economy from the 75% of staff living locally. That means that £3 million has been removed annually from the Barnet economy, or £30 million over ten years. £30 Million taken away from shops, High Streets, cafes, pubs and local charities. £30 Million that used to be spent in Barnet, that should be spent in Barnet as it is paid by Barnet taxpayers will no longer be spent here. Barnet traders or their staff are in the main Barnet residents, I therefore consider that to be a loss to Barnet residents of a minimum of £30million due to the signing of the contract with Capita..

Next we have " Le Silente "£16.1million, the figure that is not spoken of by our Tory councillors. The millions that Capita were supposed to invest in IT prior to the signing of the OBP contract has subsequently become £16.1million invested on the Qt by Barnet residents, naturally Barnet residents have not been consulted on this use of their money. Because as the high court Judge was advised by counsel for Barnet at the recent Judicial Review, it is none of Barnet residents business what the council do , even it would appear when it comes to spending £16.1million of our money. However as I have stated it is Capita that will be using the new IT and other systems for the next ten years, and we all know with technology, that in ten years time it will be obsolete and worth nothing, it is tantamount to an indirect investment in Capita from where I am standing.  I therefore respectfully suggest that this is also an expenditure that can be added to the cost of signing the Capita contract

 Then we have the massive cost of the One Barnet Consultants to consider which I am advised by a specialist in this field, has probably reached the staggering total to date of £10 million . Now staff redundancy payments are a different kettle of fish as they are paid I am advised by Capita, but Capita are reimbursed via their fees to the council and this information is hidden from Barnet residents. However I am again advised that a conservative estimate of the cost of staff redundancy is £7million..Then of course we have the legal fees which I am again advised a conservative estimate for legal fees to date is £1.75million.

After allowing for all of these outgoings and expenditure and losses to the local economy, how can our town hall incumbents claim OBP was a sign or bust contract that we had to sign. We have effectively sold our souls ( to the company store ) into Capita slavery, for when you consider the size of the LBB budget, a fist full of dollars. The Birmingham Council experience along with other councils across the country, proves the promised savings are pie in the sky, and Capita are already like Oliver demanding more.
 Furthermore most of the so called savings are going to be realised in procurement and will be realised by increases in prices such as those for burials and social support services, cutting service quality and staff wages, as is proven by the Capita demand for more regarding housing benefit services, that I refer to below.

Residents paying the bills are not allowed to be consulted or to know how their money is being spent, so much for transparency and democracy, and by the way there is not much of that £120million savings Cornelius bragged about left is there.

30mil+ 16.1mil + 10 mil + 7mil + 1.75 mil

Accumulated cost of Capita contract to date  = £64.85 million and rising, to be deducted from the promised pie in the sky saving s of £120million, doesn't look so rosy now does it.

 More importantly our incumbent ideologues repeatedly claimed we could not afford and in-house comparator that could have retained services and jobs in house. How can they possibly justify spending these huge sums of your money, yet have nothing to compare it with, an in-house comparator would have done exactly that. But this was never about saving Barnet taxpayers money from the outset, this was is and always has been about ideology and dogma and an  in-built hatred of public services. That matches their hatred of social housing, a problem they continually choose to ignore, that will eventually like the Capita contracts come back and bite us on the butt.

But the reality is the costs of the Capita contracts continue to rise by the hour.

Only this week we saw Capita asking for more, perhaps they should re-name the company " Oliver " instead.  Capita are already asking for more money for face to face housing benefit registration because they say the service has changed after December 2012 and they are entitled to more money to keep the service at the same standard or alternatively cut the standard of the service. The problem being, that given so many of the experienced council staff/consultants who negotiated the Capita contract have now left there is no continuity, and I am advised this is something Capita could possibly exploit. So already Capita are demanding more and we are only five minutes into the contract, but the question is what can our councillors do to curtail the craven demands for more. Sadly it would appear the answer is very little, as our councillors no longer have the staff or facilities in place to do anything other than bow to the demand for more, or  undermine the quality of the service.

The Capita gun now held at the head of our councillors that they were warned about by the so called" crackpot Fab Five bloggers and Baps members, quite simply says, more money or worse quality services, take your pick, our profits come before the quality of services end of story.

As the Barnet Eye has pointed out in recent days, the incumbents in the Town Hall,  by their own admission have done a terrible job of managing the needs and finances of Barnet and all its residents . They have had 11 years to get it right and by their own admission they have got it badly wrong on so many fronts, you cannot run a council on ideology and dogma, common sense and balance has to play a part if all residents both the haves and the have not's  are to be properly and democratically served.

The same message applies to the NHS which is where we started out on this journey, a service for all free at the point of use will soon be a thing of the past , along with public services and the public service ethic unless we collectively fight back against these ideologues.

 And all this destruction of public services that provide for folk of every political persuasion and none, in the name of ideology and dogma, driven by a handful of undemocratic ideologues. Like everything else that has been privatised over the years, the ordinary working people will lose out and they will pay the price, for lining the pockets of the millionaires buying up our public services and health service on the cheap.

However the one thing we have all learned in the last few years no matter your political colour, our town hall incumbents have no time for democracy, in fact in many ways Barnet has become a democracy free zone under their ideological dogmatic rule, and for the benefit of all we need a change. Even if it means replacing an incompetent Tory administration with a potentially incompetent Labour administration, after all Capita is running the show any way so it will make little or no difference, but there is a glimmer of hope. That hope being an incoming Labour or Coalition administration might once again start to listen to and represent the views and opinions of the Barnet residents, and end this ongoing period of Tory dictatorship ideology and dogma. Where the views of residents have been repeatedly and continually ignored, and if they remain in power will continue to be ignored.

Just to remind people of a couple of salient facts. Not only did counsel for our incumbent Tory councillors make it clear to the high court judge at a recent Judicial review, that in the opinion of our incumbent councillors ,Barnet residents have no right to be consulted. I repeat because it is worth repeating, in their opinion " we Barnet residents have no right to be consulted "

Furthermore they dishonestly tried to claim in the high court, they had consulted the residents of Barnet on the One Barnet Programme ( OBP ), which implies they were aware they should have consulted us. However the high court judge made it clear to our incumbent Tory councillors, that not only did they not consult Barnet residents on OBP, they made no attempt to consult Barnet residents on OBP. He further pointed out that by doing so they had  "acted unlawfully " , and but for the fact the case was out of time he would have found against Barnet council.

Barnet councillors dishonestly bragged that they had won the argument, but the reality is they had lost the argument, the only thing that allowed them to get away with acting unlawfully was a technicality. Was the fact the case was not called within the timescale laid down, therefore the Capita contract you /we are now lumbered with was in effect albeit indirectly arrived at it would appear by unlawful means, on top of everything else.

It is time for a change of administration. It is time the voice of the people of Barnet was once again heard and shown some respect, it is time to reinstate democracy in Barnet , to instil some integrity and honesty once again in local politics that is currently in my humble opinion rotten to the core, it is time to save our NHS from the precipice of full blown  privatisation before its to late.

 After all it is the Barnet residents thanks to our current town hall incumbents,that are paying the bills, and keeping the Capita shareholders in the comfort they have become accustomed to. Even if you were not ware until now, that is precisely what you are doing.

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