Tuesday 8 June 2021

How the Barnet Council One Barnet project with Capita is unravelling and no one can hold the Council to account

Tonight, Barnet Council will start to bring several key services in house, following the failure of the One Barnet program to deliver cost savings and better services. Long time readers will know of the extraordinary efforts I put in to trying to persuade the Council not to outsource swathes of the council to Capita. I made films, videos and wrote over 3 million words on the subject. All cross referenced and fully evidenced.

How did the local Tories react? Back in 2014, the Barnet Conservatives posted a blog on their website, supposedly debunking claims made in a video I produced. Sadly they removed the blog once I exposed it for the shower of **** that it was. 

I posted a blog which effectively debunked all of their claims, exposing them for what they were. It is worth a look.

Barnet Council recently commissioned Grant Thornton (a firm of auditors) to produce a "Market Insights" report. On page four, this report states

“Historically procurement has been ideologically driven and highly political”

 Today the council will debate bringing some services back in house. These are detailed in this chart

It is clear to all that One Barnet has been a failure and has not worked. The savings have not happened and it has caused huge problems for Barnet Council. 

Section 1.5 of the council report states
The council’s approach to the Review aligns with this, in that it is based on a pragmatic, service by service review, with the focus being on “what is the right approach for that service to achieve the overarching priority of ensuring that Barnet residents receive the best possible services that we can afford and at a competitive price. 
This can only mean one thing. That ever since Richard Cornelius signed the contract, we have definetly not been getting the best possible services for Procurement, Regeneration and Regulatory services. Furthermore, despite an expensive review, some services require a further review. It seems to me that Barnet Council and the Tory Councillors running it cannot bring themselves to tell us the truth. With regards to Procurement they say
The Procurement service has generally performed reasonably well throughout the life of the contract, but the recent limited assurance audit report has highlighted the extent to which the council and the service are not fully integrated. 
How can a service be performing well if it has limited assurance and the council and the service are no longer fully integrated? I will leave it to you to decide if the council are being fully open and honest here.

As for Accounts Payable and HR.

These services are now generally performing well and meeting KPIs, despite having suffered from poor performance in the past. The performance of both services has benefited from the in-sourcing of the more strategic elements of HR and Finance in 2019, in that there is a much stronger client/contractor relationship and increased knowledge of the Integra and Core HR systems within the council
Basically, the service wasn't working properly until the key parts were insourced. 

Also under review are Estates#

The Report states

Capita regards this as a core competency, where there is scope for them to add value and bring further investment and innovation in some areas.

Sounds great, doesn't it. However they've been running them for years and the report states.

Overall, the Estates function has had a number of problems over many years, which go back to before the CSG contract was put in place. Repeated efforts to resolve this over the years have made some improvements, but the service is not yet consistently performing to the required standard.

In other words, we've paid Capita a shedload of money to sort it out and it still isn't performing consistently well. But hey, ho lets give them more money as they are 'experts in the field'. 

Regulatory Services and regeneration

The council has many enforcement powers and responsibilities, with the various teams providing a street-based presence across the Borough during the working week, in the evenings and at weekends. A wider review of enforcement activity has highlighted that the different services and teams do not always work seamlessly together, which can lead to delays in response times. There is significant potential for greater integration and more of a “one team” approach across enforcement, which would align processes and procedures to improve outcomes for residents and visitors.

As ever, with Barnet Council, the devil is in the detail. The service is returning because it basically isn't working very well. The report continues

Whilst Capita do operate elsewhere in the Regulatory Services and Regeneration sphere, these are primarily people-based services and it is considered that there is limited scope for Capita’s expertise to bring further opportunities for investment and innovation.

You would think they would have figured this out before they gave them the contract all those years ago. If you wondered why things aren't regulated properly in Barnet, now you know.


Well if you think Barnet Council's roads are in great shape, you clearly don't live in my road. It is another area where the council has been forced to admit that One Barnet and Capita have been a complete failure

Through the work that has taken place to date, it has become clear to both parties that the current contractual arrangements do not provide an optimal solution for this service. In particular, the arrangements for commissioning works that are not included in the core contract are too complicated to satisfy either party. 

You would think that Barnet Council would have done due diligence that Capita would have the expertise to manage complex matters. 

Of course being Barnet, the council are keen absolve themselves of blame for cocking this up. Section 2.2 in the reasons for recommendations states

Members are asked to note that these proposals are intended to secure the most appropriate delivery model for each service going forward, recognising that circumstances have changed since the contracts were first entered into. They do not imply any judgement on the relative value of the services in each category, nor on the staff who deliver them
Apparently the 'circumstances have changed since the contracts were first entered into'. So  delivering Highways has suddenly become massively more complicated, Capita have now become unable to deliver improvements that in theory they are competent in. A strange situation. 

In years gone by, I'd have taken myself up to the Town Hall to listen to the debate and ask public questions, but now you are only allowed to ask one. The Tories have a massive majority on Council. There is no point wasting an evening watching a bunch of nodding dogs. I wrote to the Local Government Secretary to ask him to look at the arrangements in Barnet in 2019. I never got a reply.

 So if you really want to know whether you can trust the Barnet Conservatives, here is the blog from 2014 reproduced in all its glory. In light of the passages from their own report and website above, you may well find these interesting.


Exposing the porkies of the Barneconservatives.com website - my attention was drawn to this article today. In all the excitement, I'd completely missed it. Anyway here is what they say and here is the truth. As I made the video and the Conservatives are calling me a liar, I suppose I am honour bound to respond


Here's what they say, with my comments in red italics

Fact check: How true are claims in recent 'anti-Tory' election video?
Yesterday twitter was saturated with spam tweets from Barnet's 'anti-Tory' alliance activists promoting the video they clearly hope will encourage people not to vote Conservative on May 22nd. Using hashtags #May22 #VoteABC (Abbreviation of BAPS' 'vote Anyone but Conservative' election slogan they repeatedly and robotically reproduced parts of the lyrics of the Roger Tichborne produced and published 'movie'.
Below is a sample of the twitter storm stirred up by the 'anti-Tory' alliance including BAPS, Barnet TUC, Mr John James Sullivan, Mrs Barbara Jacobson (BAPS' supremo) and Mr Ron Cohen (BAPS' publicity Officer)
(As the video does not contain a non party campaigner election imprint we have been advised not to place a link or promote it on our website by legal advisors)
The movie claims that the Council has lied but how true are the claims made in their election video? Fact check set too tast. Let's go through the lyrics.
Claim one - 00:04 Richard Cornelius, "The man who signed the contract"
Fact check: No, he didn't…
This is a blatent lie. Barnet Council released a picture of him signing the contract, which we had some fun with in this blog http://barneteye.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/richard-cornelius-signs-one-barnet.html 
Why do they now deny it? This is a whopper (apologies to burger king)
Claim two - 00:10 'In Barnet Capita have taken control…'
Fact check - The Council is run by Councillors. One venture is pure outsourcing but the second is a joint venture. Many services are still run directly by the Council.
This is pure spin by the Barnet Conservatives. Huge swathes of council services and the decisions to how they are run are made by Capita. Even planning is now under the control of Capita. Several Tory councillors have told me that they are disturbed by the removal of democratic control. (2021 Update - I have been completely vindicated by events)
Claim three - 00:13 Pictures of a coffin 'Death of Democracy'
Fact check - We're in the middle of a lively election where Labour are keen to win. Why would they bother if there was no point? What is the obsession with coffins, death and death imagery btw?
Labour were keen to win because they believed they could do a better job than the Tories. They believed they could make a difference. 
Claim four - 01:16 'The contract was hidden'
Fact check - The huge contract was published, with some redactions, by the Council. This was welcomed by the 'anti-Tory' bloggers who regard is as very useful.
This again is spin. The contract was only published after it was signed. When the decisions were being made it was well and truly hidden, even councillors were only allowed to see it under strict supervision and for a very limited time. This is completely anti democratic.
Claim five - 01.21 The contracts were 'unread by the Council before they chose to sign'
Fact check - On one hand the Council is lambasted for spending so much on lawyers to go through the contracts with a fine tooth comb now the same people accuse them of not reading it. Many Councillors including prominent Labour ones, didn't read the whole legalese document.
Again the BarnetConservatives are spinning. We expect our councillors to read important documents before they sign them. They did not read the contract. (2021 Update - Look where this lack of Scrutiny has landed us)
Claim six - 01:54 OneBarnet 'has lead to widespread discontent'
Fact check - The 'anti-Tory' alliance of Barnet Alliance for Public Services backed by the Trades Unions can scarcely pull together a protest of more than 100 people out of 300,000 in Barnet on this matter. Not even the Labour Party are committed to scrapping OneBarnet or not delivering more outsourcing.
This is yet another sad bit of spin by the Barnet Conservatives. Over 500 people in Barnet watched screenings of Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble. Over 400 attended a march in the snow against the protest on a bitterly cold day in 2013 from Finchley Central to Friern Barnet. There have been many large demonstrations, a fact overlooked by this rather dodgy website.
Claim seven - 02:01 'No questions are allowed in Capitaville'
Fact check - Pure doublespeak? BAPS activists and bloggers regularly ask hundreds of public questions at Council meetings and get detailed responses. They then get to ask further supplementary questions taking up 30 minutes at Committee meetings.
Again this is spin. The Tory administration specifically banned discussion of One Barnet at local Neighbourhood forum meetings, In a democracy, discussion should not be banned. (2021 Update - Now residents are restricted to one question. This makes it impossible for residents to hold the council accountable in complex matters)
Claim eight - 02:27 The disabled are a 'market place commodity' seen as a source of profit
Fact check - Pretty distasteful claim of hard working carers. So where do the millions and millions of pounds spent supporting the vulnerable go?
FACT -  Barnet Council set up Your Choice Barnet as a private company to run care for the disabled. I may be a fool but I thought the reason for setting up a company was to make a profit. Your Choice Barnet has no "not for profit" covenants in it. I suppose the Barnetonservatives could claim that it makes a loss, but this is purely down to their incompetence when they set it up.

And if you want to watch the video that caused this rant, here it is

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