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
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.
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.
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 themApparently 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