Wednesday 10 November 2021

Why does Barnet Council have such faith in Capita?

Barnet residents have been plagued for years by the poor service delivered by Capita PLC. This blog has, in the last year, detailed badly maintained local cemeteries, failing phone systems, problems with environmental enforcement and planning to name a few rather major issues. When Barnet Council signed the Capita contracts, we were promised better services at lower costs. Fellow Barnet Blogger Mr Reasonable has demonstrated that costs have gone through the roof and Barnet's deal is not good value for the taxpayer.

I speak to Conservative councillors quite regularly. Quite a few are happy to chat, strictly off the record about the problems the council is having. Many have admitted that the Capita deal is not working well, where we disagree is that they have an ideological attachment to the concept of outsourcing, so they simply cannot admit that it's all gone wrong and they should bring it back in house. The best any has managed is to claim 'some aspects are working in a satisfactory manner'. I am not wedded to any ideology, I'm an engineer by trade, so I simply want what works. I recall a joke my Dad used to tell. He said that when he was in the RAF, he joined up with his squadron and as an officer was asked which of three engineers would he like to service the engine on his plane. There was a white engineer, a black engineer and an Indian engineer. He replied "the one who's planes came home last night". His view was that when your life depended on it, you want the best person for the job. 

Does Barnet Council have the best people running its services. Last month, the Barnet Post ran an interesting article on their failures.  There was an interesting quote from the Leader of Barnet Council.

“The extra money that Cllr Mittra is quoting is not an overpayment. It is extra work commissioned by the council in addition to the core contracts we have with them as well as entitlements they receive under the contracts.”

How much are we talking about? The article states that the council had paid Capita £551.81m, which is £217.93m more than the “total contract value” of £333.88m.

Capita stated “Barnet Council is committed, with the support of its service partners, to delivering top-quality services that make the borough a better place to live, work and study for all.”. 

These pictures were taken in Capita run Hendon Cemetery earlier this year. Does this look like what you might call a 'top quality service' I live in Barnet, I've seen no evidence that Capita have made it a better place to 'live, work and study'. Have you? 

When they first engaged Capita, Capita were viewed as a dynamic and profitable company by the City. They were seen as a can do company that delivered innovative solutions. I used to have Capita shares. I was advised that their involvement in the congestion charging project would deliver huge profits (it did). I sold them when they signed the One Barnet contracts. What has happened to the City's view of the company since then?

It seems that having the odd scruple about what I invest in has done me a big favour. Capita have an appalling track record in Barnet, their share price has fallen through the floor. The only people who seemingly still have faith in Capita are the Leader of the Council Daniel Thomas and his merry bunch of Conservative councillors. You will notice on the bottom of the graph a note warning that "Short term performance of less than one year is a pretty unreliable indicator".  As you can see, there is a long term trend.  This is the company that holds the basket that Barnet Council has put all it's eggs in. 

Back in 2018, we launched the Kick Out Capita Campaign (when their share price was falling but nearly three times higher than today). Allen Ashley and I recorded a song with The False Dots and got Rapper Arjay to do a Capita Rap over the middle eight. Have a listen if you've got a minute.

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