Boy is the One Barnet programme expensive! In addition to the £2,000,000 already allocated to Agilisys as the One Barnet Implementation Partner, I read in the Cabinet Resources Committee Papers for 2 March, that a £500,000 call off contract has been awarded to the lawyers Trowers and Hamlins. The report notes that this £500,000 is likely to be the MINIMUM cost. Given that Agilisys billed £300,000 for their fees in December alone, this budget figure of £2.5 million looks like it could balloon upwards.
Now what really worries Mr Reasonable is that if this One Barnet arrangement is going to be so complex that it needs £2.5 million on professional advice just to get it to the starting line of the contract, how much is it going to cost to monitor going forward and will it be so complex that it will become a legal minefield. At the same Cabinet Resources Committee they will push ahead with an immense outsourcing contract which appears to be at the heart of the One Barnet programme. I do not think there has been enough open and transparent debate on this programme - just lots of spin and sound bites. The costs are huge and the risks very significant. I am genuinely concerned that many councillors do not understand what this programme entails and what they are potentially locking themselves into. Reading what has happened in Liverpool with their Liverpool Direct Limited doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.
I have tabled a few questions for the Cabinet Resources Committee about the outsourcing contract - whether they get accepted and answered, only time will tell but I have set them out below anyway.
1. Are the committee confident that the decision to press ahead with the preferred option is sufficiently robust to withstand any potential legal challenge given that there is no supporting evidence for any option other than the performance of the current in house team in any of the evaluation matrices and there is no risk assessment of any option.
2. Are the committee concerned that the Finance and Revenue & Benefits functions will be included in the outsourcing scheme even though there is no evidence to support this strategy other than the appetite of the private sector?
3. Can the committee confirm that they are not prepared to consider an in house option under any circumstances?
4. Are the committee concerned that, as there is no possibility of an in house option, key members of staff will start leaving the council in the intervening 18 months that it will take to negotiate a contract with the outsourcing company? How has this been addressed within the option appraisal risk assessment?
5. Are the committee concerned that this outsourcing report appears to be critical of the way the council has been run as evidenced at Appendix F paragraphs F1.5, F2.5, F3.5, F4.5, F5.5, F6.5 and F7.5. Who is to blame, officers or councillors and who should the residents hold accountable?
I know this may seem boring but as I wrote earlier in the week this could have dramatic consequences for Barnet if/when it all goes wrong and in the mean time the council will have spent an awful lot of our money.