Last night I attended the Cabinet Resources Committee, a meeting with a packed agenda and a very packed room. A large number of people were there to hear about the sale of the Hendon FC ground, something which has been causing controversy for several years. London Jewish Girls High School (LJGHS) had apparently put in a higher offer for the site but this was not considered by the council. Cllr Dan Thomas reassured the committee that he had taken legal advice and that he was sure Barnet Council were in the right. However if you pop over to the Barnet Eye’s website you will see a letter from LJGHS legal advisors, Flagates, threatening the potential of a judicial review if their bid is ignored. Looks like the council lawyers will be clocking up some fees then.
I had submitted some questions regarding the £750 million outsourcing. As ever, I ask questions and the council do their best to avoid answering them.
The key issues which came out last night, and which BT and Capita should take note of, are as follows:
• Any procurement savings have to come back to Barnet Council – Note to Barnet Council you may need to put some serious resources into checking to make sure it happens.
• Cheap and cheerful won’t cut the mustard. Barnet want good quality and cheap – Note to Barnet Council this may be very difficult to achieve so don’t be surprised if one or both are not achieved.
• Savings have to be generated from day one. Interestingly Cllr Thomas illustrated how Barnet Council made £29 million of savings last year alone without the help of BT or Capita, so why we are outsourcing to save another £39 million over the next ten years seems puzzling.
• Check to make sure some of the contracts you are hoping to re-tender haven’t been extended by Barnet.
• Any savings you show in your bid are guaranteed according to Mr Cooper – BT and Capita please note you are on the hook so no whinging when it goes wrong.
• If you are planning to put your call centre in Bangalore you will probably get away with it so long as it is cheap enough, even though other Councillors may disagree. Some of the councillors undertook a study and recommended that you should assist the council in creating local job opportunities, graduate trainee opportunities, apprenticeship opportunities and sub-contract parts of the supply chain (where possible) to local companies within the borough.
• I hope Liverpool and Sefton have nice things to say about you if Barnet take up references with them, although do they really want to hear bad news, maybe not.
• If you plan to “channel shift” - getting everyone to deal with you via the internet - you’ll probably get away with it, so long as it saves money. However, lots of people in the community prefer to deal with the council face to face or on the telephone.
Sadly the rest of the meeting went through at a fast pace with Cllr Coleman shouting agreed to every item – he was obviously in a hurry to get off somewhere. Item 15, the building cleaning contract was withdrawn, I wonder why?
So yet again the rubber stamping experts at Barnet showed their prowess at minimising debate. How very efficient – how very undemocratic.