I have just read a report by Barnet Unison which terrifies me and which illustrates how the current regime at Barnet Council are out of control.
The summary is set out below:
Barnet Council have used a consultant to come up with a scheme which restructures the Revenues and Benefits department. The consultant’s proposal fails to provide a detailed risk analysis to justify saving of £650k per annum when only 1% drop in income collection could expose the council to a loss of over £2.2 million in council tax collection just over £1.1 million in business rates. Our analysis shows that 0.2% drop in income collection will wipe out the proposed saving £650k.
The consultant’s proposal neglects to address the risk to the Housing Benefit subsidy, currently at £260 million per annum reclaimed from the DWP. This is significant to the council as for example a loss of 1% in subsidy would equate to £2.6million. Currently Barnet performs in the top six in London at maximising the reclaim from the DWP.
As their structure dramatically reduces expert resources the consultant report needs to include a specific risk analysis mitigating actions for realising set income targets.
The consultant’s proposal will not enable the council to optimise its income and as a result could potentially result in unplanned future increases in council tax as result of non collection.
Inadequate Management Capacity
The consultant’s proposal seeks to reduce the managers by 36% in the new structure for Revenues. This places undue burden on management’s capacity to deal with future planned legislative changes and therefore there is a risk to operational performance and meet set income targets. Additionally it leaves the council at risk to further change control charges by the contractor thus increasing the costs to Barnet and its residents.
Failure to maximise the council tax base due to updates not being done in an accurate or timely fashion, discount and exemption entitlements not being effectively policed
Financial and reputational risks to council from loss of specialist capacity, e.g. Court officer, NNDR, etc. It will no longer be possible to carry out all essential work, which will have a serious and far-reaching impact.
Private Sector does not Perform
The consultant’s have made the following statement in response to a question from staff:
“Southwark, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Bexley are London Boroughs that have successfully outsourced their Revenues and Benefits services and most of them have higher in-year council tax collection rates than Barnet’s best performance in the last 5 years.”
The nationally published statistics provided by The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirms that the consultants’ above statement is factually inaccurate. We have provided the official data from DCLG on page 3 of this report and a further breakdown in Appendix 2. Furthermore consultant’s conclusions have not been supported by meaningful benchmarking data and analysis.
Increased likely hood of Error and Fraud
Any removal of key checks and balances, as suggested by the consultant’s report, will inevitably result in an increase in errors and deterioration in the detection and prevention of fraud.
Deterioration of the Customer Experience
In this new fragmented business process the council will not be able to provide one stop quality experience to the customer. Transferring of calls and artificial tier creation will result in a duplication of effort and delays in responses. This will inevitably result in an increase in overall workload and inefficient processes as callers and email traffic will be passed from one department to another, as it is impossible to tell what tier the call or email is at the point of contact.
Customer care standards will drop as a result of the transfer of most types of contact to the contact call centre. Currently near to 100% of calls are resolved at first point of contact. The contact call centre aims to achieve only 80%.
This illustrates to me the drawbacks of using consultants without actually undertanding what they are proposing. It is a classic example of One Barnet Dogma - strategy for strategy's sake rather than focusing on how to deliver the service cost effectively and efficiently.
This is yet another reason why Barnet Council needs to change and change quickly before they destroy this Borough.