Friday, 25 May 2012

One Barnet Outsourcing - The Billion Pound Gamble

It is interesting to see that the Council have made some positive noises about changing some of the mad parking policies. We will have to see what the parking review brings but I suspect it will be minor, the charges will still be sky high but we will be able to pay at a machine with a credit card.

One area where I would like Barnet to reconsider is the whole One Barnet Outsourcing Programme. As I have said previously, I am not ideologically opposed to outsourcing. However the scale and complexity of the two main outsourcing contracts suggest to anyone with an ounce of common sense that this is an exceptionally risky venture.

Last week I was speaking with a very nice chap who runs a multi million pound business. We got on to the subject of Barnet Council and I took the opportunity to ask him his views on the One Barnet programme. His initial view was, unsurprisingly, well there's nothing wrong with outsourcing. However, as I started to talk him through the huge scale of the One Barnet programme his mouth fell open. Yes they are going to outsource the entire finance department, IT department, HR department, planning department, Environmental health, Regeneration to name but a few. "Hang on a minute", he said "what about all the conflicts of interest that will arise". Yes he is right. With regeneration strategic planning, land charges and planning development management all being outsourced to the same company, this will inevitably create huge potential risks for conflicts of interest. We then talked about the length of the contract. "I guess they are going to let it for three years to see how it goes"? he asked. Oh dear he was in for another shock. Ten year minimum with the option to extend for a further five years. At this stage my acquaintance was choking a bit. Are they aware of the risks they are taking on - well frankly I don't think that most of the Councillors do understand the risks involved. The clincher was when I told him the budget for all the consultants advising the council is £9.2 million. How many disadvantaged people could that have helped?

I am going to be speaking to as many local residents as possible and encourage them to ask their Councillors if they are aware of the level of risk they are exposing Barnet ratepayers to because ultimately it is the ratepayers who will pick up the bill if this all goes wrong.

With Brian Coleman losing his grip on the Cabinet, now is definitely the time call a halt to this programme.

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