I found some quiet time at the weekend to read through the 128 page report being submitted to the Budget & Performance Overview Scrutiny Committee on Thursday. Frankly what I read left me with a deep sense of unease. It is quite apparent to me that anyone reading this report will immediately want to read the 8,000 page contract for it is only there that the questions will be addressed. By keeping that document secret we can only imagine what the answers are and that does not seem to be the sound basis for making decisions on such a massive and long term contract.
Issues such as how much of the much lauded £13.6 million (or is it £20 million) investment is actually redundancy payments to staff whose jobs will be relocated to Blackburn, Darwen, Bromley, Banstead, Belfast, Carlisle, Swindon, Sheffield, Chippenham, Chertsey or Southampton. Just take that in for a second for that is how far and wide the jobs currently done in Barnet will be spread. It also makes you realise that the option to terminate the contract or bring it back in house at the end of the contract is utterly impossible with the skills having been scattered so widely. That means that once we opt for Capita we are pretty much stuck with them forever.
There is a clause which states that Capita will put up to 12% of their fee at risk for failing to meet Key Performance Indicators (KPI's). So does that mean that if they fail to meet any KPI's they will still get paid 88% of their management fee?
The report also identifies that 37.4% of all the savings made will come from procurement savings. My question remains, if there are still such massive savings to be made on procurement what on earth have the highly paid commercial team and the stream of hugely paid interims been doing for the last two years. Why didn't they discover these savings before now.
We all know what great value is placed in external performance benchmarking yet the contract allows only three occasions in the "first" 10 yeas of the contract (someone making big assumptions there). Given that there are 9 separate services being outsourced that means that 6 of the 9 services will never be subject to external performance benchmarking over the ten years of the contract.
There is a termination clause at 6 months notice but it is not clear how much it would cost Barnet to terminate, something I would have expected to be spelt out loud and clear in this report to avoid the problems experienced with the Catalyst contract. Perhaps it is tucked away in the exempt report? This is one of the questions I have submitted to the Scrutiny Committee on Thursday and I look forward to seeing their response.
So far I have pulled together a list of 38 questions and there are many, many more to come. These are not ideological questions; they are contractual or operational and they run to the very heart of the proposed contract. I wonder how many questions councillors will come up with at the Scrutiny Committee or, more importantly, at the Cabinet Committee when the decision will be made. Sadly I suspect that as ever the decision will be rubber stamped.
Barnet residents deserve so much better.