In the cabinet papers for next week there is an appendix called A Growth Strategy for Barnet. In the executive summary, authored by Richard Cornelius, it states on page 2 that "The One Barnet programme will deliver guaranteed savings of £111 million by the end of the decade".
What I want to know is where is this guarantee coming from; who is providing it and what is the supporting evidence to arrive at the £111 million. If you look on council's website (yes I did find it) the language is slightly different and says "The programme is currently forecast to deliver £111m in total savings." Now I don't know about you, but in my world there is a massive difference between a forecast and a guarantee. My pension with Equitable Life was forecast to provide me with a comfortable retirement in my old age but sadly that is not going to happen because some slick salesman sold me a load of baloney. Also the guaranteed savings end of the decade is just seven years away whereas the forecast savings are generated over ten years.
If we dig a bit deeper and look at the two large outsourcing contracts the council's website it states that the DRS contract is due to save £26 million over ten years and for the NSCSO contract it will save £41 million. So together the two massive outsourcing contracts will save £67 million. So where does the other £44 million of savings come from? The shared legal service is forecast to save £190,000 over three years so let's be generous and say £650,000 over ten years. £43.35 million to go then.
Next we look at the Parking Services which are forecast to save £600,000 per annum. Now we all know that so far rather than saving money this contract is actually costing more money than when it was run in house. So perhaps we can discount those savings.
How about the Your Choice Barnet which was the creation of a Local Authority Trading Company to manage Barnet's Adult social care services. That was forecast to have a surplus of £263,000 by 2013/14. Sadly I understand that in fact Your Choice Barnet are forecasting a deficit of £700,000 for 2013/14 so it looks to me like Barnet's forecast savings might not be realisable.
So where are the rest of the £43 million of savings? Redundancies and cuts to services? As someone who believes in evidence I would say the evidence here is shaky to say the least and any claims of guarantees are simply LIES, a word I do not use lightly.
To cap it all this week the council announced a potential council tax freeze. This will impact on the budget for ever year going forward and has the effect of reducing revenue over the period 2013/14 to 2022/23 by approximately £44.6 million or around two thirds of all the savings generated by the two massive One Barnet outsourcing contracts. (I am happy to share my spreadsheet model with any councillor who doesn't believe me).
What I want to know is who on earth is providing the financial advice to the Councillors because from my perspective it looks nothing short of disastrous. Two thirds of the savings of One Barnet outsourcing wiped out by a political decision to freeze council tax. That means the cuts will have to be even deeper, even more life changing to the most vulnerable in our community. The management of Barnet is a basket case and the sooner we get people with common sense running the borough the better.