Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Barnet's Bailiffs Contract Part 2

Following up on the bailiffs fiasco I blogged about on Friday, I have been ploughing my way through the Capita contract. As a result I sent the following email to Cllr Richard Cornelius, Andrew Travers Barnet CEO, and the two opposition leaders on Sunday. So far I have had only one response and that was from Cllr Jack Cohen who is in no way responsible for this mess. I would have been happy to keep my email private but given that neither Mr Travers nor Mr Cornelius have had the courtesy to respond I have set out my email below for everyone to share:

I am aware that the Council has received a solicitor’s letter alleging a breach of contract with the Council’s bailiffs. These bailiffs were appointed through a framework agreement via the Eastern Shires Procurement Organisation and, according to the DPR, the contract was due to run until December. Following a request to novate the contract, it appears that Capita have summarily terminated the contract and appointed their own bailiffs. What particularly concerns me is that Capita have appointed Equita, a wholly owned subsidiary of Capita without any formal tendering procedure, DPR or any other open or transparent notification.

Having reviewed the CSG contract documentation which you published on Thursday, it appears you were complicit in this appointment as set out the Payment  Mechanism Appendix 2 Pricing Assumptions (5) where it states:

“That the Service Provider can deploy its own Bailiff Service as the exclusive provider of Bailiff services for Revenue and Benefits in order to facilitate more effective collection strategies.”

Frankly I find it shocking that your advisors, and councillors who assured me they had read this contract, could have condoned a matter which appears to fly in the face of contract procedure rules, encourages a breach of contract and raises massive conflict of interest issues. Indeed, it could be suggested that as the decision to appoint Capita’s own bailiffs was made in April 2013 there was never any intention to novate the contract and that all along a breach was anticipated.

I asked repeatedly for someone to independently review the contract but you failed to do so. I asked if Capita would be subject to the same procurement rules and I was reassured they would. I repeatedly asked about conflicts of interest and you reassured me this was covered in the contract. Perhaps you now understand why I was so concerned.

I would be grateful if you could tell me how this unfortunate and potentially expensive situation will be resolved or is this how the Council will be run now under Capita.

Subsequent to this email I have found in another of the contract documents, a further reference to Equita being appointed by Capita as their bailiffs. Indeed, the document is dated March 2013 which predates the contract signed with Newlyns and Phoenix on 16 April 2013. This simply reinforces the impression that there was no intention to fulfil the contract and which I suspect will undermine Barnet's case if/when this goes to court.

This is not going to end well.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking as a credit consultant and debt collector it doesn't make commercial sense when giving out lots of bailiff instructions to only have one supplier. The normal arrangment is to have at least two and run a performance league table to keep them on their toes.

    The council also has a duty to keep an eye on what bailiffs are doing in their name, make sure they are keeping to the law (they often don't) and that they are not over-charging (they often do) and I can't see Capita being overly rigorous in this oversight, do you?