Wednesday 29 January 2014

So this is where our money goes - Barnet Supplier payments for December

This month’s supplier payment s have been released and as previously blogged we have a very large bill from Capita for  £7,384,960.23. This is for services provided on the NSCSO (CSG) contract which involves making hundreds of Barnet based staff redundant and moving the call centre to various points around the UK operated by Capita.

Our friends Agilisys who continue to advise the council on the implementation of One Barnet billed £188,917.67 in December. Personally I simply cannot understand why after the contract has been operational since October that we still need to be shelling out almost £10,000 each working day on this contracts which is now over £8 million for a contract that councillors were told would cost “circa” £2 million. Frankly if that is how the implementation partner’s contract has been managed I hold out no hope that the Capita contract will be managed any more effectively.

Barnet Lighting  the wonderful PFI contract for street lighting in Barnet billed £970,742.49 in December. Given that they dug up three perfectly sound lighting columns in my road to put in new ones with “brighter lights” and then spend £4 million to allow them to dim the street lights just shows me how imprudent our council has been.

Comensura, the company that supplies the council with agency and interim staff billed £710,668.41 in December. Someone did ask me why I thought this was a cost for One Barnet and my response was that ever since the council announced they were going to outsource the service a significant number of key staff have left the council, not fancying the prospect of being either made redundant or transferred on to Capita’s payroll. The council have equally found it difficult to recruit new staff to those posts for exactly the same reason – why take a job you know you are going to lose in a few months. Then there are all the interim staff, some who have been with the council for rather a long time but who have no loyalty to the council. On procurement we saw one consultant after another come and then leave after six months, each time requiring the new person to go through the learning process of the workings of Barnet all over again. Even worse is that we are still paying out over £35,000 every working day when hundreds of council staff are being made redundant, something we ultimately pay for through Capita’s charges.

GVA Grimley who are property and planning advisors billed £138,338.95 against the DRS contract – I wonder if this is to do with the Brent Cross development?

A company called Insight Direct who are suppliers of computer hardware billed £129,611.33 on the NSCSO contract. Is this for more laptops/desktops  - it looks like it as it is spread over 21 separate invoices. Given so many staff have left or been made redundant, there must be a large pile of high spec tablet computers sitting in a cupboard somewhere so why are the council buying more?

Our friends NSL, responsible for managing the parking contract managed to bill a sizeable £575,289.98 in December. My fellow blogger Mr Mustard has written at length about the dismal performance of this contract which seems to be costing more than when it was run in house. Is this yet another example of Barnet’s failure to manage its outsourced contracts.

And last but by no means least, our friends at Trowers & Hamlins, the lawyers who have been assisting the council on the One Barnet contracts. They billed £92,063.42 in December. Again I am a loss to understand why this is still clocking up fees given the contract was awarded in August.

I would think it was in everyone’s interest to have a much greater degree of scrutiny of these payments but my suggestion to do just that, made over three years ago, has fallen on deaf ears. Maybe that might change after the elections in May.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

£82.9 million in 9 months - the bill One Barnet

For a very long time I have been monitoring Barnet Council's spending on One Barnet. Today we have a definitive answer thanks to a question asked by Cllr Jack Cohen at tonight's council meeting. Cllr J Cohen asked:

"In the financial year to 31st December 2013 how much money has been paid to the following suppliers /companies:

  • Agilisys
  • Trowers and Hamlin
  • Capita
  • RE
  • Commensura (sic)

In each case can the Cabinet Member please provide month by month breakdown of payments, the amount of any outstanding invoices and in each case a brief description of services rendered".

For those who are unaware,Comensura  are suppliers of agency and interim senior management staff at the council; Agilisys and their subcontractor iMPOWER have been helping the council to implement One Barnet for the last three years; Trowers & Hamlins are the council's legal advisors on One Barnet; Capita - well we all know who Capita are; and finally RE, that is the stylish and incredibly innovative name (not) for the council's joint venture on the DRS contract run by Capita.

The answer is somewhat staggering and may at last make some people realise why the Barnet Bloggers and other concerned citizens have been so keen to bring this massive issue to the attention of every single council tax payer in Barnet. The response is set out below:

Yes you did read it correctly, the cost for implementing One Barnet in the last 9 months is £82.9 million. There is an ironic postscript to this table which states, "This expenditure helped create contracts which will save the Council £160 million over ten years".  Somehow that does not look an entirely convincing statement when half the savings were spent in the last 9 months of 2013. It also doesn't look convincing when you consider that the Council had already spent at least £6 million with Agilisys before the start of this financial years plus £millions on the other numerous interims and consultants who have gone before.

This has cost council tax payers a massive amount and the savings are certainly not in the bag. Indeed, last week Capita were asking either for more money or to reduce the service standards for housing benefit registration because loyal, and now redundant, Council staff were doing the job more effectively before Capita signed the contract. The issues of One Barnet are not going away. The problem is that the consequences of this massive outsourcing madness will be felt by every resident of the borough.