Sunday 28 December 2014

Barnet Spend on Interims & Agency Staff Continues to Rise

Supplier payments for November are out and yet again the fallacies of savings are cast into doubt. Back in July I blogged about a question Cllr Mark Shooter had asked at the full council meeting relating to the spend on interim and agency staff. The Council response implied large savings had been made but I knew the figures were utterly misleading and when Cllr Shooter queried the figures the answer was laughable.

Question 5 Councillor Mark Shooter
What was the trend in the last quarter of 2013/14 with regards to the council’s spend on agency

Answer by the Leader
There was a 12% reduction in agency staffing expenditure. Agency staff costs incurred during
2013/14 was £3.276m lower than in 2012/13.

Supplementary Question
Can the Leader confirm that these figures are correct?

Supplementary Answer
By one definition, these figures are correct. However, overall, they do not give the full picture and this will be communicated in writing.

In November Comensura billed Barnet a massive £1,630,620.33 bringing the running total for the financial year to date to £9,554,145.16 and running slightly ahead of the same period last year. What I want to understand is why, 15 months into a massive outsourcing contract, are we still spending so much on agency and interim staff. I also want to know why Capita were paid in advance over £360,000 in Gainshare payments for supposedly anticipated  agency staff savings which do not appear to have materialised and  what steps are being taken to recover that money with interest from Capita. At a time when further outsourcing is being planned it seems ridiculous that we are spending so much money on agency staff.

Other major payments in November were Capita who were paid a shade under £2 million, Barnet Lighting, our flawed and financially disastrous Street Lighting PFI was paid £451,028.56 particularly galling when having replaced all the lights to make them brighter they then dimmed over 90% of the street lights to save on electricity.  Barnet's car parking contractor NSL were paid £561,615.28.

We were also charged £143,750.84 by Facultatieve Technologies Ltd. This company installs and repairs crematoria, so this appears to be yet another bill for Hendon Crematorium where we have already been charged £856,081 in the last 18 months.

We also saw the reappearance of an old favourite this month. Impower Consulting, the partners with Agilisys in the One Barnet programme were paid £27,290.75. Perhaps they are trying to sort out the mess they left behind given that so many of the council staff involved with the project have left the council.

As ever I shall be keeping a close eye on Barnet's spending in 2015.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Barnet pay Capita £5.35 million in October

Barnet Supplier payments for October are out and the usual suspect feature large.

Capita were paid £5,353,300.61 on both the CSG contract and the Re contract. I still cannot understand how we can be paying so much money to Capita when this contract is supposed to be saving us money.

To add insult to injury, Specialist Computer Centres were paid £380,007.32 for software licenses and support. That is in addition to the £16.1 million we paid up front to Capita to install new computer systems.

Comensura who provide agency and interim staff were paid £982,152.64 in October, a huge amount given that so many staff have been made redundant and the latest plans are to make a further 2,500 staff redundant leaving only 332 staff to run the whole of Barnet.

North London Waste Authority were paid £1,887,386  which again seems a great deal considering the council spent £11 million last year to introduce the new Blue Bins.

Barnet Lighting Services, the street lighting PFI was paid £510,195.76 a shocking waste of money when you understand that the key driver was to improve street lighting yet 26,000 of the 28,150 street lights have been dimmed.

Conway Aecom who carry out road repairs were paid £977,453.13 in October. I don't know if it was them who resurfaced Crescent Road in East Barnet but whoever did it di a lousy job with recessed gratings and manhole covers meaning that when you drive down the road it is a bit like going down a cobbled lane. With a "thin client" where contractors monitor themselves poor service is perhaps an inevitability.

Eversheds, the lawyers were paid £167,029.83 so plenty of money for them but not for the libraries.

Almost 4 years ago in January 2011 I entered a pledge on the Barnet Council Pledgebank website which was as follows:

“I will pledge to give up 4 hours of my time every month to scrutinise and challenge all invoices over £10,000 to help the Council reduce unnecessary spending so long as five other people will make a similar time commitment to sit on the panel and that Barnet Council will genuinely participate in the process and listen to the advice and opinions given.”

The pledge still holds good - someone needs to scrutinize the payments if we are to drive down costs.