Tuesday 1 May 2018

Year End Supplier Payments - Where All The Money Is Going

Today Barnet have published the March 2018 supplier payments which give us a complete picture for the financial year.

In March Capita were paid £7.3 million and Re were paid £1.04 million with Comensura receiving just under £2 million.

Other interesting payments include £101,202.76 to Blue 9 Security. It would be helpful to understand how much of that is for the additional security staff at our "unmanned" libraries.  By way of comparison in the financial year 2014-15 Blue 9 Security were paid £581,632 but this financial year, 2017-18, they were paid £1,149,873. So in three years the cost of security have doubled with the only significant variable being the introduction of security staff at libraries.

We paid PA Consulting £219,950 for "IT & Comms". Now we have Capita who are supposed to run the council's IT services so what are we paying an external consultancy £219,950 for and who authorised it?

Albeit a more modest sum, we paid an organisation called Policy into Practice £20,317. One of the services they provide is Council Tax reduction modelling; you can see what they provide here. I don't know if that is what they helped with but it does seem to coincide with Barnet's plans to increase the amount the poorest families in Barnet have to pay towards their Council Tax next year see here.

So as we are at the year end I thought it would be helpful to summarise the key spending this year. Set out below is the chart showing the top 10 supplier payments for 2017/18.

Other than the Barnet Group and the Greater London Authority the three largest supplier payments are to Re, Capita and Comensura all of which deserve greater scrutiny. One thing to bear  in mind with the Capita payments is that we made a large advance payment last year which is why payments this year have been lower - although I don't think that will be happening again any time soon.

Set out below is the year end summary of the Capita and Re contracts. From this you can see that the contracted value to date of the two contracts is £211 million but, in addition to that contracted value, we have paid a further £124 million for all the extra services, special projects, contract variations, excess charges and gainshare. When Richard Cornelius keeps saying this contract is saving Barnet residents £1 million a month, perhaps you can understand why I find that hard to believe. Yes the core contract may be saving money but we are paying a fortune for the extras and that seems to more than cancel out any potential savings. As yet I still haven't had a resolution to my objections to the accounts for 2016/17 in relation to gainshare payments to Capita and we are now a month into 2018/19.

We also pay a fortune to a company called Comensura who supply the council with agency and interim staff. Having hit a high water mark of almost £20 million last year there was a concerted attempt to make inroads into that figure in 2017-18. Sadly the reduction has only been around 10% so we are back to where we were in 2015/16 but still at more than double the spend of 2011/12. In the 12 months prior to the commencement of the Capita contract, the council used significantly more agency staff. This was because many staff were leaving the council to avoid being made redundant and it was almost impossible to recruit new staff as they knew they would soon find themselves out of a job. Yet nearly five years into the contract with Capita we are still using large numbers of agency staff in far fewer service areas. That indicates to me an organisation that has lost its way, that can't hold a fixed workforce, that isn't doing its utmost to engage, motivate and retain its most valuable resource, its employees.

It is time for a change in Barnet and on Thursday Barnet residents can use their vote to bring about that change. Please make that vote count.


  1. At the other end of the scale, the strangest payment in 2017-18 was to Biblioteca, who got less than £12k for supplying all the swipe card entry systems for Barnet's 'self-operated' libraries. This is because Barnet is a flagship loss leader for them (no other council has gone full self-op for libraries)... Biblioteca have a monopoly in this technology because it links to library cards, and Barnet's Conservative Party councillors have written them a blank cheque. Watch this one double and double again over the next 10 years.

    1. Yes very strange. They had billed more but in January 2018 there were two credits from Biblioteca for a total of £11,692. They were also paid £23,631.50 in 2016/17. I will be keeping an eye on them.