Friday 9 November 2018

Capita realignment -The silence is deafening. Should we read something into that?

Back in July Barnet Council published a very significant paper which set out the details of the process for the "realignment" of the Capita contract. You can read the full details here. The basis for this review was driven by a number of issues identified with the contracts as follows:

"In relation to the CSG contract, these have included issues with: financial controls and reporting; pensions administration; estates; and user satisfaction with back office services. In relation to the Re contract, issues have been raised on financial controls and the operation of the Highways service. A number of these performance concerns were also highlighted in the contract reviews that were carried out in 2016 and 2017 of the CSG and Re contracts respectively".

The review considered which option could deliver three aims as follows: high quality services, value for money and strategic control and they framed this in three options as follows:

  • Option 1  - keep the Capita contracts as they are now; 
  • Option 2 - bring some services back in house; and
  • Option 3 - terminate the contracts and either insource or contract with a different organisation.
The initial conclusion was to go for Option 2  and the summary of reasons is set out below:

Option 2 would consider bringing the following services back in house.

At the meeting  and after some debate, it was agreed that consideration would also be given to bringing even more services in house by looking at Option 3 as well as Option 2.  At the meeting I also asked several questions including:

"Which firm of consultants will be used to carry out the business case" to which the response was "The full business case will be developed by council officers, taking external advice as appropriate". The other question I asked was "As part of the business case process will there be any public consultations or public evidence sessions" to which the response was a very succinct "Yes". I expressed my concern that council officers were already very busy dealing with day to day matters and that there was a risk that they simply wouldn't have time to prepare a business case. By contrast I was pleased that the council were taking the sensible approach to hold public consultation on the business case especially as this might at some stage be subject to legal action.

That was back in July. We are now in November and the business case report is due to be tabled at the Policy & Resources Committee in just over 4 weeks. Given that the report has to go through all the council review processes before it is published and it has to be published a week before the meeting,that means it should just about be finished. Yet we have not had any public consultation on this process, or been able to provide any public evidence. Once again we have been told an untruth.

As you will know I am not prepared to leave matters like this to lie unresolved so on 30 October I wrote to the Chief Executive and copied in to Cllr Cornelius asking when the consultation would take place. No reply, not even an acknowledgement. So on Tuesday I emailed them both again. Today is Friday and still no response.

You can draw one of two conclusions from this. The first is that they are simply ignoring me and do not want to engage in any form of dialogue - definitely a possibility. The alternative conclusion is that they they have no intention of opening up consultation because they have no intention delivering either option 2 or option 3 and they will now seek a fudge on the current contract.

If I hear back from either the Chief Executive or Cllr Cornelius on the consultation then I will of course blog about it. If I hear nothing then don't be surprised if, in 3 weeks time, we hear that, yet again, Barnet have fudged the options and most, if not all, the service are staying with Capita. 

I have reached a point where I no longer believe anything the Council tells me.

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