Thursday 31 January 2019

Give £4m with one hand take £17m with the other

Supplier payments have been published and in December there were two massive payments to Capita. On the CSG contract Capita received £13 million and on the Re contract £4.3 million. These are massive payments which seem to make the £4.1 million Capita have agreed to refund seem somewhat paltry. It also concerns me that there is no transparency whatsoever on how the £4.1 million settlement figure was calculated. Set out below is the running tab on the two Capita contracts which makes you realise just how much this contract is costing us. And don't forget, you can still comment on the Council's proposal to bring some  or all of Capita services back in house. The consultation ends on 15th February so make sure you submit your comments to Barnet Council here.

I didn't report the supplier payment figures last month as I had significant concerns about the agency costs. These concerns remain. Set out below is an analysis of the agency costs as declared in supplier payments for this financial year.

Since the contract changed over on 1 October the payments have plummeted. This suggests that either:
a) there has been a massive change in recruitment policy since October; or
b) not all the figures have been declared since the new contract started in October.
We will have to wait and see what is the right answer. Given that there was a significant use of agency staff on the refuse service following the changes made to the collection rounds I wonder if they are included in these figures or if they are using another agency which so far hasn't shown up.

In addition there were some large and unusual payments as follows:

  • £538,745.70 to JLT Speciality, an insurance broker. Given the council insurer is Zurich Municipal (to whom we paid £504,237.21 in December) it makes me wonder why we paid so much to JLT.
  • £828,155.00 to S&B Commercials who sell large commercial vehicles. I wonder if this is where Barnet bought their new bin lorries and who authorised such a large payment.
  • £99,424.50 to Capacitygrid. That may not seem like a huge amount but the services they seem to offer appear to be the same as those we pay Capita to provide. My question would be, are we paying twice for some services?
Set out below is a summary of the top ten supplier payments. I will as always continue to monitor the Council's spending.

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Failing Performance - Hanging on the Telephone

Back in 2016 Barnet undertook a review of the Capita CSG contract. This three year review was supposed to identify shortcomings and look how the service could be improved. I dutifully carried out a detailed analysis which I submitted (which you can read here). Unsurprisingly my evidence was ignored, as it always is, and CSG were deemed to be doing a spiffing job. I was particularly critical of the telephone answering from the Barnet call centre based in Coventry. Barnet publish performance statistics which I had carefully analysed and which suggested that calls to Council Tax and Housing benefit during the 2015/16 period were consistently failing to meet this service level agreement (SLA) target of 80% of call answered within 20 seconds. It also highlighted the number of calls abandoned, those are calls where the caller gives up waiting and hangs up. The charts I submitted on that performance are set out below:

 Move forward three years and Barnet are now considering whether to bring certain services back in house following the massive fraud and the damning Grant Thornton report on Capita's performance.

Performance data hasn't been published for nine month but just before Christmas a series of performance files appeared on the council website detailing the performance from January to September 2018. I have charted the data below but there is a subtle difference in that the SLA target for answering calls has been raised from 20 seconds to 60 seconds so that should help Capita to meet their target. However the evidence doesn't back that up.

There seems to have been a huge problem in August and September with 3,273 callers hanging up having waited so long to get through. Capita only met the SLA target in two months out of nine (May and June). Given that in 2015/16 Capita only met the SLA twice when the target was much harder at only 20 seconds, it doesn't demonstrate to me that Capita are improving
Housing benefit calls didn't fare much better with the SLA only being met in two months (July & August) and with a total of 4,719 calls abandoned over the period. Now I can imaging that if you are calling about housing benefits, it is a really important matter to you. Making people wait so long is simply unacceptable in these circumstances. The data also identifies the maximum call wait times of over 37 minutes in two months.

It would be good to hope that this data would be considered when the Council is deciding which services to bring back in house but I know from experience that this will be a purely political decision irrespective of the evidence. Capita seem able to consistently under perform but get away with it as long as they promise to do better. They have been in place for five years now and it isn't getting better. How much longer do we have to wait until we get a decent service?