In the One Barnet house, what the client wants, the client gets
Barnet bloggers have received copies of a leaked document headed 'One Barnet Procurement Principles', a report written for a meeting of the council's directors' group on 1st March, 2011.
Ironically, this was the day of the infamous budget meeting at Hendon Town Hall where the use of heavyhanded security measures by the authority's illegally operating security company MetPro caused so much outrage, and was to prove the catalyst for a wide ranging investigation of the council's financial organisation, especially the grossly incompetent procurement, tendering and contractual processes.
As we know now, therefore, when this report was written, there had been no recognition of the council's complete abject failure properly to organise and maintain the private contracts it already has, no understanding of the enormity of the authority's culture of failure, the widescale breach of regulations, and financial mismanagment.
At this meeting, however, agreement was to be made on the principles by which a future marketing of one billion pounds worth of business opportuntities for the private sector should proceed. And despite, or perhaps because of, the staggering level of incompetence which Lord Palmer's audit report uncovered, the very next day after the meeting to which his report was delivered, the package of £750 million pounds worth of services to be outsourced was rushed out, before anyone could stop to question what was happening.
What does this document tell us?
Now that we are being pimped to the gentlemen callers sitting on the sofa in the salon, there are certain house rules, an etiquette, to be observed, in order to preserve the modesty of the madams on the One Barnet management team, if not the working girls and boys being exploited by the authority.
We start with some prurient words about 'dialogue confidentiality'.
'With the number of staff involved in the process,' we are told, 'managing confidentiality will be very difficult.' Oh dear - yes, that would appear to be true, wouldn't it?
There is some discussion about something called 'variant bids'. Put simply, rather than service the outsourcing company clients according to a strict menu of delights, the Barnet madams will allow interesting suggestions from clients, in line with their own idiosyncratic desires. These wishes may or may not be entertained, according to what the manager madams think they can get away with, but will not be dismissed out of hand, in case it puts clients off.
Job creation: we are told that 'some outsourcing contracts require partner organisations to make some contractual commitment to creating new jobs within the location' ... guess what, though, Barnet is not keen on this ... in case it puts clients off.
As we will see, not only do they not care whether new jobs are created, they don't care about where the old jobs remain. But they realise this idea may not be popular with the Tory councillors - 'this may be a key issue for members' - if they even know this is part of the deal ... do you know, Tory councillors? How many local jobs are you destroying with the One Barnet outsourcing? And what effect on our local economy is this all going to have?
The report describes various staffing implications and 'numerous employment issues' ... pensions are a matter of huge concern to all Barnet staff, of course, and they are right to be worried, as Barnet appears keen to hand over risk to new employers.
Ah: delivery locations ... the report tells us that they are not going to restrict the location of future delivery of services to the Barnet area, oh no, because they claim the closer to home that might be, the more expensive the proposal. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see the hard evidence for this claim? And how interesting it will be - customer service centres in Aberdeen, planning offices in Penzance, the possibilities are endless ... and as they tell us, breathing heavily, 'the council should be receptive to any proposal from potential partners' ...
Oh, here is an interesting part of the deal - accommodation ... referring to the council's assets, we are told, 'Whether these are council assets that the provider is permitted to use, or whether it is the provider's own assets, the council will ultimately pay for for their use ...' Er, what?
The council - ie you and me - will pay the clients - ie the private sector companies - for the pleasure of f*cking us, whether they do it at our house, or theirs. Is this how it is supposed to work, procurement?
But there is an even more outrageous suggestion: not only will we be f*cked by the private sector, and charged for it, if they want to bring in other entertainment to join the party in our house, they can: even if the council does not wish a provider to use the accommodation for fun with other parties, we are told there is little they can do - 'even if this is prohibited in the contract terms it would be very difficult to police' - so that's ok then, let them do whatever they want.
Contract terms: oh, long contracts are what the clients want, for their complete satisfaction, and at first they will be very keen, spending lots of money on the new partnership, but we must be aware that after the intial enthusiasm, there are 'many examples of long term partnerships where the commitment and enthusiasm of the provider has waned over the duration of the contract period' ... what a surprise, eh?
Which brings us to the sensitive subject of contract failure ... what happens when the relationship breaks down? Traditionally, we are told, contracts are arranged with a bond undertaken by the provider to cover the cost, should failure require the council to take the service back in house, or give it to a new provider. Ah, but guess what, our management team does not want our gentlemen on the sofa to be put off by that unromantic thought: they want the council to set aside a bit of money by themselves, with an insurance policy, to see us through, should that happen. I certainly would trust them with the selection of a suitable policy, wouldn't you?
Various recommendations are made at the end of the report: oh hello - they suggest 'a conflict of interest register be established in order to register any potential conflict of interest issues' .. was that proposal implemented, we wonder, and if so, how did this not prevent the apparent inaccuracies in Mrs Angry's FOI on this very subject?
Variant bids should be allowed ... no requirement to create new jobs ... no requirement to buy back support services ... no requirement for services to be located locally ... private companies should be allowed to use council accommodation for their other clients ... they want ten year contracts, oh: and someone needs to phone up gocompare.com to see if they can get a quote for one billion f*cking pounds worth of outsourced council services being sold off to the profiteering private sector, but being cocked up and left with a catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale as yet unseen in the entire history of corporate life in the United Kingdom.
That's all. Nothing to worry about.
By the way, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, who may be struggling to understand the implications of all this: it means you have been well and truly shafted, and so have we, and at the next election you can all wave goodbye to those allowances you steal from us on the pretence that you are in office to protect the best interests of our borough.
Please come to your senses and call a halt to this programme now, before it really is too late.
If you are a Barnet employee, and you have read this, you will perhaps see now, if you didn't know already, that the interests of staff have been betrayed by the senior management of this borough, while they continue to protect and expand the number of highly paid senior posts - and consultants fees. If you are not a union member, now is the time to join and fight to save your job.
If you are a Barnet resident, you probably didn't understand the hugely significant implications of outsourcing, and what it will mean for services in this borough that you and your family have always taken for granted. In fact, and this won't make you feel any better, the vast majority of the councillors of this borough don't understand either, and the Tory councillors have supported the plans without any real interest or urge to challenge the adoption of the massive One Barnet programme. Now is the time to contact your elected representatives and give them hell. This is your prerogative, as the tax payer and voter who pays their very generous allowances.
You can contact your councillor by the methods explained here:
http://barnetfutureshape.blogspot.com/2011/10/barnet-council-secret-documents-one.html Part Two will be available tomorrow.