Sunday 28 November 2010

Refresh and Rebuild: the real cost of One Barnet

As we revealed in the last blog, the infamous 'Ideas Barnet' website, meant to be the shining example of Barnet's avowed committment to the process of consultation with its residents, is now totally discredited, and shown to be what we suspected all along, a clever piece of spin, planted with bogus, unidentified, futureshaped suggestions, which were allowed to remain on the site, masquerading as genuine ideas from members of the public. Other suggestions from residents were also censored, until protests were made.

Take a look at just a few of the ideas which did make it onto the site: (despite the temptation, I haven't edited or corrected them). Of course these stinkers may or may not be by residents, or by senior officers, or even a councillor: we just don't know ...

Staff Productivity:

"Why not bind staff salaries/renewal of contracts to productivity, as in the private sector? Not all tasks could be reduced to a KPI system, but certain roles, i.e planning, involve the allocation of cases, which must be cleared. Successful resolution of a case/issue would count towards productivity (like in the NHS-where a target is only met when the ailment is treated or resolved). This would also allow the council to audit inefficient/incompetent members of staff, and begin the process of streamlining. This is also a fair way of dealing with the issue of redundancy-making redundancy payments based on quality of service, as opposed to length. "
I think this has a lot of merit - if it were applied to councillors. Think how many of the eejits we could get rid off when their half baked policies fail, or they lose our money in overspends or dodgy investments ...

Refresh and Rebuild Barnet Council Staff

"Ideas about flowers and canteens are rather small scale.
You need a big solution. a Brave one.
Organisations get tired and inefficient. Big organisations, especially in the public sector, suffer terribly from this. An hour spent in the Barnet council offices reveals the weight of depression and frustration in the staff, many of whom suspect they are under-delivering but understandably do not want to blow the whistle.
I propose a root and branch review of staffing, where existing staff are asked to re-apply for newly challenging and newly accountable posts. I suspect many, faced with such challenges, will want to leave. Rather than find lump sums for redundancy, offer deferred payments over time.
This restructure will cost money: and deliver savings that will more than pay for itself.

Ah, the old 'root and branch review of staffing': always popular, that one. And: staff would much rather apply for one of those many vacant jobs elsewhere, rather than have to do their jobs in Barnet properly. I suppose you could try to be more offensive, anonymous writer, but it would be difficult.

Use the unemployed instead of contractors

"Barnet council pays council tax and housing benefit for people unemployed in barnet, it may not be there own fault, but at the end of the day if your paying them, use them to fill some gaps in services. You could pay legal decent wage, and do a 50/50 split, 50% of income goes towards housing costs, they pocket the other 50% (declaring it to the DWP)

That could save thousands on contractors for skills the unemployed probably do have. (Its a double saving, by utilising existing labour, you dont need so many expensive contracts. Painting fences, cutting lawns etc, collecting rubbish."

My only quibble is why we should pay the legal wage: can't we get a better deal by punishing the poor with a humiliating rate of pay, as well as enforced community labour?

Volunteers for repairs/services

"One of the most expensive area's would be repairs, the Barnet community charge and business rates could be used as an incentive for volunteers, saving some £40m per annum, for adult care repair alone.

This works only on an economy of scale, and calculating the incentive to be offset beyond cost, meaing if the volunteer did 120 pounds worth of work they would gain 60 pounds off there community charge/business rates the council would still provide all supplies - this over a year would effectively reduce the cost of repair."

Sheer genius, this one. Let's have volunteers fixing the lifts in NLBP, the plumbing in old folks' homes, rewiring the flats in the 'slums' of Grahame Park. If a few poor families are electrocuted as a result, well, so what: no one will miss them and it'll free up even more housing stock and reduce the housing benefit bill: win win, all round.

My two innovative suggestions are of course still in place. I'm not sure if the plans for the new Workhouse have been drawn up yet, though, and, rather disappointingly, my spies tell me that on a recent visit to NLBP, there was no sign of staff making use of my eco friendly sewage recycling/chamber pot usage scheme. It seems I am ahead of the times in my visionary insight and creative thinking. Should I should apply for a post with Barnet? Like Nick Griffin?

But to return to the point of this blog, (yes: there is one, somewhere). You see, the reason I think it was such a despicable thing to slip all these fake suggestions onto the website was not just because it made a mockery of the whole project, but because this was obviously something that will have an undeniable impact on so many fellow council employees. That's pretty low, in my book.

Almost everyone who works for this borough is facing the prospect of an uncertain future: no one, except a number of priviliged senior officers, knows whether their job is safe. Council workers are people with rent or mortgages and bills to pay, children to support. Unlike our greedy little Tory councillors, they cannot vote themselves nice little pay rises, or sit back for the next four years without the fear of losing their incomes.

If anyone doubts the anxiety and sense of fear that council employees feel, read the following statement by one officer:

"On Monday, Cabinet will be voting to proceed with privatisation of the Council's Development and Regulatory Services. To you and me, it is Planning, Environmental Health, Building Control, Land Charges, Cemeteries and Crematoria, Highways, Regeneration, Trading Standards.

The process to get there has been a total joke. The project team has refused to involve staff and trade unions. Like most Future Shape / One Barnet projects, the published documents are a real insult to staff's intelligence and residents. The report to Cabinet is based on assumptions and clearly driven by ideology rather than facts. Staff in those services are really worried about their jobs and the services that residents will receive in the future if our departments are privatised.

Some of those services are amongst the most efficient in London and provide very good value for money ... Staff are dedicated and understand that cuts will have to be made but also want to ensure that they are done in a way that will not affect the quality of the service to residents. Residents and the democratic accountability of decisions are totally ignored by the project team and this has to be exposed.

Last month 80+ staff stormed out of a staff meeting when our Director, Stewart Murray, refused to answer reasonable questions from a Union official.

On Monday, staff from those departments will be outside the Town Hall to protest against the proposed privatisation. We will be presenting Cabinet with a petition endorsed by a huge majority of staff.

Good luck to all those staff members attending the Town Hall tomorrow, and their colleagues.

1 comment:

Citizen Barnet said...

Brilliant dissection of One Barnet bulls**t.