Friday 10 February 2012

Breaking news: Investigate Barnet Council's use of consultants, Eric Pickles, demands Unison

Mrs Angry has just received this press release from Unison.

Cast your mind back to last week's Newsnight/Exaro News investigation into the interesting salary arrangements of Ed Lester, the CEO of the student loans' body ... here in Broken Barnet this sort of use of 'interim consultants' is a long established tradition, and this practice is no doubt common throughout local government and other public sector areas. In fact, so common, one might almost be forgiven for using the 'r' word ... 'riddled' ... ( this is how you use it, Ken, just for future reference ... )

Fellow bloggers Mr Reasonable and Mr Mustard have been banging on for quite some time about the peculiar status awarded to so many of our highly paid long term short term senior officers, here in Barnet. For example:

In the case of Mr Lester, the auditors checked the arrangements with HMRC.

Presumably our external auditors Grant Thornton have done the same? Because, as we know, everything in the garden in Broken Barnet, is lovely, isn't it, Mr Hughes?




UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is calling on the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to launch an immediate inquiry into the use of consultants at Barnet Council after public sector tax avoidance hit the headlines in the case of Ed Lester the Head of the Student Loans Company.

The union believes that the proper employment and procurement practices have not been followed exposing the Council to significant reputational and financial risks.

Eric Pickles has already had to step in and reprimand the council, after local residents and Barnet bloggers exposed the METPRO Audit scandal when METPRO a private security firm were awarded a contract at a cost of over a million pounds - without a tendering exercise, written contact or any proper invoicing - to ‘keep an eye’ on local bloggers.

Laura Butterfield, Regional Organiser at UNISON, said:

“We are really concerned that proper procedures have not been followed at Barnet Council. Over the last two years Barnet Council has employed a long list of consultants including the Deputy Chief Executive and Assistant Director of HR. Only an immediate inquiry can clarify the correct processes were followed. Given Danny Alexander’s intervention in the Ed Lester case last week how can we ensure that future cases are avoided unless all public sector employees are employed through the correct processes?”

UNISON’s key concerns

· The Council has failed to comply with its Contract Procurement Regulations (CPR) and Financial Regulations by employing consultants without any procurement/selection process being followed.– which exposes it to significant reputational and financial risks .

· The Council does not have accurate and complete centrally held contracts register and effective monitoring arrangements so are unable to confirm if this is an isolated incident.

· The Council does not have a complete, centrally held register of contractors showing who is employed, on what basis and at what cost.

We recommend that all spend over the stated threshold in the CPR be reviewed and matched to a central contracts register (in development) in a timely basis. This register needs to be drawn up in full and maintained.

Back in February 2011 the local UNISON branch submitted a report to all 63 Barnet Councillors on 10 February where they made the following recommendation


The Council undertakes as a matter of urgency a review of all payments to staff not employed directly by the Council.

Furthermore we recommend that the Council refer to the HMRC Guidelines in particular the advice to be found here that explains that “It's your responsibility to correctly determine the employment status of your workers - that is, whether they're employed by you or self-employed. This depends on the terms and conditions of your working relationship with each worker.

It's important to get your workers' employment status right because it affects the way tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) are calculated for them. And it determines whether or not you have to operate PAYE (Pay As You Earn) on their earnings.”

Further Information:

1. Student Loans chief 'to pay tax at source'

2. Pickles attacks Barnet Council <>

Well, does it matter, Mrs Angry, you may be asking, if a typical level of tax and NI is not directly recovered from highly paid senior officers, as permanent employees, here in Broken Barnet, or anywhere else, for that matter? Should we be concerned?

Well, no, not really. Unless you are particularly bothered about the future funding of say, that local hospital facing closure, the school your child attends, the disability benefit your neighbour so badly needs. That's the sort of thing that tax is wasted on, isn't it? Let's worry instead about those benefit scroungers the Daily Mail keeps telling us about, who fiddle an extra fiver a week and live in high rise squalor at our subsidised expense, shall we?


Mr Mustard said...

The other mystery Mrs Angry is why Andrew Travers is paid more at £1,000 a day than Ed Lester in the first place. I think running the Student Loan Company is a tougher job than bean counting for Barnet.

Mrs Angry said...

That's easy, Mr Mustard. Blackhole is, as we know, worth every f*cking penny: he is paid £3.50 a day for doing hard sums, and £9,996.50 in luncheon vouchers for providing a constant source of amusement to the blogging community of Broken Barnet.

Mrs Angry said...

oh dear. as you can see, Mrs Angry is not capable of doing hard sums. Think that should be £996.50.

Mr Mustard said...

Maybe the other £9,000 is paid through an offshore company that we know nothing about (yet!)

Mrs Angry said...

I feel I may have posed some reputational risk to my career as an expert auditor. Perhaps I should offer my resignation to Grant Thornton.

Mr Mustard said...

If he gets that many luncheon vouchers and spends them all with Cynthia in Streatham ( believe Ms Payne is now retired but doubtless the LV are good currency elsewhere - I do know Streatham rather well ) he will be too tired to do any bean counting.