Monday, 18 June 2012

Mrs Angry's School for Scandal: A lesson in outsourcing - Part Two

Look: it's Monday morning in Broken Barnet's newest school - the BT Capita Academy.

Mrs Angry is standing underneath the statue of Michael Gove and looking disheartened. Michael Gove is looking disheartened too. Yes: it is difficult to tell, in his case.

Mrs Angry is taking the lowest set class in economics today, and she knows it is going to be awfully hard work.

Pay attention, class.

Boys, boys ... Councillor Andrew Harper: stop that AT ONCE. Both hands on the desk, please, Andrew, where Mrs Angry can see them.

Someone give Robert Rams a couple of cushions so he can see the black board, will you?

Er: Councillor Longstaff, no one wants to see that, thank you. Yes, it is, dear. Really, really golden.

And Brian Coleman: do stop giving Councillor Shooter a Chinese burn, and go back to stand in the corridor, as you were clearly told. Yes: until the end of time, if you please.

Let's recap what we learnt yesterday, shall we?

Who can tell me about One Barnet, and explain it to the class?

Really? No one? Come on, surely one of you? No?

Have any of you read the reports, or attended the catch up lessons we organised for you? No?

Oh dear. Hardly impressive, is it?

Councillor John Thomas: stand to attention. You know: as deputy form captain, you really should be setting a good example to the others ... come to the blackboard and draw a model of the One Barnet model for local government.

What do you mean, the blackboard isn't big enough?

Ok. Sit down. Open your books, and take notes.

One Barnet: A word in your ear, Councillor?


Lesson Two: the inevitable consequences of outsourcing ...


Examples of 'Major Reductions in scope of contracts with some services returned in-house'.

Yesterday we dealt with examples of contract terminations: Bedfordshire, West Berkshire, Sefton and Essex.

Let's now look at cases where within a 'strategic partnership' like One Barnet, but of course nowhere near the uniquely grandiose scale of the One Barnet agenda, very serious problems occurred with particular services, causing enormous difficulties to resolve and further cost to the local taxpayers.

Take for example the story of Somerset County Council, and IBM. According to this report

published in the Guardian:

Southwest One gets £10m IBM loan amid 'staggering' losses

Joint venture between IBM Somerset and Taunton Deane councils and Avon and Somerset police is failing on several fronts, Somerset council leader says

"The leader of Somerset county council, Ken Maddock, has said that Southwest One is failing to deliver, that its accounts show "staggering losses" of £31.5m and "failures to hit modest savings targets".

Southwest One was set up in 2007 as a joint venture between IBM, Somerset county council, Taunton Deane borough council and Avon and Somerset police to modernise the public sector bodies' business processes.

Maddock told a council meeting: "It is failing to deliver promised savings; failing to cope with a changing financial landscape; failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money."

The Southwest One "continuing failure" was not about staff, Maddock said, but "about the contract, the complications, the failed technology, the missed opportunities, the lack of promised savings".

Oops. Not very good, is it? But let's move on.

Let's visit Redcar and Cleveland. See what happened in 2006:

Ah, fond memories for Mrs Angry, who lived in Darlington for a year once, you know. Funny place: Quaker town, very few pubs. Anyway:

"THE management of Redcar and Cleveland Council's call centre has been taken back into council's control after being run for two years by private "outsourcing" company Liberata.

A joint statement by the council and company said the switch was part of a major reshaping of a ten-year contract, which was signed in July 2003.

It is understood this overall reshuffle has resulted in a large number of staff, who transferred to Liberata in 2004, returning to the council's payroll.

No public announcement has been made about the changes. News filtered out this week, particularly about the call-centre's difficulties. There have been several weeks of "problems" at the Redcar-based operation with callers having difficulties in contacting staff ... "

Oh dear: we have been creating a new outsourcing friendly model of call centre here in Broken Barnet, only recently. Couldn't happen here, though, could it?

(Note from Mrs Angry: yes, yes: it could.)

The report continues:

"In London, Liberata's strategy director Charlie Bruin released a joint statement signed by both his firm and the council. The statement said the parties had agreed to a "reformed and reshaped contract following a review of the council's long-term objectives.

"The outcome of the review demonstrated that the council now has the capability to deliver the next phase of improvements independently, in certain service areas."

When Liberata won its contract, it was described as a strategic partnership worth £261m over an initial ten-year period. The contract covered what was described as "a wide range of support and customer services, including the establishment of a one-stop citizen contract, a £23m investment in information and communication technology, cost savings, breakthrough innovation and continuous improvement in the council's core services."

The call centre, a comparatively small part of the overall Liberata operation started with 32 staff. Liberata forecast the creation of "at least 1,000 new jobs".

Mike Hill, of Unison, said 500 of the l 800 staff who transferred to Liberata had returned to the council's payroll. Some 300-plus were still with Liberata.

Talks were going on about the "potential for possible job losses" in restructuring."

Shit. Still. That couldn't happen here in Barnet, either, could it?

(Note from Mrs Angry: erm .... )

Next up: let's see .... yes, let's visit Swansea, shall we?

Mrs Angry once spent a terrible Sunday night in Swansea, aged 18, in an empty pub, drinking lager and lime, and reading an old, yellowing copy of NME. She has not been back to Wales since, please note, Y Cneifiwr, and Mrs Evans. It is however, the home of Dylan Thomas, and should be revered on this basis alone, in the view of Mrs Angry.

Oh, isn't life a terrible thing, thank God?”

― Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

It is indeed, and look what happened, Dylan, in Swansea:

Hmm: phase 2, including the call centre, cancelled due to lack of money: of course this couldn't ... you know, here, could it?

Yes, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet: it could.

And then, finally for today, boys: Rochdale ... take a look at this report:

"Rochdale Council is to bring property and highways services back in house.

The services have been provided by the Impact Partnership since 2006 as part of a 15 year partnership between the council, Mouchel and Agilisys.

The news comes following a strategic review of the Impact Partnership which was announced by the council in October.

Rochdale Online understands the move means that the Impact Partnership will cease to exist and all the council's dealings with Mouchel will end.

In terms of timescale the services are expected to be brought back into the council in the new year.

Locally, there has been much criticism of the Impact Partnership and this now means that money contracted out to Mouchel can now be spent how the council wants to spend it on what they want to spend it on.

The council’s contact centre services will continue to be provided by Agilisys, which is contracted by the Impact Partnership. The review into the council’s payroll and ICT services, also provided by Agilisys, is continuing and expected to conclude in February 2012 ... "

This story does not stop here, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet. Try and keep up.

Let's take a trip to the seaside now. No, not to the Sandbanks Hotel, Poole. Ah: I remember you well, in the Sandbanks Hotel, giving me - no, stop there, Mrs Angry. Forget Poole: let's go to Bournemouth ... oh dear, trouble here too.

See how the Rochdale - Mouchel story was reported here in the local press: this was of particular significance in Bournemouth because Mouchel was entering into an intimate relationship with the local authority there -

"A COUNCIL has pulled out of a major deal with Mouchel just as Bournemouth enters a very similar one.

Rochdale leader Cllr Colin Lambert told the Echo: “In the light of our experiences, I find a deal like Bournemouth’s amazing.”

His council had discovered it was charged £2,000 for laptops costing around £600.

Mouchel has agreed to leave the £180million deal, which was supposed to last 15 years.

The council handed over its highways, property, IT, contact centre and payroll departments in 2006.

However the only part likely to remain in private hands, depending on final agreements, is a call centre.

Other local controversies included a £700 charge for a blue plaque to honour the town’s late MP Sir Cyril Smith, later cut to less than £100 after furious councillors intervened.

In another case, the council was asked to pay £1,500 to mark out traffic regulations on a road, then an extra £2,000 to oversee the work.

The council audited the deal and believes it can save £2million to £4million a year by doing the work itself ..."

And then there was a really rather sinister development:

"COUNCILLORS have vented their frustration at the silence coming from Bournemouth Town Hall over the continuing suspension of the chief accountant.

Stephen Parker was escorted from the council headquarters last October after he sent an email to all councillors expressing concerns about the authority’s deal with outsourcing company Mouchel.

He has been suspended on full pay for the past four months while an investigation is carried out.

But the council has repeatedly refused to confirm any details about this process and questions by opposition councillors have gone unanswered.

Independent Cllr Ron Whittaker has called on chief executive Pam Donnellan to answer three specific questions.

These are whether an external investigator has been app-ointed to look at the claims within Mr Parker’s email, when the results of the investigation will be known and to whom the findings and recommendations will be reported.

He said: “It has been some four months since Stephen Parker was suspended.

“One cannot imagine what stress this is putting him under.

“The time has come that we really need answers as to when we will see this highly respected officer back in post.”

He has also questioned why Mr Parker’s concerns were not referred to the accountants appointed to carry out a recent risk assessment of the council’s plans to transfer more services to Mouchel.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Carol Ainge said: “It must be dreadful for Mr Parker to be living in limbo like this.

“It’s also unfair to be paying someone for four months and not have a result.

“The problem is that nobody at the Town Hall is telling anybody everything.”

Pam Donnellan, chief executive of Bournemouth council, said: “The council has already considered a full business case for the next stages of the incremental partnership including any relevant risks.

“This issue is connected to a personnel matter that is under investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

If you visit this page (yes, it is a Libdem site: hold your nose and scroll down for the mention of Mouchel ...) you will find a redacted copy of the report whistleblower Mr Parker made. You may care to read through and compare his findings to the assessments that critics of One Barnet are making, even now. They tried to shut Mr Parker up. They failed. Eventually he was reinstated in his post, and quite rightly too, but shortly afterwards he resigned: and who could blame him?

Here is an overview of the whole Mouchel saga:

You may like to note that there is reference to comments by APSE, the body whose criticisms of One Barnet have recently been reported here

and elsewhere, and ignored by our idiotic Tory councillors, as you probably would expect.

And look, there they are, bless them, their tired little heads drooping over their desks. Too much information for our boys to take in. And why bother? What does it matter, after all if, as it surely will, One Barnet, the biggest ever outsourcing project in the UK, goes horribly, catastrophically wrong?

Well, Tory councillors of Broken Barnet, the record shows that when outsourcing goes wrong, it goes wrong pretty quickly. The cracks should be showing nicely, just in time for the next local elections. And following on the spectacular downfalls of recent weeks, Mrs Angry doesn't rate the chances of many of you returning to your cushy little seats, generous allowances, jollies and perks.


Not all bad news, though, citizens, is it?


Mr Mustard said...

The craks are already showing Mrs Angry in the very first piece of One Barnet outsourcing, the parking contract to NSL as my friend Miss Feezance has reported today

Miss Feezance

Mrs Angry said...

I think the awarding of a parking ticket to an undertaker serves pretty well as the perfect example of what One Barnet outsourcing is all about: making profit out of residents, alive and dead. I hope everyone who receives an unfair ticket challenges it and publicises it.

baarnett said...

Mouchel are also involved in Barnet's waste plan, or at least the joint one with other boroughs, that got thrown out last week.

Which is not to say it did anything wrong.