Wednesday 15 January 2014

A lot of things in the air - and some slippage, or: another contract meeting with Crapita

Accountability - officers's names, unused, at the contract monitoring meeting

In order to alleviate the sheer tedium of attending council meetings in Hendon Town Hall, Mrs Angry is sometimes obliged to resort to desperate measures of self distraction. 

Counting the number of times council officers start a sentence with 'So'. Estimating the cost of council officers' shoes. Estimating the inside leg measurement of Tory councillors, from a seated position. Arriving late. Leaving early. Arriving under the influence of too much champagne. (Only tried that once, and it was a great help).

Last night's proceedings were enlivened, however, by the unexpected bonus of feeling increasingly unwell, due to a bout of food poisoning, which may or may not have been caused by eating for two days from what Mrs Angry, with glasses on, has belatedly observed, is a mouldy loaf of bread from Tesco - the branch which last year had a rat the size of a small cat running through the store, via the freezer section, into the bakery. Oh dear.

Feeling less than well disposed, then, Mrs Angry's mood, and sense of malaise, was not improved by being obliged to spend the evening sitting amongst the Capita contingent at last night's Contract Monitoring meeting. 

This was because, as a sign of the new order here in Capitaville, members of the public now take second place, even in the public gallery, and may only attend a council meeting if there is room after the Crapita staff have already taken their seats. 

For all his sins, former Barnet Chief Executive Nick Walkley used to go into the public seating areas at council meetings and turf his senior officers out of seats if there were members of the public wanting to sit down. All very different now, under our new masters.

Whereas in the pre Capita days residents who were asking questions were allocated a named seat near the front to enable them to reach the table easily, there is no such indulgence now, even for elderly and disabled members of the public, as were present last night.

Mrs Angry grabbed the last remaining seat, down among the dead men of Capita, who grinned horribly when she took her place, gingerly, in knee-touching proximity. She mentioned to a friend that she might not last the meeting out, as she was feeling ill. The man next to her recoiled in horror, as if she were Typhoid Mary. Mrs Angry thought she might engage him in intimate conversation, and breathe all over his shiny executive face.

Oh, look ...  is that a Capita badge, she said, fingering his ID ribbon, emblazoned with 'Re', the re-diculous new name for the DRS contract services. (Capita are busy 're-barneting Barnet', in case you had forgotten ...)

Yes, he said, proudly, like a cub scout, coming home with a washing up badge to show his mum.

'Re' ... hmm ... very nice ...  Liked the cupcakes, by the way ... He laughed. Mrs Angry examined his ID card.

And what do you do, Mrs Angry asked, sounding like the Queen, at a garden party, and wondering what sort of small talk you can possibly make with the men from Crapita.

I run DRS, he said, rather peeved that Mrs Angry did not recognise his name.

Well, that can't take all day ... what else do you do, she asked? 

The men from Crapita guffawed around us.  

Count the profits? Is it up to £58K a day yet, like Birmingham?

The meeting began, chaired with a more than usually merciless feudal authority by veteran Tory councillor, and former Hendon MP, John Marshall. 

(In view of the Tories recent decision to refer to the Chair of all committees, from now on, as Chairman, because women will not be offended by such a term, Mrs Angry will refer to all male Chairs as Chairwoman, as clearly this is equally of no consequence).

So: Chairwoman Councillor Marshall, of course, began his career in the medieval court leet of Hendon, held just a few yards around the corner in the Church House, now the Greyhound pub. Times move on, and yet Councillor Marshall appears to have overlooked the coming of the age of Magna Carta, and the extension of the franchise to the working man, and seems determined to keep the peasants of Capitaville in their place, under the foot of their betters.

Councillor Marshall was rather annoyed by the number of public questions: 132, to be exact. He expressed the view that sometimes 'less is more' and appeared to think that it was something of an imposition and impertinence to dare to try to hold our elected representatives to account in this way. Only a limited number of supplementary questions are allowed, of course: 20, or as many as can be dismissed by evasive and misleading responses by senior officers, and impatient interruptions by the Chairwoman, in half an hour. 

For some reason, instead of residents being called, as usual, to the committee table to ask their follow up questions, they were expected to stand up, in their places at the back, squeezed amongst the Capita contingent, and to petition their councillors from a distance, thus inflating the Chairwoman's already overweening sense of magisterial authority to bursting point, and reminding residents that their presence at the meeting was barely tolerated, and should be regarded as a privilege, and a manifestation of noblesse oblige, rather than a right protected in law. 

Mrs Angry was having none of that, however, because a, she couldn't hear properly and more importantly b. she was not going to be denied the symbolic act of sitting at the table on an equal basis and hold her elected representatives to account for their actions. 

First question, on the customer service provided by the contact centre and switchboard:

Q: In reference to the performance of two KPIs regarding the new Capita contact service and switchboard, CS001 and CS002: 

At the previous Contract Monitoring Meeting the representative from Capita excused failings of the new contact centre on calls 'being lost in the wires' and implied these were 'teething problems'. 

We see in CS001 that still only 53% of customers are satisfied with the level of service from the telephone, face to face, web and first contact e-mail services, which is completely unsatisfactory, bearing in mind that the contact centre is, effectively, the public face of the authority to most residents. 91% of customers are alleged to be satisfied with the telephone service, which is an astonishingly high figure, but based on 'lower numbers of response'.

I also note that performance in regard to CS002, percentage of calls where the query was resolved without transfer to another officer or team fails to meet the already low target figure of 35% satisfaction. 

A footnote to the latter point states: This calculation excludes switchboard calls because it is primarily a „transfer‟ function, and also excludes calls answered by recorded messages because we are not yet able to verify with customers that their query or request was resolved by the virtual agent. 

• Why is Capita not able to verify with switchboard customers that their query or request was resolved? 

• How did Capita obtain the data for CS001? How many users were surveyed? 

• What percentage of customers are asked to comment on their level of satisfaction? 

• How many calls are still being 'lost in the wires' i.e. not connecting but receiving a 'number is not recognised' message, which means the call does not count in statistical collation? 

• Why are customers who are not satisfied with the service of the contact centre switchboard and first contact e-mail service not able to make a complaint about the poor service, or speak to a call centre manager? 

• If such complaints are not collated, are the statistics of satisfaction levels not completely inaccurate and covering up failures in contract performance?

Response -Mrs Angry's annotations in red

Calls to the switchboard are not assessed for customer satisfaction via the Govmetric process as calls are transferred to the person the customer asked to speak to and, once transferred, the recipient of the call does not have the ability to refer them on to Govmetric. 

How very convenient for Capita, as calls to the switchboard are clearly often a very unsatisfactory experience for residents trying, often unsuccessfully, to find information, or raise an issue.

Data in relation to CSOO1, Customer Satisfaction KPI is collected using the Govmetric survey solution. Customers are able to complete the survey by phone, on the Councils web site or on kiosks at the face to face centres depending on how and where they make contact.

Customers are able to complete the survey etc ... are able should be replaced with are routinely asked.

The total number of users surveyed during Q3 was 12,082

And what percentage of contacts is this? Have we seen the figures for Q3?

We aim to refer all customers making contact by phone to the Govmetric survey as it provides valuable insight to help improve services. The current referral rate is about 10% of all calls. 

We aim to ... again, not good enough, and 10% referral rate? Totally inadequate.

For the website and face to face centres the survey is based on self-service and therefore it is up to the customer whether they want to take part in the surveys.

How can we scrutinise your performance, if you avoid asking users to assess their levels of satisfaction, other than if they feel like it? Is this a deliberate strategy to avoid scrutiny, by failing actively to enable your performance to be held to account?

With regard to calls being 'lost in the wires', s this problem has largely been removed as a result of moving all the Revenues and Benefits calls to the Capita Coventry site and freeing up the existing telephone lines into the Council. 

Largely been removed: how large is large, in Capita-speak? Where are the figures?

There have still been a few reported incidents where customers have of not been able to get through to a Council direct extension (as opposed to the Contact centre), however these problems will be fully resolved when the contact centre is fully relocated to Coventry and all the Contact Centre calls are routed into the new CSG Contact Centre there.

It is in trying to get through to the Contact centre that users report problems in even connecting with the council's number - you sometimes get a message saying the number is not recognised, which means of course that the call is not registered as being 'lost in the wires' - not registered at all, statistically, in fact.

Any Customer is able to make a complaint about the service using the corporate complaints system and processes even if they do not make part in any of the GovMetric Surveys. If a customer contacts us and asks to speak to the Contact Centre manager they will be put through to the Contact Centre Manager (or their deputy) if they are available. 

Not true, in Mrs Angry's experience - emphatically told she was not allowed to speak to the manager, or anyone else.

Any complaint made in that call would also be recorded on the customer record. 

Let's see about that, then.

All complaints are recorded on the corporate complaints systems and are reported through the service reports.

In addition the service also has to report on the number of stage 3 Corporate Complaints upheld in any quarter as part of corporate performance reporting.


Well, so many untruths and evaded answers here, it was impossible to choose one supplementary question. Mrs Angry was feeling rather faint by now anyway, and had to wing it with a response on the lines of clearly Capita were doing everything they could to avoid collating any data that would represent the real levels of dissatisfaction. 

A woman from Capita was wheeled out to insist that all complaints were dealt with properly, which is untrue, as Mrs Angry pointed out from her own experience - still waiting for any reply at all to several complaints about the car abandoned after an accident in November, and ignored by the council's contractors NSL and Redcorn, and then stolen, and then when Mrs Angry tried to complain about her complaint not being dealt with, through the complaints system, she was told there was no one she could speak to and that complaints about not being able to complain about your complaint are not allowed. So: oh. 

The woman from Capita seemed to think such an eventuality was impossible, and Mrs Angry has promised to enlighten her further, to demonstrate that it is.

This issue is crucial, in fact: contact with the council is the most obvious and immediate function that Capita is supposed to provide for Barnet. Answering calls, connecting residents with the correct department, dealing with complaints. If there is not an stringent system of monitoring the performance of this service, it means yet again a major contract with a private supplier is being paid without guarantee of value for money. Fudging the data, or not collecting it in the first place, will disguise the true level of competence: and bear in mind that problems with the call centre services in Birmingham are one of the major causes of dissatisfaction with the contract, to a degree now that there is a real possibility the whole deal will be terminated.

Mrs Angry expressed the hope that the councillors at the table would explore the issue of the fudged performance data. They looked on blankly, and during the meeting, the only question on this point was from Tory councillor Finn, who had not grasped the significance, but clearly understood there was reason for concern. Oh, and Tory Brian Salinger was cross because he had rung up and asked to speak to the leader, and the Capita person did not know what he meant. Mrs Angry remarked she did not know what he meant, either. Leader? Where?

Next question.

Q.Risk EP05R4 refers to 'The lack of appetite for introducing Agile workplace by LBB' and states this to be at a high and potentially 'catastrophic' level. 

Please explain why LBB has 'a lack of appetite' for this introduction, and does it have any implications for the level of capital investment in IT which residents were told would be paid upfront by Capita, but is in fact part of the contractual fees we must pay the company? 

Is the introduction to Agile workplace covered by current fees, or will taxpayers be stung by more charges? 

Are all upgrades to IT covered by the current agreed level of fees, or will Capita be demanding more money for any other upgrades to systems?

The answer:

“Agile Workplace” is a culturally driven change programme combining technology, accommodation planning and HR policy to change the way Council staff use property in the delivery of Council services. 

Changing this will allow the Council to drive a property rationalisation programme across the properties occupied by the Council and will help Council employees improve the way they deliver customer services.

However the programme‟s success requires a significant change in ways of working as staff will not necessarily work in the Council Offices or return to them daily in the way they typically do now. Instead staff will become more mobile, will work using secure mobile services and systems and will share desks and workspace when they do come into the offices. This is a big shift in traditional ways of working and it is the possible resistance to adopting this new way of working that the risk referrers to.

This does not have any impact on the level of investment required as a programme to manage the change and ensure its success formed part of the proposal and was based on experience of managing similar changes in other organisations. The introduction of the Agile Work programme is already included in the Capita fees.

Capita‟s responsibility for upgrades is set out in Schedule 11 to the contract which was recently published. Capita is responsible for all upgrades for systems used in the provision of CSG services. The Council continues to be responsible for the upgrades of the systems its Delivery units use.

The IT investment and upgrades have already taken into account the need for staff to become more mobile and the ideas behind Agile working. The IT requirements of staff and the existing proposals for the IT investment will also be revisited as part of the ICT strategy currently being developed but the Council will be looking for any new or additional investment as part of this to be self-funding with savings in accommodation covering any additional Capita costs.

Well, that sounds straightforward, doesn't it? But Mrs Angry was puzzled by the phrases: 

The IT requirements of staff and the existing proposals for the IT investment will also be revisited ... the Council will be looking for any new or additional investment as part of this to be self-funding with savings in accommodation covering any additional Capita costs.

What does that mean? Another woman from Capita was sent up to the table and she seemed to be of the opinion that there would only be the need for further cost to the council if there were a change in the use of buildings. 

Ah, but: that might very well happen, mightn't it, as the council is not committed to any long term use of the buildings and properties it currently occupies, and may well find itself persuaded by its new partners into finding more satisfactory accommodation, in which case ... kerrching for Capita, presumably? No wonder the risk was graded as potentially catastrophic, should Barnet not find its appetite for agile working. Possibly catastrophic for Capita.

Next question: 

Q. In the performance data of risk management for Barnet Homes, there is a high risk that welfare reform will 'reduce the income stream to the HRA such that the council is unable to support future housing management strategy and policy'. 

In response, there is a claim that 'Barnet Homes and LBB are jointly providing financial and strategic advice to residents affected by Welfare Reform. The Welfare Reform Steering Group is actively working to reduce the effects on Barnet residents'. Please explain exactly what sort of financial and strategic advice is being offered to residents affected by the devastating impact of the bedroom tax and other benefit cuts. Is Barnet Homes still using the evangelical Christian group 'Christians Against Poverty' as a supplier of so called support to these vulnerable people, and how is it mitigating the risk of being in breach of equalities legislation by using an organisation which actively seeks to use its activities to convert clients?


Prior to the introduction of Welfare Reform changes in April 2013 Barnet Homes visited about 1000 tenants who were identified as likely to be affected by the bedroom tax. These visits explained the potential impact of the changes and the options available to mitigate this. These options included staying and paying the charge, moving to smaller accommodation, exchanging with another tenant, taking in a lodger and seeking employment .

In addition to the visits, Barnet Homes provided regular updates to all its tenants and leaseholders of the Welfare Reform changes via its At Home magazine. We created a You Tube video with 3 other London organisations which has been viewed by over 2500 people. 

We also produced an On Line Calculator to enable Tenants to understand how the changes would affect them

Since the changes in April 2013, staff have continued to engage with all tenants affected. Officers have assisted 126 tenants in successfully applying for Discretionary Housing Payment which is conditionally awarded whilst the tenants explore the other options. In addition 36 tenants have moved by either mutually exchanging or moving to smaller accommodation.

The number of tenants affected has reduced from an average of 696 in quarter 1 to an average of 656 in quarter 3. Rent arrears initially increased but have stabilised over the last 5 months. Since April 2013 over 85% of the charge has been collected.

Barnet Homes continues to use Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and a variety of other financial advice partners to assist tenants and leaseholders who fall into debt. This includes our own trained staff, welfare benefits advisers, the Money Advice Unit, Stepchange , and London Capital Credit Union . In addition we are also exploring an enhanced role for the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The CAP service offers more intensive independent support than many other providers for residents who are in significant debt, often to multiple debtors. Our experience has been that the combination of one to one support and money management workshops that CAP provide is an effective response for some to debt management issues.

Barnet Homes have been very clear with CAP that this is on the basis that it is open to the whole community. This is no matter what age, faith, sexuality or ethnicity they are and that no part of the debt management work is to be based on pressure for religious conversion. CAP understands our role and responsibilities and has readily agreed to this approach. Residents taking part continue to come from a diverse background and to date we have had no complaints of any nature about the services provided. CAP and our other partners play a valuable role in providing supportive independent advice to residents who find themselves in debt.

Marvellous: a magazine, something on Youtube, and the offer, in a borough of such immense ethnic diversity, and the largest Jewish population in the UK, a of a visit from missionaries intent on converting you to an extremist evangelical faith which holds that non believers will burn in eternal damnation - and that gay relationships are inherently sinful. That ok with you councillors? No response. Cllr Finn looked down at his papers.

Mrs Angry has highlighted the use of CAP in a couple of posts last year: for example -

She mentioned that CAP were boasting on their local website of their engagement with a suicidal Muslim woman who, was they reported, open to them praying for her, having dreams of Jesus visiting her, and, they said -
We are praying that she truly accepts Jesus and follows Him.” 
When Mrs Angry complained about this to Barnet Homes, they eventually agreed to speak to CAP about their claims, but look: they are still being given access to vulnerable people and without question are still intent on using this programme to do what they see as God's mission - to bring sinners to Christ, and conversion. 

Interestingly, their website and all the incriminating news about such successes has disappeared, and now CAP are working under the auspices of Jesus House, another fundamentalist evangelical group that has had funding from Barnet Council.

Last question: 

Q.Regarding the DRS/ Re KPIs, and referring to KPI ET0076, in regard to Hendon Crematorium: this states - 'Reduction in business at Hendon Cemetery & Crematorium is likely to lead to failure to meet budgeted income targets'. The recommended action is: 'Improve and promote HCC as the funeral venue of choice in Barnet'. 

Please explain how a funeral venue 'of choice' can be promoted, without causing offence to residents, and explain to those of us who have family members interred in the Crematorium grounds why it is even conceivable that Capita Symonds should seek to proceed on a campaign of commercial exploitation of a place of such sensitivity? 

Would it not make more economic sense to promote a higher level of death in the borough in order to retain the profit making ability of Capita shareholders?


Clearly sensitivity is required in dealing with these services. The aim is to make sure that Capita provide such a good service that the public and funeral directors wish to use it. Capita have committed funds to improve the facility, the buildings and grounds and to raise the quality of services it provides. Capita has also expressed its intention to gain quality accreditations for the venue and its services.

Mrs Angry sat at the table and fixed her steely eye upon the Tory councillors. 

As someone who has, like many residents in the room, family members interred at the Crematorium, do the councillors really not understand why we find it so objectionable that Capita are seeking to make profit from something that should never be a source of commercial exploitation? 

Do they really approve of the proposals in the contract, which include turning the burial ground into a leisure facility, opening a cafe in the gatehouse over the entrance, making more profit by introducing shorter funerals, floodlit funerals, live streamed funerals, and the marketing of bereaved relatives?

The Tory councillors looked on, slightly shamefaced, but silent. 

Golders Green Crematorium has a cafe, said Cllr Marshall, stupidly, wilfully missing the point. 

Mrs Angry retorted that was hardly the same as the range of proposals at Hendon, by a private contractor seeking to exploit a public asset of such sensitivity, and Cllr Marshall then had the impertinence to argue with Mrs Angry, who on leaving the table, took the opportunity to observe that by his manner, Cllr Marshall seemed to forget that he was there as Chairwoman to represent the best interests of the residents of this borough, and not, she muttered under her breath, to act like the head of a politburo panel dictating to the masses what they may or may not say or think.

The questions continued, and the responses continued to evade the points raised. (The full range of questions is linked at the end of this post).

And then it was time for resident Barbara Jacobson, from Barnet Alliance, to exercise her right (at the moment) to address the committee. She explained to the Chairwoman that if the information was properly in the public domain in the first place, residents would not be obliged to submit so many questions. She poured scorn on the reports put to the meeting, whose purpose were to communicate information to the public and councillors but persisted in misunderstanding the laws of grammar, and in using jargon to obscure the real meaning of issues within discussion.

'Projects in flight' - really, she asked?

Rather poetic, thought Mrs Angry, imagining a flock of half baked Crapitorial ideas beating their wings forlornly as they flew up, up above North London Business Park - alas, too close to the sun, and then .... whoops, like Icarus, spiralling down to earth ...

Barbara suggested that the writers of the reports might like to remember that the average resident (if not the average councillor) was 'a sentient being' - and that these anonymous authors might benefit from training in the use of English.

You sound like Michael Gove, said Councillor Marshall, approvingly.

Barbara Jacobson, for once, was almost lost for words.

On to the agenda proper, as it were (because clearly the public section is nothing more than an annoyance and an interference in the process of government).

Performance figures - tssk, only 75% for CSG  - that's Quarter 2, though, whispered the man from Capita next to Mrs Angry, reading her notes. Yes, I know, said Mrs Angry ... and of course Q3 figures so far were only given to councillors 30 minutes before the meeting, conveniently mitigating the risk, always low, of the members actually having informed themselves of all the relevant information before scrutiny. 

Or, as Labour leader Alison Moore suggested rather timidly, it was a bit of a challenge, going through the figures half an hour beforehand ...

And here is the problem. Members are too afraid to kick up a fuss about these matters, even opposition members. In fact at this meeting,it seemed to Mrs Angry, and of course she was feeling rather feverish and lightheaded, a visiting Martian might have sat in the public gallery, if he could find a seat, and mistaken Labour councillors for Tory councillors, and Tory councillors for Labour councillors, as it was a couple of Tories who made the only vaguely dangerous questions, in a feeble, half hearted way, and it was the Labour councillors who as usual, though a misplaced sense of courtesy, pulled their punches, apologetically, with officers they really ought to be grilling, especially the ones from Capita. 

But this meeting took place in a world turned upside down, or through the looking glass, where, curiouser and curiouser, the Chairwoman appeared to favour the Labour members at the expense of his own Tory colleagues, one of whom he told off for making a politically partisan point. Just imagine!

No risk of that from the opposition, it seemed, and so no telling off for them: we managed to have a discussion of the impact of welfare 'reforms' and without, as far as Mrs Angry could hear, and she hopes she is wrong, a single use of the terms 'bedroom tax', or 'cuts'. 

Mrs Angry rather suspects the new intake of Labour councillors in May will be less polite, more challenging, and a good thing too, for the sake of all residents. This meeting was frankly pretty dire: a failure in scrutiny. Admittedly we are at the earliest stage of the Capitalisation of Barnet, and performance data is in short supply: but it is up to councillors of all parties to make sure that supply is going to be adequate, and accurate, and to challenge it at every point.

On to the performance of HBPublic Law, the thrilling sounding joint legal service with Harrow. We learnt that it would be difficult to predict challenges that might require legal support - especially Judicial Reviews. Better set up a contingency fund of surplus hours, thought Mrs Angry. Are Capita happy using HBPublic Law? Oh yes. At the moment. Aha. Watch this space. Then, euff: talk of Barnet possibly being 'disbenefited' by the service taking on other work. 

Mention of the use of 'Magic Circle Firms'. Izzywizzy: Mrs Angry tipped her notebook in the direction of the man from Capita and wrote in large letters:  


Oh: conflict of interest issues for Capita, being clientside and ...everything else? Yes: there may be conflict of interest, it was agreed. And? They will isolate a solicitor, if necessary. Presumably bricked up alive, behind a Chinese Wall, like a medieval nun, never to be seen again.

An interesting question at last, from Labour Cllr Cooke ... so you depend on your supplier telling you how long the job should last?

Response, yes but ... we have started on the road to benchmarking. 

The Road to Benchmarking, mused Mrs Angry ... Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, the lost masterpiece ...

On to the Barnet Group.

A lot of flannel from officer Derek Rust. Mrs Angry's shorthand: bla bla bla. KPIs bla bla bla. Tory councillor Finn said he did not understand lots of it. Honest, but an inadequate response: if you don't understand it, why not ask before the meeting?

Oh, that thing that we must not call the bedroom tax, but is. The impact? Bla bla bla, the issue is the size of available properties. Yes, we know. Are there any? Oh, some people are happy enough to move from a larger property. Really? Where to? 

We are spending so much on temporary accommodation, and struggling to find smaller properties for those who are being forced from their homes by this iniquitous toll - but in Barnet the Tories have failed to build any social housing, over twenty years or more. You didn't build any, said the Chair. A spat ensued over why that was, in the short time Labour was in power.

Now to Your Choice Barnet

Dawn Wakeling had already failed to understand, in response to a public question, why Your Choice Barnet might be perceived as presenting no choice whatsoever. She continued now to insist that this failing venture, recently bailed out of trouble by Barnet taxpayers to the tune of £1 million, was marvellous because of ... all that choice, and stuff, and rather overlooking the fact that it has had to be bailed out because not enough people were choosing to use it.

Tory Councillor Salinger asked a very important question. Has the YCB Board seen this report?

You might think the answer to that should have been yes. But no one knew.

Capita's turn at the table. Mrs Angry's new friend and a couple of others wandered on up to take their seats.

A question about a risk involving infrastructure in Q2 preformance was shrugged off by Mark Holmes ... there were a lot of things in the air, he said ... some things got squeezed ... there's been some slippage ...

Almost sounds like fun, doesn't it? Slippage ...

Alison Moore asked about the Crematorium - nothing about the commercialisation of the venue, but about the structural issues. The men from Capita were able to set her mind at rest: the programme is on track, and there will be full functionality (ie the incinerators will be at full blast) throughout April. This is good because, as we know, the more frequently and faster Capita can dispose of dead residents, the more profit there is for shareholders.

Salinger had some questions: are there really only 11 houses of multiple occupancy in Barnet? They didn't know. He had another question about Property Services: they couldn't answer that - I'll talk to you outside of the meeting, said Salinger.

And that, more or less, was the tone of the stringent scrutiny applied to the contractual performance of our private partners. It was a long meeting, but full of waffle and wasted opportunity. 

Please don't rely on your elected representatives to hold these people to account, with any sense of urgency, or concern. The real pressure will come from you, in the end. Otherwise the response from our new masters will always be in the form of an excuse - things in the air, things being squeezed - and slippage, of course. Always slippage.

Thank God it was all over.  Mrs Angry by now was feeling very indisposed, and turned to the men from Crapita:  

That discounted, pre-used grave in the easycrem crapitorium, she said, with a certain amount of studied pathos ... better start digging .... 

They laughed, rather too enthusiastically for Mrs Angry's liking, and with an interesting gleam in their eyes. 

So: another customer, another boost for the KPIs, Quarter 4. 

Mrs Angry, RIP. 


NB: The real act of scrutiny on Monday night, readers - and councillors - is here, represented by the  public questions and answers   ...


John Brace said...

Be glad you have a public question time at Barnet public meetings (something that is taken for granted at 95% of Councils).

Here on the "insular peninsula", the public are allowed one question (and one supplementary) at each full ordinary Council meeting. You are not allowed to ask questions at extraordinary Council meetings, annual Council meetings or Budget Council meetings.

This means you get four chances to ask a question at a Council (or eight chances if you include a supplementary) a year here on the Wirral. Such questions have to "relate to the discharge of the Council's function" and no silly questions like "What brand of polish does the Mayor use on his gold chain?" as that would be classed as frivolous and therefore rejected. Such public questions have to be submitted five days in advance.

You may also ask a question at one of the four constituency committees that meet four times a year.

Other than that speaking at any public meeting is at the discretion of the Chair unless you have a petition of 25 households objecting to a planning application or a petition of I think over 1500 (in which case you get 15 minutes at a full Council meeting).

You see here in Wirral the politicians know how to keep the public in their place. Basically the public through public meetings are supposed to be like the three monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil (as politicians are given a monopoly on evil speaking).

As you refer to a legal right to ask questions at public meetings of Barnet Council I would like to know is this right enshrined in law or merely in Barnet Council's constitution?

Mrs Angry said...

I meant the right to attend meetings, John, which ironically, is courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, whose former Town Hall we still use. But I believe the right to ask questions of all but restricted meetings must be statutory. Or is it? Not sure.

Anonymous said...

Crapita and Birmingham - the saga continues

Mrs Angry said...

Yes, Anonymous - a very interesting article. I hope that someone has submitted an FOI to see when the alleged discussions via lawyers re publication actually began.

John Brace said...

Ahh ok, the right to attend meetings is enshrined in legislation which as you point out Margaret Thatcher brought in, the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, as to a right to ask questions, I'll have to confess to complete ignorance as to whether there's a right in statute to ask questions, but I will try to look into it.