29 November 2011

"Learn from their success and mistakes"

Well how interesting. The heading was taken from the Capita conference brochure ( below ) which you can download in full here. So it is success in the singular and mistakes in the plural

Here is the brochure for your delectation and delight.

click to enlarge; back to return

So there you will see one Andrew Travers, the £1,000 a day Chief Financial Officer, speaking at a Capita conference ( Mr Mustard wonders if Capita are paying him for today or if Barnet Council tax payers are? ) So will he be speaking about success or failures? Make you own mind up, although the following might help you.

As luck would have it, the corporate performance results of Barnet Council for the 3 months ended 30 September 2011 are out today. You can get them, and lots of other stuff, on the Barnet Council website here or in the box below.

Corporate Performance results Q2 2011-12 Barnet Council

You don't have to go far ( summary on page 4, detail on pages 16/17 ) to see the results for the two targets set for the Deputy Chief Executive and they are both red i.e. as bad as it is possible for them to be. In fact his directorate is the worst performing of all of them with all of his targets in the worst performing category. None were pretty and Corporate Governance weren't far behind in the poor performance stakes. Notice also the DoT ( direction of travel ). Things are getting worse.

Who would want such a low performer to speak at their conference, oh Crapita do, absolutely nothing to do with them bidding for huge contracts at Barnet Council and hoping to curry a bit of favour ( see Mrs Angry's blog on this subject, she was on the bed ball this morning ).

Wouldn't your time have been better spent in improving the performance of what you are paid a vast amount to mismanage ? rather than gallivanting off to the Lancaster Hotel ? Enjoy your lunch.

If amongst Mr Mustard's readers today there are any delegates to this conference would you please send him a copy of the Travers handout. Much obliged.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Data Transparency - an armchair audit

Over on the Famous Five Barnet Bloggers website is the complete Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency. 
Barnet's councillors like to waffle on about how open and transparent they are. 

It's time for an armchair audit
to see if they are 100% speaking the truth or if it is just spin. Here is the minimum that the Communities & Local Government Department recommends ( Uncle Eric in effect says "do at least this" ). Comment in red by Mr Mustard

Picture credit : Ventnor Blog

12. As a minimum, the public data that should be released are:

Expenditure over £500, (including costs, supplier and transaction information). Any sole trader or body acting in a business capacity in receipt of payments of at least £500 of public money should expect such payments to be transparent. 
Barnet Council are half way there on this item. They redact far more data than they should. There is no need, for example, to redact the name of a firm of Solicitors when the details of the case are not listed. More seriously it appears that they leave off data which they do not want in the public domain, such as the £1,000 a day payment to the Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Travers.
Senior employee salaries, names (with the option for individuals to refuse to consent for their name to be published), job descriptions, responsibilities, budgets and numbers of staff. 'Senior employee salaries' is defined as all salaries which are above £58,200 and above (irrespective of post), which is the Senior Civil Service minimum pay band. Budgets should include the overall salary cost of staff reporting to each senior employee.
This is published once a year for the council tax year ended 31 March as a note to the Accounts of the council. The information is therefore always at least 4 months out of date. The names, except for the Directors, are not published although the public can usually link names to positions. The main problem is that Barnet Council are a bit sloppy with titles, which are often confusingly similar, so it is easy to err and they have more reshuffles than the PM. Some stability in the management structure should lead to improved management.

The information is also on the council website although it is for 1 October 2010 so not exactly up to date (like much of the website - probably due to the new one being worked on and that is well behind schedule)

An organisational chart of the staff structure of the local authority including salary bands and details of currently vacant posts.
Only the top levels are published. The requirement seems to be of the entire council staff. Now that would be be interesting and a lot smaller once everything has been outsourced.

The 'pay multiple' - the ratio between the highest paid salary and the median average salary of the whole of the authority's workforce. Mr Mustard has not seen this information. Just to remind you of your schooldays, the median is the value which separates the bottom half of a set of numbers from the top i.e. of the 3,000 council workers 1.500 will earn more than the median and 1,500 will earn less than the median.

Councillor allowances and expenses. These allowances, the subject of controversy as they were increased markedly at the same time as the budget was being cut for service users, are published here at item 9.

Copies of contracts and tenders to businesses and to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector.  
Many contracts were found to be missing earlier in the year when it was discovered, by bloggers, that the council's externally provided security guards, including those working with vulnerable children, did not have a contract or Security Industry Association registration, or CRB checks etc etc etc. That didn't stop the council from paying a succession of MetPro companies £1.4m The council has had to mount a rearguard action to get contracts in place and Mr Mustard has seen many Delegated Powers Reports authorising new contracts to be entered into for computer related services where contracts had expired.

Contracts are not published and if you do ask for them they come with so many redactions ( crossings out) that they are a confusing read and not transparent. Mr Mustard is going to have to have further recourse to the Information Commissioner who so far has found twice in favour of Mr Mustard and not all all in favour of the council, to get the redacted information supplied for the May Gurney contract. By contrast Mr Mustard asked Hackney Council for a copy of their contract with May Gurney and received it without a single crossing out. Well done Hackney Council, boo hiss to Barnet.

Barnet Council are resisting the release of a contract to local resident John Dix, see the whatdotheyknow site here. You will know John better as Mr Reasonable. Someone at Barnet Council is having a little joke, it looks like a Lustigism to Mr Mustard, in describing his request as manifestly unreasonable. Mr Reasonable is reasonable as well as polite and intelligent and he probably knows more about Barnet Council than most councillors so best be careful Barnet Council.

Grants to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector should be clearly itemised and listed. 
Now Mr Mustard has seen details of recent grants listed in DPRs but can't easily find on the council website one page giving a nice breakdown of the grants by year. Would the blog monitoring officer please let Mr Mustard know if he is wrong.

Policies, performance, external audits and key inspections and key indicators on the authorities' fiscal and financial position. 
If you flail around the council website for long enough these are there somewhere.

The location of public land and building assets and key attribute information that is normally recorded on asset registers and 
Now this is a tricky one. The council own a vast amount of public land and building assets. Mr Mustard has not seen a register of it anywhere and searching for "asset register" on the council website didn't help. This document gets shorter every day mind you as schools become academies, as the council close libraries and museums, sells off playing fields, properties within parks and anything that isn't nailed down. The council would sell the bloggers if they could but we can't be bought.

Data of democratic running of the local authority including the constitution, election results, committee minutes, decision - making processes and records of decisions.
This is on the website although it takes some finding if you don't know where to look. Mrs Angry would probably say that by definition the council fail this item because it isn't democratic. 

It looks like there is some way to go before Barnet Council can say it is open and transparent. Mr Mustard's armchair audit awards you a 2/10. Must try a lot harder. 

Note to councillors. Stop saying how open and transparent the council is. It is not a true statement

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 November 2011

Not even a cuddly toy! for the Children's Service

The most popular gift in the Children's Service is chocolates.

Here is the full list for the year ended 31 March 2011 of all gifts & hospitality.

Afghani bread

Bottle of wine

Bottle of wine


Whitefield Trust

St Anges School
Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates

Box of chocolates and a bottle of wine

Box of roses

Box of sweets

Box of Thornton’s and a bottle of wine

Cheque (for donation FC xmas party)


Wessex Gardens
All Saints' NW2
& Bell Lane Schools



Gift voucher for Amazon

Jesus House
Japanese note book

Photo album

The Japanese notebook and the photo album probably didn't need to be declared, assuming they were of modest value, as stationery items can be ignored. 

One would think that the value of an Amazon gift voucher would be known?

As always there is an entry whose acronym isn't clear "FC", not Barnet FC? presumably the children's department Xmas party. The entries in the register should be clear ( open and transparent ).

So there was only one dinner. Someone who wasn't senior enjoyed it (hopefully). The entry probably should have said where the dinner was consumed. One of Mr Mustard's clients always jokes about going to KFC but of course we don't.

Here is another hamper which hopefully was shared out amongst staff or raffled or given to charity. Does anyone know?

So who were the bigwigs in this department in the December 2010 management structure chart and what gifts did they receive ?

Robert McCulloch-Graham
Director of Children's Services
Not even a cuddly toy!

Jay Mercer
Deputy Director of Children's Service
Not even a cuddly toy!

Marion Ingram
Acting Assistant Director Social Care
Not even a cuddly toy!

Mick Quigley
Assistant Director - Schools & Learning
Not even a cuddly toy!

Val White
Assistant Director - Performance & Planning
Not even a cuddly toy!

So looking at the spend for this department listed in the over £500 spending lists we see the following suppliers received some sizable sums of money and might have shown their gratitude in the form of a lunch or dinner, some fine wine, a hamper, or something at all, but apparently not:

Capita Education Resourcing   £95,000
Gardiner & Theobald LLP   £799,000
construction consultancy

Hays HR/Personnel/Social Care   £1,059,000
agency staff

Morgan Hunt   £30,000

Mouchel Management Consulting Ltd   £125,000

Sanctuary Personnel   £147,000

Tribal Resourcing   £70,000
staff advertising

Trowers & Hamlins   £121,000

Zarak Recruitment   £82,000

The council believes in whistle-blowing and certainly someone was happy to tell the Information Commissioner that Mr Mustard was a naughty boy ( which he wasn't and isn't ) so do feel free to tell this blog or any of the others about things that are wrong. No-one will breach your confidence.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

27 November 2011

No parking pants ( parking is pants in Barnet )

picture credit : www.davidcroft.co.uk
This picture made Mr Mustard laugh

"I don't think my pussy would approve" - Mrs Slocombe

"Are you being served?" - people trying to park in Barnet certainly aren't.

Just in case you were wondering what Mr Mustard wears to council meetings, it is these boxers.

buy yours at www.cafepress.co.uk

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

25 November 2011

Who ate all the pies? ( but isn't overweight ).

So here is the list of the gifts and hospitality ( perks ) enjoyed by the Chief Executive's Office and Chief Executive's Service ( a distinction made by the council not by Mr Mustard ) all of which were consumed or received by one Nick Walkley. The FT Diary was given to the mayor's charity.

c. £4.50
Finnish delegation
Mayor’s Charity Dinner

CBI  Dinner

Tribal Group
McKinsey & Google
Dinner – LGA Conference

Breakfast – LGA Conference

Reception – LGA Conference

Lunch at Board Meeting

Ramadan Dinner
Barnet Muslim Forum
Coffee during Hendon Ward Walk

Cllr Mark Shooter
Lunch at Savoro’s
Dinner at SOLACE Conference

Tribal - accepted but did not attend
LGC Lunch
2011 FT Diary

Morphou Dinner

Dinner for Chief Executives

Local Government Improvement and

Development and ACEVO
LGC Dinner
Maxim Consulting
Brent Cross developers and partners
Public Services Summit
The Guardian
2 day conference & dinner
LGC Awards Dinner (as judge)


So next time you see non-stick wearing a tie, stare at it very hard and try to work out if it is from Finland and only worth £4.50  The Finns evidently weren't that impressed if their gift was only worth £4.50 - it was probably better to give nothing at all.

Get you own better tie here for $35

Only 10 dinners in the entire 12 months. A certain Cabinet Member is 5 times more productive than that?

What sort of jobsworth world are we in when the Chief Exec feels that he needs to list that a councillor bought him a cup of coffee during a ward visit? Hardly likely to sway someone's judgment, now is it.

Mr Mustard has eaten at Savoro ( not Savoro's ) in High Barnet. Last time he went of an evening the place was very busy and the food really is very good for the price charged. The lunch menu is an absolute bargain but Mr Mustard can't stop for lunch - too many blogs to write.

So who didn't get any perks, if the list is to be believed?

Zina Etheridge
Assistant Chief Executive
Not even a cup of coffee

Chris Palmer
Interim Assistant Director - Communications
Not even a cup of coffee

Gavin Lambert
Interim Assistant Director - Strategy
Not even a cup of coffee

Richard Grice
Assistant Director - Customer Services
Not even a cup of coffee

Ms Etheridge and Mr Grice have moved on, the latter to BT, who are bidding for the very customer service department he left behind.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard