30 March 2012

Is Bill going to put the boot into Revs & Bens?

coming sooon to a Business Park near you?
Mr Mustard likes to keep you up to date. He was off air for 24 hours thanks to a new pre-configured router which was only 95% configured and stopped him receiving email but that is now history. Here is Bill's message to the people:

From:
Murphy, Bill Sent: 29 March 2012 17:59
Revenues & Benefits - update on customer services transformation programme
 
Dear Colleagues,
 
As indicated in previous communications I said that I would keep you updated on developments in the proposals for how the Revenues and Benefits service will look going forward. I am pleased to be able to tell you that the future operational design has now been approved by the Project Board and the Customer Services Programme Board and we now have a plan on which we wish to consult with you (and no matter how vehemently you disagree it is unlikely to change?)
 
To that end I have set up a number of presentations next Wednesday, 4 April to start the consultation process.
 
These will be held in Conference Room 1, NLBP, as follows:
Session 1: 9:00am: Managers and Team Managers
Session 2: 10:00: First session for staff
Session 3: 11:00: Second session for staff
We have divided the session into these groups so we can provide more targeted presentations. These will be followed up by one-to-one sessions as fast as these can be arranged.
 
Please consult with your line manager on whether you should attend Session 2 or Session 3 so they can ensure the service is covered as far as is possible
.
This is an important session and I encourage everyone to attend if at all possible. I know that some of you may be on holiday next week and I will arrange a 'mop-up' session after the Easter period for those who can't make it this time.
 
I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.
 
Bill Murphy

Assistant Director, Customer Services
 
Mr Mustard has borrowed Mrs Angry's crystal ball, which has been remarkably accurate so far, and sadly it predicts a management bloodbath with 20 or more senior posts going. Now Mr Mustard is all for cutting out excess management but what would stop him changing Revs & Bens too quickly is the money at stake. The recovery rate of 98% of council tax is very hard to improve upon with only a 2% improvement possible so follow the "it ain't broke don't fix it" maxim, if only Mr Mustard hadn't swapped the working router out for a more modern one which his ISP had provided he wouldn't have had a slightly broker mail server, doh. The downside is 98% or £200m and it looks like with the experienced boss Dave Sharpe already up the road he is going to be joined by lots more of his team. Much of what makes a department tick isn't easily replaced; the way that a team works together for a start and the knowledge that is in their brains.
 
Any wholesale change risks bringing the department to its knees and handing it over to an external supplier in a right state which is not a good plan.

Mr Mustard does hope he is wrong.

Yours frugally (but only in the right places)

Mr Mustard

The Friday Joke - Dead Horse Theory

I am grateful to Dan at the Barnet Bugle for the tweet which alerted me to the We Love Local Government blog which I have looked at before and is worth keeping an eye on (must go and link to it if I have not already done so). They were a little concerned about borrowing the blog post from someone else but a quick search of the internet shows this to be an old joke and it is as true today as it ever was.


The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that; “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

However, in local government, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:
  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.
  5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
  7. Telling everyone that we’ve always ridden our horses this way
  8. Benchmarking our horse against dead horses ridden by other authorities
  9. Hiring external contractors to resuscitate the dead horse
  10. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  11. Hiring outside consultants to put together a training programme to support staff to work better with the dead horse
  12. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  13. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse’s performance.
  14. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
  15. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed , it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
  16. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses
  17. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position
  18. Naming a dead horse "One Barnet"

29 March 2012

Who is deciding our future council tax bills?

2 useful short planks or boards

Overseeing the huge outsourcing jamboree that is Development and Regulatory Services there is, finds Mr Mustard following FOI enquiries, a DRS Project Board made up of the following 8 people:

Pam Wharfe, Interim Director of Environment Planning and Regeneration
Craig Cooper, Director, Commercial Services
Martin Cowie, Assistant Director Planning
Ed Gowan, Assistant Director, Commercial Service
A N Other employee earning less than £58,200 p.a.
A N Other #2 employee earning less than £58,200 p.a.

2 are employed by the Council’s partners (i.e. employees of external companies). The Council does not hold information regarding their salaries. We are unable to disclose their names as this information is exempt under section 40(2) of FOIA. (Mr Mustard will be challenging the use of this exemption)

What is the role of the DRS project board? Mr Mustard does not actually know. He is going to put in for the terms of reference. Presumably they are making many decisions which will affect all of us for the next 10 years. If they cock it up we are all in trouble.

Mr Mustard is surprised that there are no councillors on the DRS Project Board and some resident's representatives would also be a good idea as it is their money that is being spent (in theory of course the councillors are our representatives but they seem to have abdicated almost all responsibility in favour of officers).

Mr Mustard has mentioned Ms Wharfe before. Her handling of the simple task of awarding a contract to remove parking meters was possibly the most botched job of 2011.

Craig Cooper has been mismanaging procurement for some years. The MetPro £1m+ was paid out during his watch. Craig told the audit committee that there were not any other similar cases and then along came RM Countryside and then Iris Gardening and then.....watch this space.

Mr Mustard is not filled full of confidence with the Board so far.

Mr Mustard does not know anything about Martin Cowie & Ed Gowan and expects that information will land in his inbox if there is anything interesting to say about them.

The two lower paid employees will at least know how their own processes work and better than the handle management will have.

What irks Mr Mustard is the 2 consultants who are playing a vital role in the outsourcing ( not likely to say don't outsource are they? ) and he is denied their names and there was an attempt to mislead him. Here are parts of the exchange.

Mr Mustard

Please tell me who the members of the DRS project board are giving their job title and name ( assuming they earn over £58,200 )

Mohsin Abbasi, Business Support Officer ( he doesn't seem very proud of his title as he never puts it ) One Barnet Programme Office

We have interpreted your request to mean “names and job titles of council employees on the DRS Project Board.” (Mr Mustard was not born yesterday and smelt a rat)

I confirm that there are eight members of the DRS project board. Four of whom are within the scope of your request i.e. earn over £58,200. Please see below their details (see above)

Mr Mustard

I would like to know the details of all people on the DRS project board no matter who pays them or who they work for please (apart from the 4 lower paid council staff that you mention) i.e. are there any consultants on the board?

Then he got the information which is above.

So Mr Abbasi made a ham-fisted attempt to hide the fact that there are two consultants on the Board. Mr Mustard will find out who they are and the rate their employer is paid in respect of their services.

This will be the fifth request for a review of an FOI answer this week which has come about as a direct result of the unsatisfactory answers of Mr Abbasi.

Now Mr Mustard is wondering about Mr Abbasi and whether he is himself a consultant? Next task, send in an FOI request about him. (Mr/Mrs/Miss/Master Mole may send the information sooner than it is available under FOI).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 March 2012

Dear Mrs Angry - you were right

The council are also clearing out 2000 surplus staff?


Mr Mustard knows that Mrs Angry will repay his praise with a right verbal slapping but that's all part of the fun. Better than when you wield that ping pong paddle Mrs A although the negligee is rather fine.

Mr Mustard must stop and have a cold shower. Rather hot under his collar today.

Now where was he? ah, here, with a letter to Mrs Angry.



Dear Mrs Angry

You have been saying all along that BT were a racing certainty for the NSCSO contract ( New Support & Customer Service Organisation for the uninitiated ) worth something approaching £250m over 10 years + a possible 2 year extension doubtless.

Now I have been hiding at the back of the conference room when the bidders have been in town (actually I slipped a bug into the  room when we checked the councillors' declarations, such as they were) and as you know Crapita get 4 faults for a refusal every time they are led to the Chair - actually that isn't quite true as they don't know where the chairs are going to be. They possibly could open an office at Aintree as the Liverpool area has recently been suffering from high unemployment which equals low wages which equals the bottom feeders arrive.

Now don't tell anyone but you should slip along to Paddy Power (why were you going to William Hill given your ancestry? ) and put your bet on BT to win the contract because they have answered the location question.

BT have said that the location will be within Barnet for at least the first two years. Hurrah.

BT have said there will be no compulsory redundancies. Hurrah again.

BT may have some spare offices in Colindale. Polite applause.

The staff didn't give BT a standing ovation but they are much more impressed with BT than they are with Crapita.

I'll see you down the bookies then in half an hour?

With bloggerly best wishes

Mr Mustard

27 March 2012

Freehold house in Chipping Barnet

Here is a shameless advertisement for Mr Mustard's house project that he has been refurbishing in Chipping Barnet.

Handy for the market, the Spires, the M25, High Barnet tube station, walking in the country, trips to the Mitre, the Lord Nelson or the White Lion ( & every chance of finding Mr Mustard enjoying a nice pint in any one of those ).
Sales Brochure for 44 Strafford Rd, Barnet

If you fancy living near Mr Mustard then send him an email as Savills are no longer instructed.

The front windows have now been replaced with wood double glazed sash windows and the door is about to be replaced, also with a nice wood 2 glass panel door.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Craig Cooper - is he awake - has he gone ?

Mr Mustard just copied Craig Cooper, the unCommercial Director in on an email he sent to the Freedom of Information section bemoaning the fact that a £20m computer system can't run a simple report that Mr Mustard wanted - of who has long term contracts with just one Directorate of the council. He thought that Craig ought to know this.

Here is the out-of-office message from Craig which is even less helpful than the usual kind.

I am now out of the office on annual leave, I will return to work on 26 March.

Thank you.

Craig Cooper

If you are in his building please stick your head round the door to make sure he is awake and/or check that he hasn't failed to return from holiday on time as 26 March was yesterday (in case you hadn't noticed ) and leave a post-in note on his desk signed "Nick" suggesting he books an extra day off.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

 


26 March 2012

Meeting over

One Barnet sure is going to cause Delhi belly



As you know today was Crapita's meet the bidder day. The big unanswered question was where the services, provided by nearly 600 people, are to be provided from and whether that would be Bangalore, Barnet or Bolton (or anywhere else beginning with B - did you know there is a Cafe called Bastard in Cologne - Mr Mustard missed it when he was there on a conference but that may have been because he was busy trying to keep his motorcycle's wheels out of the tram tracks - he enjoyed the Top Gear challenge to get back to blighty before his colleague who flew home)

So what happened? There were two sessions today. 

At the first session Crapita claimed they couldn't say as the council had not stipulated any preference as to location. That means you can say because you are free to make your own Crapita choice. Duh.

At the second session the story had changed. Today has been a day of changing stories, perhaps like David Cameron the first story will be the dinner/location was private and 4 hours later it will all be all over the internet?

The second session story was that Crapita would be happy to reveal the location once it was determined. Mr Mustard does not think much of a potential supplier of a service using up to 600 people that has not yet firmed up a plan. Capita, to give them their due, did realise how unacceptable it was to keep staff on tenterhooks until the decision was made as to who the winning bidder was.

However, HR intervened in the form of Jennifer Burt. Now Mr Mustard does not know if Ms Burt is a regular employee or a Town Hall Tax Dodger or an Agilisys/iMPOWER consultant ( he is checking ) or part of the Peterborough HR mafia but the fact that HR feel the need for a controlling presence at a Meet the Bidder session indicates to him a certain lack of confidence in the validity of One Barnet. Staff should be free to Meet the Bidder without any presence of officialdom otherwise an open and frank dialogue cannot take place.

The HR line was that the work location will not be revealed until there is only one bidder remaining. Ms Burt vetoed any further questions on location and that being the main question of the staff the meeting came to an abrupt halt. Not what one would call a raging success. One would think that Capita were not that amused either as they will have to work with the hacked-off staff who remain.

The only conclusion that a logical person can draw is that Capita have decided upon an out of borough location and they are prepared to share this with the staff but Barnet Council are terrified of the truth. This extends the uncertainty for nearly 600 people and is a disgusting way to treat loyal staff. 

Ms Burt will sod off back to Stokie afterwards thinking she has done a good job when it has been diabolical.

Mr Mustard will be back soon with bloggers revenge (copyright Mrs Angry) and that makes Delhi Belly look like a minor upset.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


Outsourcing partly outsourced; what sauce!

BT or Crapita are going to bring home the bacon.

From: Schroder, Johnathan On Behalf Of onebarnet
Sent: 16 March 2012 12:23
To: onebarnet
Subject: NSCSO message


Dear colleague

The project team and the leads of the services have been busy preparing for the second stage of dialogue, which begins on 29 March, and will end in the autumn. Our Commercial Lead John Newton (he is a consultant) has designed the process that we will go through to develop a contract with both BT and Capita, and how all the different stakeholders will be involved in the discussions and contract development. Meanwhile our project manager Alison Woodcraft is busy working out what this means in practise (*tut tut, see below) and creating a detailed plan. Service leads have been focussing on refreshing the output specifications and data about each service for the secure online data room which will open next week for BT and Capita to read through. Service leads have also been developing the key performance indicator targets that bidders will need to meet in order to get a portion of their monthly payment (the balance which will be the overwhelming bulk they will get no matter how hideous their performance is).

You will all have now received your invites to one of the four ‘meet the bidder’ days (two for each organisation), and the project team is delighted with how many people have already signed up to one of the sessions. Both bidding organisations have been keen to meet with you for months, and from your response so far it is clear that you are also looking forward to meeting your potential employers face to face. The bidders are not at all keen to tell you where the service will be run from and that if you don't like the new location you will be kissed goodbye (without the pleasurable feeling though).

If you have not yet signed up, please do so by emailing NSCSO@barnet.gov.uk. Email through to that same address if you have any questions for BT prior to the day, as they have asked for questions to be sent in by staff. Please email them to us by 22 March.

The Q&As arising from the service business case briefings have now been finalised and can be found here. You can also find the business case presentation on the intranet and an update on the project so far, which went out to all staff via First Team.

If you have any other questions about the project, please feel free to get in touch. Don't ask us the future work location as we won't answer.

Kind regards

Kari

Kari Manovitch

Service Lead, New Support and Customer Service Organisation project, Commercial Services


How hard is a consultant going to look for flaws in an outsourcing project when he himself is a consultant? The outsourcing has been outsourced. It's just plain wrong. What did Warren Buffet say once "Don't ask the barber if you need a haircut".

* Now just for Johnathan Schroder. You have muddled up "practise" the verb and "practice" which is used as a noun and a verb.

So please repeat "I am a practising Christian" and

"The idea of putting the OneBarnet theories into practice is completely bonkers and will lead to financial meltdown."

Mr Mustard hopes that these two phrases will prevent you from making this mistake in the future.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

24 March 2012

Location Location

this could be the new location, as could anywhere else
Mr Mustard knows that yesterday was the day when Crapita came to town to speak to staff in scope (no, don't think people, silly) and they were armed with their fancy presentation. There are approx 600 staff in scope so Crapita will be back on Monday.

They are in Barnet to talk about the NSCSO project worth hundreds of £millions.

They rather feebly refused to answer questions about location claiming they have not been selected. Does anyone want to work for a company that will not answer a straight question? Automatically, one assumes the worst.

It is odd as Mr Mustard heard that when EC Harris and Capita Symonds were here in February to talk about the £275 million DRS contract they both made it clear at the start they would be delivering services from BARNET which will have calmed the fears of staff in scope for DRS.

Rumours are flying, and have flown in Mr Mustard's direction, that some faceless bureaucrat at Barnet Council has told the bidders not to answer questions about location.

If services are moved to Croydon, Bolton, Birmingham, Bangalore, Los Angeles in January 2013 then it is possible that almost 600 staff will find it impossible to transfer their job location (except the young, free and single who probably would locate to Los Angeles if the costs of moving were met) and they will all be made redundant.

Now let us go back to what the internal communications manager said. It was "The sessions will be 2 hours long and involve bidder presentations and the opportunity for you to ask questions." The implication of Mr Schroder's email was that you could ask questions, and get answers, otherwise you might as well just sit at your desk. Now either Mr Schroder was being a bit sly (good morning Jonathan, how are you this fine morning? had you thought of cutting out the middlemanmole and putting me on the circulation list for internal staff information?) and isn't to be trusted or you can ask what you like. There is nothing in EU procurement law that prevents a bidder from saying where he plans to site the services.

Imagine you are the bidding manager for huge contracts which involve providing office space for up to 600 people. Are you going to wait until you have got down to the last knockings before working out where and how you are going to run the service? of course not, that would be stupid in the extreme. So you will have already identified and costed the office space, the only possible reason not to say the probable location is that it isn't anywhere near Barnet.

Here is the plan for Monday. Those individuals who have had enough of Barnet Council and the bidding, step forward now.

Get in first and ask the questions to keep the noses clean of other colleagues who just have to remain. 
Where is my service going to be located? 
When they fob that off ask them where they have been looking for office space to rent or buy. 
Then ask where your service is most likely to be located?
What percentage chance is there that it will be in Barnet?
Ask them which local authority they last won a contract with? They will breathe a sigh of relief.
Then ask where that authorities staff have been or are going to be relocated to?
You should be starting to hack the bidder off at this point.
The bidder will look for someone else to ask a question.
The next person to step forward needs to also ask about location, and the next and the next and so on ad infinitum (i.e. for ever).
Tell the bidder that this is the first question that has to be answered and until it is none of your colleagues will ask about anything else.
Give the bidder the silent treatment. Sit there waiting for an answer to the location question.

Here is a challenge. Can you make the session last 2 hours with no other question being asked?

Actually there is a second question you can ask.

It is, are you always this evasive? (it's a when did you stop beating your wife sort of question - which you shouldn't do of course)

Have fun. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


Why this briefing and why now?



NSCSO Staff Business Case Briefings Feb 2012 - Barnet Council


You have now suffered along with the staff; they have to put up with reams of this stuff. 

This so called "business case briefing" is just a load of regurgitated information that is available in countless public reports.

Mr Mustard is not going to trash the whole presentation but will just comment that the presentation says "provide the best possible customer experience" and ask you to try and reconcile that with a target for answering the telephone of 80% of calls within 20 seconds and then you will see that this presentation is just hogwash.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 March 2012

NSCSO. Questions, questions.

Bangalore: possibly at rush hour.
At the recent business case briefings for staff in scope for the New Support and Customer Service Organisation (NSCSO) project, a number of questions were asked as follows:
 
Staff terms and conditions 
Mr Mustard has commented in red.

Q1. Under which organisation’s terms and conditions would a potential redundancy be treated?
A1. The terms and conditions of employment that you have at the council are fully protected for one year. However the organisation making the redundancy would be the new provider, and therefore it would follow its policy in determining the case. A new employer is likely only to offer the statutory minimum as a transferring employee has not built up any goodwill or reason to be treated generously.

Q2. Will the council’s redundancy package go with us when we transfer under the current terms and conditions?
A2. Yes. The council’s redundancy package is set out in the ‘Managing Organisational Change Policy’ which is part of the employee handbook which will transfer with you.  Should the new employer wish to change this policy at any time following transfer it will need to consult the recognised unions. "Consult" does not necessarily mean "take any notice of".

Q3. Does the fact that TUPE regulations are protected for a year, prevent the successful organisation from making redundancies within that timeframe?
A3. No it doesn’t. Under the TUPE Regulations 2006, a dismissal (which includes redundancy), can only be made in the first year post-transfer if there is an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) reason to do so.  Any activity of this kind would need to be consulted upon prior to the change and, if a known change at point of transfer, consulted upon as part of the measures. You have no job security.
Should there be a need for a post to be made redundant, there will be greater opportunity for redeployment in BT or Capita because they are much larger national organisations than the council. Please. The council has over 3000 employees so don't pretend this is some sort of benefit you are generously offering to the staff. If they had wanted to work for BT or Crapita they would have applied for a job with them years ago.

To find out more about the council’s TUPE commitments please see the information on the intranet.

To learn more about the TUPE Regulations, please book yourself onto a TUPE workshop for either staff or managers. Both are available over the coming months.

Q4. Will my previous service continue in the new organisation?
A4. Yes, under the TUPE Regulations your service continues post-transfer uninterrupted as if you had not transferred.

Q5. Do fixed term contracts transfer to the new provider?
A5. If a member of staff on a fixed term contract has an end date later than the transfer they will be in-scope to transfer.

Q6. What would the new provider do with the people on fixed term contracts once their contract has ended?
A6. If you have a fixed term contract it would end at its specified date unless the new provider extended it, as would be the case should you have stayed with the council.

Q7. Can the pension scheme be amended after a year, according to TUPE regulations?
A7. Pensions are not protected under the TUPE Regulations but separate to this, the council has committed to your LBB pensions continuing when you transfer to the new provider for the life of the contract.
There are a number of changes being made to the Local Government Pension Scheme by the Government and these will affect members of the LGPS whether they are a contractor or council employee.  If you attended the pensions workshops at the end of last year you will be aware of the changes.

Once working for the new provider, should you wish to apply for promotion, you are likely to be offered the terms and conditions of your new employer. This will be for you to take into consideration as part of your package.  Once you transfer to the new provider, if you move away from working on the Barnet contract this will breach the terms of the LBB Pensions Fund and you will not be entitled to continue in the Barnet LGPS.

Should either of these situations occur an employee’s LGPS pension will be frozen and the new provider will offer their own scheme to the employee.

Location

Q1. Is it likely that our base location will change?
A1. Location will be covered in detail during the second stage of competitive dialogue where the bidders will discuss their proposals to run the services. This will include recommendations on where they may run a service from. The council therefore won’t know for certain where the services will be based until the autumn of 2012 once a preferred bidder has been selected. It would be a good idea to start learning Hindi so you fit in more easily when your job moves to Bangalore.

Q2. Where do either of the bidding companies want to run the revenues and benefits department from?
A2. As mentioned above, the detail of bidders’ solutions will be discussed in the next stage and this will include location. It would be wrong for the council to give any assurances at this stage (they won't be giving one at any stage because EU regulations largely prevent it was the answer volunteered by a Councillor at a committee meeting), as we need to hear what options are on the table. We don’t know yet whether the bidders will wish to move any processes elsewhere or centralise others around a centre of excellence in Barnet.
If there is an intention to change the location of a service this would be referred to in the “measures” letter following contract award. The measures letter is sent from the new employer to the council to explain what, if any, proposed changes it wants to take post-transfer with respect to transferring employees. Consultation on these measures would be following transfer. Remember the Parking contract. Back office is moving to Croydon. Not many staff will want to work there. Perhaps it should be renamed the back-of-beyond office.

Q3. Is it correct that there is no restriction on the location of NSCSO services?
A3. Yes, but the council will evaluate all proposals in terms of the requirements set out in the output specifications and the benefits that it will deliver. It’s worth noting that the evaluation criteria gives a 60% weighting to non-financial benefits. This final line is misleading. It is not worth noting at all. What % weighting is given to location. Probably none at all if the leaked DRS scoring document is a guide.

The council’s core responsibility is to deliver high quality services at good value for Barnet’s residents and taxpayers and we will consider any proposals on their merits in terms of the evaluation criteria for the procurement process – quality of service delivery and value for money will clearly be the key factors. However, bearing in mind that the council is committed to existing local accommodation costs into the medium term, it is unlikely that wholesale relocation will be value for money for the council in the early years of the contract.

Q4. If the preferred bidder decides they want to relocate in the UK (or even abroad) and I am not able to do so for family reasons etc – what happens?
A4. Should there be a need for a service or part of a service to be relocated, the new employer would do so using their relocation policy.
This is likely to specify a time period they believe is deemed reasonable for an employee to travel to and from work. The new provider would be obliged to consult with you and your trade unions on the change, and during this time you will be given the opportunity to inform your employer of your personal circumstances.
It will be for the new provider to give your situation due consideration and inform you of the outcome of their decision. If between you it is decided the new location is not a reasonable change for you, a redundancy process will be entered into, including the opportunity to be considered for redeployment within the new organisation. Move or be made redundant.

The council would expect any new provider to make every effort to redeploy individuals within their organisation before any redundancies would be considered.

Q5. The bidders are massive organisations so will have various departments across the country. What’s the view on having different parts of NSCSO located in different areas?
A5. The council needs to be clear about the outputs, outcomes, quality standards and performance levels that we require, without being prescriptive about how this is achieved. Clearly if any of this is affected by proximity of services to each other, this will become a relevant factor. The bidders can do what they like.

Q6. The bidders will be looking at making savings and cutting costs. How will they do that and will they be looking at relocating staff?
A6. Savings need to made whether the service is externalised or kept in house. Using a large commercial organisation that specialises in this group of services enables costs to be cut through a variety of methods including process redesign, automation, demand management, economies of scale, stronger purchasing power, strong data-led design and performance management. With regard to potential relocation, please see the answer given above. The council spends £900m p.a. so already has economies of scale.

Q7. What is the relationship between change of location and constructive dismissal?
A7. If a change of location is proposed, the employer will follow due process to establish the implications for the employee, as described above. "Due process" does not answer the question. Ask your union rep for a proper answer.

Constructive dismissal is a position where an employee resigns due to their belief that their relationship with their employer has become untenable due to a fundamental breach of their contract of employment.

In either case, consultation with trade unions and staff is required.

Dialogue process

Q1. What is the deadline for the decision on the successful bidder?
A1. The process will finish at the end of the second phase of competitive dialogue, once all aspects of the contract have been finalised to the council’s satisfaction. The current estimate for the preferred bidder decision is Autumn 2012. The new organisation is expected to mobilise in late 2012, and ‘go live’ in early 2013.

Q2. What support has the council had from outside bodies regarding the project as a whole?
A2. Experienced support continues to be provided by consultants involved from Agilisys (technical), Impower (commercial), and legal consultancy from Trowers and Hamlins.

Q3. How can staff ‘feed back’ to the project team after meeting the bidders?
A3. There are a variety of ways staff can feed back to the project following the Meet the Bidders Days. There are your staff group representatives, the NSCSO email address or staff can contact a member of their management team who can feed back to your service lead. They in turn can feed this back to service lead meetings. Or send your worries anonymously to a blogger and they will probably be blogged.

Q4. What would happen if one of the final two bidders backed out?
A4. This is very unlikely as they are both very keen to win. Also they will have invested up to £2m throughout the bidding process. If one did drop out, the decision would be dependent on the stage at which they did so – if sooner rather than later then there might be the option to go back to one of the other original bidders, or if later on in the process then it may be possible to proceed with one bidder only. If there is only one bidder you are opening the safe and inviting them to help themselves.

Q5. What happens if staff cannot make the ‘Meet the Bidder’ sessions due to annual leave – this will be a very popular time for holidays?
A5. The project team are very aware of the desire from staff to meet the bidders and the opportunity to ask questions and start to understand these two organisations.  The Meet the Bidders Days were deliberately scheduled to allow this to happen at the very beginning of the second phase of competitive dialogue.  Once the dates for this phase were set it was important not to clash these sessions with the Easter Holidays. Both bidders are also having two sessions each on two separate days.

Q6. The staff have been informed of the council’s intentions very well, but have the community/residents of Barnet been informed equally well?
A6. Residents are consulted annually via the council’s budget consultation process, see http://www.barnet.gov.uk/budget. Citizens have not been consulted on One Barnet. The topic is banned at Residents Forums.

Q7. How realistic is the timetable for the project?
A7. It is realistic but ambitious. The council needs to try and make it happen within this timeframe and it is possible to do so, but it will only sign a contract when it is ready.

The council has laid out the process to BT and Capita throughout, and Barnet has adhered to the timetable so far.  There may be slight movement if required so the solutions are right for the council.

Q8. How much has this project cost so far?
A8. The current expenditure on the project, up to the end of February 2012, is as follows:
2010/11: £214,143
2011/12: £582,521
Total to date: £796,664
Total budget for the project: £1.654m

The most recent project budget report was published here along with the other One Barnet projects for the Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 December 2011. This report will next be published on 15 March 2012. Although the December report showed an overspend predicted for 2011/12 there is actually due to be an underspend due to reduction in legal work required within this financial year.

Q9. If the contract is exchanged in January 2013, does the standard statutory 90 days consultation apply to TUPE?
A9. There are no set timeframes to inform and consult on a transfer under the TUPE Regulations.  The requirement is to inform and consult at the earliest practicable point. The council will be required to inform staff about the transfer and consult on the measures (known changes) the new provider will be making.

The formal period of inform and consult will take place once the NSCSO contract has been awarded. The council will continue to informally brief staff about the procurement process, competitive dialogue and the transfer until the contract is awarded.

Q10. When do you expect the final decision to be made?
A10. The council expects to close the second stage of dialogue in late summer/early autumn, with a preferred bidder being identified in late autumn, for an early 2013 service commencement.

Service delivery and contract management

Q1. Was there ever the scope to look for a mutual or co-operative partnership?
A1. A mutual or co-operative partnership would not have secured the scale of investment required to transform and ensure the sustainability of these services while reducing cost. Complete rubbish. If the services had been tender4ed individually then experts would have come forward from local companies and in-house who could have raised the much reduced finance for each parcel.

Q2. Is there any possibility that the service provision will be split between different organisations/bidders?
A2. No. The aim is to procure one partner to deliver all the services in scope. Some of which they will be worse at than others.

Q3. How much control will the council have over the investments into IT set to be made by the winning bidder?
A3. The council will work with the partner to make sure that investment builds on the work that has been done already. Bidders have been made aware of the current platforms and projects that are underway at the moment. The partner will be expected to invest in IT infrastructure and technology that will work alongside other systems already in place to enable smooth co-working between the NSCSO and the rest of the organisation. They will pass the bill onto the council. Private companies exist to make a profit. That is the only reason BT & Crapita want this contract; to make money out of the citizens of Barnet. It isn't that they love us and they certainly aren't charities. Mr Mustard's alter ego has a small business. It happens to deal with financial problems, not because he especially likes to see people and companies in straightened circumstances but because he makes money out of it. Simple.

Q4. If BT and Capita fail to deliver a good service, penalties won’t help the service user, and penalties won’t make any difference to BT or Capita because they are such big financially successful companies. How can we assure a high level of service to the public?
A4. Performance deductions are one way to focus the minds of such companies. BT and Capita will be very keen to maintain their reputation so will not want to risk dissatisfied customers. The partners will be specifically required to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. The street lighting contractor has under-performed and said they cannot sustain the level of deductions being made. The council's response is to re-negotiate the terms instead of sacking the contractor and starting again. There is no confidence that the council will not do the same with these huge corporations whose lawyers will tie the council in knots.

Q5. What are the arrangements for contract management?
A5. The council has extracted a percentage of budget from the baseline to cover the costs of a client function.  The detailed design of this will be worked up in conjunction with the development of the new council structure. The council does not yet know the answer to your question.

Q6. Is there a capping on the fees/charges for Capita/BT on service provision?
A6. Yes, the bidders are required to guarantee core service price, include a cap on profits, and have an open book policy on accounting.

Bidders’ plans

Q1. One of the benefits of the project relates to an investment in IT, but for Revs and Bens, we have or will have delivered all the necessary IT improvements before this contract goes live, so what more can the partner do?
A1. The council has done a significant amount of work on IT, but recognise that Capita and BT would invest in a CRM and customer access capability that goes far beyond what the council can deliver, enabling a single view of the customer that both staff and customers themselves can access, and link up disparate customer processes across the council. The council could keep up with technology if they wanted to.

Q2. Will there be an opportunity to visit the bidders?
A2. Yes, site visits will be arranged at an appropriate stage of the process. It is likely to be a mixture of the Commercial Team and maybe some Service Leads. Check your passport and your vaccinations. Bangalore here we come.

Q3. If there are only a certain number of jobs available, will we have to apply for our own jobs?
A3. The council will be reducing in size in any event, however we are doing what we can to manage this.  For example, there are expected to be less than 20 redundancies in this financial year when the final position is confirmed at the end of March. The council has been focusing on reducing the numbers through removing temporary/agency staff where it can. Mr Mustard hasn't asked about agency staff for a while but let's see, payments to "Agency/Interim Hays" in January 2012 were £510,433 which is the usual ridiculous level for Barnet Council.

Service-specific issues

Q1. Will the ICT staff receive the same letter that was sent out to other departments last year?
A1. Yes, this has been sent out via your management team.

Q2. How is merging and consolidation of customer service functions taking place?
A2. It was agreed that the Customer Services Organisation will be the primary point of contact for customers seeking services from the council, be it by phone, web, e-mail, post or face-to-face. Work is on-going as part of the Customer Services Transformation (under the One Barnet) programme to identify where the approach will provide both better customer service and value for money (sharing infrastructure, more resilience due to ability to cross-train and manage call peaks, application of additional expertise not available within the council).
This is happening for all services across the council – as it is for Revenues and Benefits. This work involves a detailed look at how we currently deliver services, comparing this with best practice elsewhere and looking for improvements. From this work, a report will be produced that will outline the case for change with an implementation plan. In the case of Revenues and Benefits this point has been reached and consultation on this will begin at the end of March/April 2012. This is one of the most bonkers One Barnet ideas. The idea that a generalist can answer complex questions. It is much better to let each department answer its own queries. That was there is expert knowledge, speed of response and accountability.

Q3. What is the business case for proving that BT/Capita can provide a cheaper service than the council, especially as the staff at the council are being told they have the skills the larger organisation might not?
A3. There is a clear fit between what we want NSCSO to achieve and the role of the Corporate Programmes Team. For example, we will want to use the £30m or so capital monies for schools improvements to generate outcomes for Barnet as a whole not simply handing it across to the individual schools to manage for their own individual purposes. The CPT would be an ideal resource to manage this within the objectives set for our delivery partners. The history of the CPT is dire. MetPro, RM Countryside, Iris Gardening, all contractors without contracts under the eye of CPT.

Q4. Is there any more information on internal re-structuring of corporate programmes before being outsourced?
A4. Information about this will be communicated to all staff shortly. As soon as Mr Mustard has it, you will.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

No real live news

Go-ahead for new FOI system

Thursday, 22 March 2012 11:51 Schroder, Johnathan
Implementation plans for a new FOI system are well underway and the Standards and Information Rights Team are working hard to ensure a smooth transition.

The new case management system (iCasework) will be a welcome and much-needed improvement to the handling of cases and will assist the council in achieving the Corporate Plan target of responding to 90% of requests for information received under the FOI Act within statutory timeframes.

iCasework will make better use of resources and:

• allow active monitoring of deadlines
• improve management reporting
• provide greater transparency with an automated disclosure log
• improve data quality.

All Link Officers have received the necessary training and managers, assistant directors and directors are being asked to support their Link Officers during this transition period.

The new system, integrated with the soon to launch new corporate website, will also enable FOI responses to be published on the council's website when they are sent.

Plus....

Changes are underway in the Governance Service. Look out for news on the launch of the new Committee Papers system, coming soon.

Executive summary:

Jam tomorrow