Saturday, 11 October 2014

Capita 999: the Monitoring Officer's tale



  
 Capita 999: the Monitoring Officer's tale

Interesting what has come out of the telephone call that began with the cackle of a Capita telephone operator who didn't know who Andrew Nathan, Head of Governance was. Well she couldn't know everyone, could she?  Would Jonathan Nathan do, just this time?  Um, 'fraid not.   That isn't to say I wasn't curious to know who Jonathan was, but no such name appears on the internal email list. But then people seem to be disappearing fast from Barnet Council's address book these days and it isn't necessarily due to the appalling IT service we get from Capita, but don't get me started on that. You may well find some of them shipped out by Capita to places like Blackburn or Coventry or Northern Ireland or anywhere but Barnet while others are made redundant. Perhaps Jonathan was in post on the 5th but has now stepped down in the current mode of mutual consent.   


The reason for my call was a follow-up to an email I sent on 5 October asking the Monitoring Officer, or rather former Monitoring Officer since yesterday, for some information.  I received an out-of-office reply.  She was out of the office from 12 September, recommended contacts for assistants who could direct urgent matters to the right department during her absence and offered to respond to anything that was not urgent on her return.  There was no return date.  But there is nothing in her message to suggest that she was not in post. On the contrary. Then on 10 October the Barnet CEO announced that the Monitoring Officer had left the job on the previous day 'by mutual consent', the story broke in the local press and we knew that the inevitable first head had rolled as a consequence of Claer Lloyd-Jones's murderous report. 


The cackle debacle over, I was put through to the Assurance Department and mentioned that I had been trying to get in touch with the Monitoring Officer. I asked if she had returned to work or was she ill. I was given no explanation, only that her return date was unknown.  This was a month after her absence from the office began, and there was no indication that there was an acting Monitoring Officer in her absence.  According to her out-of-office reply she remained Monitoring Officer during the month when she was away.  So was there a month when Barnet was without a Monitoring Officer at work?  On 10 October the CEO announced that in consultation with Richard Cornelius he had appointed an interim Monitoring Officer, and the rest will be history. 

So who is the interim Monitoring Officer? Well I never, he's an in-house experienced lawyer with relevant expertise from Westminster Council who has a team of two more experienced lawyers. In fact, he's a real Monitoring Officer.

"Peter is the City Council’s Head of Legal and Democratic Services, and Monitoring Officer. He qualified as a solicitor in 1982, joined Westminster in 1999, and has over 25 years experience practising as a solicitor in local government. He has overall responsibility for the provision of all legal services to the City Council. 

 As well as heading up the legal team, and advising on governance and local government and administrative law, Peter has retained an interest in a number of specialist professional areas. They include litigation (especially judicial review), procurement, employment, planning and licensing, all areas where Westminster has provided a unique opportunity to hone his skills, in view of its location and importance." (Westminster Council website)
 
But in short-straw Barnet, according to the report: there is "no-one who understands local government law in depth... Barnet employs no lawyers.There are staff in key roles in the Governance structure in Barnet who are inexperienced in governance matters........

Barnet must make some changes in its governance and legal arrangements to ensure that it has access to pro-active professional and expert advice at all relevant times in future."

But this doesn't seem to worry the delusional Tories, who run the Council. According to on-the-case local reporter, Anna Slater, "Council leaders have stated that Barnet is one of the most "efficient and effective councils in the country" after Labour councillors called for a vote of no confidence against its Tory leader."  She continues: "Despite the damning report - which also criticised the way "inexperienced" staff members have been placed in key roles - deputy leader of the council Cllr Dan Thomas insisted the system is "running well". They must be so proud of their Capita officers and their contract with HB Law, the private law firm they share with Harrow, who are jointly and unequivocally condemned in the report as guilty of damaging our Council. Labour has called for an extraordinary Council meeting. The damage is yet to be assessed.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Capita 999: The extraordinary tale of a Barnet switchboard operator




Capita 999:  The extraordinary tale of a Barnet switchboard operator 

Today I rang the Barnet Council switchboard and I got through first time.  Well done you up there in Blackburn.  So how could a thing that seemed so right go wrong? 

My call was answered by what I can only describe as a long cackle of female laughter followed by the hasty ending of what must have been an hilarious office conversation.  

"May I speak to Andrew Nathan please. "

"Who?" 

"Andrew Nathan."

"Just a minute. I'm looking at my list. I can't see him."

"He's Head of Governance". 

"There's a Jonathan Nathan".

"No, Andrew Nathan.  Don't you know who Andrew Nathan is?"

"I can't know everyone.  Um, there's someone in Assurance."

"I can't believe you don't know one of your most senior officers. Yes, please put me through to Assurance".

"And what's your name?"

"Councillor Kay"

"Is that with a 'y'"

"Yes, I think Kay is always with a 'y'".

"I mean an 'e'".

"No, no 'e'.  Could I have your name please".

Sudden switch to music.  Got through to one of the many Andrews at Barnet who was very helpful, but had first to listen to my rant about the switchboard experience and offered to report it to customer services.

With the usual consistent standard of lamentable service it is easy to understand why Capita is losing more and more unfinished contracts but it is impossible to forgive those ten Tories who, without consultation as verified by the Courts, signed the people of Barnet up to Capita for ten years without even reading the contract.

 Lest we forget.



Saturday, 6 September 2014

Land-Lord Rayner of Barnet: Here's one I prepared earlier





Found innocent of all breaches of conduct on 3 September by the Leaders' Panel made up of 3 Tories and 2 Labour, by his own description at times Barnet Tory Mayor and Councillor and at others landlord, Hugh Rayner reaches into his inside pocket. A handkerchief to wipe away the sweat of the ordeal from his brow? A mobile phone to spread the wonderful news? Neither. It's a thank you speech for letting him off scot free written in advance. How could he possibly have guessed the result? He must be psychic.