Monday, 17 December 2012

Why the Barnet 10 chose Capita


Why the BARNET 10 chose Capita

Why have 10 Tory Councillors (aka the Barnet 10), the only members of the Council to decide Barnet's future, chosen to swell the coffers of massive private company, Capita, rather than look after the interests of the residents and businesses of Barnet? Where does their loyalty lie? 

The Barnet 10, who make up the Council Cabinet, flaunt the fact that none of them have read the lengthy contract which awards the outsourcing of most of the Council's services to Capita for ten years with an extension clause of a further five. Capita would be running these services far from Barnet with contact through a call centre in Blackburn, Lancs, that could end up being anywhere in the world together with our "local" services. Capita's motivation: financial profit.

But we are assured there is no need for concern. Tory Leader of the Council, and one of the 10, Richard Cornelius, explained that just like the transaction of buying or selling a home, neither party needs to know all the details of the contract as they are being advised by experts.

Who are these experts on whose judgement the Barnet 10 have put their trust?

There is legal firm Trowers & Hamlin. According to Tory Cllr Hugh Rayner, the contract can be interpreted however you choose, depending on which side you're on. But if this is so, any decent lawyer would advise that ambiguity is certain to cause problems at times of dispute.  

And then there are the madly expensive firms of consultants, 
Agilisys and iMPOWER, costing taxpayers millions of pounds; one million in October alone. It is clear from the philosophy that appears on iMPOWER's website why the Barnet 10 chose outsourcing and never considered an in-house alternative, or any alternative for that matter.

"If councils can change their relationship with citizens and customers, they have a far bigger chance of delivering to a smaller financial envelope without ‘cutting’ in the conventional way. But citizen behaviour is only one half of the solution – councils and their staff need to change as well. So our approach quite deliberately starts at a service level. We don’t subscribe to the idea that mass consolidation of back office services creates major efficiency – these support services only account for about 10% of a council’s cost. We focus on the 90% that is in services and in winning hearts and minds for change at this level." (iMPOWER website).

It is a case of asking the advice of someone you know will give you the answer you want to hear, and paying whatever it costs to get it. And third are the home-grown Council officers. On the advice of these three sources, the Barnet 10 have made their decision to approve the first stage of the privatization scheme and to award it to Capita.

You might think that an essential way to assess the merits of the Capita deal which will move jobs and services out of Barnet to distant locations with no realistic guarantee of the savings "promised" in the contract, is to compare it with an in-house option to see which is more advantageous. But no comparison of any kind has ever been made.

With the future of Barnet at stake, you'd expect advice to be based on evidence of Capita's conduct and performance records. It has to be assumed that the advisers did their research. Capita's history is well-documented on public record. So it is hard to understand how Capita's performance could possibly be regarded as acceptable, let alone desirable. Barnet is about to be tied into ten years of privatization without an exit clause, without a safety net, and alarmingly without a mandate. If anything goes wrong it will be the residents and businesses of Barnet who will suffer when they are left without services, Council staff and a massive hole in their finances. The Barnet 10 has received their advice and has acted upon it, so the following information must have been available to them when they decided to choose Capita as their preferred contractor.

1. Capita's record of running local government services, e.g. Birmingham,  Southampton, Sefton, Lambeth and Harrow.

  • Lambeth: "Capita was in charge of housing and council tax services in Lambeth between 1997 and 2001, but Capita was sacked by Lambeth Council after bringing the south London Borough's housing benefit service to near collapse, with tens of thousands of unprocessed claims leaving many families in danger of eviction.
    "Lambeth Council dumped Capita following a scathing Benefit Fraud Inspectorate three years into a seven year contract. The council's threat to sue Capita for up to £18 million has been dropped so the service can be brought back in-house more quickly"

    • Birmingham controversies include the relocation of skilled local jobs to India,[2] [3]complaints of "unfair" choice of Capita for library contract[4] and this year £1 billion outsourcing "falling short".[5]
    • Southampton: Just substitute the word 'Barnet' for 'Southampton' in this link.[6] The Council's initial euphoria is followed by a condemning report of the failure of Capita to run Southampton's services.
    • Sefton Council were obliged to take back services from Capita after a failure to produce the savings promised.
    • Harrow Council, which outsourced it’s IT to Capita, has had a couple of significant IT failures, with “thousands of emails delayed or seemingly lost in the ether” – according to Cllr Susan Hall, Leader of Harrow Conservative Group. One piece of correspondence took the Council 89 days to respond to. And that was just to acknowledge it, not to answer any questions.[8]

    2.  Capita has been ditched by various government  departments.
    • Home Office: On October 2012 'The Times' reported that the Home Office had terminated Capita's services after ten years: "Capita has lost a flagship contract to manage the Criminal Records Bureau — and some analysts believe the reason is that the company has had it too good for too long." Kevin Lapwood, at the brokers Seymour Pierce, said: “There’s a suspicion that Capita has been earning too high a margin on certain central government contracts.”[9]
    • Ministry of Justice: Only yesterday (14.12.12): "A Capita-run database offering interpretation services for cases run by the Ministry of Justice has been described as "chaos" by the Committee of Public Accounts (CPA). The criticism comes as the CPA launched an investigation into the interpretation system, which was built to provide the Ministry of Justice with a system for supplying interpreters to the justice sector. However, Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said "almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong" [10]
    • Department of Work and Pensions. Capita lost the running of back office services for the Benefits Agency.

    3. London Congestion Charge: In 2009 Capita's management of call centres for the London Congestion Charge was transferred to IBM after its first stage.[11]

    4.  IT: (See Harrow above). Computer Weekly has criticized Capita's 10-year proposal for the running of Barnet's IT service as outdated, inappropriate and expensive and suggests that there are more up-to-date methods that are far better and cheaper. [12]

    5. Financial misconduct. Capita has been fined for financial misconduct but claims that it doesn't have the money to pay.[13] [14]

    6. Staff: Capita's treatment of staff includes terminating the employment of established Council staff in favour of cheaper staff outside of the borough, moves to relocate skilled local jobs overseas and paying many employees the minimum wage of £6.11 an hour while Capita Boss Paul Pinder recently complained that he was called a "fat cat" as he "only earns £14,500 per week.  [15]

    So this is why the Barnet 10 chose Capita! Just a selection of Capita's abysmal record of outsourcing which the Barnet 10 must have known about if their advisers have done their job. So why would anyone want to touch Capita with a bargepole?  Well the Barnet 10 cannot wait. They are content to deliver the people they are there to serve into the greedy, untrustworthy, incompetent clutches of Capita. What irresistible web does Capita weave that entraps all comers so willingly?  Whatever it is, we may never know as parts of the contract are too "commercially sensitive" ever to be revealed.

    There has been no full Council vote on this, so there can be no opposition. Both Labour and Liberal Democrats oppose the scheme. The right to vote has been denied them and their objections have been ignored. But in any case, the Tories have an unbeatable majority.

    We have not been consulted and our objections have not been heard, but we can exercise the only democratic right left to us and let the Barnet 10 know whether or not we are happy with their choice of handing over Barnet's services and jobs to Capita by using our vote in 2014. 

    If you don't know the identity of the Barnet 10, there is a list below that gives their names and the wards they represent.  

    The Barnet 10 have already started making excuses. They claim that benefits of privatization will not be apparent at first but will be incremental over the years.  

    But at least we now know that they chose Capita in full knowledge that their decision could ruin Barnet for the foreseeable future with no care for the consequences to us, its people.



    Richard Cornelius

    Daniel Thomas
    Finchley Church End
    Andrew  Harper
    Garden Suburb

    David Longstaff
    High Barnet
    Sachin Rajput

    Joanna Tambourides
    former East Barnet

    Dean Cohen
    Golders Green
    Tom Davey
    Helena Hart

    Robert Rams
    former East Barnet

    ·       Consultants: 
    iMpower, 14  Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell,London, EC1R 0AN Tel: 020 7017 8030;
    Agilisys, 6-28 Hammersmith Grove, London W6 7AW Tel: 0845 450 1131

    ·       Legal advisers:
    Trowers & Hamlins, London Head Office: 3 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8YZ Tel: 020 7423 8000;

    ·       Officers of Barnet Council

    ·      Initiator of 'One Barnet' (Easy Council): Mike Freer, MP

    Friday, 14 December 2012

    Tally Ho Ho Ho - Final details


    Here at last
    courtesy of the Finchley traders
    for the people of Finchley

    This Saturday

    Christmas comes to Finchley




    10 am to 4 pm



    10 am
    Father Christmas arrives in Finchley in a horse-drawn carriage
    giving out free chocolate coins to children

    11.30 am
    Santa's Grotto
    opens at the Bohemia Bar
    Meet two live reindeer and a barn owl

    11.30 - 3.30 pm
    Peppa Pig and George will be walking around
    Tally Ho Corner

    Stalls of mulled wine, chocolate marshmallows and other sweet treats


    Small stage outside Artsdepot for
    musical entertainment
    Street entertainment
    Carol singing

    In Artsdepot cafe
    Make Gruffalo badges
    Cupcake decorating
    Wreath making
    Face painting
    Christmas wrapping workshop

    Prize: Toy hamper

    Judges are from Design for London

    How to enter


    All baubles will be placed on the tree for everyone to see


    Auction of Christmas trees complete with lights and decorations

    Funded by the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund, Barnet Council and local businesses. Organised by the North Finchley Traders Association. For further details:  Organizer: Sally Williams, Retail Revival Ltd  07889 173101 and Helen Michael, Association of Finchley Traders, Cafe Buzz, Finchley High Road.

    Monday, 10 December 2012

    Barnet: The Marriage from Hell


    We didn't sign up for this

    I stepped out of Barnet Town Hall and into the rainy night on 
    Thursday, 6 December 2012, full of inspiration, full of things 
    to say in my blog about the extraordinary events I had 
    witnessed, those famous lines from Shakespeare's 'Henry V' 
    in my mind: "And gentlemen in England now a-bed, Shall think
    themselves accursed they were not here". 

    But each time I made a start, a bIog appeared in print that said it all and told it superbly. I was content to read rather than write: Mrs Angry, Mr Reasonable, Mr Mustard, Barnet Eye, Citizen Barnet. But an idea was germinating. My muse was doing its job and I had my subject.

    There is an agreement between a Council and its electorate, a relationship, a 'marriage' based on trust, commitment, empowerment, enablement, the pooling of assets and resources for the common good of the family. And when a marriage breaks down, as it has in Barnet, it is advisable amid blame and accusations to consider both sides of the story.

    In the case of The Residents of Barnet (Plaintiff) v Conservative Barnet Council (Respondent) there seems to be little or no possibility of a reconciliation. The inevitable consequence seems to be divorce with either 'adultery' or 'unreasonable behaviour' as grounds. But though things are acrimonious and fractious, realistically the injured party may have to be patient and wait until 2014 to be free, but with consent on only one side and no sign of a final settlement.

    The grounds of 'unreasonable behaviour' can be argued by the Plaintiff. A breakdown in communication resulting in secrecy and lies; the Respondent risking the Plaintiff's hard-earned money on life-changing ventures without their knowledge, without consultation and with no consideration of an alternative; ignoring or ridiculing the Plaintiff's wishes. And as far as 'adultery' is concerned, the Respondent has eagerly jumped into bed with the money-grabbing, discredited contractor, Capita, guaranteed of being screwed. To hell with the Plaintiff, the vulnerable long-term partner who will have to pick up the pieces and foot the bill if things go wrong.

    The Respondent, however, claims to be acting in everyone's best interests. So who do the beleaguered Barnet Council Cabinet believe to be at fault?  Who was responsible for the angry protest at Barnet Town Hall on 6 December, when a packed public gallery chanting "You have no mandate" and "Out, out, out" brought a Cabinet meeting to a standstill and forced its members to run for the safety of an adjoining room to continue the meeting in private with a police guard at its door to protect them from their own electorate?

    Opposition to 'One Barnet', they believe, is confined to a tiny minority. Richard Cornelius, Leader of Tory Barnet Council, claimed at a public meeting on 9 November that it is none other than the unions. Cornelius is stuck in a past in which Tories blamed everything on "the unions" and "socialists".  He continues to cling to that belief. The unions are not only a spanner in the works, they make a fuss about people losing their jobs. And Cornelius is not the only Tory member of the Cabinet who feels this way. In an exultant, self-congratulatory blog Cllr Robert Rams claims: "The decision is being opposed by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services [BAPS], a front organisation for various trade unions."  And former Barnet mayor, Brian Coleman, is certain that some fantasy "Mr and Mrs Average Barnet would run a mile from last night's disgraceful behaviour".  

    At the meeting on Thursday I sat beside an elegant, charming, middle-aged woman who chanted quietly but with gusto along with everyone else  "We will not let you take our democracy away".  She seemed surprised at her own behaviour and told me she was shy, but she was also angry. Yet like Cornelius and Rams, Coleman believes that all opposition is down to a small bunch of pesky lefties.

    As there has been no public consultation it is not surprising that the Tories have got it so wrong.  Cornelius should have bothered to listen at the BAPS-organised question and answer session that attracted hundreds of concerned Barnet residents. He would have heard one resident after another declare that they had never been involved in politics before"

    I've been impressed at recent 'One Barnet' meetings by the diversity and number of people who have turned up to express their concerns, wanting to be part of a democratic process that has so far been denied them. On Thursday, there were indeed representatives of UNISON there to protect the hundreds of jobs that will be lost in Barnet. That is their job. A grinning Cornelius made it clear on 9 November that he couldn't see there was a problem about jobs going out of the Borough (  He said as much on BBC 'Sunday Politics'. It would be so much easier for Cornelius and Rams if all those vulnerable employees had no-one to support them and fight for their rights. (Councillor Cornelius's Delores )

    The Labour Party and Lib Dems were opposing 'One Barnet', because among other things it has no mandate, has never been compared with any alternative to see if it is indeed better or worse than any other option, and they are against Council services being run far from the Borough to make profits for a giant private company. 

    Members of the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) were in attendance and led the protest. BAPS is not a "front for various trade unions" as the paranoid Rams claims. It is made up of "residents, local organisations and trade unions campaigning for high quality public services in the London Borough of Barnet".  Disparate groups have come together with a common aim: to democratically organise and unite against 'One Barnet'.  They are residents and business owners of all ages and backgrounds, apolitical or from across the political spectrum (including, yes, Tories and even UKIP).  BAPS already have more than 7,000 signatures on their petition.  Can they all be dangerous "lefties" eager to fly the red flag over Totteridge, which is Rams' ludicrous scenario? Perhaps this sort of scaremongering goes down well in certain Tory circles, but it just reveals that Rams like Cornelius has misjudged their opposition as they have misjudged everything else. 

    Millions of pounds have been spent by the Council on external consultants and the cabinet is content to act on their "expert" advice and that of their officers rather than read the contract themselves.  But it wouldn't make any difference if they had.  Cornelius clearly stated on 9 November that he would be recommending 'One Barnet' to go ahead on 6 December. He also admitted that with a month to go the contract had not been seen, was incomplete and certain information was still to be received.  He had already made up his mind before even the advisers, on whom he and his cabinet were relying, had seen a complete contract. He had decided to go ahead on a wing and a song.

    The Tories are living in the past in a rapidly changing world as are their advisers.  Outsourcing has become outdated, discredited, rejected. There are new models that successfully keep services in-house for the economic and social benefit of the local community.  The Council hasn't even considered such an option. Read this article by an IT expert in the latest edition of Computer Weekly about the 'One Barnet' IT outsourcing.  The alarm bells are not only ringing, they are deafening.

    The Council does not have a mandate for 'One Barnet' though they claim that being elected is all the mandate they need. The reality is that 'One Barnet' has been approved even though we didn't sign up for it and the fight must go on. It is a sad day when men and women with no appetite for politics are forced into political activism against their own Council, and yet the numbers are growing along with the passion to stop an arrogant, intransigent handful of men from abusing their power and gambling irresponsibly with our lives. The message is loud and clear. "We will not let you take our democracy away".  And even if it takes until 2014, we want out of this marriage.