Read by Anna Earnshaw, Commercial Director of Capita
Capita 999: We aim to fail: Capita claims 92% of Barnet targets metBarnet's Performance and Contract Management Committee met on Tuesday, 11 November. I was on the Committee that night and on the Agenda was Capita's performance report on their phone lines. Capita Commercial Director, Anna Earnshaw, who announced that she reads my blog, said she regretted my experiences, but that they must be very rare. She spoke of Capita's achievements: 92% of their targets met, 23 out of the 25 performance targets achieved (Capita's own figures), and that only two indicators had missed the target: one being a decrease of calls answered by the contact centre within 20 seconds from 78.48% to 78.1% increasing the gap from the 80% target (that's 20% accepted failure by the way).
Chris Naylor, Barnet's Chief Operating Officer, backed her up: "I'm confident that we've got the right arrangement in place". This was after I had given him several examples of my own bad experiences and those of others. He came up with the same old excuses: inherited problems, teething troubles. He seemed to have overlooked that Capita's inheritance included an extra 25% of lines they have since discarded to cut their costs.
When my future trip to Coventry was mentioned, the Chair of the Committee, Tory Cllr Anthony Finn, perked up and in the voice of an indulgent grandfather offering a treat proposed that a mini-bus should be hired for a trip to Coventry for everyone to have a lovely day out. But then he confessed, though in the voice of one who wasn't that worried about it and felt reassured that it would all come right in the end, that he, too, had had problems phoning the Council, and had found that even when operators answered in good time, he often didn't get put through to the person he wanted as there was a lack of knowledge of the identity of staff and what services were offered by different departments. Thank goodness. At last Capita might stop treating me as if I had been the unlucky victim of a rare bad experience and a bit of a complainer. The old teething problems excuse emerged again together with the assurance that everything was in hand and being dealt with. It was a question of training and there were two dedicated staff who listened to recordings of calls to identify problems. Well whatever they are doing it isn't working.
This meeting was on 11 November. Back on 13 January, nearly a year ago, at a similar meeting, Tory Cllr Brian Salinger, a man who speaks his mind, complained about the lack of knowledge of the operators at the call centre. He had asked to be put through to the Leader's office. The operator had no idea what he was talking about. Cllr Salinger said it was a matter of training. So what has happened over the past year with training and monitoring? Absolutely nothing. The faults are the same, as are the excuses. Performance is failing but Capita are unable to come up with a cure. They claim to be the experts but serve us like incompetent amateurs, taking pots of our money while deserving only their already well-earned epithet, Crapita.
Naylor then moved into smoke and mirror mode to divert our attention from the 'f'-word: failure. It's not the operators who are at fault, but when they transfer calls to the relevant people (does this really ever happen?) those people might have stepped out of their office and may not have switched on their answering machines so their phone would be bound to ring unanswered. This, he claimed, must be rectified. No, I said, that has nothing to do with it. The telephone operators have no idea who anyone is or which department does what. This is the problem, always has been, and undoubtedly if they haven't been able to sort it out for a year, always will be.
As the redoubtable Mr Reasonable asked in a recent tweet: "Why are Barnet Conservatives happy to tolerate such dismal performance?" And why indeed are they? But then it always comes back to the question of why they tied us into the Capita contract for ten years in the first place knowing of Capita's disastrous record and that there were no guarantees of saving money. It hasn't taken long to reveal itself as the disaster it is, but not to worry, only 9 years to go if the option isn't taken up to extend for a further five. Will Capita be in existence that long? Will the London Borough of Barnet survive after Capita has had its way with it?