Capita wins at Barnet council: the private sector wags the dog

Many people will know that for several years, Barnet council has been pursuing a deeply unpopular plan – called One Barnet – to outsource swathes of council services. Despite monumental opposition from residents, five legendary local bloggers, an extremely motivated and informed union branch secretary and council staff and union members, the council has decided to go ahead with its mass-privatising of council services. There are two contracts up for grabs in the first instance: one worth £275m to take over development and regulatory services and one worth a whopping £750m for a support and customer services “organisation”.

Today, Barnet council told staff that Capita had been confirmed as the preferred bidder for the £750m project. Staff heard more about the impact that this will have on their jobs and the services they provide this afternoon.

Barnet Unison explains in this press release:

“Today approximately 520 Barnet Council staff have been told in a series of briefings that Capita is to be their new employer.

From figures released in the presentations today, approximately 57% of staff will face redundancy as local jobs are exported to Belfast, Blackburn, Bromley, Carlisle, Darwen, Sheffield, Banstead, Swindon, Southampton.

For the last four years, UNISON has warned of the danger of jobs being exported out of Barnet. Leading councillors and senior officers have either played down this risk, or discounted it as irrelevant.

John Burgess, branch secretary said: “It is a dark day in the history of Barnet council. Staff and residents will remember this date as the day the council carried on marching over the cliff ignoring the stark warnings of residents and other key stakeholders. The implications for our members are awful.

I thought the morale of the workforce had already hit rock bottom. I believe this news will drag it down deeper and it will have an impact on other council staff. I also fear for the impact on future quality of services to Barnet residents. I really hope councillors will think again about the implications of what they are proposing and the risks of ignoring a growing dissenting community voice emerging from a resilient committed community campaign. But, it isn’t over yet, there is an alternative way to delivering public services and our campaign is still very alive and focused. Watch this space.”

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Background

Barnet Council is implementing a policy known as the One Barnet Programme, sometimes referred to as the ‘Commissioning Council’. This mass privatisation policy is designed for the Council to divest itself of responsibility to deliver services to its residents.

The first One Barnet project known as New Support Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) will be for back office services such a Finance, Revenues & Benefits, Estates, IT, HR & Payroll etc, it is estimated to be worth up to £750 million.

It involves approximately 700 council workers. There is a high probability that the winning bidder will not deliver these services from Barnet so there is a high risk of significant redundancies at the moment of transfer.

This contract will be awarded to either Capita or BT at the Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee on Thursday 6 December 2012.

The second One Barnet project is known as Development & Regulatory Services (DRS) which includes the following services:

Trading Standards & Licensing, Land Charges, Planning & Development, Building Control & Structures, Environmental Health, Highways Strategy, Highways Network Management, Highways Traffic & Development, Highways Transport & Regeneration, Strategic Planning & Regeneration, Cemeteries & Crematoria.

This contract, worth up to £275 million pounds, will be awarded to Capita Symonds or EC Harris at the Barnet Council Cabinet Resources Committee on 8 January 2013.

This involves approximately 300 council workers

Both contracts are for ten years with an option to extend for a further five years.

UNISON’s position:

Over the past four years, UNISON has published over 40 detailed reports on the Future Shape/EasyCouncil/One Barnet mass privatisation programme.

Our message has remained clear.

Provide a level playing field and follow good practice and include a fully funded in house service improvement model to run alongside the procurement process.

Our proposal – In house model

There are a number of examples where councils have followed this approach to good effect. Most recently, Edinburgh City council considered the potential for using private contractors to deliver a wide range of its services. It embarked on separate procurement processes for 3 blocks of services utilising the Competitive Dialogue process in an attempt to obtain the best offers available from the market. At the same, time in-house teams were asked to work on service improvement plans, or public sector comparators, so that when it came to the award of contract, the council could be sure that the services it was purchasing would genuinely optimise its use of scarce resources. In the end, the public sector comparators proved to be more attractive than any of the external offers and no contracts were awarded.

There is a more detailed explanation here.

Barnet UNISON has produced a list called “100 PLUS reasons why One Barnet is high risk and bad for residents and services.”

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