1 April 2011

Pericles - Surrounded by glory - has fallen from grace.

So I've had my little joke with the Blogger themed non-jobs at Barnet Council but I will return to non-jobs very soon as they are no joke. Amazingly, I have had more hits today ( a record ) for the joke blog than for the real ones.

Barnet Council played their own April Fool's Jokes but issued them a bit early in Mid-March in the form of Council Tax bills that it wasn't possible to pay because they were missing the vital barcode. They had a really amusing variant of billing both people ( e.g. husband & wife ) at one address for 100% of the bill each so it is possible that both might pay it; oh how they laughed at that one in the Treasury department, or did the Head of Insight make it up, or one of the vastly overpaid consultants decide to cover his fees by a bit of over-billing.

I also have a sneaking feeling that a number of residents have not been sent a bill at all. The first they may know about it is a red reminder or a summons; how they will laugh when the extra costs hit home.

My advice, and Mr Mustard's informant Mr D is a credit consultant who knows about these things, is not to assume the bill is correct just because Barnet Council have issued it. In fact he suggests the reverse. Check your bill very carefully. Have you still got your 25% single occupier discount or has it been data cleansed out of existence ?

For the full story read The Barnet Times who really have got a grip on the local scene these days.


"Pericles" : meaning - surrounded by glory.

First, a little history. In 2001 Barnet Council signed a Contract for Pericles, from Anite, a software system to manage Council Tax and Housing Benefit. Changeover to Pericles took place in March/April 2006. In August 2008 Northgate purchased Anite. In Jul 2009 Northgate gave notice that they would discontinue the software in 2010. So a new solution had to be found. Barnet wasn't the only Council with Pericles, lots of Councils used it including 10 in the NW led by Blackpool. Search on google for problems with Blackpool's or Rochdale's or Tameside's Council Tax system and you don't find any. Type Council Tax Administration into google and Barnet's problems come up in 5th place after non-problem related sites. You are the leaders in something Barnet Council. You don't seem to have issued a press release about this fiasco on the Barnet website ? I hope that the Internal Communications Manager has let all Barnet staff how things are going as that's his/her job.

So the payments for 3,500 people will be late. There is a cashflow cost to that as well as the cost of handling 3,500 queries. There is also a cost to the council tax paper who has to waste his/her life on hold to the call centre. All good stuff for your reputation; lower than a limbo dancer.

5,000 bills were sent out twice. That would have cost the thick end of £5,000 for print, postage and stationery. I am told that this is called " the relentless drive for efficiency"; sending out 2 bills, doubly efficient, are you sure ?

Goodness knows how many calls there will be to the call centre. Barnet Council think it is OK to have a target of 65% of phone calls answered within corporate ring time ( 5 rings ). They should have a 100% target otherwise the corporate ring time is irrelevant. My neighbour just telephoned the Parking call centre. She waited 12 minutes ( more patient than me ) and was told that was a good response time !! Come on Barnet Council, wake up and smell the roses.

"Data cleansing" is now going to be carried out, said the Council. Mr Mustard says you should have cleansed the data before relying on it. You are relying on the public to tell you about the dirty database.

And the Council blames data migration for the problem. I blame management, or rather the inaction of management.

It seems the Council are surprised about the data migration problems. They shouldn't be. Take a look at the report of the Deputy Chief Executive's Service for Q3 of 2010/11 i.e. quarter to 31 December 2010.

Failure was the forecast for Q4. If I was the Deputy Chief Executive I hope I would have the good grace to fall on my sword. Pericles : surrounded by Glory - a rare commodity in Broken Barnet.

/ Project name

Total allocated Budget

Projected end date

Spend to date

Current status

4 Status

Comments / Risks / Finance






Project end date will not be achieved (27th 
January) as the system will not go live until the week beginning 7th  February.  
The spend to date also is not on target due to the additional work required to cleanse the data with Civica.

Pericles has been closed in the meantime and until the go live date some data can not be processed.  

There will be a significant back log once go live is achieved.

Key words/phrases  : not be achieved, not on target, cleanse the data, not be processed.

So the Deputy Chief Executive ( what's that I hear you cry, that contractor bloke who isn't even on the payroll and you would be right  ) knew in January that progress wasn't going well. Did he earn his payout for the next quarter ( £27,000 to Advance HR Consulting Ltd £63,000 to Halliford Associates Ltd - correction by Mr Reasonable - thank you ) or did he just go home each day £700 richer ( based on 90 days, not sure how many days he "worked" ) and not achieve anything; you can decide.


  1. hmmm: forget the phone calls for a moment: what do you think about the number of FOI requests that our beloved council seems unable to respond to in the statutory period?

  2. I think that the FOI department has not been staffed up to cope with the wave of FOI requests caused by residents who are really unhappy with the lack of democracy at Barnet Council and the fact that you have to pull teeth to get an answer to a searching question. Generally if the request is "hard" it takes a long time although my easy ones get answered within a day or two - usually one simple question. I feel sorry for the FOI officers.

  3. You are absolutely right Mr Mustard. They have known about this for ages but seem unable to remedy. Just one minor comment and sorry to be a pedant. Advance HR who received £27k is Mr Jason Wheatley, Interim Resourcing, Performance & Talent Manager at Barnet Council. Mr Travers, Deputy Chief Executive operates through Halliford Associates who billed Barnet Council £63,000 in the last quarter of 2010.

  4. Thank you Mr Reasonable. I like pedantry and do not wish to blog inaccurately; that would make me as incompetent as the Council ! ( Is it any wonder I get confused about contractors when there are so many of them ). £63,000 - one could buy something useful with that, instead we get ..................... insert own choice of words here.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.