17 August 2011

End of term school report for the Deputy Chief Executive

Now you would expect that the deputy head boy would have the most perfect end of term school report with straight 10's and remarks like "well done" and "an excellent year; keep it up".

Mr Mustard casts his mind back over 3 decades to recall two remarks from his own school reports "he tries his best" and "more haste less speed" and fears that the final remark could well have been written especially for One Barnet.

Let us see how the department of the £1,000 deputy chief executive Mr Andrew Travers fared in the spring term ( January to March 2011 ).

Do bear in mind that this is the council marking itself and it doesn't really do self flagellation ( unless of course you know better? ). The marking system is here.

click to enlarge, back to return

So overall, if Mr Mustard follows the scoring system properly, the performance at year end is problematic.

Mr Mustard wouldn't be that proud of a headcount reduction that had led to industrial action with more expected. Hardly an achievement? That active dialogue, is that across the picket line on a Saturday morning? Not going to be very active when the deputy chief executive is away for August now is it?

Unfortunately the second achievement is not true, or as Mr Mustard prefers, an outright lie. Look at this email from a Senior Collection Officer, Local taxation of 24 July  

A large number of 2011/12 bills have since been issued.

Where bills have not yet been issued it is mainly due to unresolved liability or benefit matters, but we are unable to interrogate our system for the number of properties which remain un-billed. We are currently working with our software suppliers to resolve this, and we have been given a timescale of 2 weeks. Attempts are being made to reduce this timescale, but unfortunately until this is resolved, I am unable to provide an answer to the second part of your enquiry.

As soon as I am able to provide up to date information regarding the number of properties which have not been billed, I will contact you with these details.

Further information is still awaited.

The over £500 lists do not stand up to public scrutiny because they do not contain the proper information. Mr Reasonable is the expert on this, see his blog here. The best idea might be to completely scrap the current method of producing the list and start again with actual payments made, not spurious goods received notes, as the source. Whilst the list is utter rubbish you will get lots of FOI requests so that clarity can be obtained.

How interesting. One Barnet... is resource intensive. Mr Mustard thinks that is an understatement.

In case you misunderstand dear reader, when the report says that "all services continue to be at capacity" what is meant is they are working as hard as they can and there is no time for anything new, like, to quote a random example, One Barnet.

Mr Mustard has to admit defeat with the table above. He does not understand what the slippage table is all about. Is a total slippage of -£512,000 a good thing or a bad one? Help!

Not much information available on Pericles except that it is in a Red for danger status i.e. there are serious concerns. In Mr Mustard's dictionary "concerns" = "problems".

More red ink in the performance section. The target was for 80% of services ( not talking just about the deputy chief executive's services now but all of them ) to be high performing at low cost and only 58% were and the DoT "Direction of travel" was also in the wrong direction - things were getting worse. Nothing to do with One Barnet, of course.

Now there is green ink for costs but unfortunately the costs on which the indicator was based are not the full ones as not all the costs have been counted. In that case, the indicator should have been left blank as it is not to be trusted.

VfM - Value for Money - Mr Mustard likes that idea. During the conversion from the pdf file the labels on the scales have gone missing. Horizontally we have low performance on the left  and high on the right and vertically we have low cost at the bottom and high cost at the top. This is why the blobs need to be in the bottom right of the chart. You aren't told this but the bigger the blob the more money is involved in that budget. So any blobs to the left of the line need to improve their performance and any above the line need to reduce their costs. I hope you followed that.

Fetch Mr Mustard's sunglasses - the glare of the red ink is bothering him.

So staff are away too often. Probably sick of One Barnet?
The snow derived absences probably drove this number down as there were less working days available to be absent on?
What sort of managers does Barnet Council employ that can't be bothered to complete management information reports? Mr Mustard agrees with the 100% target. The actual outturn really should be the same. perhaps the managers are also all too busy on One Barnet to attend to the basics. Mind you, there are supposedly 472 managers at Barnet Council which does strike Mr Mustard as being too many.

What, no performance reviews at all? and the report refers to the previous year. What is not going on?

Paybill not known. Shocking!

Mr Mustard thinks he understands the first line but it took a while. This service is allowed to have 373.6 employees ( no you don't have to chop someone up for the 0.6 - that is someone who works 3 days a week )

At 31 March 2011 it only had 314 so it was 59 permanent employees short of a full team. Given the number of unemployed and the credit crunch you would think that potential employees would be beating the door down at NLBP shouting gizza' job and there must be reasons why they aren't.

So the shortfall is covered by 43 temps from Hays Recruitment ( who must be making millions out of Barnet Council i.e. you and me )  and by 18 staff on fixed term contracts ( who hopefully are all paying PAYE - oh no, Mr Traversty himself must be one of these, and Jacquie McGeachie the interim head of HR ). Mr Mustard might have to send in a for a list using the Freedom of Information legislation for the umpteenth time this month ). There are currently 53 temps !

There are 7 employee relations problems - given the strike action Mr Mustard expects that will have gone up in the next report.

Now the red ink really flows.

Now this looks like another bit of Barnet sloppiness. In the left hand column a Medium is a 2 and in the right hand column it is a 3. You multiply the Impact value by the Probability factor to get the rating so in the first column 3*2=6 and in the second 3*3=6. Excellent accounting. And we let them play with £900m !

Look at that risk SF003. What it is saying is that it is too much to have One Barnet & The Mill Hill barracks redevelopment & the massive Brent Cross redevelopment going on at once. They just can't cope. That is without other major changes like the Revenues & Benefits system, Stonegrove Park redevelopment, the disabled looking after their own monies, the LATC that is in the planning to provide services to the disabled etc.

Is Mr Mustard mollified by the control action of specialist support being procured - that means yet more consultants so no he isn't.

Risk R&B0009 - Mr Mustard did not realise the extent of the downtime that had occurred on this computer system. Two months from December to February. It wasn't Barnet Council's fault that their supplier pulled the plug on their existing system but other councils don't seem to have had the same problems ( Mr Mustard has googled for problems at other councils and there aren't any of anything like the same scale ). So £3m of cashflow is at risk. Let's hope that the information can be provided in the end so that the grant does get paid.

I see that legal advice is being sought. Mr Mustard wonders if this is with a view to claiming the extra costs of implementing the new system from the supplier of the old system. Do the council insist in their contracts on a minimum shelf life for large scale software of this type because they should do so ?

Trying to outsource this process at the same time as a forced software change is complete madness.

So there is a problem with the hosting of the data. Mr Mustard will wait and see if any further information presents itself before he puts in another Freedom of Information request. The assumption often made is that a huge supplier like Civica will provide a solution that works straight out of the box so it shows you how dangerous assumptions can be. On the other hand it could be that the data centre problems that have been documented elsewhere in this blog and others are actually the root cause of the problem.

FS0003 - Yes there is reputational risk to the council because of the state of the over £500 spending list. Put simply it is incomplete and inaccurate and put it in modern vernacular "it is pants!". 

Mr Mustard sees that there is no written record of how the over £500 list is complied each month. It really is shocking to see how amateur Barnet Council are as you are paid like top-flight professionals.

More SAP spending to produce an accurate report some 18 months after they started being produced. Unimpressive stuff.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. oh dear, Mr Mustard: slippage, sloppiness, and missing blobs ... tut tut, Mr Travers: see Mrs Angry after school ... oh: on holiday? Diving for pearls in Belize with Matthew Offord? Or at a SOLACE summer camp for deputy chief executives?


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