9 September 2011

Chief Executive - In the spotlight

So here we are, it's school report time again and Mr Mustard has rushed to bring you this report as the Chief Executive has thrust himself into the spotlight with his 8 foot high open letters to staff. I am afraid that you will just have to read this at normal size.

Sadly, the head boy does not seem to have made any progress this quarter (  April to June 2011 ) and is now evidently displaying behavioural issues which are coming out as attention seeking & forgetfulness ( handing in two sets of almost identical homework ). There is red ink all over the place.

click to enlarge & back to return

Oh dear, not a good start. Lots of red & amber & only one lot of green.

Top 3 achievements.

Historically the Registrar's service has been well and locally run and it's a service that luckily you just can't mess about with so it's no big deal that it is a cause for satisfaction. If all Barnet Council's services are to become so good then they need simple systems set in stone and to be left alone; cut the One Barnet nonsense.

Mr Mustard wagers ( although he doesn't gamble ) that if you went up Barnet High Street and asked 1,000 residents what they thought of the State of the Borough Report that no more than 10 people would have any idea what he was on about.
How hard was it to get people to apply for free money from the BSIB?

Top 3 issues

Customer services will never work in the planned form. Scrap the plan and take Mr Mustard's advice. Let every service answer its own calls. Failings show up quickly, staff know their subjects and can answer anyway, it will save time and money.

The new website was listed in the previous report. Mr Mustard thinks that the council might find that channel shift to internet generates extra work not less. Mr Mustard can fire in his daily FOI requests in 30 seconds now and they can take up to 18 hours to work out the answer and in Barnet 18 hours last for 20 days of course.

Cisco also appeared in the last report. That system was due for renewal in "summer 2011". This is headed to the Ford Cortina status that Craig Cooper was waffling on about at the audit committee on Tuesday evening. If a man on £130,000 a year doesn't know the difference between a car and a computer then we are in trouble. 

Top 3 actions needed

CST ( customer services transformation ) needs prioritising. It has been going for years, surely this should have been done at the beginning?

Contract in place for web development. That isn't an action that is needed then, is it?

Start planning for 2012/13. Will non-stick Nick still be Chief Executive then? Place your bets.

Just like last quarter there are no correlations listed. 


Mr Mustard is very keen on budgetary control. It is very sad that the Chief Exec sets a poor example to staff by only sticking to one element of his budgets.

He has had the Assistant Chief Executive's Service budget upped already in month 3 by £184,000 and even then it is £17,000 overspent. So between setting the original budget and now there has been an overspend of £201,000!

The library service is £62,000 over budget and the library strategy has taken care of that. Closing a library will enable the budget to be met but won't help residents to borrow books.

Customer Services will be the department which is overspent not Registration. Yet another programme which is behind schedule.

So the budget has been increased by £171,000 and then gone even further over budget by £175,000. Not good.

Key projects

£1,374,703 to move customer services people out of the departments where they should be located in order to save money which it won't or at least not without affecting the service. Mr Mustard's blue and black recycling bins were not collected this week. He put them out on Sunday ready for Tuesday at the edge of his propert.

Mr Mustard has emailed "firstcontact" at Barnet Council. What are the odds that the boxes will still be sitting in the same place next Tuesday. Why are recycling rates not improving? 

So £334,195 has been spent and has not resulted in a good service. It will probably cost another £1m to reverse this disaster.

Look at the reason for the delay. Lack of clarity of scope i.e. no one knew what to do before they started this process. As is usual it will be jam tomorrow.

Performance ( of a clapped out Cortina )

The CPI ( corporate performance indicators ) have been renumbered from 3 digits to 4. More change, more targets? and more fudging will doubtless go on. The Government is moving away from targets that cause a focus on the wrong thing and Barnet Council look like they are going in the opposite direction.

3002 - The indicator should say 5 rings or 20 seconds. Looks like a bit of target softening to Mr Mustard. Only half the calls answered within 20 seconds & a worse performance than last quarter. Mr Mustard again thinks that the benchmark chosen is not the most challenging one so it isn't a benchmark at all. Forget the failures of other councils; set your own high standards and achieve them. Mr Mustard expects that Barnet Council are a laughing stock in local government circles.

3004 - The target should be something like 98-100% Barnet Council is aiming for failure. With a target of just 85% you are content to have 15% of unhappy customers so out of 2,500,000 annual contacts that is 375,000 which could equal every resident unhappy at least once?

3005 - The performance is awful and the benchmark data is an out of date one.

3006 - Mr Mustard now knows why there are 462 managers at Barnet Council. All busy producing statistics of how bad the service is.

3007 - The Government are busy saving the cheque Barnet Council. Had you noticed? If you want something paying then you should offer a choice of methods to suit the customer ( remember those people who give you money which you need lots of ) and not have the tail wag the dog.

3009 - Library strategy going well then!

3010 - What sort of measure is this. 3+ times a year! You should be aiming for weekly visits to truly make the library part of a young person's life.

3011 - This target is pathetic. At this rate getting all children into the library will take almost 20 years. A flaw in your plan Barnet Council, they will no longer be children by then.

3012 - see 3010

3013 - Volunteers are not free. This blog here goes into more detail.

3014 - see 3013

3015 - another low target

3017 - This measure must relate to the Big Society Innovation "Bank". Mr Mustard would be surprised if given the demand for free money that it cannot all be given away in record time.

Why is it that Barnet Council think they can print tosh and get away with it?
Look at the numbers of calls answered and calls made.

Jan-Mar 11 answered 158,852 out of 248,206 made so 90,000 not answered in 3 months.
Apr-Jun 11 answered 136,339 out of 282,311 so 146,000 calls not answered 

i.e. 62% worse

So Barnet Council said "Our telephone performance had dropped...........a backlog due to the new system implementation, this led to an increase in the number of calls received"

What the council didn't say. We answered 22,000 less calls in the April to June quarter!

The third paragraph illustrates exactly the problem with merging customer services. Staff are to be cross-trained in Planning and Housing Benefit. Don't do it; these are two completely different specialisms. If you want expertise ask an expert. If dear reader you have a planning enquiry, insist on talking to a planner. Don't be afraid to ask the staff member what their qualifications are or work experience is (nicely please) and ask if you can some someone with the requisite knowledge to save time in the long run.

Staff are under stress due to uncertainty and so an increase in sickness levels is not a surprise. Mr Mustard surmises that the absentees are all sick of One Barnet.

Managers are not managing to submit monthly absence returns so the data must be wrong to boot. Why is this not an automated process linking SAP personnel & payroll?

15% of staff have not had any objectives set. Just drift along; that will be fine.

26% of appraisals have not been carried out. Not much point in an appraisal system that is not followed. Mr Mustard knows that employees in other departments were put under huge pressure to carry out appraisals on time and yet the Chief Executive's Directorate can't manage it. Wonderful leadership!

Mr Mustard cannot understand why spending 4% under budget is a cause for an amber return. 4% over, fair enough, but within budget? According to the +/- 5% criteria being exactly on budget to the penny would warrant an amber. Mr Mustard comes to the conclusion that these reports are just an end in themselves and don't lead to any changes in behaviour.
More disabled staff should be employed. Barnet Council are lagging in this area.

From the FTE ( full time equivalent ) statistics we can see that 235 - 192 = 43 posts are filled by temps / interims / contractors and 1 consultant ( details on the next page ). This is not likely to be the most efficient of operations for that reason.

So 1 in every 40 employees has a grievance.

Libraries and customer services have high levels of sickness which are possibly related to the risk of being outsourced or closed, that or the increase in absence is because previous records were inadequate ( now that is a good word to describe the management of Barnet Council ).

There is more talk of the need to maintain a flexible workforce. I don't suppose that the councillors have specifically asked for this?


ST0034 - So even internal relationships are not governed by a service level agreement (SLA)

ST0035 - A risk of being misreported in the media. Surely not. The media will only report what they see. Questioning of journalists - you have it the wrong way round Barnet Council : journalists ask questions - you provide answers.

ST0036 - It looks like One Barnet is leading to statutory services not being delivered.

ST0037 - This is on the next page. If the telephone system fails there will be big trouble.

How interesting, the Tell us Once service, which is optional for residents, is not designed to prevent benefit overpayments or for the correct follow up action to take place. The Department of Work & Pensions say "This will save time and money for citizens, and enable government to provide a more efficient and accurate service." So there we see how Barnet Council looks at its residents, as process objects and not as human beings whose lives could be made easier. How telling.

Mr Mustard collects money in; he knows that is hard. Giving it away must be a doddle so no wonder the status is green. Mr Mustard will reserve judgment on the 40 good quality ideas until he has seen what they actually are.

Overall this quarter does not look like a good one for the Chief executive and his Directorate.

When will a pay packet of £200,000 be justified?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. hmm. As regards the head boy's almost duplicate homework, Matron tells me that he wasn't in school that day, and that it rather appears that someone else has been writing in his exercise books. I do hope there has not been any cheating in class, Mr Mustard.


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.