2 September 2011

Rams raiding - the Big Society Innovation "Bank"

It's not a bank. Right, now let's get on.

On 7 June, before the councillors had August off to spend in other pastures, the Big Society Innovation bank was launched with £600,000 of our hard earned money. That £600k is going to be given away over 3 years at a time when there is a budget gap of over £50m+. Does that sound like a genius idea to you dear reader? no, nor to Mr Mustard.

Mr Mustard was a bit surprised to read the following words, doubtless fed to Cllr Rams by the Communications wafflers team and Mr Mustard isn't easily taken in by spin.

Councillor Robert Rams, Member for Customer Access and Partnerships, said: “We have funded the Big Society Innovation Bank with reductions in senior management pay as the council has adapted to the changing financial climate.

Mr Mustard is thorough & fair. He wrote to Cllr Rams to make sure he got the detail correct.

Dear Councillor Rams

I refer to the press release of 7 June 2011 which is on the council's website.

I note that you said "We have funded the Big Society Innovation Bank with reductions in senior management pay as the council has adapted to the changing financial climate."

I also note that "In total there will be £600,000 over three years with £200,000 available in 2011/12"

Please send me a list showing which senior management have had their pay cut and by how much to reach the total of £200,000 for 2011/12. Please provide this information in the form of an xls spreadsheet.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

The reply came in 2 days which was timely but needless to say it didn't answer the question in the form asked. 

Mr Mustard,

Thank you for your email.

We made reduction in our senior management pay bill last year, some of which has gone to this bank. I am sure you will agree this is a great initiative and was launched yesterday.

Attached is the link to the report from October last year.


All the best

Cllr Rams

It really doesn't answer the question to look at the narrow selection of posts in the Delegated Powers Report to which Cllr Rams referred as when posts get deleted the work still has to be done and the costs move, like an amoeba changing shape, into another cost centre. Far better if we compare the total executive pay in the March 2011 accounts with the same figure in the March 2010 accounts 

Now that the final version of the March 2011 Accounts have come out Mr Mustard has been able to look at which way executive pay is headed at Barnet Council. It does not appear to be going down. 

Mr Mustard is also doffing his cap to Mr Reasonable who explained to the external Auditors some of the finer points of preparing the executive pay schedules and they agreed that he was correct as they have changed them since the draft Accounts. So now we see consultants who are acting as employees listed in the tables of high earners. Ooh look, that Mr Traversty took £1,000 on 206 occasions in the year ended 31 March 2011. Mr Mustard seems to recall that he didn't start until mid-April.

click to enlarge:back to return to blog

Looking at the page above we see that there were 495 higher paid employees last year. In the actual final accounts of last year there were only 487 employees ( see page 56 of the pdf here ) so 8 consultant-employees have now been accounted for. The number published last year was therefore 2% light and was misleading.

Even more shocking is the number of employees earning over £50,000 which has gone up from 495 to 587 ( the draft for this year said 578 so that was 9 short - 9 people not paying PAYE - Mr Mustard expects that HMRC will soon be round ) so that is 92/495*100 = 18% more higher paid employees at a time of budget cuts in vital services. So take away those extra 92 people, and let's assume they all earned a mere £50k then the annual saving would be £4,600,000 before the overhead cost and what they spend is added ( 92 laptops not needed at £1,500 a pop = £138,000 for starters )

Now that is odd. The compensation for loss of employment paid to Ms J Stansfield the former Executive Director for Communities of £195,056 has disappeared off the schedule. Perhaps she felt bad when she heard about lollipop patrols losing their jobs, libraries closing, old people being threatened with losing their lifeline wardens, and sent the money back. Mr Mustard has just woken from his reverie.

So the number of Directors, Assistant Directors and Heads of Service has increased ( has service increased?  Mr Mustard doesn't think so ) and this is reflected in the type size that has had to be used in the latest year to squeeze everyone onto the page. 8 people left with a huge barrowful of wonga apiece. 

A staff turnover of 20% is a cause for concern. 

Look at the total remuneration bill. Up from £4.1m in the year ended 31 March 2010 to £5.5m in the following year. That is a jump of 30%. Something is seriously wrong at the top of Barnet Council.

Finally, would you mind awfully councillors critically examining everything that the communications team asks to put out in your name to check it does make sense. Why? because it is your reputations that are at stake as well and because you should only tell residents the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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