12 October 2011

Poster letter - second class.

When Mr Mustard was sent a photo of the giant posters that sprouted overnight at the North London funny Business Park his first thought was "what sort of management style is this?"

Mr Mustard's second thought was "how blooming much did these stupid posters cost" and his third was "Did they do any good."

Mr Mustard knows from his talks with various insiders that the open letters didn't do any good at all. In fact, they infuriated the staff.

To find out how much they cost Mr Mustard had to issue a Freedom of Information request. Did this one cost £225 to answer Cllr Thomas? no, it didn't did it? Did the posters cost more than £225? yes, they did. Which was better value? Yes, the FOI question.

So here is the question and the answer.

Dear Mr Mustard

I am writing in respect of your enquiry for information held by the Authority under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Please find the information you requested below. If you have any queries concerning the information please contact me at the supplied address.

Please tell me how it cost to produce the large scale version of the open letter to staff that was erected at the North London Business Park today and how much it cost to erect the hoarding to mount the letter on.

The total cost for print and design of the posters was £698. The poster sites are pre-existing.

Please tell me at how many locations this large scale letter was displayed and the cost for each and every location.

The letter was displayed at 26 locations around North London Business Park. There were no costs additional to those referred to in the answer above. It is not possible to break down costs further than this.
What is the average number of new employees and consultants who join the council each week? ( use any recent convenient period to find the average ; HR and payroll must know this anyway )

The average number of (non-school) new starters with the council for the past six months, is 6.3 per week.

The number of new consultants employed per week is, on average, 0.48.
How many of them does the Chief Executive typically meet as part of their induction process?

Inductions are managed locally by each directorate, but typically staff at the level of Head of Service or above would meet the Chief Executive as part of their induction. 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request a review by writing to the FOI Officer at: The London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1NP (email foi@barnet.gov.uk).

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45; website: www.ico.gov.uk).

There is no charge for making an appeal.

Johnathan Schroder  
Internal Communications Manager

Firstly a big thank you to Mr Schroder for quoting my reference number in his reply. Such basic courtesy is rare at Barnet Council so 10/10 for that Mr S ( don't relax just yet though ).

For accuracy another 10. Mr Mustard has no reason to doubt your answer.

As for timeliness you only merit a 1 as you have caught that disease of replying on the 20th working day. That is not "promptly" as provided for in the legislation. I suspect that the posters are an embarrassment to Barnet Council and so the idea of dragging out releasing the cost of them to the last minute is a tempting one; but now you just look worse than ever.

So overall 21/30 or 7/10.

So looking at the answers. £698 that could have been spent on front line services spent on a pointless vanity letter and non-stick wasn't even at the NLBP when staff saw the letter. If he had been standing next to one of them to explain his vision to staff then he would have possibly won some friends, but possibly not.

26 copies of the same letter; wouldn't 2 have been enough? One at each entrance, or an email?

Then the reply gets really interesting. Why did Mr Mustard ask how many people start at the council each week. It's because he wanted to see what the rate of staff turnover is like. So if 6.3 staff start each week that is over 300 each year and there are about 3,500 staff so 1 in 12 changes every year. That isn't bad on its own but add in the number of temps and consultants and you don't have a really cohesive stable workforce.

One new consultant joins every fortnight. Now tell Mr Mustard that there aren't too many consultants at Barnet Council !
Back to management style. You have to be an Assistant Director before you meet the Chief Executive as a matter of routine. What Mr Mustard thinks would be better is that during a new starter tour of the building all new starters are whisked through the executive offices and meet at least the Chief Executive and his Deputy. At the very least he/she is then welcomed to Barnet, the hope is expressed that they will be happy in Barnet and that if ever there is something that worries them that the executive door is always open.

The Chief Executive's job description includes the following. 

Develops and communicates a compelling vision which inspires people to embrace positive change and continually strive for improved performance.

How can that happen without even talking to new joiners!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

1 comment:

  1. In our relentless drive for efficiency, I wonder if Mr Walkley might consider it more cost effective, in future counter-union campaigns, to employ a sandwich board man with a copy of the poster, front and back, to wander around NLBP and inform/intimidate staff? Instead of 26 posters, and the same number of new frames, this would involve only a cost of two, and a saving of, oh you work it out Mr Mustard. As he has not much else to do, perhaps Andrew Travers could be usefully employed in this way, and the funding covered by his £1,000 per day? Win, win, I'd say.


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