3 February 2012

Jacquie McGeachie - post #5

www.despair.com ( no despair in Barnet of course )

So Mrs McGeachie is an "interim" Assistant Director. In Mr Mustard's dictionary that means "for now". "For now" is a long time in Barnet. Mrs McGeachie came to Barnet in January 2009 and hasn't yet left.

Interims shouldn't hang around like a bad smell. Don't just take Mr Mustard's word for it, see what the Interim Management Association say about the hire period, here. Mr Mustard has copied the important section for you below:

What is a typical hire period for an Interim Manager?

The Interim Manager is generally hired for a short term, high intensity assignment with a clearly defined start and finish date. ( except in Barnet )

Would you all agree with Mr Mustard that 3 years is not "short term"; he thought you would.

So naturally Barnet Council have been making enormous efforts to find a permanent Assistant Director for Human Resources. There are over 300,000+ people in Barnet, some of them must be qualified, and they live locally and so would know the borough which is a great advantage. The salary is good, in the range of £84,000 to £104,000 as that is what the other Assistant Directors get paid. The council have been paying out over £130,000 a year to this interim.

Now Mr Mustard has only been looking at council papers for 10 months and so he hasn't kept an eye out for staff advertisements in the local paper, on the internet, in national papers like the Guardian or in the specialist Human Resources press so he didn't know if any ads had been placed.

Thinking it rather odd that the "interim" post had not been filled by a proper permanent employee paid a salary under PAYE he duly sent in a question under Freedom of Information and here it is.

#1098 - Assistant Director of Human Resource

Please provide details of all efforts made to fill the post of Assistant Director of Human Resources since January 2009:

- copies of all advertisements placed, the name & date of the publication and the cost
- the name of any recruitment agency employed to find a permanent AD, the date they were appointed and when they ceased to act and the cost
- the dates on which the post was advertised on any Barnet Council website
- and any other efforts made to fill the post.

Mr Mustard then sat back and waited to be deluged with the details of lots of failed attempts to recruit a permanent employee. He was sitting for a long time after he asked the question on 15 August. On 28 October Mr Mustard decided that enough was enough and asked for a Review. On 1 November the council woke up and answered the question. They also sent a routine apology. Mr Mustard then received the Review from another officer and a much better worded apology with some feeling in it unlike the first one. Mr Mustard likes a good apology; you cannot overdo them ( he has given some out in his time having managed to start a County Court Claim against the wrong person ).

So what was the answer?
I have been advised that the Council has not made any efforts to fill the post of Assistant Head of Human Resources on a permanent basis. This post will continue to be filled on an interim basis because the service is to be outsourced in the 2012/13 financial year as part of the New Support and Customer Service Organisation (NSCSO) procurement project.

Reading this answer again now Mr Mustard thinks that the words "I have been advised that"  should be removed. The answer is the official one on behalf of the council so the writer cannot abdicate responsibility because he/she did not get the information out by themselves.

Mr Mustard thinks the second sentence of the reply is very interesting as it implies that the interim Assistant Director will be going somewhere ( possibly home ) but doesn't actually say so.

The most interesting part though is that no efforts whatsoever have been made to replace an interim person with a proper permanent employee with links to, and hence one would think more commitment to, Barnet. They are also more likely to spend their salary in Barnet if they live here.

Mr Mustard will get round to the tax issues soon but being an interim for 3 years certainly won't find favour with HM Revenue & Customs when they rumble what has been going on. Three years of back dated PAYE and national insurance is going to come to a pretty penny on this one. Looking back at the Consultancy Agreement ( on the blog yesterday ) Mr Mustard notes that in paragraph 10.3 Mrs McGeachie has to pay the council, on an indemnity basis ( no get-out ) any income tax or national insurance or similar contributions  that the council has to pay out. This is not the best drafted Agreement Mr Mustard has ever seen because although "similar contributions" are also subject to an indemnity the question of penalties and of interest for late payment have not been considered.

A poor show all round.

So now you know why interims hang around for so long? There is no imperative to replace them. Is this how the council should be run?

Adjustment 09:03

The other thing that the sentence about outsourcing implies is that it is policy not to recruit any permanent staff to posts that are going to be outsourced i.e. in all the bundle of services that make up DRS, in customer support and in parking. Has that been the case? No, definitely not.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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