4 March 2012

the One Barnet Programme = OBP = Over Blown Puff

All fur coat and no knickers - That is the One Barnet programme
Executive Summary

The One Barnet Programme (OBP) isn't really a programme at all. It is a wrapper for "business as usual" savings. It is not yet original or radical, no transformation has yet occured except of peaceable citizens into annoyed ones. So far OBP is routine, normal, everyday, mundane and very expensive. It cost us over £1m in the year to 31 March 2011.

The full story.

Before Mr Mustard was born ( 10 March 2011 ) his alter ego hadn't heard of the One Barnet Programme and has only now worked out what it is. Here is what it is officially described as:


The three priority outcomes set out in the 2010/13 Corporate Plan are:
  • Better services with less money
  • Sharing opportunities, sharing responsibilities
  • A successful London suburb
The One Barnet Programme has an overarching aim:

To become a citizen centred organisation

To be delivered through the adoption of three key principles:
  • A new relationship with citizens
  • A one public sector approach
  • A relentless drive for efficiency
and in picture form

Do citizens really want a relationship with their council? Mr Mustard thinks they just want proper services at a fair price. The council's "big" idea is that services are not to be provided in departments - which were thought of like grain silos (tall containers) - but across all services. As the council themselves (although this looks like management speak nonsense from one of the overpaid consultants) said in a report "This model has a sound theoretical basis.... However it is unproven at this scale." We are sleep walking towards disaster because no-one is at the captain's shoulder suggesting that a different course might be safer. There are now 6 cabinet members on the Barnet Programme Board so we know who to blame now when this all goes wrong.

Fine in theory this will be a disaster in practice

Mr Mustard is really struggling with the One Public Sector approach. The worrying part is that data you give to the council could then end up with the NHS, Middlesex University (their vice chancellor is on the newly formed Barnet Partnership Board) the Police (and tabloid newspapers?) the Brent Cross centre manager!, the district manager for Job Centre+ and/or any private sector company ( BT. Crapita, Serco, EC Harris etc ) that happens to be providing a service for Barnet Council. Your data will be at huge risk and sent all around the world. It is not possible to be comforted that the data will be carefully managed by Barnet Council as their IT showed itself last year to be in a right state and school accountants, for example, are still backing work up on pen drives (USB memory sticks). The cloud could be the solution for school backups?

A relentless drive for efficiency speaks for itself but isn't evident by the number of levels of overpaid management and scores of consultants that feed off the council.

Let us take a look at the results of One Barnet for the year ended 31 March 2011. It has been described by the council as a "radical transformation programme". The most radical part about it is that the actions and decisions of Barnet Council have been so bad that thousands of residents have been radicalised against the council. A quick run through - motorists inside CPZs, residents of Friern Barnet who would like to keep their library, Barnet FC supporters, the Jewish school supporters who want to buy the ex Hendon FC ground, charity workers whose budgets are being cut, cyclists, road safety campaigners, parking employees who are being moved to Croydon, the disabled whose payments are being slashed and so on .......

What "savings" were made in the name of One Barnet in 2010/11? Here they are:

Item Amount £
Revenue Income Optimisation
Advertising on advertising hoardings on council land 152,000
Income following change of policy on CPZ spaces 174,000
Development of settlement checking service 11,000
Children's service - additional lettings income 3,000
sub-total 340,000

Environment 160,000
Planning, housing, regeneration 47,000
Corporate governance 11,000
Commercial 186,000
Chief Executive 7,000
Finance 10,000
Human Resources 164,000
Children's service 212,000
Unknown 67,900
sub-total 864,900

Implementation of an e-recruitment service 161,000
sub-total 161,000

Better demand management & changing routes 71,000
sub-total 71,000

Grand total 1,436,900

Do we want lots more advertising hoardings and adverts around the borough? No thank you. We are battered by advertising everywhere we go. We should be looking to declutter and beautify the streets.

The unpopular CPZ policy changes of removing free bays, ramping up charges and imposing pay-by-phone (that one action is radical but it is radically bad) are well known.

The settlement checking service is delivered at local level on behalf of the Home Office. It is not a One Barnet big idea; it is just a new income stream.

We are expected to believe that Procurement turned in a One Barnet saving of £864,900 just before it was caught using suppliers who had not been tendered for (MetPro, RM Countryside, Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd etc) who had been given millions of pounds between them, and given the historic lack of tendering there must have been some overcharging. Once the bloggers got hold of MetPro and the sorry story came out it was blindingly obvious that Procurement has been wasting £millions over the years. Why Craig Cooper, the unCommercial Director snarfs up £130,000+ a year is a mystery. These savings are not special, they are not One Barnet savings, they are simply the reversal of inefficiencies of which there are many more to be found yet (Mrs Angry dug up another one last Friday, Iris Gardening Services Ltd).

This is the description given to Mr Mustard of the procurement savings:
These were achieved through the renegotiation of existing contracts, as a result of new contracts and through different recharging methods.
Mr Mustard doubts very much that there has been much mid-term renegotiation of contracts as the majority of large suppliers didn't even have contracts and Barnet Council's definition of a "contract" is rather loose with an email or a purchase order sometimes masquerading as a contract. New contracts might come out cheaper than old ones where the volume required has reduced or in the case of technology because market prices have fallen. 

You will have noticed the entry for unknown of £67,900 which is there because the FOI answer given by Mohsin Abbasi, a Business Support Officer (not that you would know what he does as he never puts his title in emails) in the One Barnet Programme Office gave me an answer which did not total to the correct amount. We let these OB people play with hundreds of millions?

"Different recharging methods" as a saving isn't a saving at all. It is the equivalent of you going on a night out and reaching into your right hand jacket pocket and finding it empty. You are broke. You then reach into the left hand pocket and find £200 there which you move to the right hand pocket. You are now flush. That is all that procurement have done. They have recharged more to other departments so overall the council has saved nothing.

The council are well behind the pack when it comes to E-recruitment which has been gathering pace for years in the private sector so rather than saving £161,000 they have, by their delay, wasted much much more. Here is the official line.

Savings have been made from the implementation of an electronic recruitment system. This enables the Human Resources department to run recruitment for all Council departments and reduces administration costs, costs of running separate systems and also external costs such as website development and payments to recruitment consultants for tracking applications and so on. Budgets for recruitment have been reduced accordingly.

Translation: We were really rubbish at recruitment and everyone did their own even though they were not experts in HR and this is a parallel of the procurement problem which was devolved to departments. Note that there was also a multiplicity of systems so there had been management failure and payments were being made to recruitment consultants to "track applications" which sounds like money for nothing much. If the council were a better employer and not stuffed full of consultants and temps and if it wasn't going through so much change then the budget for recruitment could be slashed.

Finally to Transport. The saving came about as follows:

The transport service has made efficiency savings over 2010/11 and 2011/12. Most of these savings have come from getting a better understanding of demand for the service from Adults social care clients and SEN Children, resulting in reductions in the need for spot purchasing of transport (e.g. taxis), as well as changing routes to make better use of our fleet.

My question purely concerned 2010/11 so why the answer includes 2011/12 is a mystery. So before 10/11 the council were inefficient and didn't fully understand demand and consequently there was a lot of last minute buying of taxi transport as people had not been scheduled onto cheaper shared transport; a failure to plan.

Hopefully you now understand One Barnet better. There is nothing to understand. It is everything and it is nothing.


We don't hear Barnet Council talking about costs very much. It is all about the "savings". What were the costs in 2010/11? They came to £2.5m so over a £1m more than the saving.

Project Budget £ Spent £ Variance £ Note
AdSS (LATC) 161,853 163,279 1,426 £5k slipped to 2011/12
CSO Transformation 383,098 236,379 -146,719 £9k slipped to 2011/12. Budget not re-profiled since change in project
DRS 380,647 319,493 -61,155 Legal costs in dispute - slipped to 2011/12
E-Recruitment 40,000 40,000 0 Project Finished
NSCSO 311,735 307,446 -4,289 Minor underspend (<1%)
Passenger Transport 55,466 57,966 2,500 Budget not re-profiled since change in direction of the project.
Parking 31,814 29,159 -2,655 Procurement support has been slipped slightly
Programme Management 380,278 350,919 -29,359 Costs lower than anticipated - some resource costs absorbed elsewhere
Prototyping Project 85,000 77,129 -7,871 Project Finished - grant income causing underspend
RIO 210,000 197,662 -12,338 Project Finished
Rapid Improvement Project 0 18,500 18,500 Project Finished - No budget was assigned to this project
(Early) Procurement Project 70,058 70,058 0 Project Finished
Right to Control 0 0 0 Managed by Adult Social Services
SAP Optimisation * 744,300 614,375 -129,925 £175k slipped to 2011/12
Other 134,020 39,386 -94,634 Incorporates spend on Children's Projects
Totals 2,988,269 2,521,753 -466,517

* SAP Optimisation budget increased by £440,000 from the X reserve.

So that is £1/2m already on messing about with Customer Services and only 63.2% of phone calls were answered within 20 seconds last quarter.

Legal costs in dispute on the outsourcing of DRS does not auger well. Falling out with your solicitor is usually a bad idea as they know where the skeletons are hidden.

Another £600k dropped on SAP. Optimisation means getting expensive consultants in who know how the SAP software programme works. Computer boffins are expensive.

Once Mr Mustard has the information he will tell you some more about the costs.

Barnet Council jokingly (except that they are serious) refer to the "investment" in One Barnet. They need to do some recouping of their investment pretty soon as the One Barnet ice on which they skate gets thinner with every passing day. Cracks are starting to appear.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Well done for the analysis, Mr M.

  2. yes: like the bit about everything and nothing ... and as your pic demonstrates, not only do they have no knickers, no bra either. What happens when the fur coat has to go back to the shop as well, is anyone's guess ...


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