11 April 2012

Revs & bens - nitty gritty

stop following Barnet FC and follow Bangalore Hockey Club (just in case)

You have had a few days to read the presentation that was made to managers about the Revenues and Benefits restructure. The department is more commonly known as Revs & Bens and it could be shortened to R&B which is Rhythm & Blues. The department certainly has the blues for the moment. Mr Mustard also has them as writing this dull blog has depressed him on a wet bank holiday.

Revenues and Benefits Restructure 4 April 2012

The headline is that 167 posts will become 126 but as this is Barnet Council we are talking about, the picture is more complicated than that. Some of the lost posts will reappear in the Customer Contact Centre (does that sound like a call centre to you). 13 staff will become Revenue Officers i.e. they collect the council tax monies in and 8 will become Customer Care Officers who will conduct interviews at Burnt Oak (library) and Barnet House (there are already 8 officers at Burnt Oak). Mr Mustard thinks that just these two locations is not enough. If the people who are claiming are on benefits then the council should go to the claimant and not the other way around. At least with face to face interviews for every claimant it might be possible to avoid some of the worst frauds where a claimant changes his/her name and applies for benefits for different properties as the staff will hopefully be possessed of good memories for faces.

Customer Contact Centres are ghastly places
Many of the current posts are filled by temporary staff. This is the result of a bad policy decision taken aeons ago to manage the council with lots of temps so that less people had to be made redundant once the outsourcing got under way.  Insufficient consideration was given to the in-built inefficiencies of this approach due to lack of council knowledge and the effect on team building.

Mr Mustard has seen other documents that are contradictory. 24 managers have received "your job is at risk" letters, closely shepherded around the office by Robert Burns of HR (whether as guard dog or puppy dog no-one knew. Is Rabbie a Town Hall Tax Dodger? - details in confidence to mrmustard@zoho.com) and yet the faux-Consultation Paper says there will be an increase of 10.7 in the staff numbers in the Chief Executive's department. All very hard to follow, as usual.

The man allegedly in charge of customer services is Bill Murphy (fresh from his library closure antics) and it looks like he is what Eric Pickles would call a "Town Hall Tax Dodger" as he is paid via Hays and Murphy's Solutions Ltd and so it is hilariously ironic that he will have responsibility for staff who are collecting Council Tax when he is side-stepping PAYE. He is clearly an employee and simply should pay PAYE.

Looking at slide no. 5 (could we have numbered slides next time please Barnet Council) you can see the idea that customer contact can be split into 4 levels, 3 of which will be dealt with in Customer Services. Where does one draw the line between the levels. A consultant will have to spend days at £hundreds per day setting out clear rules for this because customer services will be out-sourced and they will be trying to avoid doing the work of Revs & Bens which will also be outsourced as part of Revs & Bens and unless Capita hit the bullseye twice, the contractors will be different. It is always hard to pick out the one most stupid One Barnet decision (apart from itself) but having 4 graduated levels of queries could only be dreamt up by a consultant with no practical experience. At present no customer is left without an answer; if you ring up and ask an employee who doesn't know the answer they can find someone who does to talk to you. This will not happen in the future; you will have to be called back. A better service? No. Less money? No.

Oh no, slide 8, IVR is coming. Mr Mustard just changed phone supplier and was treated to a closed loop IVR system. What is IVR? It is interactive voice response. It is bloody frustrating, that is what it is. The loop he got stuck in was press 1 to set up a personal voicemail message (no thanks) or press 2 to listen to your messages. He kept on pressing 2 to be presented with the same 2 choices every time. In the end he had to ring and speak to a person, after he had been through 6 levels of choices, and a real live person fixed the problem.

Even worse are the systems where one has to speak your choices, like Aviva car insurance. "Put me through to a bleep bleep person" has not yet worked; saying "help" did, if memory serves correctly. When Mr Mustard finds out what key to press to bypass all the Barnet Council options and get you talking to a real live human being, he will tell you.

What bunkum is this on slide 12. There will be "Creation of new opportunities at Officer level". How will that be the case when the number of posts is going down or is it that 20 posts will be deleted and 5 news ones will be created so that is 5 opportunities? It looks like sleight of hand to Mr Mustard.

Slide 13. Mock, sorry, MOC criteria. Whatever are they? The acronym stands for "Managing Organisational Change". So whether you are going to be assimilated (kept) or not assimilated (made redundant) it is possible that this may be done on the desktop (Mr Mustard has cast his mind back to two employees in HR at a former workplace who got caught on the desktop one night - hard at it, so to speak - he doesn't suppose the selection is done that way - natural selection? ) and one supposes in secret. This means that if you have upset the scorer in the past you may, by some bit of bad luck, be out of a job.

desktop selection (naturally)
Slide 14. What does this proposal mean for the Management team? Simple, you're fired.

No management resource will be transferred to the CSO; therefore, they won't have a clue as the incumbent managers will almost certainly be generalists who will need a crash course in Revenues & Benefits which will lead to them knowing a 10th of what their underlings know. An earlier draft of the plan did have senior staff moving from R&B to NSCSO but some "genius" changed that.

Slide 15. What does this mean for Officer-level staff? As you were. Carry on doing the work but don't get too comfy as when the time to outsource comes the NSL type please move to Croydon game will start all over again.

Slide 17. END. It looks like it for R&B management.

Now it was back at the meet the bidder stage that things were interesting.

During the Capita presentations HR were all over them and Capita fell short on answering the location question and this set the staff against them. Capita don't need the managers as they have their own existing teams in Bromley (nowhere near Barnet) and so can cope with the new slimmed down structure although they will probably have to beef it back up a bit.

At the BT sessions Jennifer Burt of HR left them to it and BT answered the location question ( at least 2 years in Barnet ) and so are the staff's first choice. Also as BT have no experience in this field and so would most likely want to keep all the managers so that they could learn from them.

Have either party been told of the massive changes being made to the team just before outsourcing? Only "broadly speaking" which means something like "I might have mentioned it to the bidders one Friday afternoon in the pub after 4 pints and they probably won't remember".

Now Mr Mustard is quite a big user of R&B as he usually has a house under refurbishment and so is claiming for rebuilding relief or empty property relief and is always taking over or selling a property. He has been impressed by the speed with which the council find out about his properties and bill him (he always plans to tell them within 30 days but they get to him first) and the accuracy that they always exhibit. This department is not one to mess about with as there is only about 1.5 % of upside and 98.5% of downside; it is a stable department and if these sudden wholesale management changes destabilise the service it will not be easy to reverse them as the management will have moved to other employers or started their own businesses (you could become Revs and Bens consultants at £850 a day and not work on Fridays and don't forget to take your glasses off for photographs - you can walk the walk and any old fool can talk the talk?).

In mid 2013 Mr Mustard will review this area.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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