2 September 2012

One Barnet - at last, some debate

News from Labour
London Borough of Barnet Labour Group
We’re on your side
For immediate release
31 August 2012
Barnet Labour Opposition Debate: We need a Better Barnet, not ‘One Barnet’
Barnet’s Labour Group of Councillors has called a Full Council debate on developing a different approach to the Council’s unpopular ‘One Barnet’ service transformation programme.
Key themes of the Opposition Policy Item include:
  • Restoring public faith in the democratic process
- There has been no consultation of local people on ‘One Barnet’ despite the risks involved, and the fact that it is a fundamental change in the way local services are delivered. Labour would have a proper community engagement plan in place.
- There is confusion over whether it is officers taking decisions or members – this needs to stop, and there needs to be proper member oversight and monitoring of the programme through a dedicated scrutiny committee. Labour would re-instate the dedicated One Barnet Scrutiny Committee.
  • Keeping jobs local and supporting the local economy
- ‘One Barnet’ plans to allow local jobs to be re-located out of the Borough, and so far the Conservative administration has refused to require contractors to keep jobs and services in Barnet. Labour believes this should be a requirement.
- Local Traders have felt left out of discussions around skills, enterprise zones and apprenticeships. Labour would work in partnership with local traders and businesses when developing their local economic development plan.
  • Assessing and minimising service transformation risk properly
- Council procurement practices are still poor resulting in contract overspends and financial risk – e.g. the cost of the contract for the ‘One Barnet’ implementation partner, Agilisys, has already exceeded by £1.24 million the specified upper limit of the contract, and we are only in year two of the three year contract. Labour believes the external auditor should investigate LB Barnet’s procurement practices before any further large contracts are let – including the two ‘One Barnet’ contracts for Development & Regulatory Services, and Support/Customer Services that are due to be signed by the end of this year.
- No Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) for residents have been done for either of the two ‘One Barnet’ contracts – both include services that have a huge impact on local residents, e.g. planning, licensing, environmental health, Revenues and Benefits and Customer Services. Labour believes EIAs must be completed before the contracts are signed.
- Risk assessments for the ‘One Barnet’ outsourcings have not been published – the public have the right to know that proper risk assessments have been done where £1 billion of services are being outsourced to a private contractor. Labour wants these published as a matter of urgency.
  • The ‘Commissioning Model’ of One Barnet should be abandoned
- The commissioning and monitoring of council services should not be outsourced to a private company. Labour would stop this model.
- The council should stop wasting millions of pounds on expensive consultants, and use a little of it to undertake proper in-house services reviews, comparing the potential for in-house improvement against outsourced solutions to ensure value for money is achieved. Labour would do this.
- The council should not hand over its valuable income streams or savings to the private sector for their profit. This has already been done with re-cycling and parking – 50% of the income from the sale of re-cyclables goes to Barnet’s re-cycling contractor, and 50% of the savings made under the parking contract go to NSL – the new parking contractor. Labour believes income from council services should be re-invested in local services, and would use the new General Power of Competence to increase trading opportunities to do this.
- ‘One Barnet’ is supposed to be a ‘one public sector approach’ – this has not emerged. Labour would investigate sharing more services with other public sector partners and local authorities, and would look at providing more services through mutuals, co-operatives and co-production
Labour’s motion on creating a Better Barnet will be debated at the 11 September Full Council meeting.
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore said: "One Barnet has been a damaging process and is fraught with risk. We need to restore public faith in the way the council does business – ours would be a very different approach, one that engages local people, traders and businesses. We are here to serve them, not ourselves – I think the current Conservative administration has lost touch with that."
1. The full text of the Labour Group Opposition Item follows:
Council, Tuesday 11 September 2012

Opposition Business Item in the name of Cllr Alison Moore

We need a Better Barnet, not ‘One Barnet’

Council believes this Conservative administration is failing their stated ‘One Barnet’ aim “to become a citizen centred organisation”.
The three guiding ‘One Barnet’ delivery principles are not being met.
· The council has not forged a positive ‘new relationship with citizens’ – residents have been shut out of the democratic process having never been formally consulted on the ‘One Barnet’ programme proposals;
· There is no ‘one public sector approach’ – Barnet are going it alone;
· The ‘relentless drive for efficiency’ is nothing more than a £1 billion gamble of critical council services with no proper risk assessments, no public sector comparator undertaken to ensure genuine value for money, and millions of pounds wasted on consultants and poor procurement practices.
Council believes that in order to try and create a Better Barnet the following needs to be done:
  • Public faith must be restored in the democratic process:
    • LB Barnet should hold a public referendum on the ‘One Barnet’£1 billion gamble
    • Consultation practice with local residents needs to be completely re-vamped to stop the ‘tick-box’ culture that has emerged. A proper community engagement programme must be developed and implemented for ‘One Barnet’
    • The One Barnet Overview & Scrutiny Committee should be re-instituted to scrutinise ‘One Barnet’ proposals and monitor implementation
  • LB Barnet should be proactive in supporting the local economy, local jobs and valuing local expertise:
    • LB Barnet should have in place an active economic development plan that is mindful of the local economic footprint
    • LB Barnet should introduce proper consultation with traders on reviving our struggling town centres; we need to listen to their views and implement a genuine recovery plan including looking at enterprise zones, and working with secondary schools and colleges on apprenticeships and local paid internships
    • The NSCSO contract should include a commitment to keep jobs in Barnet – in the event that this outsourcing goes ahead
  • LB Barnet should properly assess and minimise the risk of service failure and financial loss of ‘One Barnet’:
    • The external auditor should urgently investigate ongoing poor contracting practice at LB Barnet before it enters into any further contracts above the EU threshold
    • Equality Impact Assessments for local residents should be undertaken for the two ‘One Barnet’ contract outsourcings prior to any contracts being signed
    • For the services in scope in the DRS bundle, a full list of operational risks on a service by service area basis should be published indicating the likelihood and severity of each risk, and the details of how the council intends to minimise the likelihood and mitigate the impact of each
  • The ‘thin client commissioning model’ of delivering council services where all the commissioning and contract monitoring is undertaken by a third party should be abandoned – even the Conservative LGA Chair, Sir Merrick Cockell does not believe in it
    • LB Barnet should invest a little of the millions of pounds being wasted on consultants to undertake a proper public sector comparator for council services currently in scope for outsourcing - a genuine programme of service reviews comparing the potential for in-house improvement against outsourced solutions, to ensure value for money is achieved.
    • LB Barnet should resurrect a real one public sector approach through meaningful liaison with public sector partners, and more use of shared services with them and other local authorities
    • LB Barnet should investigate how much scope there is for using the new General Power of Competence to increase the council’s trading opportunities – the council’s valuable income streams should be used to re-invest in providing quality local services to local people, they should not be handed over to private for-profit companies
    • A Scrutiny panel should be set up to investigate the possibility of delivering services through mutuals, co-operatives and co-production
Council asks Cabinet to halt the current ‘One Barnet’ process while all this is undertaken.

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