18 February 2014

Commissioning already starting to crash and burn

Cast your mind back to 2009 when the idea was born to do away with silos and have a structure which cut across council departments, a very difficult management task in Mr Mustard's humble opinion. Look, here are some pretty pictures so it must be a great idea?

The next picture brings back to Mr Mustard's mind what a lovely elderly patient said about a blonde nurse at the hospital where he was a finance manager early on in his career

"Delightful to look at but not an earthly of use"

Mr Mustard does take a different view. It is that silos are useful as they are easily understood and there is responsibility and accountability. Whose fault will something be in a commissioning council? no-one knows, not "me" obviously, you can blame commissioning and they can blame someone in a department or a contractor.

The next report shows you that even the council are finding the non-silo approach hard work.

So those first two paragraphs really do set the tone. There are "various departments", two 3rd party contractors NSL and Capita (hey, you missed out Civica, they issue permits for the Saracens zone and are doing the Judicial Review overcharge refund exercise) (CSG is the new name for NSCSO in case you didn't know).

The there is a reference to "these complexities" and then we have "various" computer systems and one more, for enforcement and other functions, is currently being purchased and NSL are apparently leading on that.

What all this shows is that everything parking related would work much better if parking, and all the related activities, signs, line, permits, traffic management orders, were all under one competent manager, in one building, in Barnet, and not parcelled up into tasty morsels for an outside contractor to feast on (there is a statutory bar to certain functions being outsourced so why outsource half of the job and create the current dog's breakfast).

Even the report agrees "most importantly that responsibility for delivery sits within one single project board".

Interesting to see that customer satisfaction was the worst rated council service. This was found to be the case at the end of 2012. NSL took over on 1 May 12. Could the two events be related? An extra 30,000 parking tickets a year have shown up in the lack of satisfaction rating because many are undeserved.

Other points of the project report that Mr Mustard notes are that despite being probably the most interested and experienced citizen when it comes to parking tickets and that he had a meeting 4 days after the report was drafted with two of the people named in the report, that it wasn't sent to him at the time and he found it in an FOI response to another person. This is why he can publish it in full as it is already in the public domain.

Note this phrase

"there are also financial pressures on the Medium Term Financial Plan"

Has the council learnt nothing from the Judicial Review. Parking is not about revenue raising. You budget £7m from parking into the MTFP and if it looks shaky you try to get it back on track. You can put in a predictive figure but you shouldn't see it as a target. Please stop.

and this phrase

"whilst reducing the current risk to the MTFP and subsequently ensure parking income and expenditure is at least cost neutral going forward".

This whilst acceptable if the council are aiming for a no profit no loss result (which Mr Mustard doubts is the case) should not be a concern. There is no requirement to not make a loss on keeping traffic moving. It is a service that the council should provide, it should not be seen as a profit centre,

and here we go again

"the financial pressures cannot be ignored"

Yes they can. It isn't all about the money, is it?
It is in Barnet.
Until this mindset goes away there will always be negative feedback about parking.

The project sponsor is the Commercial & Customer Services Director. In the context of parking she cannot comfortably wear both hats which are mutually exclusive. If parking hits budget customers will be unhappy and if customers are happy the budget will be missed.  Difficult.

Whilst mentioning management have you seen how many people it takes to get anything done at the council? Commerce does not work this way.

On page two Objective 4 is screaming off the page like a Harry Potter Howler. Parking is not there to protect the general fund. This is wrong, both legally and morally.

Objective 8 would be funny if it wasn't such rollocks. Mr Mustard made an objection to the Accounts of Barnet Council to 31 March 13 that NSL owed the council (i.e. us) £137,343 for failure to meet Key Performance Indicators. These are apparently still being discussed. Don't talk about them, the rebate is due, it is a reward for failure and should simply be deducted off the next invoice.

Could somebody please go to the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 25th February 14 as Mr Mustard is double booked. Hopefully the Barnet Bugle will be there filming as ever (I'll buy you a pint of shandy some time Dan).

On page 11 there is more of that miserable channel shifting which Mr Mustard is dead against. Channel shift is an attempt to make residents use the communication medium that the council find to be the cheapest so they want to get you off the phone. Where to isn't stated, probably to a ghastly webform or self serve your answer on the Internet. If residents want to phone the council they should be allowed to and not forced towards the Internet especially as there are still lots of elderly people who drive but don't use a computer.

What happens when boroughs try to channel shift Mr Mustard from doing a parking ticket challenge by email (as Haringey and Camden have both found out to their cost), onto doing it by webform, is that he writes a letter. It costs Mr Mustard 50p or 60p but he doesn't care about that as he wants the information in a form that he can file where he likes on his computer and that stamp is good value to Mr Mustard. The council end up moving him from a fairly cheap method to the most expensive one. Barnet don't put it on the back of the PCN, which would be useful, but they do accept challenges to barnet@nslservices.co.uk and auto-acknowledge them.

If commissioning is causing this much trouble in parking what is it doing in all the other myriad services that have been contracted out to Capita?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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