27 June 2014

Talk isn't cheap

Yesterday at the Local Government Strategic Leaders Forum (no apostrophe even though there should be) there was a lot of tweeting from WeLoveLocalGov and Mr Mustard was on the tube and responding to a number of their observational tweets. Mr Mustard would love local government to be invisible, effective, cost efficient and really boring and in Barnet it isn't. Anyway, here is one tweet to which he responded something like this - if council tax hadn't been frozen for 4 years and then there was a 1% cut as an electoral gimmick (leading to 32 Conservative seats against 30 for Labour so that was a bargain then?) the amount of income available would have avoided the need for many of the dreadful cuts to provision for disabled children etc. (but in 140 characters so much briefer)

Now Mr Mustard visits the council offices at this time every year to have a rummage through the accounts during the 4 weeks when they are publicly available by law. He obtained the following invoice (Mr Mustard is a detail person but he didn't get much to chew on with this invoice - luckily he was only given the one page as 300+ blacked out pages would have been wasteful) 

So what you can see is that the council has 1,678 mobile phones and a bill for the month of £23,145

Mr Mustard thought that might be rather a lot of phones and he remembered that when he was at Policy & Resources committee on 10 June 2014 there was a report presented by Andrew "Black Hole" Travers (he spoke at the conference mentioned above so the tweet above may stem from his presentation), he is the Chief Executive if you didn't know and Chris Naylor, the Chief Operating Officer (sharpen your scalpel Chris as you need to cut the mobile phone bill and which others? management pay and numbers perhaps?) which disclosed that the number of Full Time Equivalent posts is 1,726 so there is a 97% chance of an employee having a mobile phone. Mr Mustard knows it makes sense for mobile staff but posits that the vast bulk of council employees are likely to be desk based. Mr Mustard wonders what the mobile phone issue protocol is?

Before moaning about the shortage of funds it is probably best to go through every single item of spending and ask the question; is this spending really necessary?

Mr Reasonable, a respected management consultant who before he went self-employed  worked for one of the largest worldwide firms of consultants so knows his stuff, offered to give the council a day a month of his valuable time about 2 years ago (he is currently run off his feet with work he is in such demand by sports stadia all over the world, but bloggers regularly out perform the average mortal) in order to review the cost base (he was using the 80/20 rule and was going to look at all invoices above £10,000 so would have looked at 20% of them and captured 80% of the spend - this is also known as the Pareto principle) but his offer was not taken up. The council should have snatched his hand off to obtain a free expert like that.

So WeLoveLocalGov there is a longer answer than can be tweeted in 140 characters. One reason we bloggers are up in arms about our local council and are critical is because we have evidence from many areas of spend that suggests Barnet Council really isn't very well run, despite the £6.67 million spent on Central Management (source, Council tax leaflet 2014/15).

You can comment below if you wish, unedited.

Yours frugally (unlike the council)

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. Almost everybody in a customer-facing role at my old company was issued with a mobile phone, it was part of the job. When I retired I had to buy and pay for a new phone, shock horror ! There were also people on call too who had them, in fact it's difficult to think of anybody who didn't have one. Frankly this is all part of running a joined-up organisation, so I don't think the sum is excessive, although our company had regular tenders for mobile phones. This was not always successful, as in my case they transferred to a company that had no coverage in my village !

    I think you should look instead at mileage payments for car use. Here in Cheshire East they are still over the HMRC tax-free limits, despite adverse press comments


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