7 October 2014

Sharp as a beachball / the secret State.

The above wording is from the notes given to councillors, and afterwards on request to interested members of the public, from a "secret" meeting of a working group of the Environment Committee. The council will say the meeting was not secret but public although they didn't advertise it anywhere and didn't give any notice of it to the public and didn't make papers available on the day so the dedicated public who heard whispers of a meeting and went along on the off chance didn't even know what the agenda was. The chairman of the meeting, Dean Cohen, could have told the public gallery, which had more members than the committee did, they numbered 5, the public were double that, what the agenda items were but he didn't care to inform us which was not Open & Transparent the alleged default state of the council. You can judge if that is so.

Paragraph 1 is simply astounding. An external sales company is given roundabouts on which to sell advertising space and for being so diligent as to do some work they slice off 50% of the value. 50% is just too generous even to have a proper discussion about. Have proper approaches been made to find other local marketing companies who would compete and drive down the commission? Who knows as the report is silent on that subject.

What could the council do? It could identify from local knowledge the businesses which are likely to be interested in being promoted locally (although given that the head of communications lives in Tooting he can't have the same local knowledge as a local member of staff would) a look through the non-domestic rates database (if this is allowed) would find all businesses of a certain size or an advertisement could be placed in the local papers.

The roundabouts could then be sold on ebay once possible interested parties have been warmed up. Really not that much work and a chance to talk to local businesses about other things of possible interest.

So for 25% of the signs the council (i.e. us) initially got £28k and so could in theory garner £112k from this source, let's call it for £100k if you take the lot. Not sure what the agency commission was, probably a ridiculous 50% as for roundabouts leaving £50k for the council i.e. for the sale (giving away really) of our assets.

Now we have presumably sold them all?, the report is silent on the matter, and we are only getting £26,500 for them! A hopelessly non commercial outcome.

The new deal is very bad value indeed and if the whole Capita deal is based on such faulty "reasoning" we are all doomed.

You've seen the hideous advertising hoardings all over the borough. Like this one

which makes the life of the blind much more difficult. As for this, North Finchley is not Paris.

What a monstrous carbuncle. What is the point of these structures and what a waste of the world's resources as well as being visual pollution. The Barnet Bloggers' Uncle, Eric Pickles MP wanted High Streets cleared of clutter and how right he was.

Rather than the miserable income of £68,000 p.a. Mr Mustard would rather see a fiver added to his council tax and have more attractive High Streets.

Mr Mustard would have liked to know what is bring done to make Re (Re Regional Enterprise Ltd the joint venture with Capita) perform to contract but that vital information was not in the report. A report of other contract terms which seem to be optional in the eyes of the sub-contractor would also be very interesting.

Finally just to show how uncommercial the deals were Mr Mustard looked at the Accounts of the marketing agency mentioned, Marketing Force (Ltd). Here is a nice, for them, graph of  their assets steadily rising:

Clearly Barnet Council aren't their only mug customer.

This is all small beer. Look at how well Capita are doing out of Birmingham Council.

Only time will tell how well Capita managed to out-negotiate the council's negotiators most of whom will probably have moved on before the truth hits home.

Here is a picture of the council's sharpest negotiator.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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