29 February 2012

HR Policy - Phone a friend

Who wants to be a millionaire? consultants to Barnet Council.

looks like a blogger reading an FOI answer
Mr Mustard enquired under FOI about Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd. They have already provided, via Huxley Associates, Mr Charles Dowden to work on HR policy and then all of a sudden more HR Policy advice is needed as is evidenced in the following email exchange:

Emails Sarah Murphy-Brookman / Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd - Barnet Council

Now what this email shows you is that "consultants" regard themselves to be so much a part of the staff that they write emails that are to the benefit of their Limited company using the Barnet Council email system.

This email also shows a remarkably casual way of procuring temporary help. Mr Mustard has seen many documents which talk about the Hays contract which acts as an umbrella for 100 or so employment agencies. It looks like Hays have been done out of some fees and that a new supplier has simply jumped onto the procurement system. There is a rule that more than 25% of a supplier's business should not come from Barnet Council. Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd certainly fail that test.

Item 2 shows that whilst Chas is busy billing £350 a day to Barnet Council he is at the same time going to supervise another consultant whom he has introduced and this supervision is included in the price. Hang on; doesn't that mean that Chas gets paid twice for the time he spends supervising Amanda?

We might as well look at what she was doing. 

Phase Policies Ready for LBB sign-off Sent to Trade Unions
1 Capability Discipline Grievance 22rd October 2010 29th October 2010
2 Absence Management 5th November 2010 12th November 2010
3 Family Friendly Policies 19th November 2010 26th November 2010
4 Time-off 3' December 2010 10th December 2010
5 Equal Opportunities 17th December 2010 24th December 2010

Phase Consultation Implemented
1 1st November 2010 30th January 2011 7th February 2011
2 15th November 2010 13th February 2011 21st February 2011
3 29th November 2010 27th February 2011 7th March 2011
4 13th December 2010 20th March 2011 28th March 2011
5 29th December 2010 27th March 2011 1st April 2011

Phase 1 Capability Procedure

III Health Capability Procedure

Teaching Staff Ill Health Capability Procedure

Headteachers Employed in Schools with Delegated Budgets (voluntary aided).

Teachers Employed in Schools with Delegated Budgets

Centrally Employed Staff Under Teachers Pay and Conditions

Teachers Employed Centrally by the LEA


Headteachers Employed by the LBB in Schools with Delegated Budgets

Teachers Employed in Schools with Delegated Budgets

School Based APT&C and Manual Staff Employed in Schools with Delegated Budgets

Teachers Employed by the LBB in a Central or Peripatetic Capacity


Bullying and Harassment

Grievance Procedure For School Based Staff

Harassment/ Dignity at Work for Schools

Phase 2 Attendance management processes inc. Fit Notes

Problem Drinking

Sick leave and sick pay schemes
Phase 3 Maternity provisions

Paternity Provisions

Child Care


Parental Leave

Flexible Working

Job Share


Adoption and Long Term Fostering Provisions - Teachers

Phase 4 Time off arrangements

Health and Safety Representatives

Special Leave

Trade Union Purposes

Agreement on Facilities for Representatives of Recognised Teacher Organisations

Phase 5 Equal Opportunities

Policy Statement

Management and Staff Responsibilities

The Employment of People with Disabilities

Making Reasonable Adjustments for Employees

Recommended additional work

Phase 6

4-28 Jan 2011

- Identify "missing" policies

- List all standard letters that need producing to support Phases 1-5.

- Identify guidance / Desk Aids that are needed to support Phases 1-5.

- Identify all existing policies that need re-branding.

- Produce report which provides this information

Resource needed:- 9 days

Phase 7

31 Jan— 25 Feb

- Produce policies identified and agreed as "missing"

- Submit for consultation with Trade Union as required.

Resource needed:- 12 days

Phase 8

28 Feb - 1 April

- Produce Employee handbook to an agreed format, subject to consultation.

- All policies consistently formatted and branded

Resource needed:- 12 days

Phase 9

4 April —3 June

- Produce standard letters and Desk Aids for all policies as necessary

- Support implementation of Phase 1-5 policies from 4 April.

- Support the review of contracts and offer letters to align to Handbook and revised policies.

Resource needed:­24 days

The documents arrived as pdfs when they were obviously once word documents (and really should have been excel documents) and this is part of the plan to make information harder to use as one witness to the Justice Committee on FOI remarked. Mr Mustard simply puts the pdfs through a conversion programme.

Phase 9 was not accepted.

Now Mr Mustard looked for the payments for this work. Phases 6-8 cost £7,425 and yet no payments were listed to Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd. Mr Mustard's theory is that the payments have been made directly to Amanda Mays and have been redacted as she is being treated as a self employed person.

There are two problems if that was the approach. 

The first is that the details of self employed business people should not be redacted and they frequently are at Barnet Council.

The second problem is that Amanda has been working under supervision and so she sounds like an employee. It will be a question for HM Revenue and Customs, when they get around to the PAYE compliance check at Barnet Council, as to whether Amanda should have been on the council payroll or if Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd should have deducted PAYE or if she was genuinely self-employed. Let us hope the income has been declared somewhere.

Mr Mustard asked to see the contract for the provision of these services. Here is the terrible answer:

For your information I have attached a copy of the previous contract which is set out across the 3 attached documents and relates to the provision of the services of Amanda Mays for 8 phases of work in relation to assistance on work on HR policies.

The 3 documents were the emails and the spreadsheets ( slightly changed in presentation but accurately copies ) which are repeated above.

So where is there a proper contact which ought to exist in order to comply with Rule 4.1.13 of the Contract Procedure Rules?

- to keep a register of contracts over £5,000, which (1) may be inspected by a member of the Council at at any time during office hours, and (2) will support the annual budget review.

Procurement in HR is not setting not a good example to other departments, now is it?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

28 February 2012

Hyper inflation hits HR

This post is about Chas Dowden. Photographs of him on the web are just of another man in a suit and not worth putting at the top of this particular post so here is another much more interesting picture containing a completely different man called Dowden. You can't say that the Mr Mustard blog doesn't broaden your horizons.

More interesting than HR

Are you back? Good. Well concentrate on the matter in hand now.

Back in November Mr Mustard put an FOI request in about Chas Dowden and received an unexpected answer about a lady he hadn't heard of. Enquiries continue.

In December he put another set of little questions in about Chas himself. Chas turned out to be employed via Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd and Huxley Associates Ltd ( later through SThree Staffing UK Ltd trading as Huxley Associates although in error they called themselves SThree UK Ltd ). He was retained for 6 months, then 6 months more and then 6 months more and he is still here.
Chas Dowden contracts

Mr Mustard hopes that you are grateful Mrs Murphy-Brookman that Mr Mustard himself has redacted your signatures, not because they would have got into the public domain, but because the 3 signatures are so different it looks like other people have been signing for you? Only one of these 3 contracts actually got signed before it was due to come into force.

It is however your name on the contracts and so you are responsible for what happens in your department. What did happen? Dear Charles's remuneration (he surely can't have been christened "Chas", a bit pretentious what? - a bit of research reveals that he is indeed Charles William) went from £350 a day in June 2010 to £475 a day in December 2010. That is an increase of 35% in 6 months. Do send an email to sarah.murphy-brookman@barnet.gov.uk if you fancy the same increase but it's probably best to change your name and create a disposable email first and ask for an increase for a different department if you want to keep your job. If Chas is negotiating with you over something do point out to him that he had a 35% increase in 2010 and that we are "all in this together" and that you would like to be in it as much as he is: one feels sure that he will agree.

Did a 35% increase fit in the ethos of "better services for less money"?

Did all pay rates in the North London Business Park go up by 35% in 2010? No, they didn't, did they. The staff got absolutely zero% increase in 2010 and in 2011.

Is Chas an employee paying PAYE? No, as far as one can tell, he isn't. The position is somewhat murky and it became even murkier in December 2011. The pay of most consultants got hidden in Hays from April 2011. Chas's didn't although when he came to be renewed in December 2011 he has also been routed through Hays. Is there a good reason? None that Mr Mustard can think of that would help the openness and transparency agenda.

How does dear Chas get his wedge? Well the route is unclear but it contains some of the following steps

Barnet Council
Hays HR
Huxley Associates?
Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd
Chas's back pocket

You might like to see the Accounts of Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd and here they are.

Chas Dowden Solutions Limited

So it appears that Chas eventually gets his income through Chas Dowden Solutions Ltd after it has passed through more than one set of books and so is, as Eric Pickles MP would say, a "Town Hall Tax Dodger", but the position is not clear and if he is committed to paying PAYE why not just pay it at Barnet Council? One suspects that he doesn't pay PAYE as he lives in Rochester, no the one in Kent silly, and so by pretending not to be an employee, he can set some of his travel expenses against tax.

This does not seem to be Chas's only source of income from Barnet Council though, which is the subject of another post on another day.

One final point. What the f does a HR Consultant do for 20 months and counting?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

23 February 2012

Lower Tax Bill

picture credit: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/

The question is "Is the new Interim Assistant Director of Customer Services" paying PAYE like any other employee would?"

Roll back to May 10

East Sussex County Council

That was when Bill joined ESCC as Interim Director of Governance and Community Services and he stayed there until July 2011. Mr Mustard looked on the over £500 lists published by ESCC, they give slightly more detail as to the category of spending but less in that there isn't a payment date. All Mr Mustard could find in those 15 months was a payment under ref 45005338095 of £780 which either slipped through the net or was some sort of expense claim. It is very odd that payments to Jacquie McGeachie at Barnet Council also failed to appear on spending lists ( as Mr Reasonable found out ). This sort of expenditure seems to just fall off lists; it's not as if councils are trying to hide anything, is it?

If we look at the published accounts of ESCC for the year ended 2010/11 we find reference to Bill's post and that £125,119 was paid in that year and that Bill was "engaged via an agency". ESCC coyly didn't say which agency.

It is apparent that the payments ended up with Murphy's Solutions Ltd, in which Bill Murphy holds 100% of the shares, as the company was only formed in April 2010 and so the figures on the balance sheet are unlikely to relate to any other source of income.
Murphy's Solutions Ltd Accounts to April 11

Now to Barnet Council

Mr Mustard has been making various enquiries under FOI. One of these was as to who was paid on the payroll and who via Hays. Bill Murphy is paid by Hays. Non PAYE staff, like the £1,000 a day Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Travers, are no longer paid directly to their service company, in his case Halliford Associates Ltd but via Hays. This makes the payments harder to follow. Bill Murphy is paid by Hays and so they are probably paying Murphy's Solutions Ltd (although Hays are not automatically subject to FOI so Mr Mustard can't easuily find out).


Bill used to be what Eric Pickles MP would call a "Town Hall Tax Dodger" and he probably still is, at least until 1 April 2012 when Barnet Council are likely to change their arrangements once again.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 February 2012

Robert Rams's library joke - it's a cracker - unless you live in Friern Barnet

It's the way I sell 'em.

RIP Frank. For you were rightly famous for your one liners - "It's the way I tell em"

and Councillor Robert Rams, rightly infamous for closing Friern Barnet Library ( still time to change your mind Robert ) - "It's the way I sell em"

Robert has tweeted Mr Mustard and asked him to credit Robert's twitter account as it is his photo.

Absolutely correct & fair Robert (not something Mr Mustard says very often).

Robert's twitter account is @CllrRobertRams and in the spirit of generosity  here is a link to Robert's blog; here. That will stop you from laughing.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

(oh) Dear Bill

apologies if this is not the correct Bill Murphy
Mr Mustard has been intending to write this blog since December but he was reliant upon the customer services department that Bill used to run, and very surprisingly, they let Mr Mustard down.

Firstly a new departure. One of Mr Mustard's dearest friends very gently suggested this week that the blogs could be shorter. Mr Mustard decided to add an executive summary for you busy people. 

Executive Summary

Bill doesn't seem to be all he is cracked up to be.
Bill was allegedly on the golf course on decision day. * see update at end
A former customer service department of Bill's are rubbish at answering the phone.

Wind back 2 months to Bill's arrival and the intranet.

In focus – Bill Murphy

Monday, 12 December 2011 Schroder, Johnathan

This week saw the arrival of a new Assistant Director for Customer Services – Bill Murphy – who brings with him a wealth of experience (good or bad?) as the council heads into a key phase of its customer service transformation.

Bill has held a range of more senior roles at other authorities and decided to come to Barnet because of its “exciting agenda and very clear sense of direction”. Or because he had nothing better to do and the pay was good?

Speaking to First Team this week, he said: “Barnet has a really ambitious agenda which and I am really keen to be part of the team driving this forward. I am absolutely passionate about customer services and excited about how technology can transform the customer experience. The Barnet Eye will not be pleased with the grammatical error which turns the first quote into garbage.

”Barnet has the reputation for being radical, and wants to take local government forward into the 21st century.” Who writes this guff and do they really believe it? Residents don't want radical; why not ask them? They want reliable.

Over the last nine years, Bill has overseen customer service transformation programmes first at Southwark and then at Barking and Dagenham. He is sure that, while every council is different, he has learnt valuable lessons at both councils which will be important as the council steps up its own transformation programme before partnering with a strategic provider for customer services in early 2013. Guess who Barking and Dagenham partner with? Agilisys. Have you heard their name before anywhere? There must also be a reason why Bill's 15 recent months in 2010/11 at East Sussex County Council don't get a mention.

Talking about the planned partnership, Bill said: “It’s important to remember that outsourcing is just the beginning of the process not the end – the real benefits happen when we move from managing a procurement process to working with our new partner to drive real service improvement for our residents. In the current climate we need to innovate to survive. A council is not going to stop surviving. When things go wrong residents have to pay for your mistakes.

“I do understand that this is a difficult time for staff but in my experience, a lot of good customer services staff have seen their careers take off as a result of working for a new provider who operates on a national and international stage.” And an awful lot more have thrown in the towel after their terms and conditions have been changed.

Barnet’s new website is set to go live in 2012 and Bill is excited that this provides a platform for us to move ahead of the game in terms of delivering services via the web. He said: “A recent study in America found that 75 per cent of people now access the web through their smartphones. We have got to make sure we are building in flexibility to allow for future innovation. I was really impressed to discover that Barnet already has a mobile app and downloaded it on my first day!” Are we in America? Do 75% of old people have smartphones? Can you do much with the app Bill since you live in the Isle of Dogs?
Isle of Dogs

In his spare time, Bill likes to go running and tries to do at least two seven kilometre runs a week near his home in east London. He is also a Chelsea season ticket holder and says his trips to Stamford Bridge are what allows him to ‘unwind’.

A little birdie has told Mr Mustard that Bill has modestly not mentioned another one of his hobbies. On Monday the results of the bidders for NCSCO i.e. customer services, the department of which Bill is the head honcho, were announced following the completion of detailed scorecards. He has handicapped himself with the staff by not being there at a vital moment and this will be an albatross around his neck. Now Mr Mustard has no proof and this may just be an ugly rumour from the nineteenth hole which is untrue but Bill Murphy was said to be on the golf course when details of the players who made the final cut, Capita and BT, were announced. If that is the case then that is below par leadership. Let us hope it is not so.


At least Southwark moved fairly swiftly. They responded on 18 January. Sadly they sent statistics about answering letters and none about answering the telephone so no reflected glory there Bill.

Barking and Dagenham

Now let us take a quick look at the customer service performance of B&D. Mr Mustard emailed them on 21 December asking:

"I would like to receive any recent report that shows how good you have been at dealing with general enquiries, things like what % of telephone calls were answered promptly, or not at all."  

Whatever you taught them Bill, it didn't stick. 

Look at their telephone answering statistics.

Answered <30 secs
Feb-11 94.70% 79.31%
Mar-11 90.20% 68.65%
Apr-11 87.18% 58.14%
May-11 90.00% 64.99%
Jun-11 96.21% 83.39%
Jul-11 89.89% 64.46%
Aug-11 94.32% 76.46%
Sep-11 89.90% 63.25%
Oct-11 92.80% 73.04%
Nov-11 92.42% 72.39%
Dec-11 90.10% 69.98%
Jan-12 89.54% 59.86%

Mr Mustard and the Leader of Barnet Council had a brief chat about the telephone on Monday evening at Cabinet. The Leader has, after some cajoling, set the bar for success in Barnet at 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. Your former council B&D have only managed to answer 80% of calls (within an extra 10 seconds to boot) in one month out of 12 and only in 4 other months were B&D above 70%; as for 58%?!!!. In April 11, one call out of eight did not even get answered. Are you reading this Councillor Cornelius?

That is not the sort of transformation the residents of Barnet are looking for Bill.

Why don't you pop off back to Barking and finish the job there, no hard feelings, we can get someone else here, someone from Barnet maybe?

Is Bill one of Uncle Eric's "Town Hall tax dodgers"? Find out tomorrow. 

Update 9.20pm on 22 February 2012.

News has reached Mr Mustard that Bill did make it back from a holiday in Spain to the second briefing ( on Tuesday, first briefing was on Monday ) and that during it he was swinging his arm about like a composer. Perhaps Mr Mustard's informant is correct or perhaps Bill just has a very bad golf swing. You are welcome to tell mrmustard@zoho.com anything that you like Bill. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

21 February 2012

Standard & poor

A shovel is employed behind this animal before every council meeting

Last night was a meeting of the Cabinet, the inner cabal which basically wields all of the power within the council (or gives it to officers to wield). There is an uncomfortable 30 minutes at the start of the meeting where residents get the chance to ask questions and the cabinet take the chance to largely avoid them. If they do answer them they often get jeered as the video on Roger's Barnet Eye website shows.

The trick, which Mr Mustard is going to keep working on, is to work out your second question, as you are allowed a supplementary, before you submit the first one. You have to confine your questions to the business within the paperwork produced for the meeting. Mr Mustard's first submitted question was ruled out of order. Here it is.

1 Given that the tax treatment of Ed Lester, the boss of the Student Loans Company is now that of a PAYE employee are there any plans to review the tax status of employees at Barnet Council who hold staff positions such as Chief Finance Officer and Head of Human Resources ( to name but two example staff positions )and put them on a proper tax basis i.e. PAYE, or has that already happened?

As Uncle Eric  Pickles entered into the fray just after that question and squashed the idea of Town Hall tax dodging Mr Mustard decided not to resubmit the question with some amendment which would have made it fit the bill as instead Mr Mustard is keeping an eye on the tax affairs of officers.

The first question on the agenda was Mr Mustard's:

Question 1
Could you please tell me what the "people and culture workstream of the One Barnet programme" actually means? (see paragraph 4.6 on page 8 of Business Planning ) 
This is a monthly meeting to engage with the Trade Unions in relation to the One Barnet Programme which generates actions and solutions. The purpose of the meeting is to; discuss employee engagement, managing change and what actions/solutions are required, receive an update on all the One Barnet Projects, and a forum for the Trade Unions to seek clarification and ask questions.

If a decision is made to move jobs to Croydon the union can complain all it likes but the jobs are still going there. Thus Mr Mustard did not ask a supplementary to that question.

There were lots of questions on the agenda and other residents were doing a good job of spearing Robert Rams about the Friern Barnet library so Mr Mustard was happy to keep out of the way and not ask a supplementary. So his next question was simply left on the record. Here it is.

27. Does the budget assumption in relation to pay increases also apply to payments for personnel provided to the Council under “contracts for services” in the same way as it will apply for those directly employed by the Council”?
The budget assumption in relation to potential pay increases is a contingency as discussions, at a national level, in relation to pay for lower paid staff are still ongoing. Personnel provided to the Council under ‘contracts for services’ are not covered by the national pay bargaining framework.

We don't want residents to tie our hands about how we pay staff and we will try to give some of them pay rises to make up for the loss of tax saving that they are now going to suffer. (Mr Mustard will be doing a salary to fees comparison later)

By the time the question rota came around again for the third time Mr Mustard did have a supplementary.

Question 28
The Leader's foreword has a target ( success measure no. 7 ) for answering the telephone of 75% of calls answered within 20 seconds. Is this target not ridiculously & pathetically low for either the council and/or a supposedly expert future outsourcing provider to achieve and shouldn't the target be above 90%?

The figure of 75% of calls in 20 seconds is a reasonably accepted standard for call answering – as it relates to about 5 rings of the phone. By way of comparison, 80% within 20 seconds is the industry standard for contact centres across the whole industry (not specifically within local government) and this is the level we will specify for the our NSCSO provider to deliver.
90% is a level that is generally set for emergency services, and is not the norm for customer service call centres, as it requires a level of ' slack' within the environment to assure the increased level of service, and is therefore not the most economic approach.
Another reason it is not normally set higher is that, for each service, there will be a daily and weekly pattern of calls from the public. For example – Monday morning is busiest – with call volumes dropping off later in day and later in the week. There will also be peaks of call in response to specific events (e.g. school admissions, council tax bills). So while a well run call centre would exceed this target for much of the week – it is generally not economic to resource to a level where it can be achieved all the time. Therefore the 75% is an average to be achieved over the course of the week. Private sector contact centres will often deploy more flexible staffing arrangements to better match staff numbers to actual demand.
However, feedback on this matter tells us that what really matters to customers is less the waiting time, but the extent to which their problem is solved.
If you increase the percentage target for call answering, you run the risk of providing the wrong incentives – e.g. the call centre operator tries to close the call as quickly as possible – rather than fully address the customer issue – or the over-use of automated systems (e.g. press 1 for …) to meet the target. Both of which we know customers don’t like.

It is ultimately a balance between service quality and affordability.

For the outsourced provider we will monitor a basket of indicators (of which this measure is only one) so that we can have a good handle on our customers' overall experience. E.g. how many calls don’t get answered at all, the length of the longest wait, and % of calls where the issue is resolved at the first point of contact.

Mr Mustard read that load of flannel and then asked his supplementary question expecting the answer to be some official body or quango or association of call centre operators.

Whose standard is the "Reasonably accepted standard" 
It is hard when you are sitting there to take it all in but the leader waffled on again about something and didn't answer the actual question so Mr Mustard simply repeated it again. The answer was shocking. The reasonably accepted standard was that of the leader and the cabinet.

So it isn't an industry standard. 

It is a standard that the complacent leader has decided is good enough for the residents of Barnet. It isn't.

Mr Mustard thinks that rather than getting a Standard & Poors type rating of AAA or similar you qualify for the Private Eye rating of PP


Yours frugally

Mr Mustard