26 April 2012

Not the Friday joke - all these messages

A culture; sadly, it's chlamydia; not quite as repulsive as the One Barnet culture
From: First Team
Sent: 16 April 2012 17:14
To: AllStaff
Subject: First Team - One Barnet update

NB. We apologise for the format of this week’s First Team as we attempt to resolve intranet issues caused by changes to the external Barnet website or the virus that is infecting the council's system?

Message from the Chief Executive (do we have to?)

Over the next 12 months, Barnet Council will be transformed in several different ways.

Last week Cabinet approved proposals to merge this council’s Legal Services with those of neighbouring Harrow. This development has two aims. Firstly, to save money - we expect to save £4.4million across the two councils over the next five years - but secondly to improve the service the department provides. A bigger service with a broader skills base supporting two councils will reduce the need for each council to seek outside legal advice. It will also give staff the opportunity to broaden and develop their skills. So why not do this for every other department?

At the same time, as you can see below, the search for private sector partners for the NSCSO and DRS projects is on target and these services will transfer to a private sector provider a year from now.

Staff in scope have already attended meetings with the shortlisted bidders. And a fat lot of good it did them with Capita.

The LATC (local authority trading company) is in place ensuring that adult social services has a structure that lets residents play a greater part in deciding how they receive their service as part of the Right to Control agenda. The housing service transfer earlier this month was the next phase of the LATC project, creating a single easy point of contact for residents for all housing issues in the borough.

The outsourcing of parking will take effect next month. NSL's reputation seems to go down by the day.

In each of these cases, the council has looked for the appropriate structure to provide an improved service at a lower cost to the taxpayer. Except for an in-house bid for some reason.

Given these changes, the council is now launching a review of the senior management team, to make sure that the skills, structure and culture of our managers properly meets the future needs of service users. The council spends £9.5m every year on a management out of a spend they control of only £200m not counting the current £3m p.a. given to Agilisys (based on 3 recent months). Management overmanning?; Mr Mustard reckons so.

Most of you have now sat through one of the presentations about the financial drivers of the One Barnet programme. By being both prudent and prepared, this council has been well placed for the financial challenge facing the whole of the public sector. Prudent, not in procurement for, where you have been pathetic.

But the other challenges facing the council remain, particularly improving the satisfaction of residents as they deal with the council and use our services. One Barnet does not satisfy residents.

This week will see two initiatives launched to deal with that. The first phase of the council’s new website will launch tomorrow. This will make it much easier for residents to get information about services in a timely and useful manner. The web team will continue to develop the site, introducing new features over the coming weeks. The new website is hopeless. It is the wobbly website. It is hard to find anything even if you are one of the biggest users of it and know what you about.

However, it is more important that all services now look on an almost daily basis at how we can use the new website to improve our customer satisfaction. Rubbish. It is services that matter, not electronic facilities.

At the same time as we launch the website the council is also launching an internal campaign to improve our service to customers. You will see Think Customer boards, screensavers and posters around the building and I hope most of you will attend a workshop about improving the customer experience for residents contacting your service. Just do the basics and do them right. That is all that residents want. Cut the crap.

This should be a remarkable year for the council, but, as ever, if you have any concerns or other points you want to raise, I am happy to discuss them at one of the regular Meet the Chief sessions. When I will ignore what you say and twist your words around to make out I agree with you.

Nick (aka The Devil, or The Gringe - for internal use only)

Development and Regulatory Services – staff meet the bidders

While the outsourcing of front and back office services is something that has been done many times before by other councils, the Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) project is moving Barnet towards an innovative relationship with a private sector provider to deliver development and regulatory services. There is nothing innovative. It is boring old fashioned out-sourcing.

There are now two shortlisted bidders, EC Harris and Capita Symonds, competing for the DRS contract, which covers services like environmental health, planning and regeneration.

The second round of the competitive dialogue between the council and both companies is now well underway, with a preferred bidder set to be chosen later this year.

Both companies have now had the opportunity to meet with staff from across the services at ‘meet the bidder’ days held in late February and early March.

First Team asked both companies how they felt the ‘meet the bidder’ days went. Here are their responses:

EC Harris team: “We were delighted that so many people took the time to come along and meet us. We recognise that this process has created some uncertainty for staff and so it was good to be able to provide more information and listen to your concerns. We appreciated the open and practical approach that everyone adopted in the discussions around the room.

“We understand that staff support and engagement is the key to delivering the services successfully. Therefore we will be working on all the matters raised and we look forward to discussing our plans in more detail later in the year if we are lucky enough to be selected by the council.”

We will spout any old rubbish as long as we are in the running to get the contract.

Capita Symonds team: “We would like to thank all the staff on the teams for sparing some time to meet with us (especially on a Friday). It was great to meet such a large number of Barnet staff over the course of the day and hear views on the proposed outsourcing arrangements. Our main objective for the day was simply to listen, and we were encouraged by the level of positive engagement shown in our company and proposals. We can assure staff that our team have taken comments on board and will make sure they are addressed in the development of our overall solution.

“Thanks to staff for being so honest about concerns. We understand that transferring to a new employer raises a number of issues, and we were keen to give an opportunity to ask us absolutely anything in order to try and provide some comfort as to how the process would work. Hopefully receiving information about our plans to stay in Barnet for the duration of the contract, as well as confirming what happens with employment conditions, will reduce some of the worries about changing employers should our tender be successful.

“We hope that staff found the day as useful as we did, and that we provided the right kind of information about what it’s like to work for Capita Symonds in one of our partnerships. To that end our presentation was particularly focused on providing an understanding of how we specifically deal with staff matters and concerns. As staff will have been able to see during the sessions, we provide many of the same services as Barnet’s teams so we understand many of the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis. Having met staff we are extremely confident we will be able to work with the council to continue to deliver the high levels of services residents expect.”

What is so special about Friday? Do council staff not work on Fridays? We will say anything to get into your knickers get the contract.

Pam Wharfe, Interim Director for Environment, Planning and Regeneration, said: “What we are doing with DRS is leading the way in local government delivery of these services and we are really excited to find out more of the detail behind both these bidders’ solutions for these services.

“Both these bidders have committed to delivering savings above what we requested and are enthusiastic about growing the business here in Barnet and to expand into the London market . At a time of huge pressure on public sector budgets it is exciting to see plans for service development rather than contraction through One Barnet.”

Pam Wharfe said "I do hope Mr Mustard doesn't catch me with yet more non complaint contracts before the out-sourcing deal has been signed. I hear he has found out about ...................."

Becoming a customer-centric council

As part of the council’s major transformation programme, an overhaul of customer services is now underway across council departments.

The aim of this project across the organisation is to channel as much customer service activity as possible through a central contact centre with only the most specialised calls being dealt with by staff within the services. With some services, this will mean transferring some staff from their departments to the contact centre, while for others it will mean that phone calls are transferred to the council’s contact centre to free up staff to do their day to day jobs. Everyone knows that customer contact centres are the most stupid idea ever invented so we had better have two of them.

The council has prepared a business case for the project, which sets out the three objectives of improving customer satisfaction, reducing the cost of customer service activity and supporting the efficient delivery of core council services, and how those objectives will be met by each service in scope. Writing bollocks and calling it a business case is our particular area of expertise. To you, only £1,000 a day.

It is expected that by transferring calls to a contact centre, customers will get a quicker response and the council will be able to collect data more effectively. It also means that fewer customer calls will be missed, again improving the customer experience. The response will be pants but who cares.

The project is due to complete by late summer, ahead of the transfer of all council front and back office services to a strategic partner in 2013, taking place through the New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) project. This arrangement will bring with it substantial investment in IT, which the council really needs to make it easier and faster for staff to deliver excellent services to our community in a cost effective way. If all front and back office staff are transferring to a strategic partner who will be left, no-one! Is there a middle office?

Alongside the CST project, there is set to be a relaunch of the council’s customer care standards this month. Staff should look out for information on expectations of all staff when dealing with customers, on posters and other material, as we look to truly create a new relationship with our citizens. Tomorrow (17 April) will see the launch of a new corporate website as the next stage in developing that new relationship with the customer. CST, you haven't used that acronym before in this message. Oh, it's Customer Services Transformation. The website is up and wobbling for all it's worth, and it isn't worth £640k.

Bill Murphy, Assistant Director for Customer Services, said: “Here in Barnet, customer services is changing, and becoming an integral part of the way that we all do business with each other and with our external customers.

“You will soon be seeing the relaunch of our customer care standards, while the CST programme is now well underway to make sure that all our front-facing services are fit for purpose and examples of good practice by the time a new provider comes in to run the services under the NSCSO umbrella.” Bill Murphy said "I am a town hall tax dodger and the moles are running rings round me. I want to go home."

Two more departments transferring

As the One Barnet programme continues apace, two more departments are transferring to a new provider.

The parking department is leading most other local authorities by allowing the entire service to be run by a professional (really?) parking services organisation – NSL. Staff have been fully briefed and engaged in the move and this is set to be completed by 1 May 2012. NSL - the company which makes massive losses and lost an employment tribunal case against a former employee for having ticket quotas.

This move will enable the council to use better technology and benefit from both the economies of scale and the wider expertise that are available to a provider who delivers parking services up and down the country. If you are issuing more than 100,000 parking tickets a year you don't really need any more economies of scale.

Meanwhile, staff in the housing needs service transferred to Barnet Homes, the council’s arm’s length management organisation for the council’s housing stock, on 2 April. The move means that all housing issues can be resolved by one organisation, thus improving the customer journey by the creation of a totally housing-focused organisation. The customer doesn't want to go on a journey. They just want to stay at home, safe, secure, dry & warm..

Pam Wharfe, whose directorate includes both these services, said: “In the same way that we are seeking investment and economies of scale for the DRS services, parking and housing will also both benefit from a transfer out of the council. The council is so useless that no-one could do a worse job.

“The housing move is doubtless going to be much better for the customer, with all cases being resolved under one roof. Meanwhile, the parking service will benefit from a much needed financial and technology boost from the move to NSL, which will enable us to modernise, and to maximise the benefit to the council of the parking service.” Doubtless = I do hope. We modernise by getting rid of the equipment that New York City still buy in 2012. Why are they so behind? I have replaced my green jacket with one in a fetching stage of mustard because then I might be more popular. Apparently he is not that easily fooled.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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