7 August 2012

Staffing up for Library Volunteers

Always advisable to put your specs on before doing anything important like driving or signing a DPR.

Executive summary

Bill Murphy does not read the documents he signs.
Delegated powers reports don't tell you exactly what is going on.
Management can't run One Barnet and manage business as usual.
Work is being pushed down the staff chain to free up management time for One Barnet. This cost will not appear in the One Barnet budget.
Volunteers are not free.

The full version

Mr Mustard is not keen on the council having any secrets so whenever they issue reports with secret appendices he thinks about asking to see them. It might take 6 months or more to make the request, get refused, ask for a review and then send the second refusal off to the Information Commissioner but Mr Mustard is not easily put off. He follows due process to the bitter end.

Here is a DPR that was issued in May 12 having been signed off in March.
DPR 1686 - Libraries Management Structure
Mr Mustard was very disappointed that a DPR of such inaccuracy could have been physically signed by an Assistant Director and so he emailed him

6 June

Dear Mr Murphy

I often struggle to make sense of the DPRs which the council issue.

In the case of 1686 which you have physically signed it is even harder than usual as in the third paragraph of the final page ( I can't give you a section number as you have 9 twice and 9.1 twice and no number for the paragraph I am referring to) you refer to section 5.2  which doesn't exist in the document itself which jumps from 5.1 to 5.4 with only one paragraph between them. Something is missing somewhere.

I also can't make head nor tail of the content which is of interest to me.

You point out that 2 posts will be left unfilled and yet there are costs of £33,312. Presumably these are after the savings have been taken into account? What are the total costs please, what are they being spent on exactly, and what are the savings from the two unfilled posts?

How are 2 days for each of the three divisional managers going to be freed up? Is it by the staff below them in the structure doing more work or by some other method?

Does this DPR allow for the use of consultants?

If you have some before and after staff charts, or some other document, which makes the whole thing clear ( as it certainly isn't how it is written) then I would be pleased to receive it/them.

Yours sincerely

and the following day came a brief reply

7 June

Dear Mr Mustard,

Thanks you for your e-mail. I have asked the Head of Libraries to draft a response. However this was simply a sorting of some anomalies in the existing structure and has nothing to do with use of consultants. However, we will provide you with a fuller reply.

Bill Murphy
Assistant Director, Customer Services

Mr Mustard would have preferred to hear from the engine driver and not the oily rag especially as it was the engine driver who got his pen out and signed the DPR which was a complete mess but he can't make Bill do some work, he is far too busy sitting in high-falutin meetings to do any of that. There was also another snag as although he wrote only 47 words of substantive text Bill managed to add further confusion to the already muddled picture. Mr Mustard does like to have things clear so he emailed back.

7 June

Dear Mr Murphy

Thank you for replying so soon.

I am now even more confused as you say the Head of Libraries will draft a response and yet section 5.1 of DPR1686 (and 1487)  says that post is being held vacant.

Hopefully all will become absolutely clear in the delegated reply.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

7 June

Dear Mr Mustard - the council has an interim arrangement where we have a joint Head of Libraries and Customer Services - hence sharing the post as part of the savings - so yes - we did not fill the head of libraries post as a stand alone post. (hence the Head of Libraries who I mentioned earlier does not exist as such but I can't admit to yet more error)

Bill Murphy

Mr Mustard had to wait 2 weeks before a proper reply was received.

21 June 12

Dear Mr Mustard,

Many thanks for notifying us of these anomalies. The published DPR was an exempt report which had specific information removed so individual members of staff could not be identified. This, unfortunately, corrupted the numbering system. Following your email we have submitted a new version of this report, which should now be clearer.

The vacant posts are indeed the two temporarily vacant Head of Service posts.


Lauren Doody
Head of Customer Services and Libraries, Chief Executive Service
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 7009 / Mobile: 07500 817968

Having pointed out the complete horlicks that Barnet Council had made of the report, which no-one at the council had noticed, you would think, would you not, that a copy of the new version of the report would have been attached to Ms Doody's email? You would be wrong if you think the council would be that helpful. Mr Mustard had to wander over to the council website to find it for himself.
DPR 1686 v2- Libraries Management Structure
Mr Mustard read the new DPR and then wrote again.

Dear Ms Doody
Thank you for your email of today.

I wrote in the first place because the DPR made no sense. You have corrected the errors in the numbering which is good but the content still does not make clear what is happening nor does it address the specific questions that I asked on 6 June 12 so please do respond to those now especially the organisational before and after charts.

There is no detail in section 5.1 "The proposed changes to the libraries management team" are not specified. Please now provide the detail requested.

Section 5.1 also says that the "full-time Head of Service Post is to be reinstated." Earlier there is reference to two vacant heads of service posts. Which one is to be reinstated? Is there a plan to delete the other post?

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

He waited patiently until 4 July.

4 July 2012

Dear Mr Mustard,

Apologies for the delayed response.

Please find attached the before and after structure charts that should hopefully make things clearer. No posts will be filled by consultants.

It is expected that the temporary Head of Customer Services and Libraries post will be deleted in December. Following this, the Head of Customer Services post will be reinstated. It was expected that the Head of Libraries post would also be reinstated but this has been superseded by the senior management restructure. The Library Service will now report to the Head of Youth and Communities in the Children’s Service. (? Are adult customers going to become low priority?) The exact structure of the management team will be decided once this post is appointed to.

Kind regards,

Lauren Doody
Here are the before and after charts. One has to ask oneself why these were not published with the DPR and instead made into state secrets as they don't contain any revolutionary material.
Libraries Structure Pre DPR

Libraries Structure Post DPR

Mr Mustard was busy and so he didn't write again for 2 weeks but he was still puzzled at to what was going on. It should make senior management at Barnet Council reflect upon the clarity of the reports they issue if they cannot be understood by anyone who happens to pick them up.

Mr Mustard wrote again and now having received an email reply, in the interspersed format, he just about understands what has gone on.

Sent 18 July Reply 24 July

Dear Ms Doody
I am starting to understand what is going on but am still struggling with section 8.3 which says that the realignment of staff will create 2 days per Divisional manager per week.
Now there are 3 Divisional Managers (DM) so using a 7 hour day they want to free up 3*2*7 = 42 hours.
This was an approximate estimate of the kind of time that the arrangements would save.
An additional 1/2 librarian has been added so that is 18 hours of work that can be passed down by the DM Adults to the team leaders and then some of their duties down to the librarians.
Yes, this is correct. 
Moving the 3 bookstart team members away from a direct report to reporting through the bookstart coordinator must also save a little time. How many hours have been allocated to that?
As before, an approximate calculation was made but it is the equivalent of about 2 days per week of a Divisional Managers time.

The final time saving to come to the 42 hours is from the DM Ops who is going to pass some of their work down to the sole support officer whose work will instead by done by a volunteer. How many hours will the volunteer work for please and has the volunteer been found yet? Is there a job description for this volunteer? and if so please can I have a copy.
This is not correct. There are no volunteers involved in this scenario. The administration post is a paid temp who will assist with the volunteer project (arranging interviews, managing CRB applications etc) This frees up time from the 4 members of the volunteer project team who are all within the wider management team.
One other small point. Section 8.1 says there are around 100 FTE staff. I note that there are over 120 posts on the chart. Is the difference because a number of the posts are not full time?
Again this was to give a general idea of the size of the service. This number includes part time staff. Mr Mustard is not keen on approximation as vital detail can be hidden in that way.
Thank you for your help.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard
Now that was interesting. Mr Mustard misunderstood the job title of someone and in the explanation which corrected his misunderstanding he found some very interesting information.
There is a project team of 4 people to manage volunteers. Now they may of course be doing other things as well but it gives you an idea of the scale of the backup and management team that is needed to accommodate volunteers within libraries. Volunteers are not a completely free resource (and not a substitute for qualified librarians).

Food for thought here. Are volunteers worth the money they don't get?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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