18 December 2012


TV Licensing staff of Capita on strike

Mr Mustard doesn't watch live TV, he doesn't own a TV set and any TV he does watch is on iPlayer or on the TV of friends - he did catch a lovely programme about the preservation of steam trains yesterday evening (don't be surprised) after he had carried out a parking ticket consultation for a resident who is in front of PATAS later this week.

Mr Mustard now realises that he met a Capita employee a few months ago as, having shredded unopened a score of TV licensing letters, the inevitable visit from a doorstep enquiry agent arrived. There was at the time a notice on Mr Mustard's door saying that he didn't need a TV licence and that callers without an appointment should go away, as Mr Mustard does have a business to run and constant interruptions for people who work from home cost money. Needless to say the poor Capita employee knocked and was told simply to read the sign and then go away. They did. (If this employee happens to be reading - it wasn't personal, but Mr Mustard questions the wisdom of a system which starts from the premise that everyone is trying to wrongly avoid buying a licence they don't need. Mr Mustard doesn't have a pilot's licence either but no-one ever writes to him about that.)

So this week is Crapita week for Barnet Bloggers - so nice to have a theme although the Friern Barnet library story is hot this week (read all about it on Mrs Angry's blog or on The Barnet Eye, see the sidebar to the left).

The choice of blogs that one could write about Capita, or Crapita as Private Eye have named them, and which for the heading Mr Mustard has given a French twist, that being the language he has himself studied for the last 20 years, would actually fill a year and in late 2013 Mr Mustard predicts, the Barnet blogs will be full of tales of woe about Capita, with them being explained away by the council as teething troubles. One would think that a company turning over £billions would have learnt by now how to implement change without having to go through trial and error at our expense. Anyway, the story that appealed to Mr Mustard was the one about the Court interpreting service which he has been following in Private Eye all year.

Mr Mustard will let you read about the background elsewhere from other articles.

Here, on 7 October, from the International Association of Conference Interpreters from which this paragraph makes one ponder

Most shocking of all, however, was the finding that some of the MoJ staff understood that ALS would be unable to comply with the mandatory quality requirement of the contract in time for the ‘go live’ date, and therefore “agreed with ALS in December 2011 that, on a temporary basis, un-assessed and unmarked interpreters could be used in the justice system as a last resort.” 

What is the point of entering into a Contract on commercial terms and then allowing a variation without a commensurate reduction in price. Mr Mustard does not want to see this in Barnet but expects that he will as Mr Mustard doesn't trust senior officers to buy a paperclip without overpaying.

Next up, the Law Society Gazette on 30 October 12. From that we have the "it's not our fault defence" which is usually used, In Mr Mustard's experience of commercial dispute, as a water muddying device. It looks like it didn't wash with Margaret Hodge MP and the rest of the committee. You can see from this report that the company was given a Notice to improve. This simply gives a failing company the time they need to sort themselves out. If you want action you have to withhold payment for services not supplied and have proper penalties in the contract so that failure hurts the provider more than it hurts the customer. Will Barnet Council have any such penalties in the NSCSO contract? No, only 8% of fees are at risk for failure to meet KPI. Big deal, less than the profit margin on the contract.

Finally from the Evening Standard of last Friday, a report of a risible (laughable) fine of £2,200 for "total chaos". Far too many contracts are written in a one-sided manner and given that none of our Cabinet have admitted to reading any of the 2,500 pages (the latest estimate of how many there actually are in the Contract) as none of them answered Mr Mustard's email asking how many pages they had read or intended to read, and our council "leader" Richard Cornelius doesn't even see the need to read it they won't know until too late how little protection has been negotiated for them.

Look forward with trepidation to Barnet Council and Crapita appearing in Private Eye, local and national newspapers next year when the latest chaos hits us.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Irellevant point, but don't you need a TV licence to watch iPlayer?

  2. One would need a licence if you watched something live like a cricket match but if you watch afterwards, say the next day, then you don't. An odd rule but that is how it is.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.