Last night in Hendon

Last night (2 March 2011), I presented two papers at Cabinet Resource Committee, the committee that considers reports of a financial nature. (I’m aware that the way the council makes decisions isn’t clear to everyone, so I’ll try and explain the purpose of the various committees, meetings and processes as I mention them). The committee dealt with all agenda items very quickly, so I thought it would be helpful to go into a bit more detail.

The first paper I presented urged that the committee accepted the recommendations of the Customer Services Organisation and New Support Organisation options appraisal. The options appraisal process is used by the council to identify and evaluate the various choices that are available when thinking about how to change a council service. A joint options appraisal took place to consider how we should deliver customer and support services.

The Customer Services Organisation and New Support Organisation projects are part of the One Barnet council transformation programme. The options appraisal recommends that the council finds a strategic partner to deliver seven services; reorganises and improves four of those services prior to the transfer to a strategic partner; and transforms one service in house. The committee accepted these recommendations and we will now be putting together a business case for these services.

There are a several reasons why working with an external provider to deliver services is beneficial for the council, these include: private sector investment, something that is increasingly important now we will be operating with a reduced budget; access to expertise and knowledge not available within the council; improved technology; and reduced costs due to economies of scale.

The second paper sought Cabinet approval to update Registration and Nationality fees and charges from April 2011. Broadly speaking, we are bringing charges for weddings, and nationality and settlement checking in line with the market rate, specifically the rates charged in neighbouring boroughs. The fees we charge to perform a marriage ceremony on a Monday to Friday don’t cover our costs, so an increase is definitely required. At the moment it only costs £40 to get married on a Monday or Tuesday!

There was also a paper about the Award of the One Barnet Legal Partner Contract. The paper concerned the appointment of an external legal firm to work on the One Barnet programme. It is important that we have access to expert legal advice, particularly with complex projects that involve procurement and contract management. The recent media coverage of the previous administration’s botched contract with Catalyst is a timely reminder of how costly it can be when things don’t go according to plan.

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4 Responses to Last night in Hendon

  1. Daniel Hope says:

    Robert,

    Good to see you back blogging again, it has been quite a while!

    It’s always great to get a better insight into decision making. However surely it would be a lot more preferable if the Cabinet Resources Committee had that discussion in public with Councillors probing officers and debating the issue amongst themselves. Isn’t that what Mrs Thatcher hoped that her reform, as a new MP, to allow access to meetings would deliver?

    And with the return to proper governance allowing recording or streaming the meeting so the public could see it at home, in their own time, would complete Mrs Thatcher’s reform through Eric Pickles vision.

    It must be better and more efficient to do it that way that for each and every member to come home and write up their accounts and the public then to have to read about the meeting from every angled trying to work out what actually happened.

    Viva Eric Pickles!

    Daniel Hope

  2. John Dix says:

    Robert,

    I am a great believer in evidence. If the evidence tells me that the CSO/NSO is the right course of action measured against a series of success criteria with tangible and reliable data then I will not argue or dispute it. I may not like it but I will know it is the right answer. In the case of the CSO/NSO options appraisal the evidence is just not there. I am concerned that there quality of analysis is poor and there is simply no hard data to support this course of action. It has been agreed by the CRC that the scoring in the options appraisal was subjective and determined by the project leaders. There was no risk assessment attached to each option just strengths & weaknesses. The implementation partner who is advising you on this project and who was involved with the weighting and scoring of the options is also a potential bidder for the contract. In my opinion this whole process is being rushed through with undue haste and that could have major financial consequences for the council in the future. I hope that you publish this comment on your blog because I do think there needs to be a wider debate on this subject.

  3. robertrams says:

    Hi John

    You raised most of these concerns in the public questions you submitted to Cabinet Resources Committee on 2 March. The council has provided formal responses to these questions and I believe you’ve published them on your blog. I don’t think it is necessary or appropriate to reproduce the same responses here.

    The statement you made about the implementation partner is incorrect. They are acting as a client side adviser and will actively assist with the procurement process but they are not a potential bidder. I can state categorically that the implementation partner is excluded from bidding for this contract.

    Regards

    Robert

  4. John Dix says:

    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your response and clarifying that Agilisys will definitely be excluded from bidding for this contract.

    Regards

    John

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