Back office and customer service project given the green light

Last night (29 June), the business case for the New Support and Customer Service Organisation project was approved by Cabinet Resources Committee. This decision gives the council permission to proceed with the procurement process to find a strategic partner to deliver back office and customer services.

The private sector is well placed to provide support services at a lower cost than the council ever could. Specialist suppliers provide these services as their core business; they have access to industry expertise, they can take advantage of economies of scale, and they can access the latest and best technology to help them deliver better services.

Barnet’s customer services need significant investment to improve resident access to council services but the council simply doesn’t have the money. The private sector can provide the financial support we need to improve and modernise customer services.

I don’t believe residents are concerned about who provides back office services to the council. Indeed every time we, or other councils, ask residents how they want us to deal with a reduced budget, we are asked to reduce back office costs. Residents seem far more interested in Barnet doing what councils are supposed to do – delivering the best quality front line services. Over the life of the contract, we will make significant savings, which will free up resources for our highly rated core services.

You can read the business case on the Barnet Council website.

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One Barnet Partnership Board minutes

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the minutes from the One Barnet Partnership Board would be made public.

The One Barnet Partnership Board brings together representatives from key public sector bodies in Barnet – the council, NHS Barnet, Middlesex University, Job Centre plus and the Metropolitan Police – to discuss important issues that affect the lives of our residents.

The minutes from the last meeting are now available on Barnet’s website.

Big Society Innovation Bank

Do you have a great idea for a local project? If so, the council have set up a programme to help you turn your idea into a reality.

Barnet’s Big Society Innovation Bank – which will be officially launched today – has been established to provide financial support for individuals and groups who come up with innovative solutions for local problems.

The council understands that we don’t have all the answer and that some of the best ideas come from the local community. We want people who are passionate about Barnet to get involved.

Residents and not-for-profit groups can apply for funding from £500 to £50,000. Applications should meet one or both of the following criteria:

  • innovate to help your local community
  • shift power from the state to citizens.

If you are interested in making a bid, there is an information session tomorrow (16 June) at the Sangam Centre in Edgware. Email innovation.bank@barnet.gov.uk to book a place. There will also be an ‘Ideas Festival’ at North London Business Park on the afternoon of 8th July to help people develop their ideas.

Visit www.innovationbankbarnet.org.uk for more information or to download an application form.

More about libraries

As I said recently in the Barnet Times, the Library Review was never going to be universally popular. This is despite the extra £10,000 per year we will spend on books, the longer opening hours our libraries will have, the new libraries we are building, the commitment to sign up every school child to the library service, the modernisation of all our libraries, and our pledge to put literacy at the heart of everything we do.

In the last couple of weeks there have been a couple of protests outside the Friern Barnet library.

So no one is any doubt, I thought it would be helpful to outline our plans for this library. Under our strategy, Friern Barnet library will move, and merge with the North Finchley library. All the services currently provided at the Friern Barnet site will be provided at the artsdepot. The library at the artsdepot will be one of our largest; it will be a landmark library that specialises in the arts. It will hold more stock, have longer opening hours, will open on Sundays, and have extra study space and facilities.

Sadly, no change is not an option but I believe the strategy is a step in the right direction that will provide benefits for the whole of Barnet.

The second stage of the Library Strategy Consultation closes on 13 June, so there is still time to have your voice heard.