Controversial Barnet Council outsourcing gathers pace

News today that Barnet Council has named Capita as its preferred bidder to provide back offices services, including IT, as part of a £1bn contract is the latest development t in a very controversial project.

See this article I wrote.

Barnet One, as the overall outsourcing strategy is known will see the council spend £1bn on a plethora of outsourcing services.

The back office deal, which Capita looks set to take on, is worth a whopping £320m over 10 year and includes HR and payroll as well as IT.

The controversy has seen a confidence vote over the leadership, a film made about it and hundreds of headlines.

Cornwall Council has a controversial outsourcing plan of its own, which since the leader lost a confidence vote has been put on Ice. Barnet’s leader survived his and the project rolls on.

I had a conversation with the leader of the Labour opposition in Barnet. Councillor Alison Moore says that later this month a council committee will run a rule over the contact. She said the promises in terms of savings and performance improvements will be looked at closely. Many councilors worry that if the contract fails it will be the citizens that pay the bill. Councillors are also concerned about the number of jobs being outsourced.

She said in a statement: “This is a huge contract and we will only know if this risky gamble pays off after the council signs a contract for at least 10 years, which effectively means that services will be tied-in for the next two or even three electoral cycles. Councillors of all political parties will be rightly concerned about how they will be able to continue to represent their constituents and ensure that services are efficiently and effectively delivered for all residents.

There is no guarantee that this contract will make savings or deliver better services, and we know there are other places where this has gone disastrously wrong and where councils have had to bring those services back in house at great cost to the council tax payer.
The loss of 200 jobs from the borough is yet another blow to the local economy which we know is already struggling, as well as a personal tragedy for those staff affected who may lose their jobs.

The business case has not been properly made and there has been very little scrutiny allowed of the business plan – If this contract does not deliver it could end up causing real misery for local people.”

Should local government outsource services to private companies?