Barnet council to decide leader's future
'One Barnet' outsourcing plan at heart of debate, but two proposed contracts to vendors BT, Capita or EC Harris unlikely to be derailed
Barnet Council's leader Richard Cornelius faces a confidence vote tomorrow over the controversial £1bn One Barnet outsourcing plan.
Official council documents show that Labour councillor Alison Moore, who proposed the vote, claims that "this Conservative administration has completely lost its way over the One Barnet programme" and that "scrutiny of One Barnet by elected councillors has been severely compromised".
Moore claims that "the One Barnet Programme has so far not made any net savings, and we are now in the third year of the programme. In fact the One Barnet Programme has actually incurred a net cost for the Council of at least £663,000".
The One Barnet project, which Moore claims will outsource 70 per cent of council services, is already underway. According to the council's website, by the end of 2011/12, £5.7m had been removed from its annual budget. The programme is currently forecast to deliver £111m in total savings.
Barnet Council is due to award two separate contracts through One Barnet in the next three months. It is considered unlikely that the possible removal of the council leader will impact the One Barnet programme.
The first will see the creation of 'the New Support and Customer Services Organisation' (NSCSO), a project aimed at reducing costs and driving efficiency. The 10-year contract, which is worth between £600 and £750m, will see a private contractor take over a variety of service areas including IT infrastructure and support, customer services, finance and payroll, and corporate procurement.
The project will be run by either Capita or BT. The supplier is due to be announced by the end of 2012 and they will start to run the NSCSO in April 2013.
The second contract, titled the 'Development and Regulatory Services project', will also run for 10 years and will see either Capita or EC Harris gain a £275m contract to run the council's transport and environmental health services. The council is currently reviewing the option of a joint venture for this particular contract. According to the council, the preferred bidder will be selected later this year and services will move to the new provider next spring.
Barnet Council has 63 councillors, of which 38 are Conservatives, 22 are Labour and three are Liberal Democrats. However, in an article in Barnet Today, suspended councillor Brian Coleman claims that a number of his fellow Conservative councillors are prepared to vote against the leader.
In the article Coleman said, "Many Conservative councillors feel they are powerless to stop this officer-driven juggernaut or as one senior Conservative put it - we are lemmings heading for the cliff".
According to Barnet council, the One Barnet Framework was approved by the council in November 2010. The programme is sponsored by the chief executive and supported by Council Directors' Group.
Three weeks ago, Cornwall Council went through a similar local democracy exercise over the proposed award of a £300m shared services outsourcing contract to BT or CSC. After the council leader Alec Robertson lost a confidence vote, CSC made the decision to pull out of the bid. In October Cornwall's full council voted to delay the final decision until a future date.