“All that glitters is not gold” – One Barnet Capita Symonds contract under scrutiny.



On Tuesday 11 June 2013 Barnet Council’s Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee are to scrutinise the headline grabbing One Barnet Development Regulatory Services (DRS) contract award to Capita Symonds Ltd (Capita). This is the second big One Barnet contract Capita will have won from the council in less than six months.


Regulatory Services covers a range of key functions Barnet residents and government consider essential – including maintaining local roads, determining planning applications, enforcing trading standards and food safety – the function of many of these services is to regulate commercial operators in the public interest. 


Undoubtedly a key factor in the decision to award the contract to Capita is the claim of £39.1 million of “guaranteed financial benefits” over the lifetime of the 10 year contract.


But as the old saying goes “If it looks too good to be true, then it is probably is.” – the key to everything is in the detail.


Of the £39.1million “guaranteed financial benefits”1 only a seventh (£5.3m) is cost savings which is significantly less than the Council’s own 2011 Business Case which claimed cost savings of £19,703,105.


The lower Capita cost savings represents a little over £0.5m annual savings.


This leaves £33.8 million (86%) of the “guaranteed financial benefits” dependent on winning new business.


The report states “Capita Symonds’ proposal for a greater use of automated and web self-service channels and social media may negatively affect certain groups with protected characteristics as there is a risk that they may not directly benefit from these improvements.”  These groups, which include older adults, disabled and vulnerable residents make up a large proportion of the borough’s population and many may feel alienated by these service ‘improvements’.


The Capita contract being recommended is entirely dependent on increasing fees and charges to Barnet residents and businesses with the clear intention to seek more work from outside the borough.


Our members working across these services are fearful that the Easy Council approach to delivering services will emerge with additional fees/charges if you want to ‘jump the queue’ for services. Is this an indirect stealth tax for council tax payers and local businesses?


John Burgess UNISON Branch Secretary said “Should the Council be dabbling in risky business ventures, or should it concentrate on simply providing high-quality value for money services that the people of Barnet expect and deserve? In the current stark economic climate questions need to be asked by councillors at the forthcoming scrutiny committee as to the wisdom of supporting something which is critically dependent on 86% income growth to succeed and where there is no evidence of any other local authorities having expressed an intention of joining the Joint Venture so far.”


1 These Financial Benefits are not necessarily cashable savings which can be realised in cash terms.


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1. What is One Barnet watch this short animation http://ning.it/Qp5Adx

2. UNISON report on One Barnet DRS contract http://ning.it/11OQWlQ

3. UNISON financial report on One Barnet DRS contract http://ning.it/12mocvO

4. One hundred PLUS reasons why One Barnet is high risk and bad for residents and services http://ning.it/NAyJLY

5. 397 jobs “The true cost of One Barnet outsourcing” http://ning.it/11OSuMT