Barnet … a view from the ‘inside’

I speak as a proud resident of Barnet who cares about the public realm (yeah, that’s a clue. Who talks like that, if not a public sector manager eh?) and has made the journey from council employee to private sector employee working to the provide the same services and outcomes for the borough I reside in. However, now it is with the added dimension of market forces with the baggage, restraints, disadvantages, opportunities and benefits they bring to the mix.

Much has been said (and still being said) about Barnet Council’s outsourcing programme that has led to 2 major contracts; one being a joint venture company between Capita and Barnet Council to deliver Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) in Barnet and beyond (aspirational business growth plan).

Dubbed ‘Capitaville’ by the so called Barnet Bloggers; a group of ‘selfless’?, ‘reasonable’? and ‘objective’? residents, Barnet the place, its administration and private sector partner is under constant scrutiny. This cannot be a bad thing for greater transparency especially if it creates a tension and environment that ensures the taxpayer gets the best possible value for his/her £££.

So whilst they may not be everyone’s cup of tea (including mine), the Barnet Bloggers serve a purpose. Though I believe the ’cause’ would be better served if more objective and more credible residents were to join the debate and let their more moderate voices be heard.

The big stuff is way above my pay grade, but at my level I think I can say that outsourcing has created a climate conducive for delivering the best possible level of service for the best possible value to the resident and taxpayer. Why do I say this? Because the better part of my working day, day in day out, and same for many of my hardworking colleagues in DRS, is driven by the fact that we know we must deliver the service to the standards and targets set by ‘the Client’ (Barnet Council).  We all know that a failure to achieve this will hit where it hurts company; financially. If the company suffers financially, so does it survival and growth prospects and therefore too its staff.  The dots didn’t quite join up so starkly in a pre outsourcing world nor did ‘the Customer’ have the teeth or means to make the consequences of failed targets and standards felt.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that council workers (of which I was one) are lazy, unmotivated poor service providers. On the contrary, they are a hardworking, professional and motivated bunch doing their very best with the finite tools at their disposal. However like in any setting you have the bad eggs, the no gooders, coasters willing to coast on the backs of the real producers. These are a drain on limited resources. The pre outsourced environment of local government made it easy for them to hide and carry on undetected. Whereas, in this new environment there is no where for them to hide, at least not for long anyway. You are either actively producing towards the goals of service standards and targets that ticks the box for the firm, or you are surplus to requirements. That in my humble and limited perspective creates an atmosphere that gets the Barnet resident a good deal in these new contracts.

Away from the noise and spin, counter spin generated by bloggers etc, a lot of good is being achieved for services (at least the 70 or so I have some view of).

All views and sentiments expressed on this page and throughout this blog are mine alone.



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