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News and Comment May 2012

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15 May (Part 2) - Outsourcing. An outstanding success story

This morning’s aside about redundancies brought forth a comment from someone who should know, that Bexley council may well quote 37 redundancies in 2010/11 but the true number was closer to 200. I have no way of knowing which is correct, probably both are. Bexley council has a habit of calculating numbers in a way to suit itself and if that fails they can always get councillor Craske to invent some numbers to prove that issuing a residents’ parking permit costs £240. I began to think about how much more effective the council might be after outsourcing so many services; I didn’t have to look far.

Last month’s council meeting revealed that “processing of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claims falls below the London Average”. Who looks after that while Mr. Tuckley twiddles his thumbs? The register of contracts shows that job was handed over to Capita Business Services in 2008 with an eight year contract paying almost four and a half million a year. Around £35 million in total and a below average service. Undeniably a bargain. Bexley council says that changes will be made from next month with the aim of speeding up processing times. What has Capita been doing for the last four years?

A more high profile contract is that with NSL for parking services. That looks like being a better bargain; only a million a year and NSL do their jobs so badly they incur penalty fees. A third of Penalty Notices challenged (6,000 out of 18,000) and 12% of claims are upheld. "Steps were underway to improve the service performance including further training for Civic (sic) Enforcement Officers”. The parking service causes untold misery to thousands of motorists but Bexley council profits from the poor service and heart-ache. Bexley is compensated by the full amount of the penalty charge when NSL gets it wrong too often.

The almost unknown contractor, Blenheim CDP, is on to a good thing. £300,000 a year to treat drug addicts. The April council meeting records that the numbers of drug addicts referred to Blenheim CDP is “disappointingly low”. 24 against a target of 40. Some might argue that that is a good thing. Easy pickings for Blenheim on a fixed price contract though.

There is to be another council meeting tomorrow evening. Anyone thinking of attending may wish to know that this is more an AGM than a council meeting. They are there principally to congratulate themselves and decide who shall pick up the best allowances next year.


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