Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Freedom's just another word: the disabled residents in Barnet, struggling to retain free travel passes issued by Capita


Vanishing Point: or the end of the line, for some residents' Freedom Passes 

*Updated: see below

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Angry was on a local bus, travelling home, minding her own business, staring out of the window, when she became distracted from her own preoccupations by what appeared to be a delay at a bus stop, caused by a disagreement between the driver, and someone who was trying to use their travel pass, and move on into the bus. In fact there were two people in front of the driver: a man with a learning disability, and his carer, and it was the carer who was trying to use the pass of the man he was looking after. The pass seemed not to work, and the carer could not understand why that was.

Eventually the driver stopped arguing, and let the pair sit down. Clearly it was upsetting and confusing for the disabled passenger, and it was puzzling to see a bus driver arguing with someone who pretty obviously was entitled to a free pass anyway. 

 This incident made sense at last when Mrs Angry read about problems related to the renewal of Freedom Passes, in the Barnet Eye blog, which has recently featured the plight of two disabled residents who have reportedly had their passes cancelled by the London Borough of Barnet, without any warning - a young man, and a young woman, and Mrs Angry has also heard from other sources deeply worrying tales of similar experiences. 

It is a sign of the times we live in that some of these people are too frightened of the consequences if they are identified in any way for speaking out about this matter. 

The young man quoted in the Barnet Eye blog, whom we shall therefore call 'Mr X', had held a pass for 18 years - he stated:

I asked the ticket inspector what is wrong with my faulty freedom pass card, he said to me, "Have you received the letter from the council?" I replied "Yes". He said to me the freedom pass is stopped, cancelled & it will no be longer used in the Tube lines, buses, Tram, overground & national rail trains so I told him the reason I hold the freedom pass because I have learning difficulties/disabilities. He understood & he said there is nothing he can do because of the stupid selfish Tory government treating the disabled people like garbage by implementing ridiculous policies that affects them like bedroom tax & ruining the welfare system

Since then, I told my mum about it & she called London councils who issued freedom pass cards for disabled & older people, she told them that why my freedom pass is deactivated & blocked. They said to her on the phone it wasn't them (London Councils) who blocked me from using my freedom pass. It was the Barnet council who did it. the expiry of my freedom pass is 31st March 2020. 

... I received the letter from Barnet council, what it said on the letter is that I need to have photo taken which I did recently. On the letter, it said "Are you diagnosed with learning disabilities & SEN (which includes autism which I am high functioning). I ticked "yes" so I posted the letter in the postbox & I received no response from the Barnet council at all. It did not say on the letter that my freedom pass will be stopped working or will soon to expire, it did say not on the letter ... 

The young woman featured yesterday, 'Ms Y', has also had a pass for many years, as her parent explains: 

My disabled daughter received a letter informing her that she now does now does not fit the criteria for a Freedom Pass. She has had it since the age of 10 she is now 19. The letter stated that she had 30 days to appeal. 10 days since receiving the letter, she boards a bus to come home and is informed that her Freedom Pass has been cancelled. Leaving her to panic and have a meltdown. Thankfully I was able to be contacted to collect her and return her home. 

Barnet gave her no notice that the pass had been cancelled and the letter did not state that the pass would be cancelled. 

Surely under Safeguarding the vulnerable Barnet Council have failed. Do Barnet not have a duty of care to their vulnerable people. Are they not picking on the ones with the least understanding and ability to fight their corner, all to save money. 

 How do Barnet Council sleep at night. 

Of course you can probably guess who now issues these passes, can you? Go on. Have a try.

Yes: Barnet Council's private contractors, Capita. 




Well, then. After reading all these reports, and checking with a few other sources, Mrs Angry thought she would brave the council call centre (another 'service' provided by Crapita) and attempt to run the gauntlet of options, designed so as to deter as many callers as possible from reaching any department, and speaking in person to any employee. 

This privatised phone system is a soul destroying labyrinth of dead ends, cut offs, an endless and perplexing choice of options, often ending in recorded messages, and then ... a dead line. Even if you demand of the automated response to speak to an operator, you can never be sure where you are going to end up. 

And unlike the original labyrinth, to reach the Minotaur itself, the monstrous beast of outsourced power skulking in the lair of Capita, there is no ball of string to find your way back: only darkness, and eternal despair. 

First attempt: a recorded message informing those who might want to apply for a new Freedom Pass that they should do so online. Ah. 

Not so useful if you have a disability, and perhaps have trouble using a pc, and need help, or maybe are not able to afford access to a pc. 

But never mind, Mrs Angry! Capita have thought of that! 

A very helpful suggestion next, from the recorded voice. 

Why not visit your local library, if you need help! 

Yes! Those libraries that your Tory councillors, who so happily signed up for these fecking Capita contracts, now have decided to hollow out of library staff, by half, and turn them for much of the time into robot, DIY libraries, unstaffed! 

And don't worry about using an unstaffed library, if you have a learning disability. We are told this will be addressed by leaving a few leaflets for you, with easy to understand instructions, on, you know, how to use a library when there is no one there to help you.

The message, unfortuntately, abruptly ended with a cheery ... Goodbye! 

Back to square one. 

Second attempt, then. This time to the renewal option. 

This time answered by a human being, who gave his name, duly recorded, and confirmed that he worked for Capita. That was about all he could confirm, as it turned out. But what he did not know, he passed on anyway. 

If I had to renew the Freedom Pass of a family member with a disability, was that because of any particular reason? He told Mrs Angry that last year, that is to say up to March 2016, passes were automatically renewed, but for the current year, the criteria for eligibility had changed. 

Oh. Really? In what way? 

It seemed the assessment for eligibility was a lot more vigorous. 

Disability had to have been recognised for more than two years, and the resident had to be known to a certain service. And seen 'regularly' by them. 

How regularly? Every month, apparently. 

Goodness me: something of a challenge, you might think. 

How would someone with a learning disability, for example, be properly informed about all this? 

Well, letters had been sent out from the beginning of the year, from January. Yes, but what if the person had a disability, say, such as autism: how would they cope with a demand for renewal like this? 

Autism? What was that? 

Mrs Angry asked this employee, who confirmed that his job is to deal with the renewal of Freedom Passes, to residents with disabilities , if he did not know what autism was.

He did not. 

Ok. Why had the criteria changed, then? 

That one was easy. It wasn't Barnet's fault, or Capita, it seems. No, no, no. It was London Councils. 

Are you sure? He was. 

Mrs Angry, however, wasn't at all sure. 

So she phoned London Councils. 

A very helpful assistant there was at a loss to understand why anyone would say they had changed the criteria. 

He read out the statutory definition of eligibility: 

People who are blind or partially sighted

People who are profoundly or severely deaf 

People without speech

People who have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which has left them with a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to walk

People who do not have arms or have a long-term loss of the use of both arms 

People who have a learning disability that is defined as 'a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning' 

People who, if they applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, would have their application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act (physical fitness) otherwise than on the ground of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol. 

Let us repeat this: these people, as described by these definitions, have a statutory right, a right in law, to a Freedom Pass. Councils must obey the law and give passes to those residents in need, and may also grant them on the grounds of other qualifications. And let us make this quite clear, as Mrs Angry was told, quite categorically: 

London Councils have NOT changed the criteria of eligibility. 

So what on earth is going on? 

Why are disabled residents finding out that their passes no longer work in circumstances that to anyone would be embarrassing, and upsetting, but particularly to any vulnerable person, who could potentially be left stranded without access to public transport, alone and confused, and unable to get home? 

Why is the wrong information being given to residents as to the reason for an need for renewal? 

Why have such residents been deprived of a pass, and on what grounds? 

How many residents have suffered distress, and the loss of their passes, when they are entitled to those passes?

Why are changes being made in the way such residents' eligibility is being assessed in Barnet, and in the monitoring and documentation of their disabilities? 

Who authorised these changes, and when? 

Were they approved by councillors, or imposed by Capita? Are they lawful? Do they discriminate, or is the process by which the passes are being 'renewed' itself discriminatory? 

Was any assessment of the risk of such potential discrimination made by the authority, and if so when? 

Oh: and why is renewal considered necessary in the first place, when the passes are meant to be valid until 2020? 

Does Capita think that there is a possibility that someone may have 'recovered' from autism, or Downs Syndrome, has stopped being reliant on the support of the council, and present the outsourced service thereby with the possibility of more contractual savings, and - kerrching - maybe even gainshare payments on those savings? 

Will our Tory councillors take any notice of what appears to be another Capita disaster waiting to unfold, and hold their contractors to account?

There is an irony inherent, of course, in the very nature of this new enterprise, whatever it is: associated as it is with the extension, or withdrawal, of a 'Freedom Pass', to allow residents to travel at ease, without charge, throughout the borough, and beyond. 

In Broken Barnet, as in any totalitarian state, travel and freedom of movement must be controlled, and monitored, and free passes allowed only to those that can prove they are deserving of such benevolence. And the need for control, and subversion, of corporate language means that any scheme with the word 'freedom' in the title is by its very nature, a challenge to the authority of our overseers.

Only the deserving poor, not 'scroungers', those who must be experiencing the worst degree of disability and hardship so as to qualify for a strictly limited indulgence, may have any escape from the rule of profit which underlies every service now handed over to Capita, on behalf of our Tory councillors. 

Has there been a change of policy, in regard to Freedom Passes, in this borough, debated and approved by our Tory administration? 

Or is the problem simply another result of Crapitalism in the London Borough of Broken Barnet, decided upon and enacted by officers and contractors?  

Let's see what we can find out, shall we? 

And in the meanwhile, consider your choice of candidate in next month's elections very carefully: both candidates are promising to protect the Freedom Pass, but Mrs Angry thinks it highly unlikely a hugely privileged old Etonian like Zac Goldsmith really understands, or cares about, the vital role it plays in the lives of ordinary Londoners, and we all know what happened to Boris Johnson's transport pledges, once he was Mayor.



Updated Thursday:

Mrs Angry has written to Tory Cllr Sachin Rajput, Chair of the Adults and Safeguarding Board in Barnet, to ask him what he thought about this scandalous matter. Also copied to Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings. 


Other families affected by the pass 'renewal' have contacted Mrs Angry to say they have been waiting weeks for their relative's pass to be processed: we must ask again - what exactly is going on, and why is this necessary in the first place?

Friday, 22 April 2016

Hands Up, or : Not Our Finest Hour - Crapita is very sorry, several times, at the Audit Committee


Holding his hands up: the man from Crapita says 'sorry' ... 

On reflection, thought Mrs Angry, taking her seat at the front of the public gallery, in readiness for the Audit Committee, it may have been a mistake, when encountering councillor Brian Salinger in Waitrose on Sunday, to enquire if the eye wateringly bright yellow shirt and lurid green trousers he was sporting demonstrated that he had just been auditioning for a role in the chorus of a local pantomime. 

Councillor Salinger, who was, he explained, busy searching the shelves for makeup remover, nodded sympathetically as the treacherous Miss Angry threw into our shopping trolley a pair of earplugs and indicated to the Tory councillor, whilst looking darkly in the direction of her mother, that her purchase was in some way related to her difficult home life. 

But Mrs Angry had quite forgotten, you see, when baiting Cllr Salinger, largely in delayed revenge for his insulting gesture on the steps of the Town Hall a few months ago, see below, that he was Chair of the Audit Committee, to which she had submitted questions for last Tuesday's meeting. Oops. 

Easy enough to forget, because it still seems utterly preposterous that the Tories made Salinger Chair of Audit in the first place, instead of, as has always previously been the case, an opposition member, so as to ensure at least the pretence of independence and probity in the process of audit, in the London Borough of Broken Barnet. 


Tory Chair of the Audit Committee, Councillor Brian Salinger

When Libdem councillor Lord Palmer was the Chair, Audit was the one committee in Barnet which took seriously the role of scrutiny, to any effective degree, or delivered any form of censure in regard of some of the remarkable things that have occurred during the years of preparation for mass outsourcing, and then the contractual 'partnership' that we are obliged to endure with Capita, for ten long years.

Since Palmer's departure to a better place, ie not Heaven, thankfully, but the House of Lords, Audit, if not in the spirit of pantomime, is very definitely part of the business that is show, in Broken Barnet: a political event, not a process of incisive scrutiny. 

Worse still, it is intensely boring, and Mrs Angry rarely bothers to show up - especially now there is no chance of winding up the previous external auditor, and Mrs Angry's blushing admirer, Mr Paul Hughes, of Grant Thornton, who learnt everything he knows, of course, from her spectacular career in local government audit.

Now we have engaged the favours of new auditors, at BDO - two of whose representatives sat cheerily throughout the meeting, at the end of the table, peering curiously at Mrs Angry, from time to time, in a way which might have suggested that they were mindful of her previous chronicling of external auditors, and were worrying about the fifty shades of possibility that this habit might extend to their own appearance at the table. BDO. Hmm. Plenty of scope for amusement there, readers, rest assured ...

Our council also receives internal audit support from PWC, who could be spotted eagerly reading this blog's posts on the IT crash over the last couple of days  - and may well be sent a Barnet sized consultancy fee, clearly looking, as they are, for professional guidance from Mrs Angry, struggling as they must be to get to grips with the reality of political life, and the eternal defiance of the principle of audit, or indeed scrutiny, in Broken Barnet.

Well: we are now at Year Three, in the new era of Crapita, and it is time for a formal review of their contractual performance. 

Oh dear. 

Such bad timing: just as things fall apart, the centre not holding, and anarchy loosed upon the world, with IT crashes, various cockups, an abundance of conflicts of interest raising their ugly heads; and all while we are being billed astronomical sums of payments over and beyond the agreed core contract fees, those savings we were promised apparently lost in an ocean of extra charges and gainshare rewards.

The information going to the Audit meeting had emerged, therefore, at the worst possible time for Capita: directly after the catastrophic library IT crash. Submitted to this Audit meeting was a report ,coincidentally completed just days before the crash, warning of impending doom on an apocalyptic scale, in regard to the failure of the contractors to create a credible IT disaster recovery programme. Late in the week, as well, emerged another terrible report, this time on 'change management'.

The report made clear that not only had there been a failure to produce an acceptable ITDR programme, Capita had been less than cooperative throughout the time in which the report was being compiled, and unnecessary delays caused as a result.

So there we were, on Tuesday night, arriving in a doubled up committee room, with what Mrs Angry thought must be far too many seats in the public area, as usually no one else turns up for the Audit meetings. Ah, but the seats, apart from two bloggers, veteran attendee Mr Shepherd and a young journalism student from Middlesex Uni, poor boy, were soon largely filled not by members of the public, but a coachload of Crapita personnel, the usual Suits, faceless, nameless, transitory Suits, who come and go, never staying long, in Barnet, creating a trail of havoc in their wake, and leaving someone else to carry the can, before they too move on.

This group of grim faced executives sat behind Mrs Angry, whispering amongst themselves, and scowling at her, one of them tutting furiously when she was commenting, as usual, from the public seating, after severe provocation. Outrageous, of course, expressing an opinion, rather than listening in silence to the corporate bilge extruded from the Crapita machine, staunchly supported by officers who are supposed to be guarding our interests, as residents, but are frequently indistinguishable from the contractual representatives.

The other usual source of irritation at these meetings was, to Mrs Angry's surprise, markedly silent, and subdued, throughout the event. No need to worry about Cllr Salinger, dressed not in his panto outfit, but displaying one of his memorable ties, which for some reason, which cannot possibly have any underlying Freudian explanation, he always likes to dangle in Mrs Angry's face - this time seemingly covered in pictures of one of the Mr Men. Oh: Mr Rush,  'always in a hurry'. Yes. So one would imagine.

He almost resisted all temptations to make political points (but clearly it was a struggle), and tolerated Mrs Angry's cheek with an unusual degree of forebearance. His colleagues on the committee, however, were the greatest surprise. 

That is to say the Tory members, who clearly had no appetite for defending the indefensible, as you will see, throughout the course of the meeting, which now began.

Fellow blogger John Dix, Mr Reasonable had asked to speak to the committee, and submitted a very interesting list of questions, and Mrs Angry had submitted three of her own, just to show willing. 

As usual John's speech was straight to the point, and damning: how had the failures identified in these reports been allowed to happen? He held responsible every councillor who had signed up to the Capita contracts without ensuring an adequate monitoring system was in place. Any further outsourcing, he said, would be reckless.


Mr Reasonable speaks to the Audit Committee

He was of course heard in silence, and left to leave the table, with no questions asked. 

The room was full of unspoken thoughts, and an uncomfortable shuffling and muttering amongst the ranks of Suits, but no comment from the members.

Questions next, and a little more reaction: palpable nervousness now, from officers at the table and in the seats, as the usual evasive answers were thrown back at Mr R and Mrs A - and a sense of deep disapproval from the members of both parties.

Mr Reasonable's first question asked - yet again - for evidence of the savings Capita claims to have made, in order to qualify for gainshare payments. The written response was bla bla bla, evidence was 'reviewed'.

Ok: the Comensura deal, as an example: where is the evidence of actual savings? 

Ah. 

They did not know. Internal audit had not seen the evidence.

As the questions continued, the shifting in seats, and delays before answering became more and more obvious, as was a noticeable increasing emergency, or rather disaster recovery use of the favoured preamble of senior officers: an emphatic 'So ... ' followed by a feeble response that not even a Tory councillor would accept.

Why was the IT disaster recovery deficiency noticed only by internal audit, and not by standard contract monitoring? Written response, some concerns had been raised by something called the 'Business Continuity Function. Hmm.

Supplementary question: the issue had been flagged up, but no one did anything about it?

Silence, and then:

So ... it was on the audit plan.

We know.

Yes. We know what you are thinking, readers. It might seem odd that something awfully wrong relating to DISASTER RECOVERY might be left to simmer slowly on the audit hob, while a fire was raging in the house, but then: this is Broken Barnet, after all.

Another supplementary question asked again, if the recovery problems had been spotted, why the massive library IT failure had occurred.

Silence again. Then an intervention from the new, less unacceptable face of Capita-lism in Barnet, Mr Brett Holtom, whose presence appeared miraculously at the committee table, in an act of corporate spontaneous regeneration, immediately after the library IT crash. 

Far be it for Mrs Angry to suggest that Mr Holtom was chosen for this post as - what is it ... Operations Director, or something - for his shiny faced, quietly genial manner, (although his linkedin page boasts a tribute from a female colleague remarking that he is blessed with a 'charismatic personality'), but it is a sign that Capita is awfully worried about its image in Barnet now, and keen to schmooze the Tory councillors. Signs from the Tory councillors, however, now are that they are beyond schmoozing point.

Mr Holtom tried his best. The library IT was not hosted by the data centre referred to in the ITDR report, he said. Mmm. Doesn't really matter, does it, though, Brett? The technical cause of failure is irrelevant, and what counts is that Capita flunked its responsibility to monitor the library IT, as well as failing to provide a credible IT recovery strategy elsewhere.

Other questions followed, followed by even longer silences. In reference to one, about the banding of systems (and don't ask me, but the issue is not relevant so much as the form of response, so try to keep up) , the supplementary identified a contradictory use of the description 'appropriate', and then 'accurate'.

Which is it, asked Mr Reasonable, quite reasonably: Appropriate? Or accurate? Two very different things.

Another interminable suspension of time, while the men from Crapita, and the senior officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, attempted to get their tiny heads around the fact that these two terms were not indistinguishable, and tried awfully hard to identify to themselves what the difference might be, from the point of view of those who don't really give a flying f*ck anyway, but were now presented with an occasion on which it might matter.

So ...

Eventually Mr Holtom, skilled as he is, according to himself on Linkedin, in the field of transformation professionalism, and of  course being blessed with all that charisma, managed to think of something positive, if not charismatic, to say, which was nothing to do with the question but something he had said at his first CELS meeting, which Mrs Angry remarked, and please pay attention, that what he had to say was A Mistake, ie explaining that we had now been upgraded to Platinum level of response from Capita International Rescue, Disaster Recovery dept, from Bronze, or Base Metal. 

A mistake because: the councillors knew nothing about this; a mistake because rather comical; and a mistake because everyone then wants to know why we were not on Platinum level to start with, bearing in mind the bucketloads of cash we hand over to you, every month.



Mr Holtom, Capita Operations Director

Q 10 was the most important question of all: 


Given there are no documented ITDR plans;
there have been no tests of the new
capability; and there is no recovery
infrastructure in place or on contract to affect
a successful recovery, does this represent a
breach of contract?



Response:



The delays to ITDR had been flagged as a
concern both pre and post audit and have
resulted in contractual discussions which are ongoing.



Oh dear. Mr Reasonable now asked: answer the question - breach of contract ... yes, or no?

A length of silence ensued that was longer than time itself: one in which a new ice age came and went, regime change in North Korea was achieved, the Chilcott Inquiry was released - and even the Inquiry into the Chilcott Inquiry.

Mrs Angry guffawed behind Mr Reasonable's back and then Mr Holtom leaned forward smiling, declaring smoothly, clearly after a great deal of thought, that Capita would not consider it so.

How interesting, though, that the written answer did not deny that there may be a breach of contract. 

There is a crack in the wall, friends and comrades, and it is gaping larger, and larger.

Mrs Angry's first question:

In reference to Item 7 and the ITDR report:
bearing in mind that within days of this
damning report the Library IT system
crashed, and has caused a catastrophic loss
of personal data and data relating to stock,
will the Audit Committee investigate the
circumstances and implications of the failure,
by commissioning another report specifically
focused on the management of the Library IT
system?

A very fulsome response;

No.

And a reference to the previous question by Mr R, which had asked if the ITDR report should not be updated, after the Library IT crash. The written reply had been no, once audit reports are completed, that's your lot, sunshine, and repeated the line about not being linked to the data centre, which has nothing to do with anything, and then a load of bollox about the 'newly restored library system' and  - oh hang on, first use of this term - the 'catastrophic failure' of the library system which has resulted, ha, oh dear, in 'integrity issues' for the database, but, they claimed 'has not involved the loss of personal data'. Oh, and another reference to 'contractual discussions' ...

A supplementary question then: first of all, can we qualify some of the corporate gobbledegook in the previous response? 

'Newly restored library system', 'integrity issues'? No: it is not fully restored, the catalogue is unavailable, book stock not recorded, and data is irretrievably lost, including personal data relating to library members. You say you won't update the report itself, so are you going to commission an independent, forensic investigation into the real causes of the library IT crash?

No, was the answer, again. There will be internal investigation, but no independent analysis. So they must rely on Capita to tell them why Capita cocked up, or even allow them to suggest that they didn't. 

It consequently  emerged that the general consensus from the committee was that the reports should be referred to other committees, that have the power to authorise, the Chair claimed, whatever they like, reports, investigations, whatever ... Performance and Contract Management being the most relevant here, of course. Providing they do any. Management, that is. Always a first time, Mrs Angry, you know.

Next question: Mrs Angry had asked - after such a damning report:


How can residents and taxpayers
place any trust in the ability of either the
Internal Audit Team, or the Audit Committee
to undertake the role of scrutiny in regard to
the Capita contracts, and provide value for
money investment of resources by the
authority on our behalf?



Response (summarised): It is not the role of the Audit Committee to scrutinise contracts. It is not the role of Internal Audit to scrutinise contracts



Well, it is, sort of: but only the risk of impending doom from the failure of such contracts. 



But even then, Mrs Angry was informed, this is not 'an exact science'. 



Dear me, that was a disappointment. Isn't it? Oughtn't it to be?

Mrs Angry assumes then that the approach to audit now, in the London Borough of Broken Barnet, is one analagous to say, a reliance on astrology, rather than astronomy. Trying to predict which contract is about to sink beneath the waves, rather than studying the state of the vessel, and its maintenance. Involving the use of diving rods, seances, and - and no, you may not borrow Mrs Angry's crystal ball.


Mrs Angry Predicts: the new approach to Audit, in Broken Barnet

Mrs Angry reminded the Tory councillors that they had promised residents that the contracts would deliver 'better services, for less money', neither of which, as we see now, was true. Why did the Chair of the Committee not demand action, on our behalf as residents and taxpayers, earlier on in the long drawn out process of obtaining the information required from Capita?

Well: if there was an explanation worth remembering from the Chair - Mrs Angry has neither written it down ... nor remembered it.

Last question: 

Regarding the failure of the
library IT system, please explain where the
upfront capital payment of £16 million to
Capita for IT was spent, and why none of it
was used to ensure an adequate system of
monitoring the Library system?

Remember that old story? How we were tricked by our Tory members into thinking we just had to outsource all our services to Crapita, and not consider the in house option, because we simply must have an upfront capital investment of £16 million from them for IT, and then, ha ha, it turned out we, the residents and taxpayers of Broken Barnet had to pay poor old cash strapped Crapita an upfront capital investment of £16 million? What a laugh. At our expense.

They listed where the dosh supposedly went, including that data centre mentioned in the disaster report, and then said this:

The library system was not included as it was not
identified in the output specification as requiring
upfront investment. However a project was
initiated by the Library service (which is ongoing)
to review the robustness of libraries IT.

Hmm. Robustness: we love that word, here in Broken Barnet. Senior officers are incapable of formulating any sentence without its inclusion, as a sort of talisman, and a declaration of allegiance to an ideal that somehow is never reached, but fondly thought of, even so. Even So.

When was the 'ongoing project' going on, exactly, asked Mrs Angry. Before or after the library IT crash, because if it was before, shouldn't they have spotted trouble brewing? And why wasn't the Library IT included in output specification? Was it, say, because Capita wanted to negotiate the introduction of its own system?

No, they denied that was Capita's intention. Oh, and the ongoing project had ongone since April 2015, but they had prioritised dealing with the People's Network.

Mrs Angry, pushing her luck, asked another question: would it not have been more sensible to review the state of the IT system?

No reply, as supplementaries to supplementaries are forbidden, of course. End of public involvement (officially) and time, uh oh, for Capita to be called to the table.

Up stepped Mr Mark Dally, 'partnership director' for Capita, who chose to appear, rather casually, in the circumstances, in his shirt sleeves, perhaps, thought Mrs Angry, trying to disassociate himself from the Suits.

I hold my hands up, he said, with studied humility.

He was there to give 'additional context' to the cockups under discussion, apparently. 'Additional context': always useful, of course.

Poor Mr Dally: he dillied, he dallied; he dallied and dillied, but, as Marie Lloyd would say:

Who'll put you up when you've lost your bedstead,
And you can't find your way 'ome?

Not Labour's Cllr Geof Cooke, who was straight in with a question about the reasons for the delay in Capita providing full cooperation with the internal audit team. How many IT directors had there been, he asked, and why no continuity?


Who's sorry now? Capita, says their 'Partnership Director' Mr Dally. 

I agree, said Mr Dally.  No shit, wrote Mrs Angry, in her notebook. He agrees

It was not, he said, using a phrase that was a masterly understatement, and yet - clearly the motif, and mantra of the evening  ... It was Not Our Finest Hour

Later on he repeated his act of self abasement, or at least announced, holding his hands up again: 

I'm not happy. 

I apologise.

There had been four directors, he said. One left. Then another one. Then another one. Then one was ill. 

And then there were none.

He mentioned now, or so Mrs Angry seemed to hear, about the 'attrition' of the staff. Shouldn't that be 'contrition', Mr Dally? Maybe my notes are wrong ...

Mrs Angry had a pleasing vision, then, of senior executives at Crapita being compelled to make full confessions, Cultural Revolution style, in group meetings, denouncing themselves to their clients. Could happen. Maybe.

Cllr Cooke asked where data is going to be restored to. The reply was 'Spring Park', or 'Cody Park'. Not so much theme parks, as retirement homes, see, for unwanted information. Or too much information, as we apparently have here, back in Broken Barnet.

Tory councillor Sury Khatri, who is always quick off the mark, of course, expressed himself to be of the opinion, in case we had not noticed, that for Capita, this was Not Their Finest Hour.

By now Mrs Angry was wondering, and musing on twitter, exactly WHEN was Capita's finest hour?

Quite a lot of speculation then, amongst Mrs Angry's followers, as to the answer, but @rovingwhinger thought it might have been between 0200 GMT and 0300 BST, when the clocks went forward. 

She may well be right.

Cllr Khatri was cross because, he said the contracts had been sold to them on the basis that Capita supposedly had all the expertise in IT. 

Mrs Angry was cross too, and reminded Cllr Khatri, from the public seats, that he had voted to approve the contracts, and then almost immediately complained about the lack of information he and his councillors had been given, and was critical of the whole agreement - when it was too late.

After the meeting, walking down the stairs, he said rather sulkily, you always say the same thing to me, about all that business. Yes, said Mrs Angry, because you signed it anyway, with all your doubts - when you knew better. And now you've done the same thing over libraries.

Back to the meeting. Khatri asked where had been the 'due diligence' and said he saw 'failure of management'. He also remarked that he worried about the remaining seven years, and if they would be 'error free'. 

Deputy CEO John Hooton has just watched the box set of Wolf Hall, and now attempted a spot of Tudorbethan, courtly style diplomacy, hoping to evade the Tower of London, and the shadow of the axe, declaring now, in cloak swishing manner: I recognise your sentiment ...

Mr Holtom joined in. He couldn't sit there, he said, with a straight face and say - we will be error free. He said this with a straight face, unfortunately, and Mrs Angry was beside herself with mirth, as a result.

The Chair now spoke and concluded: the auditors have done their job, and now these issues should be referred to the Performance and Contract Management Committee.

Labour's Kathy Levine had already drawn up an opposition amendment suggesting this, so of course now that it was not entirely his idea, and one from the enemy, Salinger was in a dilemma: accept it, and give some credit to the opposition, or trash it, and contradict himself. Difficult. 

But there were more contributions to come, and perhaps the most telling was from Tory Cllr Zinkin, normally a voice of reason, but also inclined to defend group decisions. He raised several serious concerns, that might well have come from an opposition member, and noted, with disapproval, something that has been mentioned here, that the library IT crash was not defined as a failure of a KPI, Key Performance Indicator, which is ludicrous. 

He said that KPIs needed to be re-examined, but, as Mrs Angry and Mr Reasonable commented, loudly, his group had blocked and voted down a proposal from Labour to do just that.

The meeting drifted on: councillors of both parties raised objections, and a variety of Suits sat at the table, abashed, or pretending to be.

As we listened to the committee's discussion of the disastrous disaster recovery matter, through the open window, a disembodied voice from the Fire Station next to the Town Hall interrupted with some sort of loudspeaker announcement. Perhaps, thought Mrs Angry, someone's pants were on fire, somewhere in Broken Barnet, and the crew were sliding down the pole, ready to rush out to the engines, as you should do, in any emergency, platinum level or otherwise - unless, of course, you are directly contracted to the London Borough of Broken Barnet.

An agreement was reached between all members that the serious issues raised at the meeting must go to the contract monitoring committee, and to the secret, in camera, shadowy working groups that are reviewing the contracts too. Will this result in any action? Or are they just passing the buck?

Two things were very clear: the Tories know now, that they were sold a pup: a very expensive pup. Services cannot be proved to be better, unless you accept the carefully manicured KPIs, and customer satisfaction surveys, and less money? We are paying out a fortune, over and beyond the core contract fees, whilst seeing our services, like libraries, assaulted by a range of punitive cuts, and carved up ready for yet more outsourcing.

But the other notable change is in the demeanour of the men from Capita: and they are largely men - the Suits. No longer full of misplaced confidence, and swagger: they are in trouble, and they know it. 

Three years into this contract, and yes, the cracks are opening up, as we said they would, not from wishful thinking but a conclusion formed from our own due diligence, and research, from the reports offered by Unison, rejected unread by the same councillors now complaining about the result of their own hasty approval of the contracts - and from the warnings clearly given from the consequences of other cases of mass outsourcing. 

The example of BT in Cornwall demonstrates it is perfectly possible to terminate even the largest of contracts of this sort. The question now is if the Tory members consider it is possible, for political reasons, to retrieve some sort of reform within the terms of the contract, and real commitment to change, or whether the time is coming ... to say: thank you, Capita - and ... goodbye. 


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Barnet Libraries' Capita IT crash: the unanswered questions - and now a devastating audit report


Comms Team, North London Business Park

In the topsy-turvey, inside out world of Broken Barnet, there is a great deal of amusement to be found in the study of our Tory Council's management of 'communications'. 

The manufacture of corporate spin is undertaken by a team of obedient drones at North London Business Park, who for most of the time, it seems - when they are not reading Private Eye, or, with gritted teeth, making unguarded remarks about Mrs Angry, within earshot of passing spies - sit forlornly at their desks, obliged by their senior managers to portray a rosy, heart-warming picture of life as it is not now, has never been, and never will be, in this most rotten of Rotten Boroughs. 

One would imagine that even Winston Smith would be giving in his notice before lunchtime on his first day at work, should he be unfortunate enough to be sent to work in Broken Barnet, on secondment from the Ministry of Truth.

The issue of the iniquitous library proposals approved at last week's Full Council meeting presented a real challenge from the point of PR, of course. How to pretend this full frontal assault on a much loved service is anything but that? That it is indeed a wonderful outcome for the residents and taxpayers and library users of this borough?

Read on, but try not to be distracted by the fact that the press release had a date written in Russian:  "Published: 05 Апрель 2016(the spoilsports have changed it now) ... Tory leader Richard Cornelius still lives in the Cold War era, of course, and is awfully concerned about the Red Peril. Proof, see, that he is right to be worried: and yes - we have our people everywhere, you know. 

But look: wonderful news:

Plans to maintain 14 library sites approved

Hoorah! Your Tory councillors have saved 14 libraries! 

Oh: well, no, not 14 libraries, exactly ... 14 library sites

Ah. Or, if you will allow Mrs Angry to translate:

Devastating changes to your local libraries have just been approved by your Tory councillors, which represent the complete destruction of your library service, and its replacement by DIY, self entry, self service book processing units, but: we don't have the courage to tell you the truth. 

It is not the idea of a library service that is of any worth, of course, in Broken Barnet, where everything must be measured by its material value. The sites have been maintained - for the time being, handed over to Crapita to manage, and screw revenue from, they boast, from the extra space accrued by shrinking the amount of space for the library part of a library building. 

And any sites that have been 'saved' are only theoretically safe: if for example, as seems highly likely, no voluntary bodies come forward capable of running the 'partnership libraries', you can bet your bottom dollar that the council will then turn around, shrug its corporate shoulders and blame residents for the fact they will have to shut that branch, and sell the property. Kerrching!

Apart from this piece of corporate bunkum, we have another example of creative writing on the council's website, in regard to their statement about the library system crash: 

Libraries

We continue to experience problems with some elements of our Library IT system, which means that some library services remain unavailable to residents. 

Problems with some elements of the IT system. 

A masterly piece of understatement.

As reported in the previous post, at last week's Full Council meeting, at which the library cuts were approved, there was a great deal of confusion, both in the public gallery, and amongst the Labour councillors about the present state of the library service. 

The Labour group had submitted an amendment that did not mention the continuing crisis, because, they claim, they had been informed it was over. 

Let us be very clear about this: it was not. Today it was announced that what had been only a 'glitch' had been 'fixed'. Hmm. Read on.

As a library user reported shortly afterwards in a comment on the previous post:

I agree that the IT problems are ongoing, as any regular visitor to the libraries would know. There is presumably no credible rescue plan in place, or staff are not briefed about it, as they have been saying the problems will be resolved in a "few" or "two" weeks for some time. This makes it impossible to renew books from home, impossible to check from home or in the library what you, or more importantly your children, have on loan, means staff have to ring round to get reservations and means no collection of overdue fines.

Of course now that the library proposals have been approved, the borough's children will have greatly diminished right of access to any libraries, or any books, pcs, or study space.

As things stand now, before the hatchet men move in to install the robot libraries, the human beings they are intended to replace are still struggling to explain to readers why they cannot access the normal facilities offered by their library. 

And the staff members who have just been told half of them are about to lose their jobs have been given instructions as to deal with the continuing failure, while attempts are meant to slowly test the replacement system, which of course is a separate issue to the serious problems caused by the crash, some of which are insoluble. 

Data relating to stock and membership appears to be irretrievable, and if so, this means the service - if and when a system is up and running again - has effectively lost details of many of the books it holds. Mrs Angry understands:

1. It has become necessary to 're-establish' a library catalogue by means of a physical stock check.

2. Staff are being told to make sure readers are informed that their personal data has been 'corrupted' rather than lost. 

Since drafting this post, we see this morning a claim by Barnet, reported in the local Times online, that all is well, once again, in Barnet Libraries. Well, goodness me:

"Barnet Conservatives claim its library service, Vubis, which crashed at the start of March is mainly back up and running".

Mainly

Any difference, as regards users, since last week? Ah, hang on: here is Cllr Thompstone, to update us:


"The central library IT system has now been restored and most services are available to residents.



Residents are able to borrow and return books, as well as renew them in person. Users can access e-books and audio-books and adults can access library computers and the free wifi.



Throughout the recovery phase all libraries have remained open and the extended opening hours at Edgware are again available. 



Some data does still need to be verified or manually re-entered. This will continue to affect users".

Ah. 

Most services are available. Most. Some data does still need to be verified or manually re-entered. 

That would be book stock, catalogue, and membership details, then, would it? 

Meh. Hardly central to the function of a library service, any of these things, of course, in Broken Barnet.

You may disagree, and support Mrs Angry's view that the system, as regards users, hardly reaches the definition of 'fixed'. In fact, it is hard to see much difference to the status quo last week. What do you think, readers?

This cheery news will come as something of a surprise to the staff, struggling to deal with the impact of the lost data which is not lost data, and only corrupted - and irretrievable, and the backlog of work that has ensued from this mess. 

(In fact - updated Thursday -  it would appear that although a version of Vubis is back up, after six long weeks, there is still no access to the catalogue, and the data that is available is limited, unpredictable, and fragmented. There is no two ways about it: things are NOT back to normal, and it will be a long time before these problems are fully resolved).

But will an admission of corrupted data, which was not lost, but has not been found, reassure anyone who might be worrying about a potential breach of the Data Protection Act, and a risk to the security of their personal information? If you are concerned, you may wish to make enquiries with the Information Commissioner. 

Mrs Angry has always found the ICO to be very helpful, dating back to the time when Barnet Council's illegally operating, unlicensed, jackbooted security firm 'MetPro' secretly filmed her, with hidden lapel cameras, at a council meeting and no one would hand over the footage (never did get hold of it); not to mention in regard to various problems over the years with FOI responses, previous data issues etc.

But we digress.

All library members will now have to be issued with new application forms, which will be uploaded by the soon to be booted out staff, along with the massive backlog of other work caused by the crash. 

In theory, the extra workload is meant to be done by agency staff paid for by Crapita, but it seems there is some confusion over this and regular staff are already undertaking such tasks, which if true, suggests careful audit should be made of exactly how much financial redress from the contractors is being made.

There is one happy outcome from all this disaster management activity: because all readers must re-register, Mrs Angry understands that staff are expected to ask them all if by chance they wish to take part in the wonderful new 'extended hours' scheme - ie the unstaffed, unattended, robot library system, that dare not speak its name. 

Mrs Angry is uncertain of the exact wording suggested to staff: presumably something on the lines of: 

I've just been sacked, and won't be working here much longer, and if you want any help in the library, there won't be any, and your children won't be allowed in on their own either, but while I am still around, would you like to sign up for the new shrunken, hollowed out, unstaffed DIY libraries instead?

At last week's Full Council meeting, where the awful new proposals were approved, by a bunch of Tory councillors squirming in their seats, and keeping their heads down, calculating the impact on their electoral chances next time round, Labour members attempted, unsuccessfully, to plead for a delay in the vote, in the light of the news - and apparently it was news to them - that the IT system was still not restored, and problems continuing.


Some library services remain unavailable to residents, says Barnet Council

That the Tories were determined to force through the plans in these circumstances is predictable, but they must know the huge risk such an action bears. 

And if they are unaware of the risk, that is partly because the full impact of the crash are not known, or at least not known to members - how can they be, when the crisis continues, and the system is not yet operational, and available to the public?

Mrs Angry has been calling all along, in vain, of course, for an independent investigation into the library system crash, because it is clear there are so many unanswered questions surrounding this catastrophic failure, and with massive implications for the wider contractual responsibilities that rest with Capita.

The only written explanation for the cause of the library IT failure was contained in the delayed publication of 'Appendix L', as seen here.

Mrs Angry has had several people contacting her in regard to the statements made in this Appendix, and commenting on some of the issues raised. 

The latest contribution, from an IT specialist we shall call ... 'Mr B', raises some very, very interesting points, as you can read in the following extracts - Appendix statements in blue:

2. The incident occurred due to a combination of server and system errors. On 2nd March, Infor (the third party support provider for the Vubis application), reported to LBB Libraries that the library system was running out of space on the server. Customer Support Group (CSG) (Capita) responded to provide additional physical storage. At this time, it was unknown that back-ups for the system had been failing since the end of December 2015 (unrelated to the storage issue). The automated messages from Vubis alerting a nominated user of back-up failures were not being received. Investigations to understand why these were not received are hampered due to the IT crash.

Mr B points out that it appears the alerts were sent to a nominated user who had left the council when Capita took over - this he says suggests there was not a proper handover of the IT systems. 

As to the 'hampered' investigations into why the alerts were not received: it would seem Capita knows this is because they were sent to the wrong person.


Crapita's nominated receiver of alerts for back up failures

Mr B finds this rather troubling: 

This is pretty worrying, since it may indicate problems waiting to pop up elsewhere.

He notes that it would also seem that during the two years and more of Capita running things, there was no proper overview of the system, no on checking it for at least four months, if not longer. This would be strange, he suggests, as Capita has a very large IT section, with plenty of experienced engineers. Was Capita perhaps intending to install its own system? Mrs Angry asked a question on those lines at a recent meeting, and was told quite categorically by deputy CEO John Hooton - No.

Consequently, the back up failed again, causing the system to crash, and corrupt.

Mr B: Why failed again? Was there another instance of failure? Why did a back up failure cause the system to crash: it does not make sense ...

3. When the server was rebooted, it began to corrupt the data on the system. Whilst local backup processes were put in place these were backups to the local machine which also corrupted. The root cause analysis (RCA) has been concluded to be as follows:

Mr B: It would appear there is a confusion here between 'backup' and 'mirroring'. In short, backup is an image of the system taken at a point of time, and removed from the system. Mirroring is an availability solution, where every transaction is written simultaneously to separate storage devices, so if one fails, the system can continue running uninterrupted with the other mirror image. What we learn from this confused statement is the mirrored system disks (where the operating system is installed), had one or more of its disks fail. We don't know, and neither does Capita, when it happened, since the activity logs were stored on those disks.

4. A number of disk drives on the server displayed hardware failures. These
were replaced and the system was left overnight to rebuild. This is a standard system administrative function to resolve a failed disk. 

Mr B disagrees:

The correct procedure before doing such modification is to first:

a. check there is a valid backup
b. to check that the operating system logs are clear of errors
c. to check that the remaining disks are healthy

Apparently none of this was done.

4. A number of disk drives on the server displayed hardware failures. These
were replaced and the system was left overnight to rebuild.

This is a standard system administrative function to resolve a failed disk.

Subsequently the server crashed around 03.54 on 3 March and it is believed that the database files on Vubis became corrupted as a result of, or during, the subsequent required reboots.

Mr B: 

This is indeed strange. The Vubis database resides on a different set of disks, so the system disks corruption should not have had an effect on that separated data. What I suspect happened was that when the additional disks were added to the Vubis area, the recreation of the extended storage was allowed to run alongside the recreation of the system's mirroring disks (that is to say the mirror of a faulty disk into a healthy one) When the system crashed, the process of recreation of the Vubis storage was left in an unstable condition, which worsened during the 'subsequent required reboots' and led to complete corruption of both the system and data disks.

Hmm. And if so, in Mr B's view,  this would have been 'an amazingly clumsy piece of work'.

7. A non-corrupted tape back-up from March 2014 is available – this is the last date a tape back-up was carried out as the server was changed to digital backups only following this date.

Mr B:

What this tells us is that 'digital backup' was corrupted as well. If the last backup was taken on December 2015, the latest available backup should have been restored from this point - but apparently it was not. I'm at a loss to know what type of backup Capita did carry out. Was the backup done on the same disks that the data resided on, which would be (censored by Mrs Angry) or did the digital backup never work?

One last comment, which is deeply worrying, if true.

10. ... Wifi in libraries has been restored.

Mr B:

Wifi restored, but since there is no customer data (pin/login credentials), the network is open for anyone to connect to, which means that malicious users can snoop on other's activities. So do not connect to your bank or email from the library wifi.

If this allegation regarding wifi is true, at the very least, surely, all library visitors and users must be made aware of the risks to their own data security: the consequences are serious, and this matter should be addressed urgently, with confirmation as to whether or not proper advice is being given to potential users.

Since the IT crash was reported, Mrs Angry has asked, loudly and continually, to little avail, what implications the failure had for the wider context of all the other former council services run by Capita, in the course of its two massive and highly lucrative contracts. 

There has been a deathly silence, of course, as Tory councillors do not dare to think such dangerous thoughts, and some of the Labour group have also been slow to grasp the scale of failure regarding the library system, rather too easily persuaded by officers - or misunderstanding what they were told - that it really wasn't as bad as all that, and even, it would seem, as we saw, last week, that all problems had been resolved.

But now look: last night it was discovered a report * (this link has stopped working for some reason, try Item 7 here ...) has emerged from Barnet's Internal Audit team on the timely, and very interesting subject of - 

Information Technology Disaster Recovery, (ITDR).

This report is explosive, in terms of significance for the future of the Capita contracts. Or should be, if our Tory councillors had any intention of fully undertaking the role of scrutiny, which is doubtful.

The report, written apparently just days before the library IT crash, explains the purpose of this audit review:

Background & Context

An ITDR programme is the IT component of the wider Business Continuity Management (BCM) programme, which fulfills part of the Council’s obligations to the public and Civil Contingencies Act in the event of a major incident. The purpose of the programme is to recover IT services that underpin Council activities, within an agreed time and to a point in time prior to the outage, to prevent an unacceptable business impact. 

Hmm. If, like Mrs Angry, your mind is already shutting down and slipping into (non corruptible) backup mode, just try and focus on the phrases 'major incident', 'outage', and 'unacceptable business impact'.  

Now then, reader, can you think of any recent 'outage' that was a 'major incident' and has had an 'unacceptable business impact'? No? Then you are an elected member of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, and this is perfectly normal. Or you wrote this report. (No mention of the word, sshh ... 'library' ... )Go back to sleep. The rest of you, read on:

At Barnet, the technical component of the ITDR programme has been outsourced
to Capita as part of the Customer Support Group (CSG) contract.

Now then, do you remember the CELS meeting, where the new Barnet/Capita IT person told us all about our upgraded, Platinum card membership of the Crapita International Rescue scheme, for Catastrophic Events, that have Nothing to Do With Us? 


Platinum level response, from Crapita. Note the smooth running operation of the futuristic 'technology enabled library', top left.  And stop looking at top right.

Hmm. Well, now look at this:

The Council’s ITDR recovery requirements are described in the contract with Capita. It
was noted that the requirements detailed in the contract are not those that are being delivered by the ITDR project. In particular, the Council applications are rated as platinum, gold, silver or bronze based on an assessment of the business impact. Applications rated as Silver and Bronze, are supposed to be recovered within 48 hours with a maximum of an hour of data loss. The current project is not delivering ITDR for Bronze applications and the current provision is to restore Silver rated applications within 96 hours with up to a day’s worth of data loss. There are similar inconsistencies at Platinum and Gold level.

'Inconsistencies'. That's it. Translated: run for the lifeboats. We're all doomed. 

There's loads more like this, however, such as on the subject of 'Interim ITDR Capability':

Prior to the new ITDR capability being implemented at the secondary data centre, we confirmed that an Interim ITDR capability was in place. This was initially a ship to site “data-centre” that contained infrastructure for the Council’s legacy systems. These services were procured from an external supplier by Capita but the contract for these services lapsed in early 2015 and was not renewed. Capita are currently replicating data to the secondary site and taking backups in preparation for the new full ITDR capability, now due in Q1 2016. However, these back- ups cannot be used to restore capability as they have not been tested and there are no documented ITDR plans in place. It was noted that there is currently no alternative interim capability. 

Well, then. A ship to site 'data-centre' sounds awfully good, doesn't it? Except ... oh, hang on, it's looming into view now, that ship ... those lifeboats, where are they? Oh dear: listen, in the distance, just faintly ... Nearer, my God, to Thee ...

The report ends with an acknowledgement:

We would like to thank the CSG IT team and the Information Management team for their time and co-operation during the course of the internal audit.

Aww. 

Uh oh: followed immediately by: 

However, we would also like to note that during the course of the audit we encountered significant delays in receiving relevant information and being able to speak to the appropriate staff within CSG IT. The initial discussions around the audit were held in April 2015. The terms of reference for the review was not, however, agreed with CSG IT until September 2015. Delays were then suffered around gaining access to the right people and receiving the requested information. Ultimately a large amount of information was provided in late December 2015, hence this report has been issued in Quarter 4 as opposed to Quarter 1 as planned.

Well, well, well.

Mrs Angry cannot recall ever seeing a remark like that in any report submitted to a council meeting, let alone from Internal Audit.

It is absolutely clear now that there are fundamental questions to ask about the true standard of performance and value for money delivered by the Capita contracts. 

Aside from the core contract, and the minimal 'savings' seemingly achieved from that, wrapped around this is the enormous extra profit extracted from us in the form of extra charges, apparently every month. And at the same time, the level of standard of services provided is, in the case of IT, in what is supposed to be Capita's area of expertise, an issue of huge concern, in the light of the library system failure.

Right from the earliest days of this blog, and the uncovering of a culture of failure in procurement and contractual processes as a result of the MetPro security scandal, it is often in Broken Barnet, the smallest thread that once pulled, unravels a greater hole in the carapace of this Tory administration. The library system crash was and is a very serious failure, in itself and in terms of the terrible library plans just approved: but its wider significance is in the ominous implications for the future of the monolithic Capita contracts, and the lack of transparency, accountability and 'ownership' of the failure of the library system does not bode well for a realistic appraisal of the real risk to services that any similar weaknesses might pose.

The hole is too big, now, to cover up anymore: and now it is the responsibility of councillors of all parties to take action - and prevent further betrayal of the best interests of the residents and taxpayers of this borough. Will the Tories who nominally at least are in charge of this authority find the courage to act, and for once put what is right before political considerations? I doubt it. I hope I am wrong.