Let's carry on the theme of light entertainment, shall we?
As we know, Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Broken Barnet, is away on leave at the moment. Wonder where he is? Home or away? Home probably. Of course there is a lot of tidying up to do in the garden at the moment, isn't there? Leaves to sweep up, rotten apples to collect, pruning, bonfires: lots of bonfires.
Whenever Mr Walkley is away, usually, he has a very long piece of string tied to the end of his finger that runs all the way back to North London Business Park, up the stairs to the top floor, and right along the corridor to the office of the deputy Chief Executive, Andrew 'Black Hole' Travers, where it is tied firmly around his wrist. This is a bit like the deadman's button on a train: if the train driver falls asleep and does not press the button, the train stops, to prevent any awful accident. If Andrew does not jerk the string every five minutes, Mr Walkley knows something is up and gets on the phone pretty damn quick, and the Director of Corporate Governance rushes in to his office with a sharp stick and pokes him awake.
Something went horribly wrong with this system this week, and before he knew it, Mr Walkley found that naughty Mr Travers had slipped the piece of string off his wrist and while no one was looking, a terrible accident had occurred.
After the letter was rewritten, and all the outrage over the posters had subsided a bit, Mr Travers sat back in his chair and got out his One Barnet pencil. It was time to write the weekly address to staff. He would make Mr Walkley proud of him by writing a really, really good one. He took a sheet of paper, and after a lot of effort, and a lot of crossings out, this is what he wrote:
"Given the planned industrial action in this coming week, I thought it is probably worth outlining again why we developed the One Barnet programme in its current form.
Mrs Angry translates: Because we made such a cock up of those letters, and the giant poster campaign, and because you all take more notice of the Barnet blogs than the propaganda we try to indoctrinate you with, I must now try and salvage something out of the mess by rebranding the whole, discredited package and hope you won't notice.
Some of this will be familiar to those of you who attended the budget briefings last year.
I am going to repeat it all over again, whether you like it or not, only this time I will try to sound as if I give a shit.
Over the past few years, the council came to the view that the continued growth in public sector spending was not sustainable and that at some point there was likely to be a marked reduction in funding available for local authority services.
The Tory council lost £27 million pounds of residents' money in Iceland, and all our contingency savings have been lost, so we had to make budget cuts to cover our spending instead of using our reserves.
The international financial crisis has, in fact, made the position for public service funding even worse than predicted and led to a faster reduction in our spending. Over a four year period our income will drop by 30%. We obviously need to make a similar reduction in our spending.
If we hadn't blown all the savings in Iceland, the bridge overspend, uncollected taxes etc, we would be able to cover the rising costs. As it is, instead of addressing the need to make savings, we are lecturing everyone on the need for economy whilst throwing millions of pounds on the One Barnet balls, and gleefully wasting money on fripperies like elocution lessons for certain senior officers in my department - me me me me, la la la la ... conferences at the Sandbanks Hotel, oh and pointless spin based initiatives like pledgebank etc ...
This drop in income has produced two different responses from authorities across the country. Some have embarked on change programmes very similar to One Barnet, looking at how they can continue to provide services, but in a more cost-effective way. Others have had to dramatically reduce services and staffing numbers. Last year, two councils reduced their staffing numbers by around 2,000 people. Newcastle, which had been cited as an example of how to keep staffing in-house, reduced its staff numbers by around 500 people. Other councils are making wholesale reductions in terms and conditions of staff.
Er, hold on, we thought Finchley MP and former council leader Mike Freer had invented the easycouncil, future shape, One Barnet concept? He told us he had: it was his brilliant idea, and we all thought he was a f*cking genius because of it ... you mean ... other people had the same brilliant idea at the same time? What a coincidence! What's that Sooty - whisper in Mrs Angry's ear ... yes, yes, BT, Vital Vision, mmm ... what .... SOLACE as well ... really? Capita .... Serco ... and all the rest? What on earth have they to do with it all? All over the UK? No ... no ... impossible ...
Barnet made around 145 people redundant at the same time. Mmm: just before Christmas, very nice ... now you are trying to make out these will be the only redundancies, whereas they were just the first lot of redundancies ... and yet new One Barnet jobs have been created ...bit naughty, really ... In large part, this was because of the savings built into the One Barnet programme. What savings would they be, exactly? In the programme, we see (sorry, but can we specify if you mean we are seeing, or we will see, or we will not ever see in our lifetime, but by the time you find out, the senior officers will have buggered off elsewhere...?) savings being realised in part by working with the private sector with some posts likely to be outsourced to those providers, but also by providing services more efficiently to the public. The library strategy is a good example of this, where a saving of around 20% through a reorganisation that will have a net result of leaving us with one less building, (how many fewer buildings - and actually you mean fewer libraries?) but increasing the stock of books, lengthening opening hours and providing more support for childhood literacy. (This is because of the unholy row that emerged once the public realised what we were all up to) It will be a cheaper but better service and we are expecting only minimal job losses in the service (other London boroughs are slashing their service, including halving the number of their library buildings).
However, I have to stress that the protection of jobs is a by-product of protecting services. (Rubbish: outsourced jobs have no long term security beyond a year) All of us face the challenge of providing the best possible services with the funding we have.(How come we have to pay you £1,000 a day then, Mr Travers?) But if we cannot provide these services more efficiently and at lower cost, we will end up simply providing fewer services with a corresponding reduction in the number of people we employ.(Let's have a reduction in the number of senior officers, especially financial consultants costing us £1,000 a day, and stop creating new senior posts).
I appreciate that the changes that local government as a whole will inevitably go through in the coming years could be a cause of concern for some of you. (I'll be alright though, so don't worry about me) I know Nick Walkley is keen to discuss these with staff and will be running a series of meetings with staff about our business planning for the coming decade later this month. I hope as many of you as possible take the opportunity to attend these and speak to Nick.(He'll be making a note of your name and then they'll be putting an 8 foot by 4 foot poster of you in the canteen before you even get back to your desk).
AndrewMrs Angry, with love and kisses xxx