A Handsworth resident responds: service birmingham

David Bailey’s reference to Capita is spot on. We’re experiencing problems at the moment just getting a simple link to an online ticket facility for a city event! It is little short of outrageous that we are paying more than 100% over the original budget which, as David Bailey rightly says, was too high in the first place.

Council newspaper

Back in the mid 1980s I was involved in producing a new publication for the council for distribution across what was then 12 constituency areas in 12 editions. The timescale was so short the council’s own agencies refused to touch it. A team of LOCAL writers, photographers, designers, printers AND distributors was put together and completed the job with a higher than 97% audited city wide distribution.

Shortly afterwards the council launched its own tabloid paper. This successful team’s bid was turned down in favour of Capita Penn who proceeded to create an expensive shambles. Their audited distribution barely hit 70% and eventually the contract was taken in-house and transferred to the Post and Mail (Ed: this might refer to its free e-newsletters, launched in 2008, which had daily news bulletins, weekly sector-specific updates including finance, law, technology & innovation and commercial property.)

City website

People may remember that a couple of years back a group of students produced a more effective web site than the city’s own (massively expensive) version – all for free! That lesson simply has not been learnt. We have competent local companies capable of doing a better job than Capita at a fraction of the cost. (Ed: perhaps referring to the Young People’s Focus Group’s “experiment in an alternative way to design and build a city council website for Birmingham. Development has now moved to DIY Council”.)

Both central and local government make the same mistakes repeatedly, favouring large companies rather than efficient local ones. A similar tale can be told in regard to computer systems in schools. The majority of authorities have ‘played safe’ by going for a well known but costly large company known for its lack of innovation and creativity. The result is that many school IT systems (and also some in FE colleges) have lagged behind the technological advances with which many small companies are very familiar.

I’m happy to take any queries directly.

Read about Capita/Service Birmingham on its website.