Archives for posts with tag: Capita

Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling, sent a message to Birmingham citizens to say that the pattern of industrial action changed on August 11. There are now three one-hour strikes each working day (7am-8am, then 10.30am-11.30am and finally 1.30pm-2.30pm):

“The travel time before and after each hour of industrial action along with crew breaks being taken at their depot – rather than out and about in the city – will have a significant impact on collections. In simple terms this will be much more than the three hours of strike action that Unite the union claim to be staging”.

She corrects the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers that are affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role ( “one of the two supervisors we currently have – in a crew that is only a three-person team”).

Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible.

The plan being discussed with the unions is based on the best practice used by other councils. Under the new model, more than 200 new permanent employees will be recruited to collect rubbish and recycling from our streets. This will bring stability to the service and improve efficiency.

Many readers will welcome the determination to move away from an over-reliance on agency staff and other in-house moves taken – notably the reduced use of Capita services.

To read the full message go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/refuse-collections-an-open-letter-to-citizens/

 

 

 

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A reader has recommended the video: “Who’s spending Britain’s billions?

tighten-belt-crop

Jacques Peretti opened this video by reminding us that for some years the 99% have been required to tighten their belts – as the International Tax Review confirms rumours of plans to cut Britain’s corporation tax rate (‘a race to the bottom’). On this film, Peretti uncovered what is happening behind closed doors in Britain. He found that local councils across the UK have signed contracts with management consultancy firms who can take a percentage of any savings they find – luminaries such as McKinsey, Serco, G4S and Capita.

Capita: Service Birmingham

Peretti discussed the outsourcing of council services to Capita, of particular interest to Birmingham residents, with Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School) who has long campaigned against this expensive appointment. In previous posts here and in many Post articles, having analysed cost and performance, he has advised the city to end the contract, as many councils up and down the country are now doing.

Many will welcome the council’s current scrutiny of Capita’s Service Birmingham and hope that – like others cited in the Peretti programme – an in-house workforce will be installed at lower cost to the taxpayer which might well give better service.

Taking self-regulation to a new low

Last year the outspoken Audit Commission – the ‘watchdog’ scrutinising council spending was disbanded. David Cameron hoped a critical mass of citizen watchdogs would become a new force for accountability. He said a ‘whole army of effective armchair auditors looking over the books’ would act as a check on ‘waste’, but the army has not appeared, as the BBC pointed out.

There are 36 articles with Capita in the title on our database

The earliest: in 2004 Schools were forced to close because of delays to a database to vet teachers, run by Capita. In 2005 Capita’s software was said to be responsible for the failure of a government scheme for allocating school places. In 2006: Computer Business Review reported that its chairman had been resigned after the discovery of secret loans to the ruling Labour Party form whom the company had received a number of contracts.

The latest, in August this year a Solihull reader alerted us to a Pulse magazine report on serious shortfalls in Capita’s primary care support services. Medical practices are facing delays as patient records and supplies are missing and payments made late. Alex Matthews-King, who wrote the article, reports on the situation using data published in April 2016 – two years after Capita won the £330m contract to provide primary care support services, with a budget cut of 40%.

Commercial confidentiality hides information about the use of taxpayers’ money

Peretti also reveals that hundreds of the millions of taxpayers’ pounds spent on these contracts are covered by confidential deals meaning very little detail is known about them.

Many readers will not be surprised to hear allegations about consultants who – the blurb says – ’leech off local councils and bleed them dry’. For years they have watched the outsourcing of public services which don’t produce the promised savings –  after management fees have been deducted – and ‘evasive councillors’ trying to justify use of these expensive assistants.

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His final question? Does the public deserve to know more about how those charged with managing Britain’s billions are spending them?

 

 

 

A Solihull reader alerts us to an award-winning Pulse magazine report that medical practices are facing delays as patient records and supplies are missing and payments made late. Alex Matthews-King, who wrote the article, reports on the situation using data published in April 2016 – two years after the private company Capita won the £330m contract to provide primary care support services, with a budget cut of 40%.

Capita_disruption_pie_charts_580x1038px

In 2014 Dr Robert Morley, the Birmingham and Solihull representative on the BMA General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC), anticipated problems when it was announced that NHS England was outsourcing primary care support services to save money.

A Pulse survey of more than 500 GPs and practice managers revealed the full administrative challenge practices are facing; GPs report:

  • missed referrals,
  • delayed care
  • delayed supplies
  • a major backlog of unprocessed records
  • cancelling clinics due to patient records not being available
  • new NHS numbers not being issued quickly enough
  • practice payments are delayed.

In one case a practice was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office for being unable to provide records, while another could not fulfil a court order because two patients’ records were missing. Another had to wait 15 days for a violent patient to be removed from its list.

The BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) passed a vote of no confidence in Capita in July, its chairman stating the problems are ‘putting patients at risk’ and causing ‘serious disruption’ to practices. Even NHS England says it is ‘disappointed’ in the service, and is ‘vigorously holding Capita to account’.

However, to date, problems with medical supplies have persisted; 33% of GPs and practice managers told Pulse their practice was experiencing delays, forcing them to ‘borrow, swap and beg’ supplies such as FP10 prescription pads, needles and sterile cups. And 18% of all respondents said patient care had been affected.

Capita says it is improving its systems, now moving records within three to six weeks, fulfilling ‘more than 90%’ of clinical supplies orders placed in August and all new registrations will be completed by the end of the summer.

 

  

nuclear 2convoys near Loch Lomond

Day and night, military convoys carrying nuclear warheads travel regularly up and down the country by road – between the nuclear warhead factory at Burghfield, near Aldermaston in Berkshire and the Trident nuclear base at Coulport in Scotland. M6, M40, and M42, some of the most congested motorways in the country, are frequently used.

The West Midlands CND website adds that lorries which carry nuclear materials including those from decommissioned warheads, for new warheads and for nuclear reactors for submarines, can use the same West Midlands motorways as the warhead convoys, but travel faster (up to 60mph) and do not travel at night. They also travel to the Rolls Royce factory Derby, sometimes using the M42, M6 and A38, or sometimes the M1.

nuclear symbolWMCND believes that the public should be told of these dangers. No radiation warning symbols (left) are now carried and though the public nor local authorities emergency planners are not warned, at least the police are always told when a nuclear convoy is expected.

Rob Edwards wrote an article in 2012 about a report from the UK government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), commissioned by the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation. It recorded 38 incidents in 2011 and 30 in 2010 – the second highest toll in six years, which saw a total of 195 mishaps. Read more on this Nuclear Industries blog.

The locations of the incidents were not disclosed in the report and no evidence of more recent monitoring of the transport of nuclear has been found in the public domain.

nuclear mareials lorry labelledMP Paul Flynn recently highlighted heightening of risk, due to the influence of Defence Equipment and Support Organisation (a ‘trading entity’ and organisation in the MoD) over government decision makers who decided that MoD vehicles transporting special nuclear materials should no longer carry hazard warning signs (right) when transporting radioactive cargoes.

There is a possible health hazard and also a risk to security as there is a ready market for such goods, with the potential addition of George Osborne’s proposed small nuclear reactors which can be carried on a lorry.

Elizabeth Way [former secretary of Just Defence] and Hazel Neal, on behalf of the West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, wrote to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham in June 2012:

Birmingham’s population is endangered by the transport of nuclear fuel rods through the residential heart of the city by train, and the transport of nuclear warheads on major roads and motorways around Birmingham. Birmingham is a Nuclear-Free City. Can you Sir, as Mayor, demand the discontinuation of nuclear transport through the city and its suburbs?”

See in more detail, plus news of a few accidents/incidents and Brian Quail’s protest halting the convoy: https://nuclearindustries.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/does-the-public-know-about-the-nuclear-hazard-on-britains-roads-and-railways/

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, the Financial Times noted that British outsourcing companies have ‘strengthened their grip on public sector contracts’ over the past decade, and that -according to the National Audit Office – Capita is one of the UK’s biggest beneficiaries.

service birmingham logo

Service Birmingham chief executive Stewart Wren has said: “Service Birmingham is one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the UK and we remain committed to delivering quality services.”

Quality services?

As a reader who has recently moved to Birmingham informs us that on the contact form sent, presumably, by Capita/Service Birmingham her name was mis-spelt and her postcode was wrong – other ‘rumblings’ come to mind.

In January, the Mail reported that Service Birmingham took two payments instead of one from 3,447 householders and business ratepayers.

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston Business School has received a large amount of correspondence from distraught and seriously ill constituents who have been waiting months for Capita to carry out an assessment for their claim for disability benefits, many of whom are now facing serious financial problems because of these delays.

Value for money?

birmingham city council header

Concerns are being raised in parliament over whether outsourcing deals represent best value for taxpayers. Birmingham City Council handed over its council tax collection department to Capita Service Birmingham in 2011 with a commitment to raise collection rates, but in July the Post reported that Council tax arrears in Birmingham have risen by 15% in the last year with the local authority owed more than £105 million.

In October, the Post reported – after a reference to uncompetitive practice – that a total of £23 million was paid to the private firm last year by City Council, up from £8 million in 2012 – a 187% rise. Dividends for 2013 rose as the city council announced it would be cutting 6,000 further jobs in the next four years.

MP Roger Godsiff, who has questioned Capita closely about its costs and profit margins (a taxpayers’ subsidy) said the contract for IT, call centre and pay roll services is an “egregious misuse of Birmingham citizens’ public funds”.

Professor Bailey has repeatedly called for the contract to be market-tested, and said: “If the contract had been cancelled in 2012, at my estimated cancellation cost of £25 million, then there would actually have been a net in-year financial benefit for the council given the £28 million saved.”

As the Serious Fraud Office investigates Serco and G4S, the National Audit Office has called for tighter scrutiny of government contracts.

public accounts committee

MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee (above), has called the privatisation of public services – with around half the government’s £187bn annual spending going to private contractors – “the most important public policy issue of our time”.

Would the council be well advised to return to in-house administration?

The public was never consulted about the Capita contract

Even at City Council level, the Council’s corporate activities are protected from public scrutiny. Birmingham’s citizens were never consulted about the huge contract that was handed out to Capita (Service Birmingham). See Alan Clawley’s post in the Birmingham Press ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’.

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An order authorising the Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) was made in July 2005. Government approval was given on 16 February 2012 for the extension, a new fleet of trams and a new depot at Wednesbury; the sanctioned sum is £128m.

Steve Beauchampé earlier reflected at length on the decision-making process in the Birmingham Press. He made some valid points about the Metro extension in a Stirrer article and at the public consultation in 2011 but “they were essentially waived away as being out of date as Metro was the future”.

Beauchampé’s points summarised – readers, judge for yourselves:

  • When run on public streets trams can quickly become a disruptive transport system, one that displaces buses, a more popular and flexible alternative
  • With their rails and overhead mechanics . . . any breakdown or accident, repairs to the system’s infrastructure, road works can force services to be delayed, curtailed and cancelled.
  • Unlike buses, trams cannot be easily and quickly re-routed to account for changed passenger requirements, new roads or road re-alignments… in fact, the very reasons why trams were phased out of Britain’s towns and cities (including Birmingham in 1953) and replaced by buses in the first place.

£42.4 million of public money will be spent extending the Midland Metro from New Street Station to Centenary Square – a 5-15 minute walk, depending on New Street departure point and the walker’s fitness level.

Beauchampé describes the displacement of buses to the city outskirts, the damage to the retailers in the area “leaving the once thriving shopping environment of Corporation Street and Upper Bull Street a shadow of its former self.”

metro tracks

Why then has there been so little public outcry at the downgrading of the bus services?

“Partly because those most affected by the changes primarily consist of the groups within society that have almost no voice, and carry no influence; the elderly, the poor, migrants, students, the unwaged and the low waged. They are a captive market, people for whom switching to cars is not an option, and the decades-long annual increase in bus fares demonstrates that transport bosses realise this”.

“To the city’s politicians and professional media, most of whom rarely, if ever, use these bus routes (cars, taxis and trains being so much more tolerable) the effects are probably imperceptible. Yet the consequences for those passengers who do are very real. Sometimes the extra walking may amount to just a few minutes (albeit in both directions), but when it is wet, cold, dark, when you’re running late, weighed down with bags, coping with young children, elderly, infirm or disabled, these effects matter.

“The bus companies, primarily National Express, which owns Travel West Midlands and (crucially) operates Midland Metro, are not bothered. Passengers must still travel so the company doesn’t lose out fares wise, while removing buses from the core of the city centre allows their vehicles to turn around quicker (i.e. they are operating a shorter route) – far easier for passengers to come to them than that they go to the passengers.

“But the business and marketing community (and thus those councillors in the vanguard of the ‘Birmingham is open for business’ mentality) adore it; Metro is photogenic, it swishes along in a very modern, continental kind of way making a most pleasing sound. Oh, and Manchester’s got one.

“Metro’s champions see it as the catalyst for coaxing commuters from their cars, although as we shall explain this requires a far bigger project than mere city centre line extensions. Finally, there is the social engineering aspect: Metro is often viewed as an upmarket mode of travel and some of its proponents imagine/hope that those cruddy people (see list above) won’t use it . . .

“As right now, every extra metre of track that is laid takes us in entirely the wrong direction of travel”.

Beauchampé might agree with Monbiot – paraphrased: “When a council-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and . . . public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?”


Links to relevant analyses: in the FT, sham consultations by Anna Minton (Royal Commission Fellow, Built Environment) and in the Guardian by award-winning journalist George Monbiot. Other information: The Midland Metro (Birmingham City Centre Extension, etc.) Order 2005

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 Working with others to retain a health service run for people, not profit:

There are many more, including the honourable whistleblowers who suffer injustice instead if being thanked – due to the character flaws of their superiors.

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The movement of the NHS into private hands whose priority is profit, not service is resisted:

Two of eight NHAP policies directly address this: 

  • De-commercialise the health system, with co-operation not markets.
  • Abolish the hugely expensive purchaser/provider split and wasteful competition.

Meanwhile Capita bids for lucrative NHS contracts, Atos Healthcare harasses many, Serco is challenged after a year running Suffolk’s community health services, and many hospitals, like Lewisham,  groan under the weight of PFI commitments . . .

 

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.

 

 

Before doubts about Capita’s renunciation of outsourcing were aired here, on May 10th the Post reported that Birmingham City Council’s £1 billion contract with Capita-Service Birmingham is to be closely scrutinised after senior Labour councillors voiced doubts about whether good services and value for money are being delivered. An independent assessment is to be made of this contract – which runs until 2020 – and of Service Birmingham’s performance. 

More information from hoarded files

In March the the city’s accounts were resubmitted at a cost of £300,000 and in an article detailing serious accountancy errors, Cllr Barry Henley was quoted in the Post as saying: “I believe that the council is concealing revenue spending as capital as a way of hiding the disastrous costs of Service Birmingham and our involvement with Capita.”

After Capita Consulting formed the joint venture ‘Service Birmingham’  with Birmingham City Council in 2006, it caused a backlog two years later in the payment of nearly 30,000 invoices at Birmingham City Council.

But the joint venture continues despite the consultancy’s record – its less than perfect performance and policies.

Capita projects have had problems all over the country – not only in this city – but most prospective employers seem undismayed:

  • The group lost its contract to administer housing benefits in Lambeth
  • Schools were forced to close because of delays to a database run by Capita to vet teachers. The government’s Department for Education and Skills scrapped the individual learning accounts scheme run by Capita, following allegations of fraud.
  • Its £400m project for the Criminal Records Bureau suffered early setbacks, with the company failing to meet specific targets.
  • Its founder Rod Aldridge was forced to quit Capita amid allegations his relationship with government was too close, after he lent £1m to the Labour party ahead of the general election.
  • It experienced problems as primary vendor for Transport for London’s congestion-charging scheme, with systems initially misreading as many as four vehicle registration plates in ten. It lost its contract in 2007.

We can only hope for the best and check our smoke alarms on reading the news that the London fire brigade is to outsource its control centre to Capita . . . the FT reports that the London deal is expected to be followed by other brigades nationwide.

Capita-Service Birmingham hit the headlines last year over proposals to offshore skilled IT jobs to India, which were later abandoned at a cost of £12 million to the taxpayer – or so we thought.

Information received, indicating that Capita was outsourcing ‘by the back door’, caused Adrian Goldberg to seek clarification on his WM Radio programme today.

He had been told that when employees left for some reason, or took voluntary redundancy, their work was passed on to someone in India on the SAT (satellite?) system.

Cllr. Mohammed Afzal, chairman of the Employment Matters Committee, was interviewed and said that these allegations must be investigated.

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An earlier post on this site asked why Capita is still apparently regarded as ‘competitive’ despite country-wide losses and service failures dating back at least to 2006.

Beyond the confines of acceptable lobbying, its chairman resigned because of publicity surrounding his loan to the Labour Party and last year the Birmingham Post gave details of considerable hospitality offered by Capita to the council’s chief executive Stephen Hughes.

Capita-Service Birmingham was given the IT and call centre contract at Birmingham City Council because it offered efficient service and promised huge cost savings – see their website.

However, on May 10th the Post reported that Birmingham City Council’s £1 billion contract with Capita-Service Birmingham is to be closely scrutinised after senior Labour councillors voiced doubts about whether good services and value for money are being delivered.

An independent assessment is to be made of this contract – which runs until 2020 – and of Service Birmingham’s performance.

This subject will be followed up on West Midlands Radio : 9am -12 Monday to Saturday.

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