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18 May 2014 | Will Green
Barnet Council is expecting two controversial outsourcing contracts to make combined savings of £165 million over 10 years.
The local authority was dubbed “easyCouncil”, in reference to a no-frills approach to service delivery, after it announced the One Barnet programme in 2010 in response to the government’s austerity programme.
Andrew Travers, chief executive at Barnet Council, told a conference: “There was a huge amount of controversy and high media profile for the programme. It was way out of proportion to what we were doing.”
He said the easyCouncil tag “certainly didn’t catch the programme in its entirety” and the customer and support group contract with Capita, which includes procurement, commercial services and a range of back office functions, would produce savings of £126 million.
Speaking at The Public Sector Show 2014 in London this week, he said: “It’s a contract that has enabled us to save a lot of money. We’re now paying a lot less than we used to. The savings come from being plugged into Capita’s national network.”
Travers said the other contract with Capita covered development and regulatory services in a joint venture model that was due to produce further savings of £39 million.
“We have changed our operating model to develop our new approach and become a commissioning council,” he said. “We have done the first three years of a prolonged period of austerity. It has left us with a mixed economy of delivery arrangements.”
The contracts with Capita were signed in August 2013 following a Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the council following a legal challenge brought by campaigners against the One Barnet programme.
Travers said the case had thrown up issues around public consultation. “We are trying to learn the lessons of our slightly rocky road,” he said. “We want to be the most transparent council there is.”