Friday, 17 February 2017

Library reduction programme hits students at vital exam period

In its wisdom Barnet Council is downsizing most of Barnet's libraries. This will have  a massive impact for most residents on going. However, the programme of works to eviscerate the libraries is taking place during the key GCSE and A level period. No doubt some bod from Capita worked out how quickly they could implement the changes but, as usual, I don't think anyone bothered to check whether this made sense to users. As a result of both the downgrade works and the introduction of the Partnership Libraries, which will not operate unstaffed opening, it means that there are only three of Barnet's 14 libraries that are open throughout the exam period.

I have said before that Barnet's Conservative Councillors are out of touch with the reality of library usage. They think that children all have their own bedroom, a nice desk or dining room table to study at or as Cllr Davey mentioned at a recent meeting that they could go and study at their local Starbucks or Costa. The reality is that a significant number of children in the borough share bedrooms, have little or no study space and are dependent on libraries to carry out their revision. Children studying for their GCSE and A Levels study in libraries because they are quiet, they have tables where they can lay out their revision notes and they aren't obliged to pay £2.50+ for a cup of coffee each time they visit.  I speak as both a parent and someone who has spoken with children in East Barnet, currently forced to go up to Chipping Barnet library to study because East Barnet Library is closed for works.

To me, it seems like common sense to keep all libraries open during the exam period, but as is frequently the case, common sense is a scarce commodity in Barnet.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Is this evidence of Barnet's cuts to community based adult social care?

I like to explore the Barnet Council Open Data web portal. Often it is a source of interesting data which deserves a wider audience like how many senior council are paid more than an MP (and  the Prime Minister).

However, a recent data set (which you can see here) showed the number of service users in receipt of adult social care.  With all the current talk about the social care crisis, I had expected the numbers of service users to have grown steadily over the period which starts in the financial year 2008/09. Indeed it did grow until the year 2012/13 since which time it as declined so that the number of service users in receipt of social care is now lower than it was in 2008/09. I have summarised the data in a table below and in a graph but the key fall appears to be in the provision of community based services.

Given that I cannot believe that demand for community based adult social care has declined, is this evidence that cuts to the service provision are already taking place and does this mean potential service users are missing out on the care they really need?

Maybe the figures are faulty; maybe I have misinterpreted them; but to me it looks like community based care is being cut. I hope someone from Barnet Council can shed some light on this.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Capita get massive £45 million Christmas present from Barnet Council

I did wonder why the Barnet Council monthly expenditure figures weren't posted yesterday. Today I understand why. In December Capita were paid a staggering £45 million. Yes £45 million split £39 million on the CSG contract and £6 million on the Re contract. So far this financial year that brings the total payments to Capita to £96.5 million and there are still three months to go of this financial year.

I attended the evidence gathering session for the review of the Capita CSG contract back in July 2016, the only opportunity for the public to have any input to the review process. Six months later we get a report that says everything is coming up roses with this contract. Well Councillors, if you think that shelling out £96.5 million in just 9 months is acceptable then you clearly have lost touch with reality.

I understand that at last night's Council meeting Cllr Geof Cooke asked why the ruling group insisted on holding the review of the Re contract in secret. Apparently he was told by Cllr Finn it wasn't in secret, it was in private. I have absolutely no confidence in the working group doing anything other than giving the Re contract another clean bill of health.  Perhaps if these figures had been released before the meeting yesterday, the response to Cllr Cooke's question might had drawn greater criticism - or maybe not.

I call on all the ruling group Councillors especially Cllrs Finn and Zinkin who site on the working group to reconsider holding the Re contract review meetings in public, not in private, to explain why we are paying so much to Capita and to allow residents to understand what Councillors really feel about this contract.