Posted tagged ‘outsourcing’

Being humble

August 31, 2011

What happens if you don't have enough of either?

Today we have a guest post from someone who has simply done a better job of tackling this topic than we could. We hope you agree.

If you too would like to submit a piece please drop us a line at but not before you’ve read this:

As a parent, I know that the day will come when my children will be better at something than I was, as the day came when I was better than my parents: it’s just that I hoped that my children would be out of the infants before it happened.

I have a confession here: I have never been able to whistle.  I am very pleased that this has never featured on a competency based job description or person specification as I might have had to write something like “whistling is an area of development for me, particularly when contrasted with humming, which is a particular strength of mine and more than compensates for any whistling related deficiencies”.

Miss Guest Blogger, perhaps aided by some teeth falling out, has found out that she can whistle, and is practising hard at it.  She was even more delighted when she found out that I was unable to whistle, and encouraged me to try a little harder “come on Dad” she says “you just need to practice a little”.  I am entirely comfortable in saying that I am unable to whistle and that there are many other people who can whistle better than me.

It got me thinking: when do you hear people in Local Government saying “you know, we can’t do that, we are no good at it and we should get somebody else to do it”? Or how about: ‘I think on balance I’m not the right person for this exciting opportunity’.


Local Government by contract?

April 11, 2011

Beyond the known knowns?

“Stuff Happens” (Donald Rumsfeld)

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” (John Maynard Keynes)

Forgive the diversion into quotes from yester-year but I hope they will help me ask a simple question about the outsourcing of council services.

This past week I have been knee deep in a contract with an external service provider of my local authority. This contract is for a substantial period of time and yet already we are in the position of needing to change something.

Obviously, needing to change something is going to cost us money. Even the most friendly contractor does, in my experience, require a certain amount of money to change anything they’d originally agreed to do.

The assumption of a lot of outsourcing is therefore that:

a)      Any changes can be predicted in advance and therefore written into a contract or:

b)      The service is so straightforward that we won’t need to change anything significant no matter how long the period of the contract

My experience is that this is not always the case.

I heard of a council that felt they had managed to negotiate an amazing deal. In 2007 (ish) they let a ten year contract that promised 2.5% efficiencies per year over the term of the deal. In 2011, they now realise that the deal is not delivering anything like what they need it to in terms of cuts/efficiencies and are not having much luck in renegotiating. What they thought was a great deal is now anything but. (more…)

In praise of accountants

January 27, 2011

The bean counters have computers now!

In one of my previous local government incarnations we were going through a restructure and the powers that be had made it clear that, as so often, they would do everything in their powers to ‘protect the frontline’. One of my colleagues, only half in jest I believe, suggested that he was going to print some T-shirts for my team with the slogan: ‘back office staff are people too.’

I’m reminded of this frequently in recent times as politicians, managers, tweeters, bloggers and commentators all talk of implementing cuts that won’t affect the ‘frontline’. The hidden message in this language is that the back-office staff don’t really matter and cutting them won’t really make any difference.

Local Government workers, and hopefully blog readers, don’t need me to tell you that this is baloney. For example, there is not a member of staff who is not 100% reliant on the work of their IT department.

Despite this I recently found myself saying something similar about our finance department. I think my words consisted of something like: ‘there are quite a lot of them down there; what do they do exactly?’ I guess in times of cuts everyone looks for a scapegoat.

I was wrong of course. Good local government accountants are indispensible.