Thursday, 27 October 2011

Save the back office at all costs

I got the data from one of the other friends groups on the savings being made by the roll out of self service across the larger libraries. No staff are being sacked (unlike the rural libraries) but natural wastage is being used to cull the numbers. It still means less front line staff in libraries though. What confirmation of these figures means is we can see how the cuts are spread within the service with the actual data. My last post on this was projected on the data we had available at the time. It is more or less as expected though. The library service is being cut by 25% and of that 25%  almost all the cuts are to the front line 86.22%.  Keith clearly doesn't understand Tory policy:

So not only are the rural libraries taking a bigger proportion of the cuts to their existing spend 66% & 33% to the 15% in the city libraries and 15% of back office. The back office is only taking 13.78% of total cuts. How this fits with Tory policy and ideology I have no idea.

It does get worse though, this doesnt include the internal recharge costs of the library service. We know OCC are very inefficient compared to other shire authorities as I showed in a previous post:

This is the costs of IT, HR, admin, payroll etc to OCC that are not part of the library service but are incurred costs of running it. Compared to Staffordshire and Notts, Oxfordshire CC are performing woefully. You would imagine they would be bearing down hard on these costs. But no, according to the CIPFA submissions they are only estimating this going down from 3.2 million to 3.1 million:

This is only a 3.1% decrease. This is estimate, but the total has gone up since 2008 and they are only projecting it to decrease very slightly. They have had plenty time to sort out their back office, this is really poor when you consider bigger library services in other shire counties can do it for considerably cheaper.

As a proportion of the total spend the back office is going to increase if this is how Keith does efficiency. In fact under the proposals it is likely the back office spend will end up bigger than the front line spend if you include the internal recharge in the total.

Keith will keep spouting the social care v libraries nonsense to wind the voters of Oxfordshire up and muddy the waters. He should get the back office sorted before a single front line service gets cut. By the time voters get a chance to have their say on his competence in 2013 he will be long gone as his division will have disappeared.

I think any Tory that votes for this proposal should think very hard about what their party stood for at the election, what their party policy is on cuts and should we pay taxes then have to provide services to ourselves.

This is an issue of right and wrong, the savings can be made without touching the front line. OCC hasn't tried.

Friday, 14 October 2011

What would you cut 4.0

Update 24/Oct/2011
Even though OCC are supposedly cutting the back office to save front line services, on top of the 8 new policy officers they are also hiring two deputy directors:

Social care is taking 31 million pounds worth of cuts they can still afford to hire two directors on 98k each. Totting up the pension contributions and the numbers below for the new policy officers the total spend on back office will be going up by approximately  £467,153.75.

I'm sure the youth centres, elderly and library users will be pleased.

Despite the supposed savage cuts and back office efficiencies Oxfordshire County Council OCC still have enough spare cash to recruit 8 new policy officers. I think in the modern political vernacular they call them SPADS. I don't know if these are new roles or replacements. Either way it sounds like a entire new department being created:

I have totted up the numbers based on the average of the roles and the numbers are below:

They obviously need all these new policy officers to drive through the policies of cutting youth centres, cutting adult social care and cutting rural libraries.  Below is the "Main Purpose of Job" bit from each of the roles:

 Senior Policy & Performance Officer X2:
"The purpose of the job is to work as part of a small central team providing a 
framework within which the council can function effectively. The post holder 
will be required to work in a fast paced environment to deliver organisational 
improvement and policy development, driving through business efficiency and 
cultural change. The post holder will lead by example, promote the values of 
the organisation, facilitate others to deliver their objectives and facilitate a 
joined up holistic approach and culture across the Council.
The post holder will lead on the delivery of a range of high profile projects that 
are critical to the organisation. They will work alongside the service areas to 
write strategies and implementation plans, providing support, advice and 
challenge on a range of important issues. They will work flexibly and function 
within a within a matrix management system. 
This post holder is responsible for ensuring that all relevant County policies 
and procedures are adhered to and concerns are raised in accordance with 
these policies"

 Policy & Performance Office X3:
"The purpose of the job is to work as part of a small central team providing a 
framework within which the council can function effectively. The post holder 
will be required to work in a fast paced environment to deliver organisational 
improvement and policy development, driving through business efficiency and 
cultural change. The post holder will lead by example, promote the values of 
the organisation, facilitate others to deliver their objectives and facilitate a 
joined up holistic approach and culture across the Council.
Working to a project manager, the policy officer will be responsible for 
delivering wide-ranging projects and vital functions in support of the Council’s 
Business Strategy and corporate priorities, based on a matrix-management 
approach. This is likely to cover a wide-range of issues, and will extend from 
early formulation of policy ideas through to a role in delivery and supporting 
others to ensure that change is embedded in the organisation. 
This post holder is responsible for ensuring that all relevant County policies 
and procedures are adhered to and concerns are raised in accordance with 
these policies"

 Policy & Performance Support Officer X3:

"This is a training post and the expectation is that whilst the post holder would 
contribute to the work of the Policy Unit, they would do so whilst learning on 
the job.  The purpose of the job is to work as part of a small central team 
providing a framework within which the council can function effectively. The 
post holder will be required to work in a fast paced environment to deliver 
organisational improvement and policy development, driving through business 
efficiency and cultural change. The post holder will lead by example, promote 
the values of the organisation, facilitate others to deliver their objectives and 
facilitate a joined up holistic approach and culture across the Council.
Working to a project manager, the policy support officer will be responsible for 
supporting the delivery of wide-ranging projects and vital functions in support 
of the Council’s Business Strategy and corporate priorities, based on a matrix management 
approach. This is likely to cover a wide-range of issues, and will extend from early
 formulation of policy ideas through to a role in delivery and supporting others to ensure
 that change is embedded in the organisation. This post holder is responsible for 
ensuring that all relevant County policies and procedures are adhered to and
 concerns are raised in accordance with these policies"

With the prevailing wind at OCC of getting the communities to provide the services for themselves, its clearly vital we have these brave men and women providing "frameworks", "joined up holistic approaches" and "cultural change".  Clearly needed when communities get the one off Big Society grant and have to provide services they have already paid for themselves:

We can all be happy knowing OCC has a top team of policy officers taking up the back office slack. The OCC definition of the big society is to have a expensive team of back office administrators with the plebs delivering the front line services to themselves as volunteers. Remind me what I pay my taxes for again? Below is a OCC run hospital waiting for the volunteer clinical staff to turn up and deliver the services they have already paid for.

P.S it is cut libraries or cut social care. Keith said so.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What would you cut 3.0?

Update 21/10/2011

They got back to me with the cost of this video:

This single video cost £9950 and has had 1330 views, it cost £7 per view. The content of the video is described by occ as:

"This film details the excellent transport planning that Oxfordshire County Council has previously implemented (Park & Ride, the 'Hamburger' Roundabout) as well as some of the challenges that the council faces over the coming decades. The film has been made for a forthcoming Local Government Association conference."

Anyone who has used public transport in Oxfordshire or driven around the county will probably dispute the "excellent transport planning" that OCC sees fit to spend 10k on a video to boast to other councils about. This obviously bumps up the average cost of the videos and the estimated cost of the OCC youtube channel. I won't do the calculations but obviously if they are still making videos now then this pointless self promotion internally and to other councils via the pointless and costly Local Government Association is more important than social care and libraries.

I just received a partial response to my FOI on the costs of the Oxfordshire County Council You Tube Channel. To stay within the FOI limit I was only allowed the costs of ten videos of my choice. The ten videos I chose were:

  1. Turn It Up! Film Part 1
  2. The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury
  3. Lisa Michelson and Des Fitzgerald - Policy and Review officers
  4. John Jackson's introduction
  5. Transforming learning
  6. Volunteering in Oxfordshire
  7. Spinning the Wheel
  8. Climate Change
  9. Transport planning in Oxfordshire
  10. Oxfordshire County Council's Skills for Life case study

I will post the full FOI at the bottom, I'm just going to extrapolate the costs of the eight videos (Still waiting on costs for 7 and 9) and do some cost per video/cost per channel view statistics. OCC use one week out of 52 to do annual library visits so I think using 8 videos as a basis for the approximate costs of 95 videos is fair.

Of the 8 videos I have been given data for 3 were done externally for free by other bodies as minimal or zero cost to occ, this gives a percentage of 62.5% of the videos had a cost.

In some cases there were internal costs as well and for one of the examples they gave me a cost per hour of £19.3. I will have used this to map to the other examples where they gave me staffing hours but not costs.

Here are the figures, it is worked out on the five videos that have a cost, and the percentage of costs/non-costs videos extrapolated to the entire channel:

Obviously this is extrapolated data from a sample of around 10%. Without the full costs it is impossible to know the exact figure. I think it gives a good indication though, each video they pay for costs thousands, very few people watch them and 62.5 percent of the videos are paid for by Oxfordshire taxpayers.

This hasn't been cut by the way, the spending is still ongoing, they are still uploading videos. The last one was six days ago:

Strategic Joint Committee Toolkit

This video has had 10 views (two of them were me!) and is ten minutes long. It asks the question "why do schools have to work in partnership" and features the Education Transformation Manager and the School Governance and Accountability Manager talking about schools working in partnership. I have a couple of great ideas just on this one video:

  1.  Send the headteachers the words you are speaking and the pictures on the video on bits of paper or via email, they can read
  2. The two managers should focus more on the failing schools rather than filming videos.
This video came out recently and may have cost nothing to OCC, and indeed some of the other videos have actual merit, The building a sandbag wall, making a complaint, becoming a councillor.

But I'm sorry but there is little cost benefit from most of these videos, they have been made at great expense to the taxpayer and nobody is watching them. I know what I would cut.

Here are a couple of examples of videos on youtube that actually get watched and have merit in my opinion:

Keith annoying the students:

Keith talks about democracy! And it shows him with the picture of Maggie on his desk watching over him

And a tip to OCC on youtube videos and getting views:

Include funny cats:

Seriously watch the cat video, its what you tube is for and if it doesn't make you laugh then you are dead.

Here is the link to the FOI on the videos:

Remember if they don't cut libraries they have to cut adult social care, Keith said so.

Monday, 10 October 2011

What would you cut 2.0

So annoyed with the flawed premise put forward by the leader of Oxfordshire County Council I have decided to put another few graphs together showing the adult social care budget, library budget and some other areas of spending from CIPFA submissions and the > £500 spending data.

Here is the library service spend with the adult social care spend:

The library service with other areas of spend in OCC. The last two are the cuts to the rural libraries and city.

And zooming in further the cuts to the rural and city libraries under their proposal.

And Keith's line is there has to be cuts to social care if cuts are not made in the library service. Are you sure Keith? The back office spend on libraries, internal library recharge, redacted spending, mobile phones, consultants and expenses etc are all running at 100% efficiency?  Really?

And as we have already proved thanks to "elf and safety" forcing volunteers to run the rural libraries won't actually save the 350k, the training required for the volunteers and the 60k volunteer coordinator mean the proposals actually make a loss every year.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Increased efficiency, the OCC way

There is lots of nonsense coming from Keith Mitchell with the old chestnut that adult social care has to be cut harder to save the libraries, he blames the "lefties" for this. For this argument to hold water, every single bit of spending that isn't necessary or ring fenced has to have been cut within the council. I would love him to be able to prove this, obviously it isn't actually possible. That's why the choice isn't binary and simplistic as Keith argues. The Conservative part of the government are urging public bodies to resist making front line cuts and to make efficiencies in the back office and on expensive salaries. Numerous quotes from Pickles and the Cameron support this position.

Below is the basic salaries of the head of the civil service in the United Kingdom, Prime minister and the executive team at Oxfordshire county council:

The head of the civil service is in charge of every single public sector employee in the country, I think the figure is 6-7 million depending on whose figures you trust. The prime minister is politically accountable for all those civil servants and the population of the UK which is 61 million. The head of OCC is responsible for 22 thousand employees and 680 thousand members of the public in Oxfordshire. For fairness I will include Keith in this, he gets 31k allowance which to his credit is quite competitive compared to some council leaders I have looked at. One of the arguments when executive salaries are questioned is they are running a company with a big budget, they are the equivilent to a FTSE 250 company and the you pay peanuts you get monkey's line. 

Its another false argument. The FTSE 250 companies are there because they are the biggest 250 companies on the stock exchange outside the FTSE 100. Their executives get paid lots of money because their companies are performing well, if they stop performing and drop out of the 250 they would be held accountable, I.E they would get the sack. Just because the figures involved financially may be similar, it doesn't make them worthy of comparison. Not only are chief execs not accountable for performance in the same way as the private sector, they don't actually take the big decisions, councillors do this and they are held responsible by the electoriate. The officers don't have to give quotes to the media on bed blocking issues, cogges link road, or the school failures in the county. The cabinet councillor responsible for the department has to do that. For these reasons I have used the average chief exec salary that comes from the Office for National Statistics figures, I believe this is a fairer benchmark to measure the salaries against.

I understand there are legal reasons why the pay for executives cannot be cut, but if they were subjected to a 25% pay cut in line with what the front line services are having to take then OCC would save 170k which could be plowed into adult social care, youth centres or dare I say it libraries. This is based just on their basic salary, there is also pension contributions and other perks that I don't have exact figures for. Other councils in the UK are getting rid of senior execs or actually sharing them with other councils. I don't know how well this works but I think people would rather see the money spent better.

One of the other things I am concerned about is the tier further down. By law councils have to release the numbers of staff on over 50k. They make it difficult of course by not giving job titles or the actual salaries. Below is the non-school numbers:

Because we only have the banding's we cannot do exact figures. We can do maximum, minimum or average. What is clear that from the financial year 2009-2010 the numbers on over 50k basic salary actually went up by five. They lost a couple of the 100k people, I would imagine through natural wastage but the numbers went up. On the actual salary spend, despite loosing the two 100k people the salary spend on this group actually increased. Not a massive increase but it still went up. This is in the context of the leader telling us they can only cut libraries or adult social care, the county is broke and all the rest of the stuff he comes out with. A increased headcount and a increase salary spend on the over 50k staff isn't "savage cuts" or efficiencies in the back office, it is quite the opposite.

Another area I had a another look at was the spending data. Between November 2010 and July 2011 OCC has spent £3,064,941.66 on consultants. That's a average of £340,549.07 a month or approximately 4 million a year. Again I'm not stupid enough to say this isn't all legitimate spending but when the leader argues its one thing or another I get angry. 

Even within the library service itself they spend far more on back office that other shire counties. One of my previous posts goes into detail on this:

Looking at all this I see why Keith resorts to childish insults and nonsense binary arguments that have no basis in reality, he cannot argue on facts because he doesn't have any. He has failed to make OCC more efficient or to save the front line as he is instructed to by his own parties position. He has poisoned debate in Oxfordshire to cover for his own failings and I think he should be cut.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Phony War

Leader of Oxfordshire County Council Keith Mitchell (pictured) has come out in the Guardian of all papers to blame the social care cuts on the "well heeled lefties" in the county. Its interesting that he has chosen the lefty paper to make this assertion, its almost as if he wants to wind up the "lefties" in Oxford.

There is a great phrase used by Bill Clinton in his auto-biography on a tactic used by right wing politicians. The phrase is called "reverse plastic surgery". What it means is to misrepresent the stance and/or argument of your opponent(s) and keep repeating the lie until people believe it. The modern tea party use this quite a lot. What I think Keith is doing here is actually quite cunning. The people protesting against the current library proposals are largely voters in Tory villages where all of the library cuts are happening under this proposal. His plan I believe then is:

A. Muddy the argument and make it about something else
B. Wind the lefties up so his own side closes ranks against them and votes through the proposal, regardless of any evidence that it won't work.

I hope the Conservative group in Oxfordshire see through his little gambit, he clearly thinks they are easily convinced if they are told the lefties win if they vote against his proposals. The people against the current proposals are the people in your divisions who vote in the main Conservative, not the people in "lefty" Oxford that Keith has gone to great pains to wind up, their library users are not being forced to volunteer.

The reality of the situation is the proposal will lead to library closures, won't save any money and will create a massive bureaucratic burden on the council trying to manage the training for all the volunteers. All the other options that the other libraries are doing in the future libraries program are being ignored, back office shares, supply chain efficiencies etc. It is a very un-tory proposal on the table. I doubt Keith's hero Maggie would like it and I if it does get pushed through Keith's legacy when he leaves in the next 12 months (his division is disappearing) will be to greatly diminish the tory vote in Oxfordshire.

Update 06/10/11 22:13

Even the Torygraph thinks Keith's latest outburst is "astonishing". I think Keith may be leaving sooner than he thinks if the telegraph thinks he has gone bat-shit crazy.

p.s I'm not a "lefty"

Keith's original article:

The excellent response by Patrick Butler: