Thursday, 17 November 2011

Save the back offices at all costs

I was thinking about the back office costs and why they aren't shared with other authorities. I thought to my self, it must be political. Then I checked and actually every single county that surrounds Oxfordshire has a Tory administration. This is very disappointing because I presume via the LGA and the party all of the county leaders actually know each other. The MLA has suggested that authorities sharing the back office can save up to 25% of costs to the library service. I think in borough's this is probably true as they sit right next to each other. In shire counties I appreciate that because of the distances involved not all back office functions can be shared. The fact remains though, if you don't physically touch the books as part of the role there is no requirement for that role to be within the actual area of the libraries you manage. I don't know the full situations or have the detail on the other authorities but to get a rough idea I have used the OCC back office costs and did a few calculations on how much the savings would be if Oxfordshire became a back office hub for the surrounding counties. The officers would argue that the counties are too big and the distances are too great. I'm sorry but for office based jobs this point doesn't hold water. Some back office functions do require a physical presence, for this reason I have pushed the library hub cost up to a generous amount so the percentage savings would be 15%. This coupled with the self service savings in large libraries would mean Oxfordshire would save 30% of the cost of running the library service. I am aware there would be start up issues and it would take a while to setup but I am certain it would be easier than trying to manage a thousand volunteers in Oxfordshire alone. Obviously these are all based on the spend in our county, some may have higher some lower but its worth further looking into further. I suspect the officers haven't consulted with their colleagues in the shires on this and give a "no it won't work" when asked by their political masters. The services are provided for the benefit of the taxpayers not the staff. If this is the case then they are destroying the library service to save their own skins and I find that very sad. If councils were FTSE250 companies as they keep telling me, there is no way they would be so close together in the private sector and not have shared staffing costs, Sir Humphrey wouldn't like this though, his empire is only allowed to grow.

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  1. You've probably been over this but just in case... OCC don't replace senior county library bod (save £80k + Pension + NI). OCC install energy efficient lighting in all libraries (save £70k, more if energy costs rise). OCC recruit volunteer cleaning staff for all libraries. NO CRB checks for using a vacuum or cleaning materials, no data protection issues and no specialist training. No dramas if a cleaner misses a day.(save £130k). Saving PA is approx £280k. Add to back office savings and also discount budget for training volunteer library support staff and you're in the £500k ball park. All the librarians are still in work.
    If I were feeling cynical I might think that KM is determined to push through his "vision" for libraries (Nov 2010) and tow the party line on the Big Society. Any thoughts very much appreciated.

  2. They could easily make the savings without cutting the funding to rural libraries. The big society cannot be seen to fail in the PM's patch is the problem. The stupid thing is the big society already exists in libraries. In Wychwood the volunteers run loads of activities that if the we have to run the library will be lost. I just wish politicians would look at the evidence first and then make policy rather than come up with stupid ideas and try and find evidence to fit afterwards.