Friday, 2 December 2011

OCC response to my previous blog

I had a email as follows from John Jackson the Director for Social and Community services :

"Dear Mr. Craig,

It has been drawn to our attention that you have made a number of assertions about back office costs. Your assertions have been seen by a number of politicians. We believe that the assertions are incorrect and have provided a briefing note which sets out why. I have attached a copy of that briefing note. In the interests of accuracy, I am asking you to consider whether you should publish this note on your website or alternatively revise the content of the website in the light of this additional information.

Yours sincerely
John Jackson
Director for Social & Community Services
01865 323 574"

To which I responded:
"Dear Mr Jackson,

In the interests of putting the OCC side of the argument I will publish your note in full on my blog. This doesn't mean I agree with its content or as Mr Mitchell has advised I should apologise for misleading people. I believe the issue is that we disagree on what the definition of back office costs is. I still maintain the opinion that the library service will be top heavy, and the back office bigger than front if these proposals go through (especially with the extra costs of volunteer training and self service annual costs). I am also of the opinion that OCC have made a hash of the entire process and have done the taxpayers a great disservice with these proposals. Other library services around the UK spend a far smaller amount on these "other expenditure" costs and management and professional/service support. Yet I believe these are being protected and the mainly rural libraries are being penalised. To borrow a phrase, turkey's are never going to vote for Christmas.

All the confusion and anger around these proposals would have been mitigated in part by OCC being open and transparent from the start on these proposals.

I will post the letter later tonight on my blog after I have visted my local library that you propose to cut the staffing funding to by 66%

With kind regards,

Trevor Craig"

So here is there letter in full:

This note has been prepared by Oxfordshire County Council to respond to assertions made on the blog of Trevor Craig who is an individual concerned at possible changes to Oxfordshire libraries.

Mr. Craig incorrectly asserts that library budgets are currently split £6.2m front office and £4.8m back office and that, after the implementation of the savings plan, the front and back office costs will both be £4.5m. This note sets out the full position to ensure that the public is not misled.

All of the costs that he has described as ‘back office’ are integral to the functioning of the library service and the provision of that service to its customers. Within ‘back office’, he has included for instance:

• The staffing and transport costs of the mobile library service
• The pay costs of professional librarians
• The cost of maintaining the library management system
• The running costs of the library buildings including business rates and repair & maintenance

Using an accepted definition of ‘back office’, the cost of providing support services to libraries such as payroll, finance, ICT and legal advice would total around £0.9m or 8% of the total Library Service budget.

Mr Craig tries to demonstrate that after the budget has been reduced following the restructure of the service, front office and back office budgets will be equal in size. This is incorrect. Spending on library management, professional and service support (all of which he classes as ‘back office’) will fall by £273,000 as a result of the reorganisation already announced. Spending on other support services will also reduce over the next three years.

There is an assumption in the blog that front line services are being cut and back office services are being protected. This is not correct. Oxfordshire County Council has a continuing programme of efficiencies for its central support services which will reduce costs by at least £8.6m per annum by 2014/15.

The next two pages sets out the detailed financial analysis that supports what we have said above.


Table in Mr Craig’s Blog:

Before Cuts
£ After Cuts
Management / Service Support 1,700,000 1,400,000
Internal Head Office Costs 3,100,000 3,100,000
Libraries 6,200,000 4,500,000

Total Back Office 4,800,000 4,500,000
Total Front Line 6,200,000 4,500,000

Analysis of what is contained in the £4.8m ‘back office’ costs:

Library service costs
Management 620
Professional librarians 540
Service support 270
Transport 130 Employee costs of the mobile library and delivery services
Library management system support 140 Galaxy book issuing and record system
Computing 320 Galaxy third party support & other IT costs
Supplies & services 260 Miscellaneous non book purchases, most of which are of direct benefit to library users e.g. photocopiers, printing & stationery.
Transport 155 Running costs of the mobile library fleet and delivery vehicles
Total direct costs to the library service 2,435

Costs incurred elsewhere and recharged to the Library Service
Property Recharges 1,729 The property budget is recharged to directorates on a rate per square metre of floor area occupied. It includes repair & maintenance, business rates, rents, service charges, insurance, facilities management and professional property fees.
Directorate Recharges 110 Directorate management and support

Human Resources 243 Payroll, health & safety, Human Resources support & advice, recruitment, learning & development. The recharge is based on the number of full time equivalent employees within each service.
Finance 80 Accountancy, accounts payable, income collection. The recharge is based on the size of budget, number of invoices processed, the invoices raised.
ICT 190 System support & development, help desk, data management & storage, licensing. The recharge is based on the number of users.
Legal 3 Legal advice
Other 10 Customer services, corporate services etc
Total Recharges 2,365
TOTAL 4,800

Obviously this has wonkied up all the formatting, if you want to read it as intended you can here:

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