Capita review could see Barnet Council services return in-house
Simon Allin, LDRS
- Credit: Arjun Mittra/Barnet Council/LDRS
Barnet Council is looking to insource four services which have been run by contractor Capita for the past eight years.
A review of the council’s two major contracts with the firm proposes insourcing highways, regeneration, procurement and regulatory services when the original 10-year deals end in 2023.
Six services would stay with Capita, while a further four would be subject to a short extension before a decision is made on whether to bring them in-house.
The contracts review, which had been held up by the Covid-19 pandemic, was presented to a meeting of the financial performance and contracts committee on Tuesday.
John Hooton, Barnet Council’s chief executive, told the meeting the review was about “how we get the best possible services for residents”, admitting there had been some “delivery challenges” with services that could be insourced.
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He added: “I think for all of those services, people and services are being delivered from Barnet, and I think we feel there is an opportunity to improve the quality of service in the future and deliver those services for at least the same cost or cheaper by integrating them into the council.”
But opposition councillors raised doubts over the review’s scope and effectiveness. Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Liberal Democrat, Garden Suburb) suggested the council could have gone further and proposed to bring other parts of the contracts in house, such as customer services.
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Cllr Rozenberg said the long-term trend for the contracts had been “a steady admission that this bit doesn’t make sense, and this bit doesn’t make sense, and this bit isn’t commercially viable”.
Cllr Arjun Mittra (Lab, East Finchley) said the move felt like a "bit of a reward" for Capita, but Mr Hooton denied this and said the firm's remaining contracts would be worth substantially less.
Barnet Council brought finance and strategic HR back in house in 2019, while pensions management was moved from Capita to West Yorkshire Pension Fund last year.
The chief executive said he did not think the review was a “reward for Capita”, as the firm would be “earning less money from a smaller set of contracts”.
Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings (Coppetts) raised concerns that Capita would still have ownership of key data and information after the proposed contracts shake-up – and suggested there should have been a “wider discussion” about alternatives.
Labour councillors voted against the proposed approach to public consultation and the direction of travel for each service, but they were backed by Conservative committee members.
The council will launch consultations with the public and staff before making any decisions on the proposals set out in the review.