In-house/public sector comparator

Barnet Alliance is campaigning to oppose the One Barnet programme and at the same time asking that Barnet Council commit to developing an in-house comparator. It is important that residents understand what this means and how other councils invest in ensuring that best practice in this field is followed.

What have the private sector bidders been doing?

For the last 12 months the bidders have had full access to all the relevant financial/operational data about the council services to be privatised. The information is all downloaded to a data room which is online. The bidders are also given access to senior managers to ask question about the services. At the end of 12 months they are asked to submit their final bid to deliver council services.

Edinburgh Council

Edinburgh Council carried out their own version of the One Barnet programme. However, there was one crucial difference: they wanted to make sure they made the right decision and therefore funded an in-house/public sector comparator. They continued to go through the complex procurement exercise but all the time knew they would have an in-house comparator to test against the bids from the private sector organisations bidding to run their services.

Barnet Council have refused to follow this good practice.

How long does it take to develop an in-house bid?

In Edinburgh, consultants the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) were asked to produce a high level in-house alternative which took around three months to develop. Once this was producedthe Council insisted that they worked up an alternative which could be implemented. This took about a year to produce and involved staff across all levels. This final version was submitted to the relevant committee to be assessed against the bids submitted by the private sector.

There is time to pull back and develop an in-house bid

The first One Barnet project to go before the Cabinet Committee for a final decision is the New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO), worth in excess of £750 million. On 6 December 2012 members of Barnet Council Cabinet Committee could award a contract to BT or Capita.

The Cabinet also has the option to decide not to award the contract to either contractor and to choose instead to work with UNISON, APSE and residents to develop an alternative in-house service. We urge them to take this course!