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Herts County Council - Lib Dems Ask "Could Bringing Services back In-House be more Effective and Efficient?

August 17, 2019 3:17 PM
Originally published by West Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats

Street LightNot for the first time have the Liberal Democrat members on Hertfordshire County Council questioned the appropriateness of outsourcing so much of the council's service provision to external contractors.

The county's experience with highway maintenance has not been happy, particularly with the simpler, more routine tasks. As contractors have adopted more rigid management practices, particularly with first-line supervisory management, these have resulted in more and more instances of inefficiencies: -

  • needlessly repetitive visits to the same sites,
  • large proportions of the operatives' working day unproductively spent driving from distant depots
  • obvious faults left unattended because authorisation for repair not given to team on the spot
  • work not carried out because of rigid adherence to a timetable or an obvious omission of an asset from the asset register.

The common threads in all these examples are: -

  • poor or non-existent supervision,
  • a total lack of discretion allowed to staff on the spot,
  • game-playing with performance indicators to maximise the contractors' profits
  • a refusal by senior managers to improve or vary their working practices
  • a serious lack of competion in an industry dominated by a small handful of companies which are usually subsidiaries of large multinationals.

Repair Delay (Cllr Andy Boddington)Corresponding inefficiencies and rigidities are also to be found in other activities to deliver the county's responsibilities, e.g. in home care and residential care.

This issue has been the subject of an earlier posting, which can be found by clicking on https://tinyurl.com/y348j6rm

The conclusion we reached then seems to be still valid,viz. the larger jobs seem to go well but the smaller the work the greater the inefficiency and delay.

With these problems in mind Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst moved the following resolution, which was seconded by fellow Liberal Democrat, Cllr John Hale: -

"In the light of the Financial Outlook Reports to Cabinet Panels, this Council resolves to request that the Leader of the Council sets up a Members Advisory Group tasked with undertaking a review of all the Council's contractual arrangements for the provision of services, with a view to identifying those which could be brought in-house in order to reduce expenditure and provide a more effective and cost efficient service."

Unfortunately due to the exiration of time the Chairman ruled that this motion could not be debated and would therefore fall.

The Liberal Democrat will raise the matter again at a future Council Meeting.

Pic thanks to Cllr Andy Boddington, Ludlow