OpinioN8

Connecting Crouch End and Hornsey with news, views and information

You do get some bizarre discussion come up!

Apparently Haringey's Customer Services aren't very good - according to this article about Haringey's customer services only 63% of call to the Haringey call centre are answered - which is abysmal. According to Cllr Goldberg this is due to government cuts - but then according to Cllr G most things are. His answer is not to spend money on customer services, but on consultants to find out how to spend money on customer services.

Cllr Wilson (see the article) - thinks that what we will get from consultants is consultant speak - "crystallise the options" and such like, and that the money would be better spent within the council.

What do you think? Please answer my tiny poll in the panel on the right. Thanks

Tags: customer, services

Views: 283

Replies to This Discussion

I get really fed up when politicians ask us public to jump on a bandwagon opposing something about which we know NOTHING!  It was the same with the Whittington Hospital's plans.  I have little respect for politicians who do this because it's obvious the only reason they are whipping up the public is to stick the knife into politicians of another party.  With the Whittington, the Whittington management must know a lot better than I do whether it's a good idea to sell off their old buildings to raise money/ reduce costs, or whether the NHS services would be better organised and more efficient by making changes.

Similarly Haringey Council have the job of running their customer services and must know better than I do (given I know nothing) whether money spent on consultants will be a good investment and make their operation better/ more efficient in the future.  So it's complete arrogance for a member of the public to oppose or vote for or against something about which they know nothing (or next to nothing).  Having said all that, as an ex management consultant, I think that someone who DOES know about the situation at Haringey customer services, who is NOT a Politician and is unbiased, should ask for a justification of why £1.6m is a good amount to spend on consultants.  Sounds a helluva lot for me, and the consultants need to deliver a huge amount of quantifiable benefit to justify it.  But maybe they will do, and it's all already well argued, I have no idea.

I just wish these damned politicians could work TOGETHER to make wise decisions which are in the best interests of the public they serve, instead of spending their time and energy trying to discredit each other and getting little or nothing productive done as a result. How can Councils ever be run better if Councillors are more concerned about political fighting than making the necessary change so they can deliver their services efficiently?

Councillors, please ask Haringey Council to JUSTIFY why it's a good idea to spend £1.6 m on consultants, and send their justification to the public, and THEN ask the public to oppose or support it. Even then we wouldn't know enough to really form a good opinion, but at least we'd have some information on which to base our view.

 

Alison et al,

Your post is really well put. I wanted to wait till Scrutiny had met and made a decision on the "call-in" on this decision before replying, and attempting to explain a few things. As it turned out not even the Liberal Democrat members of the Committee were unable to support their own challenge to this decision. To understand why I thought it worth explaining to Council Tax payers why we think we needed to make this decision.

Firstly the £1.6m is an upper limit, and the award does not commit the Council to spend any money. Any monies spent will be made on a case by case basis, and will based on a robust business case which demonstrates return on investment. In truth we expect to spend nearer half this figure.

Secondly we have commissioned this work because we think residents of Haringey deserve a better service. The metrics used above relate to last year's performance. We have improved call answer rates to nearly 80% but both demonstrate the need for significant improvements.  The fact is residents are still having to wait too long. Spending this money on more call-centre staff, would increase staff numbers by 24 people but would still leave residents waiting unacceptably long - real finger in the dam stuff.

Finally to clarify on the issue of cuts; we now think that by 2016-17 Haringey will have had to cut something like half its budget from 2010 - monies equivalent to £144m. This is also a proportional cut to our budget some 13x larger than more affluent areas such as Richmond-upon-Thames, who have faced less cuts in the last three years than we faced in 2011-12 alone.

While we oppose such cuts, it is vital we plan ahead for this period in which we will have extremely limited resources. To be clear, failure to do so will barely leave the authority enough money to provide services for the elderly, disabled, and vulnerable children, and this is not a situation unique to Haringey.

That is why now we are setting about a re-design of the way our council operates and we are starting with customer services. We anticipate this work not only making processes more efficient, but also more satisfactory for residents, getting issues resolved faster in the future. It will do this by bringing council staff who deal with any one issue closer to us - their customers. 

In doing so our initial project work suggests we could free up anywhere between £5-9m a year to protect some of the key services I mentioned. 

I appreciate it is easy to make hay with such expenditure on consultants, but I thought you might be interested to know why we have taken this decision to spend precious resources in this way and to hear the other side of the argument. 

Joe Goldberg is a Haringey councillor (for Seven Sisters) and Cabinet member for Finance and Carbon Reduction (click this link to see the remainder of his extensive portfolio of responsibilities). I am delighted that he should choose to engage with OpinioN8 and thank him.

The agenda for the scrutiny meeting in respect of this particular 'call-in' can be found here. A number of things strike me about this agenda:

1) The membership is 3 majority party members and two opposition

2) the facts relating to the issue are not made available with the agenda but are "TO FOLLOW"

3) The only interesting bit of the meeting (item 8) will not be open to the public

4) The TO FOLLOW items can be found here which is where I think the minutes will eventually be published.

The Assistant Chief Executive's report contains an introduction by the Cabinet Member (Cllr Goldberg) which is full of his surprise and perplexity - I wonder how this insight into his state of mind helps us to understand the issue? Surely he should not be surprised that the opposition sometimes chooses to oppose! Cllr Goldberg finds it regrettable to refer to government cuts, but he does it anyway, again I wonder how this helps. And, as he points out in the response on this page, there yet remains scope for further savings.

Cllr Goldberg expresses interest in the views of the Overview and Scrutiny committee - by contrast with the Shared Intelligence report on Governance which states :

  • Although some scrutiny reports have had an impact on the council, overall the Overview and Scrutiny function does not have a discernable [sic] impact on the key policies or decisions made by the council; yet it imposes a considerable burden on the council due to the frequency of meetings and the very large number of written questions;

Apparently in 2005/6 the Haringey Customer Services department was good and improving (more detail here). Under whose management has it slipped so badly?

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