Saturday, November 28, 2009

More from a totally bad place

Since Total Place is going to be so significant for our members I have been looking to see who has what to say about it.

Searching the UNISON website throws up a link to the latest National Joint Council pay claim – which sensibly points out that joint working under the auspices of total place will throw into sharp relief the relatively lower pay of local government workers.

This is a sensible use of the total place agenda to advance the interests of our members, but not a response to the threat which the total place agenda poses to our members across service groups.

Searching the TUC website for the phrase “Total Place” currently returns no documents, and whilst the less sensitive search engines on the GMB and UNITE sites throw up long lists, none of them are about Total Place.

I can’t find much more in the small pond that is the union-related blogosphere. UNISON blogger John Gray mentioned Total Place briefly after the September Regional Committee and this was picked up by the anonymous semi-official UNISON Active blog, even more briefly.

Whilst the trade union movement is not yet paying sufficient attention to this threat, diligent individuals can pursue Freedom of Information requests to flush out the costs being incurred (and are).

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government an outfit called “Tribal” stand to get £278,000 to write some reports about the current Total Place pilots. What they have to say (over on the admirable “What Do They Know?” site) is worth repeating;

“Tribal have been commissioned to support the local work of the pilots in the counting public expenditure, deep dive into specific service themes, and customer insight work. Two separate contracts, 'Spend Counting and Deep Dive' and 'Customer Insight', were established through open competition.The remit of the 'Spend Counting and Deep Dive' project is to build on the work of the pilots by identifying common issues and what bearing central government budgeting has on these, to illustrate the complexity of spending arrangements through spend pathway maps and to produce an evaluative report on Total Place. It will cost £218k (excluding VAT). This contract does not include development of the deep dives. This is a local responsibility of the pilots who select the service themes, consider the exiting situation and then develop the initial proposals. These initial proposals will be refined in collaboration with relevant central government departments. The Local Government Association Leadership Centre provides support to this process. The remit of the 'Customer Insight' project is to assess the use of customer insight information by Total Place pilots; what insight information is available, how it is used and does it influence service delivery. It will cost £60k (excluding VAT)”.

The various Total Place pilots seem to provide rich pickings for consultants, and clearly there is also considerable scope for the Plain English Campaign to offer their assistance so that we know what on earth the civil servants are on about (Deep Dive could be this but might as well be this).

Although the originator of Total Place says it is not primarily about saving money it so obviously is. The Managing Director of the Leadership Centre for Local Government says that Total Place is about delivering fundamentally better services yet the pilot areas are now developing proposals for next year’s budget, and the Total Place website itself says that one of the aims of Total Place is to deliver early savings to validate the work. This is about cuts, but not everyone will suffer.

When public authorities have to make big changes to achieve big savings that also means large earnings for consultants. The author of an article in Local Government Chronicle welcoming Total Place is also a Director of a company offering consultancy services to local authorities.

UNISON has done pathbreaking work to expose the Public Service Industry – we need now to turn our attention to what is going on with Total Place, who is doing it and how much they are earning from it. We need to analyse the origins of this threat from the work of the Institute of Governance and Public Management (about which I blogged yesterday) and see where and how it will threaten our members and our public services.

(And, of course, the formal pilots for Total Place are just part of the picture. Barnet’s Tory Council is racing ahead on its own path towards serious cuts in jobs and services).

No comments: