I am just one of a long list of people “waiting patiently” for payment for services rendered unto the City Council. Since the payments will either prevent accounts going into the red or interest will be lost (or both). I wrote an e-mail to Stephen Hughes, Birmingham’s Chief Executive, copied to Mike Whitby, Leader of the Council. I pointed out that if it was me owing the Council money there would be little leeway before action was taken to recover the debt:
Dear Stephen Hughes, I have not received even an acknowledgment to my e-mail which I am re-sending. I look forward to a response. I am continuing to lose interest on outstanding payment.
—– Forwarded message from john.tyrrell —–
Date: Wed, 09 Jan 2008 11:33:20 +0000
Subject: Payment to contractors
Dear Stephen Hughes,
I wrote to you in December about non-payment to contractors. I made the point
that if citizens failed to pay their accounts with the City Council action would quickly follow.
Non payment to contractors means loss of interest and bank balances being overdrawn. Will these costs be re-imbursed? In my case it backdates to October and November.
The Council knows full well that the introduction of new systems can lead to disruption and should take this into account. It certainly isn’t the fault of contractors who do their best to supply a quality service.
This was the reply I received:
Dear Mr Tyrrell
Further to my email sent earlier today, I have now been advised of the following by my Interim Head of Shared Services Centre –
The settling in of our new system is taking a little longer than anticipated and I am sorry this is causing delays in getting invoices paid. Certainly as a City Council, we do fully recognise the importance and value of the service provided by contractors such as yourself and we are extremely grateful for the patience displayed during this stabilisation period.
A great deal of consideration and contingency measures went into the planning, design and construction of our new system and our prime concern was to keep disruption to an absolute minimum. Whilst this has been achieved to some extent, clearly we have fallen slightly short in some areas because of the complexities involved.
So far as loss of interest is concerned, I am sure you are aware of the Late Payment of Commercial Debt Regulations and the City Council would consider any claim under that legislation. Hopefully, however, we would be able avoid that and fast track payment of invoices in cases that are notified as particularly urgent.
Once again, I do apologise for these delays and I can assure you that everyone is working flat out to settle in the new system and revert to business as usual as a matter of urgency.
Birmingham City Council
Adrian Goldberg has been doing a bit of digging for his Stirrer column and found a lot of unhappy folk out there. No guys don’t fret, don’t you know what a privilege it is to be one of the chosen to serve the Council?
Mr Hughes has kindly pointed out that I can make a claim to recover any losses. But what will that entail? No I think my next move is to write to the press. The obvious thing to do when you are making changes to a system is to ensure that the new procedure works before closing down the existing tried and tested one. Anyway a supposedly professional outfit like C(r)apita ought to know what it is about.
Just to think that the Birmingham workforce is under duress with threats that if they don’t fall into line with the Single Status horrors then their jobs will be outsourced to Capita and the like.
When I was chair of one of the Contract Services Committees on the City Council one of my tasks was to meet service providers monthly. I was always impressed with th way in which they prided themselves on providing good service and identified with the City Council. Problem is the City Council doesn’t identify with them and if it is thought that workers in the employ of dubious outfits will have the same commitment they will have another think coming.
One group I particularly enjoyed meeting were the refuse collectors. Each month they were eager to hear from two of the clerical officers of their performance, sickness rates and so on. They were well motivated. One day we learned that the two reporters had been put onto other duties. Why? Because a new system had been introduced depending on IT. Didn’t work though. The meeting was deflated, everyone sat around gloomily. all incentive went out the window.
The Council is entering new territory. I would expect it to be thus since it is a Tory administration. If I had voted Lib-Dem I would have been more than annoyed to realise I had contributed to their entry into power. But Capita is a creature of New Labour which just wants to prove it can handle capitalism better than the Tories. I have news for them. The entrenched system doesn’t operate like that so they become the servant of the demands of capitalist enterprise rather than vice versa.
Oh, by the way, I’m still waiting (patiently of course).
Birmingham Post 28.1.2008