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|"He will work with the board and will be responsible for implementing the overall strategy of the project and for the integrity of the private/public partnership. Sir James joins a team set on delivering value and improved services to the people and communities of the local area.
It is also well worth remembering that the original deals with IBM were brokered by Sue Barnes - who happens to be Mrs Colin Port.
Sir James may turn out to be the only good thing to emerge from SouthWest One. Or he may be just another semi-retired local hero who comes complete with a knighthood and has been appointed because his track record looks respectable (which might impress potential new clients).But he was also hired to be independent, to think independently and to act in the best interests of all those who do not have a voice in this muddle.Sir James therefore has to prove his independence. And prove it fast. He should meet the unions. He should insist that his company recognises and negotiates with the unions. He should not allow his company to shelter behind a constant cloak of secrecy.Good on him if he does.But I will be have his guts for garters if he fails.
Sadly the working policemen I meet don't have faith in SouthWest One. Some of them are now putting pen to paper. And this is an example - from an officer who doesn't want to lose a shirt:
“I, along with colleagues, submitted an annual shirt request about 3 months ago. I sent a message recently asking when the shirts would arrive. I got a reply e-mailed from the supplies Dept via my supervisor stating that the Chief Officer Group had asked that no shirts be issued until further notice except "emergency issue". Why this is one can only guess. Perhaps they are going to change our shirts to a different colour? or perhaps a cynic would say they may be changing supplier!
We have recently received e-mails informing us that as of Feb 09 we (All Police personnel) will be paid via SW1 and our pay slip will be via e-mail, not sent to our home addresses. I have heard that SW1 have control of many Dept budgets and even Departments not budget controlled by SW1 are effectively having their budgets/orders cancelled by Departments who issue them with funds. Some vehicle purchases were cancelled recently as funding had been withheld from the Dept requiring them at Yeovil.
I do not feel in a position to directly challenge the changes that are going on .......I want to keep my job! ,but I think I can speak for my colleagues, both Police and civilian, and say we get the feeling there is a lot of going- on behind the scenes that will affect our futures.
I would like to thank you for your concerns in this matter and congratulate you for bringing this issue to light.”
There is also major discontent within Unison members in Avon and Somerset Police. Tempers reached fever pitch because so many changes were made so quickly without proper consultation. Somerset County Council found itself before an industrial tribunal in October 2008 for similar reasons. It is still unclear what SouthWest One's attitude to union recognition really is. IBM prefers to ignore trade unions.
Back in June the Association of Chief Police Officers launched a brave new procurement strategy to encourage forces to work together - a golden opportunity for Avon and Somerset to start selling SouthWest One to its neighbours:
Readers will also note a reference to the Avon and Somerset led programme for a new cross-force initiative on forensic services (See P3 "Collaborative Working"). Natually I am as keen as anyone that our police forces should offer value for money. But I cannot help harbouring a scintilla of suspicion. Mr Port is now a virtual salesman for SouthWest One, the Chairman, Sir James Tidmarsh, has also been in the business of flogging forensic services via one of the companies of which he was a long-serving director:
ACPO may want to see forces cooperate. But Police Authorities in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire would be well advised to go through the small print of SouthWest One in forensic detail.
MORE POLICE FACTS: There are 39 police stations in Avon and Somerset at present. But SouthWest One wants to "streamline" the service. If they get their cost-cutting way the number of police stations with "inquiry desks" will fall to 19. The back office staff - the clerks who deal with the public - will be thinned out and disposed of. IBM have an undistinguished track record when it comes to the police. I invite you to read two accounts of their costly cock up over fingerprinting:
“The Automatic Fingerprint Recognition Consortium, comprising more than three-quarters of Britain’s police forces, has sued IBM over an electronic fingerprinting system they claim doesn’t work. The system, purchased in 1992, is supposed to match fingerprints taken from a crime scene with those on file in a database. The group is seeking unspecified damages from Big Blue, and has canceled its contract, citing ’serious and long-standing failures in the service.’ Meanwhile, IBM insists the system works, pointing out that more than 125,000 fingerprints have been matched since it was installed. IBM plans to fight the lawsuit. (Wall Street Journal 3/31/95 B8)”
Well the case DID go ahead..... as IBM's lawyer admits on her website:
"....................in a highly publicised multi-million pound dispute regarding the provision of an Automatic Fingerprint Recognition System to a network of 37 UK police forces resulted in a satisfactory settlement after 20 days in trial in the Technology and Construction Court in 1998."
IBM paid a substantial, but undisclosed sum, to settle the case quietly.
Guess who's the new Chief Executive of Avon and Somerset Police Authority?
John Smith is a lawyer with a cheesy grin. He brokered the deal between Avon and Somerset Police and SouthWest One. Jobs for the boys yet again.
This is a floor plan of IBM's huge data centre in Warwick.
Soon all of Somerset's computer records will be dealt with and handled here. That means that your council tax details, your housing record, your children's education facts and all manner of sensitive information will be piped up a cable to IBM's base on the outskirts of the historic castle town.
Warwick is a fine place to visit. But it is not Somerset. And the people who created SouthWest One promised that the computer systems IBM was providing would be based in our county.
The final question is critical. By allowing IBM to store crucial records makes the county totally beholden to a commercial company. There is no back-up if the existing contract is ever severed.
Thursday November 22nd 2012
Wednesday September 19th 2012
South West One is five dismal years old on September 27th.
The founders of this corporate fiasco will never be forgotten - Alan Jones, Roger Kershaw Cllr Sam Crabb and Cllr Jill Shortland. Not forgetting Sue Barnes (wife of the Chief Constable) and the IBM team who tried to make us all believe it would be wonderful:
This picture is from a promotional slideshow IBM used to try and sell South West One to other councils (click and see the whole pack of lies) It was a mix of fiction, wishful thinking and childish fairy dust embodied in their original "Variant Bid" which I have now helped to expose at Westminster.
Thursday September 6th 2012
For those of you pondering how and why Somerset County Council ever got involved in South West One (the litigious company that is about to go down in comic history for suing its founding partner) I can offer a plausible explanation - bad geography and dodgy navigation ( not knowing where you are going and then getting lost on the way )
The deal with South West One was driven by Somerset's ex- Chief Executive, Alan Jones.
He didn't know where he was going then. It seems he is still confused. Mr Jones "retired" ignominiously from Somerset County Council with and bought himself a nice house in Morebath, DEVON on the proceeds. Everyone knows Morebath is in Devon. But for some bizarre reason Mr Jones still prefers to publish his address as being in Somerset.
Monday September 3rd 2012
Now we have proof that the mad managers of South West One have gone completely off their rockers.
The disaster-prone company's joint partners are officially at war - with one another!
IBM has called in the lawyers to sue Somrset County Council after the council renegotiated its deal with South West One. Somerset wasn't prepared to face any more broken promises from a firm that offered to save the council millions. In fact South West One failed to deliver any significant savings, introduced wildly expensive software that failed to work and is still costing council taxpayers a fortune.
But there's a problem with joint venture companies.....they are jointly run....with a couple of elected councillors sitting on the same board that has now decided to take legal action against the council!
Monday July 16th 2012
Chaos on London's roads, thousands of private security guards never hired.....even if 2012 had been planned by South West One it could hardly have been organised worse. And, bless my soul, IBM was heavily involved all the way!
Mssrs PORT & CONDON
(Two men in suits with a few things in common)
Mr Port cheerfully signed up to IBM and South West One on behalf of our local police force in the mistaken belief it would save money. He got himself on the board - a conflict of interest so glaringly obvious that (only after several years) it finally dawned on Mr Port himself and he quit! Lord Condon (former Commissioner of the Met) now sits at the top table of G4S, the global security firm which has proved inept at recruiting staff for the Games. G4S counts IBM both as a client (they guard IBM facilities) and as a partner (they've linked up with IBM to fight fraud across the planet) G4S was also in the running to become one of the big players in police outsourcing (just like our Colin wanted South West One to be) until news of their Olympic incompetence emerged. Since then Surrey Constabulary has given G4S the heave-ho and other bloggers are drawing the same conclusion about the dangers of outsourcing to G4S and South West One. Dont say we didn't warn you.
Tuesday June 26th 2012
If you want to know why Somerset paid £30 million over the odds to IBM click the man with the familiar face and the crazy hair:
Tuesday June 13th 2012
Believe it or not Anthony Gibson, director of the Bath and West Society, writes for the regional press......perhaps they pay him on a sliding scale: the more crass the copy, the bigger the bung?
His latest foray into print dares to accuse Somerset farmers of "disloyalty" for failing to turn up and support the Bath and West Show. Gibson thus proves he has completely lost the plot. There are two reasons farmers avoid the Bath and West. It is a second rate show that charges first class prices.
I doubt if farmers on Curry Moor wasted their hard-earned cash journeying to Shepton Mallett - the flooding on the moor has already cost them millions and they stand little chance of winning compensation. Trouble started back in April when the river Tone burst its banks. Some of the land was under eight feet of water. If the skinflints from the Environment Agency bothered to dredge the river regularly it probably wouldn't have happened. And if the Agency had the right pumps it could have been sorted out a whole lot sooner. But a big pump to do the job has only just arrived from up north. All this from an outfit that wants to spend £29 million flooding Steart! Its a plot thick enough for Anthony Gibson himself.
(but life inside a pipe might harm his legendary good looks)
Thursday May 31st 2012
Dr Jane Guise and her mates better watch out. Tomorrow I will accompany my Master on his annual pilgrimage to the Bath and West Show of which Dr Guise is Chief Executive. Dogs (apart from those taking part in contests) are excluded. But the Bath and West Society publishes no restrictions for cats! It promises to be an another annoying event of very little interest to real farmers. Tomorrow, for example is "Ladies Day" devoted exclusively to fashion. I expect to see St Anthony Gibson leering at the well-dressed contestants from his regular perch in the Ringside Members Bar (only £35 for a VIP ticket) The blessed Anthony has already been tweeting - here's one he wrote earlier:
'I met a farmer at the Bath and West whom I hadn't seen for years, and asked him what he was farming these days. "Solar panels", he replied.'
Ho ho ho, we tittered (but not a lot) The thought of Anthony Gibson actually meeting a genuine FARMER at the B&W is risible. St Anthony is a board member of the B&W and the Bath & West would like to plant row upon row of ridiculous solar panels all over their cherished showground. They also have a mad scheme to build a couple of hotels and a shopping mall. How appropriate that among the sponsors of this year's show is a company which specialises in demolishing things. As for Dr Guise, perhaps she will adopt a DIS-Guise and hide behind the few remaining animals.
Monday May 21st 2012
South West One changes Chief Executives with frightening rapidity. This is hardly surprising. Chief Executives, in the same manner as soiled undergarments, require regular removal as the boardroom grapples with disastrous losses, useless systems and a reputation that makes mud look desirable. But I have to congratulate IBM on their latest Mr "Clean Undies". They have appointed a bloke who has made such an impact at IBM that not a single photograph of him seems to exist on the world wide web.
Congratulations Mr Ian Bowman, and welcome to the exclusive South West One Failures Club!
Friday May 11th 2012
A grinning Environment Minister (Richard Benyon by name) fluttered into Somerset the other day (without telling me, tut tut - bit of a breach of protocol don't you know!) Anyway Mr B got busy on Exmoor "taking an interest in the excellent work of Butterfly Conservation" (this is according to Exmoor National Park - who are about to give £18000 of your money to these wasteful Butterfly fanciers) Mr B found time to grin again when he discussed the new (costly) coastal path, and he's always busy promoting that loopy scheme to sink your money - flooding Steart. Mr Benyon and water do not seem to mix. What a shame the Minister couldn't find time to pop down to the beach at Bossington and take a look at what his Department really ought to be doing.......fixing the defences:
Bossington's steep shingle defences were swept away by water cascading off Exmoor.
This is how it used to look This is how it is today
(with grinning Benyon pebbles added) (not a Benyon in sight, just a dog)
Its a shocking mess down there. Mr Benyon really should have paid a visit. A little less time spent grinning about butterflies, coastal paths and Steart would have been a much more sensible use of this Ministerial flying visit.
Tuesday May 1st 2012
If you wondered why progress to repair the river wall in Bridgwater slowed down last week, permit me to offer some intelligence. You see it may be a vital wall to you and me - and the work IS urgent - but these days we live at the beck and call of "regulators" (soon blowing one's nose may be considered a major crime if the correct permits are not in order first)
And here's a regulator you thought you'd never come across before.
Guess what - the MMO actually has to issue permits to allow the wall to be fixed - and they hadn't done it!
But when Sir Bill Callaghan (Chairman of MMO) was told that Mogg might have his guts for garters the bureaucrats relented, the permits were issued and the wall is now being efficiently fixed again. Trust a pussy to get results - without a claw drawn!
Monday April 9th 2012
Followers of this page will know that I have previously mentioned a keen birdwatcher named Chris Foster. Mr Foster emailed me on February 14th to grumble about my views on butterfly fanciers - particularly those who are trying to extort thousands of pounds of public money in Somerset. So, on February 15th I published his email in full (scroll down the page and you'll find it) Then Mr Foster sent a letter complaining that I had published his email. On February 23rd I faithfully reproduced his missive. Now Mr Foster has apparantly complained about me to the Information Commissioner. I eagerly await their jurisdiction - but so far I haven't heard a dicky-bird.
Have I, in some way, infringed his "data privacy"?
Given that Mr Foster runs a website of his own it seems a far-fetched argument. Given that he regularly contributes to this blog and another one suggests that he is fond of seeing his views published. He even has a twitter account and his photographs are readily available on the internet
He also has friends in low places!
The lady on the left requires no introduction. Jill Shortland was the disastrous Lib Dem leader of Somerset County Council. She famously supported the “Organisational Bully” Somerset's ex-Chief Excecutive Alan Jones who openly labelled those who disagreed with his hapless invention (South West One) as either - a) “Holocaust Deniers” or b) “Organisational Terrorists” Mrs Shortland is now accusing ME of cyber-bullying!
But the nerd on the right may need a description. Mark Pack is a chocoholic who also contributes (like Hatbirder) to all sorts of obscure Lib Dem blogs. He claims to have fulfilled a very important role for his party at previous elections. And now he's leaping to the defence of "Hatbirder" Foster and slagging me off into the bargain. This is a bit rich from a bloke whose most notable contribution to electioneering was the producton David Cameron spoof posters.
Anyway, in honour of Shortland, Pack and Hatbirder I leave you with a Potteresque poster for the next Hogwarts blockbuster. Chris Foster will play himself. Mark Pack is clearly a role for Danny De Vito and Jill Shortland is best portrayed on screen as a lump of mouldy cheddar cheese.
Tuesday April 3rd 2012
Lord Leveson is currently conducting an important inquiry into the role of the press. He is looking specifically into the bad practises of journalism - phone hacking and bribing policemen for example. I was therefore very surprised when Colin Port, Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, turned up to give evidence and launched a bizarre attack on me and the BBC. Here's what he said:
Wednesday February 28th 2012
What to wear on a butterfly hunt ? Nothing better than a Plackett polo!
And if, by some twist of common sense, Butterfly lovers fail to extract £18000 from Exmoor National Park then it is good to learn that Her Majesty's Government has come up with a substitute source of funding in order to safeguard a creature in Devon that looks a little bit like a butterfly.
This is the threatened freshwater pearl mussel. Guess what? DEFRA will shortly be dishing out £7 and half million pounds for new environmental projects. Twelve have been selected. One of them in the River Torridge. If the cash is split equally that means £650,000 each.
More than enough for several smart new Placketts!
Thursday February 23rd 2012
NEWS JUST IN FROM GRABBIST HILL....the rare "Hatbirder" (friend of the Plackett) has been spotted again! This remarkable little creature is now threatening to beat me with a rolled-up copy of the Guardian for having drawn attention to his existence.
His bleats about data protection ring very hollow. He complains about my use of his email (see Wednesday 15th February)....an email, incidentally, copied to his own MP. He complains about my use of his photograph....a picture, incidentally, legitimately available from his own website. And now he wants a written apology! Well I have disappointing news for "Hatbirder". He is a victim of his own publicity machine. He already appears on two different websites and twitters about tea-drinking. I am loathe to give the chap many more free plugs.
Friday February 17th 2012
Those pesky butterfly fanciers are at it again - planning to disturb the peace on Grabbist Hill with their guided walks, and noisy bracken-bashing. I was tipped off about their antics by a disgruntled constituent:
From: An Exmoor Butterfly firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: 16 February 2012 12:04
To: Ian Liddell-Grainger
Subject: Butterfly Fanciers
Dear Mr Liddell-Grainger,
I have been following the activities of the Butterfly fanciers for some time from my family home on Grabbist Hill. We were horrified when these interfering busy bodies arrived and began to make life difficult for the indigenous butterfly population. Far from assisting our survival they have become a nuisance and a health hazard with their open-toed sandals and yoghurt-pot mentalities. It is high time they left us alone. We therefore reject complaints made against you and wish your campaign all the very best.
An Exmoor Butterfly
Thursday February 16th 2012
A DEATH HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED
Somerset's leader, Ken Maddocks, gave the following speech yesterday to a packed council chamber.
"As an administration we inherited a partnership that promised a huge amount, but it was not delivering. Southwest One’s accounts year on year show losses, staggering losses just published of £31m, and failures to hit modest savings targets.
We have bent over backwards to try to make this partnership work. But we have to state clearly that our primary duty in looking after the public’s hard earned money is to make sure we get the best possible deals, that we get the best possible value for the public’s money.
I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.
We are currently looking at all our services and all our contracts to see whether we are doing the best we can for our customers, whether we are providing the best possible services for our customers and at the best possible prices for our customers.
I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.
We need a Council that can cope with future government cuts and rising demand. We will need to be efficient and flexible.
I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.
Sadly, Southwest One is failing. It is failing to deliver promised savings; failing to cope with a changing financial landscape; failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money.
To make up for this failure, we will now accelerate our extensive review of everything that the council does: Almost half our most vital services are carried out by private sector or not for profit organisations – we will look to increase this where appropriate. We will encourage social enterprises, partnerships, communities and voluntary groups to get more involved in what we do and what we run. We will look to put the customer at the heart of what we do.
And we will do this whilst we continue to do all we can to make Southwest One work. But I have to be clear; it is failing; it is inflexible; and it is intransigent. We are therefore looking at all the options available to us.
I do have one final message for Southwest One – and that is to the staff and our Somerset County Council colleagues and secondees working there. The message is this: This continuing failure is not about you. It is about the contract, the complications, the failed technology, the missed opportunities, the lack of promised savings. It is about Southwest One itself, not about the people working for it."
I couldn't have written it better myself!
PS.....can you guess the identity of the only Councillor to leap to South West One's defence?
Wednesday February 15th 2012
The Lesser-Spotted Plackett Supporters' Club has been in touch after my published attack upon the pointlessness of spending tens of thousands of pounds of public cash to protect butterflies that seem to be doing very nicely without anyone's intervention.
Jenny Plackett is the Project Officer for the Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project, currently trying to extract more money from Exmoor National Park. But Butterfly Conservation is big business. This "charity" recorded income of almost £5 million last year and spent less than £3 million - so they're not exactly short of the readies. Ms Plackett has already sent me a bleating note (you can read it on my Butterfly Fancier Pie page) Now I have been contacted by a fellow conservationist by the name of Chris Foster, though his twitching pals know him better as "hatbirder"
From: Christopher Foster
Sent: 14 February 2012 12:04
To: Ian Liddell-Grainger
Subject: Moorland Butterflies
Dear Mr Grainger,
I read with interest your charicture of the work of Butterfly Conservation in your article for 'This is Devon'. I appreciate your confidence in farming to turn around the fortunes of threatened species in Britain. There is much evidence from around the country that land managed by farmers still supports much of our valued wildlife. However, many increasingly rare species (and I can promise you the figures are not made up, but published in peer reviewed scientific papers - I wonder if you have read any of them?) require very specific conditions to thrive. I'm sure you would not contest that modern farming is as diverse on as local scale as it used to be when many species populations were established. The continued existene of rare butterflies, birds, beetles, and myriad other organisms, depends on us taking the initative to find out what it is these species require, and to deliver it, often in conjuction with the farming community.
This is one reason conservation charities exist: farmers do not have the time or resources to investigate species conservation strategies themselves, nor, in fairness, is it their job to do so. The work is performed instead by trained ecologists, like, for example, Jenny Plackett. And What is to prevent those of us who appreciate wildlife and recognise its irreplacable contribution to our national wellbeing from seeking to influence land management in its favour, and indeed from founding charities to fund this work? Butterfly Conservation is registered as a charity for the same reason that Guide Dogs for the Blind, featured on your website, or The Countryside Alliance Foundation are registered as charities. It relies on donations from its members, private foundations, trusts, and yes, public bodies, to do its work.
Finally, I am astonished that as a public servant in reciept of a salary likely twice that of Ms Plackett, you have the gumption to mount a personal attack on her. I am only glad you are not my parliamentary representative, and will be writing to mine (Sir George Young) seeking assurances that if I were ever fortunate enough to secure a modestly paid job in my chosen career, hardly a lucrative one, he would not attack me in a similar manner. If you were attempting to reinforce the stereotype of the arrogant, aloof, sneering 'nasty' establishment Tory, congratulations. See how it feels to be the victim? A special page on your website dedicated to lampooning a constituent smacks of spectacular unprofessionalism.
And I suppose you imagine the financial sacrifice I made to change careers last year and pay, from my own money, for an MSc in conservation to have been a complete waste of time and money. And that you wish me ill in my attempts to become a 'career conservationist' myself. What 'proper' job would you have me do, other than the one I have been trained to do? Myself and the Jenny Placketts of this world simply desire to earn a very modest living from deploying the skills we have - and a much larger proportion of the UK population than you imagine supports the aims of the conservation movement.
MSc Wildlife Management and Conservation
Me thinks Mr Foster has spent rather too long in a bird hide getting his binoculars steamed-up. His pal, La Plackett, happens to be the public face of this generously-funded and (I think) pointless project. I have no personal grouse (if he will pardon the use of the word grouse) with her. I wish her happiness. I just don't see why the rest of us should have to finance such extravagence. As for Mr Foster, I note that he obtained his Msc from Reading University (where Butterfly Conservation held its international convention a year or so ago) Mr Foster seems to have taken a 12-month "quickie"course, supported by the RSPB, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Hawk Conservancy Trust and the West Country Rivers Trust. In other words the Career Conservationists are now calling the shots in higher education.
Tuesday February 14th 2012
"I shall say zees only once.....EDF 'av a craazy idea to erect many windy turbines near ze lovely village of Puriton. Sacre blue it iz mad. They say ze wind will blow even when ze wind has stopped. These Frenchmen are in danger of making ze big boobies. I blame their leetle President. We will not let them pass."
My master was at a crowded meeting in East Huntspill last night to see EDF desperately trying to prove that the wind never stops. And there will be more angry meetings to come - another firm, EcoTricity, have more windy plans they want to share with the locals on Thursday night. I can sense Somerset rising to the challenge!
Monday February 13th 2012
Meanwhile, spare a thought for Jenny "Flutterbye" Plackett, a leftie Lepidopterist who is paid a comfortable salary from public funds to represent the interests of the Marsh Fritilliary and his mates. Ms Plackett has got her brightly spotted wingers in a twist about my recent article in the Western Morning News and subsequent recipe suggestion for cooking Butterly fanciers. Yum Yum!
Monday February 6th 2012
The dunderheads of Taunton Deane Council are about to hit tax payers with a little "extra" - 3.45% bigger bills, to be precise.
Penny James is Taunton Deane's Chief Executive and senior apologist for the world's worst joint venture company - South West One. This IBM-driven dinosaur has dismally failed to deliver any of the savings it promised to Taunton Deane. This is one reason why Taunton Deane is having to put up taxes and borrow a couple of extra millions. Penny herself has dismally failed to speak credible English about her role - here is one example from the quotes file:
“I oversee an on-going balancing act between flexibility and uniqueness on the one hand, and efficiency and control on the other.”
Disgruntled council employees - some of whom will lose their jobs as a result of all this - have coined a nickname for their boss:
Tuesday January 31st 2012
....and still more bad publicity for South West One! (the Costa Concordia of joint venture companies)
Monday January 30th 2012
"Staff of St Jones'Academy for Recidivist Information Technology are proud to note the elevation of former pupil, Julian David. Julian is soon to become Director-General of the influential trade association Intellect, which represents all Britain's IT industry (ie not just IBM). This follows a glittering career at IBM during which Julian displayed exceptional marketing prowess. In 2000 he sold SAP to the unsuspectng retail industry, with predictably disastrous results. Then he branched into local government and persuaded those gullible folk at Somerset County Council to set up a joint venture. The rest is 'beyond excellence' "
"Some local authorities are considering sharing their resources, is IBM involved in any of these projects?
The newest transformational project that we've embarked on is in Somerset. That is all about providing to their citizens a new approach to service. We used an approach that says start with the better IT and efficient delivery. You then expand into improving customer access. Through that, move to a transformation agenda based around a multi-agency approach - joining up the council for the benefit of the citizen. Also part of our proposition is considering the social and economic activities you can now bring to bear and how the council provides a better environment. We've just started taking over some of the services but the idea is essentially joining up what was two previously discrete authorities within the county. Interestingly, when they wrote the specifications for the procurement, they invited other local authorities to join in the framework. They took a joint venture approach with us so that this could happen and we are actively talking with a number of other authorities."
Monday January 23rd 2012
First the good news. South West One has finally submitted its accounts to Companies House. They were three months late, and should be filed under the heading "sick comedy". Once again, and without any surprise, this awful joint venture has made a thumping loss even though its IBM-programmed Chief Executive Fiona Capstick would have you believe otherwise.
Thursday January 19th 2012
Aha! So you thought I had vanished, did you. Tut tut. Clever cats merely go missing. So here's to a fun filled Olympic year of yet more feline tittle-tattle.
The coffin nails are in honour of those sad souls who set up South West One, the latest of whom is on his way out of County Hall for ever.
Matt Jones (£82k + per year) has "managed" the contract with South West One for the past four years. He was in at the very start as one of the original signatories in 2007.....as recently as March 2011 he was on the record trumpetting the "success" of South West One. The truth, however, is laughable history - like Matt himself
White Flags are flying!......
......IBM has, at long last, admitted defeat.
The worst horrors of South West One are coming to an end. The contract between IBM/South West One and Somerset County Council is in the final stage of renegotiation and it looks as though Somerset has scored a significant victory. By the end of this year most of the crucial services farmed out to South West One will be taken back "in-house" by the council. The list includes the whole finance department - probably the biggest operation. This is certain to have a knock-on effect on other South West One partners - particularly the police. Before South West One was invented Somerset County Council handled police financial services. It is now logical for the County to win back the work, leaving South West One as little more than an IT supplier.
Unfortunately we will not get rid of them at once. It looks as though their cheapskate systems will still be screwing some things up for quite a while. Today most of Somerset's school's were deprived of internet access. But at least the politicians have seen the light.
I won't shout "I told you so". But I might whisper it. This whole dreadful business has taken four years to go down the tubes and cost taxpayers a fortune. The Conservative leadership at County Hall is to be congratulated for talking tough to IBM. The Liberal Democrats who signed up to the deal in the first place should never be allowed to forget their crass stupidity. And someone should commission a memorial to Mr Alan Jones, once chief executive of this County, without whose vision and intellect none of this nonsense would ever have been possible.
I suggest it is crafted from the finest local material
September 13th 2011
News that the South West One ship is sinking will come as no surprise to those who have studied its crazy progress and dismal balance sheets. Last year they reported losses of over £16million. The latest figures are probably even worse. A few weeks ago they let their "independent chairman", Sir Jay Tiddly Tidmarsh, walk the gangplank. There's a distict whiff of corporate putrefaction:
This is Cllr Bob Little, Somerset's man-on-the-board of South West One.
He's no stranger to the world of IT:
"A mathematician by profession, Bob spent more than 20 years in the computer industry before becoming an independent IT consultant, when he advised and assisted Ministry of Defence on the development and acquisition of advanced systems."
So Mr Little isn't exactly a novice. He knows that when a company is in deep doo-doo then individual board members may be held liable if the whole pack of cards should ever collapse.This may explain an unusual and unpublicised decision from the SCC legal team to protect Cllr Little by indemnifying him. But why now? Why did the lawyers regard it as a matter of "special urgency". What do they know that the rest of us haven't been told?
South West One is frequently slow to tell the truth to the public. It took them several days to acknowledge the sudden departure from the board of the Chief Constable, Mr Colin Port.
Mr Port wasted no time on explanations or goodbyes. He just vanished - replaced by the Chief Executive of the Police Authority. I welcome Mr Port's decision to leave. A seat on the board was a glaringly obvious conflict of interest. I also wonder if there was any connection with his departure and a current inquiry of the Home Affairs Select Committee to which Mr Port submitted detailed evidence. He claimed South West One was a real money saver. I challenged that evidence and the committee is reconsidering its reponse. There were also some very odd goings-on when South West One was formed - the police received an incredibly favourable deal that left Somerset County Council footing the bill for most of the police use of SAP:
Much of the information in this press release was drawn from frank responses to FOI questions by no less a man than John Smith, the Police Authority's chief executive (now on the SW1 Board) who was part of the legal team working for the force when the police joined South West One in 2008. In other words he knows where the financial bodies are buried! Read his candid answers here.
September 11th 2011
This is also a fair description of Somerset County Council's website - redesigned and engineered by South West One (at your expense!)
I visited the site today hoping to find fresh details of the County's plans to bring high speed broadband to the rural bits of the constituency (Somerset recently secured Government funding to get things started). But this is all I saw:
Those determined souls from Broadband4 Exmoor may well be right to reserve judgement about Somerset's broadband future. I for one will be fighting their corner and arguing the case for proper investment in the right equipment where we really it.
August 26th 2011
And so the disaster of South West One goes on. The respected TaxPayers Alliance is the latest to have a go and as if that wasn't bad enough it has also emerged that South West One has seriously over-ordered stationery supplies.
There's so much stuff in stock it is now on offer to schools - absolutely free!
Such lunacy is only to be expected from a company 75% owned by IBM. It never fails to amaze me that so many apparently intelligent and perceptive civil servants and public officials go dewy-eyed whenever IBM's name is mentioned. IBM somehow continues to secure contracts even though its record for delivery and quality is way below par. The latest such example happened down the road in Exeter when the Met Office was permitted to hire an IBM man as its CIO. This ought to be completely out-of- bounds because IBM is the Met Office's main computer supplier. But conflicts of interest cut little ice these days. Read all about it.
August 24th 2011
As you will gather from my anxious tail-wagging Mogg is not a contented creature. Master is displeased that his loyal feline friend was away at Catlins Holiday Camp when the latest South West One scandal hit the headlines....
This gob-smacking tale of multi-million pound error should come as no surprise.
IBM's wretched software - SAP - has been a costly disaster from day one.
You would have thought that the powers-that-be inside County Hall would have been perturbed last week when the local paper reported yet more eye-wateringly stupid SAP cock-ups. But no. The absurd official word was that "this story is going nowhere"
In fact the story went pretty well everywhere!
Somerset IT firm SouthWest One's invoice error of £4.6m
SouthWest One used a software program called SAP to pay the suppliers to Avon and Somerset Police, the county council and Taunton Deane Borough Council. ...
Public sector procurement outsourcing - why is nothing happening?
Spend Matters UK/Europe
Since its introduction in April 2009, our financial system (SAP) has ... Port is Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, so a 'senior customer' of SW1. ...
SAP glitch leads to £3.7m in overpayments for Somerset
UK council feels Queensland Health pain
Southwest One shared service overpaid suppliers £4.6m ...
Southwest One's invoice faux pas - Government Opportunities
IT problems at Somerset County Council? | Midwest News | News ...
Southwest One made overpayments of £4.6m
... Avon and Somerset police and Taunton Deane district council. ... "Due to early teething problems with the introduction of SAP at Somerset county council ...
Another triumph for the County's Head of Communications! I hope he has nerves of steel. This ludicrous tale of financial mismanagement promises to be the tip of an enormous iceberg. Believe me, there is much worse to come.
July 31st 2011
I am indebted to a reader for this snap
Elsewhere in the South West One partnership there are other interesting developments.......
....like the return of Chris Bilsland.
Mr Bilsland used to be Resources Director at Somerset County Council. He has a reputation as one of the good guys. He quit Somerset just before the South West One contract was signed. He didn't like the way Alan Jones (former Chief Executive) was doing things. Bilsland knows where the bodies are buried. He went on to become Chamberlain of the City of London and has just achieved the prestigious Presidency of CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy ) If he decides to settle some old scores there are several people who might choose to be very worried. CIPFA has hitherto remained aloof about the appalling goings on at South West One, but a recent edition of its magazine Public Finance carried a telling article which catalogues some of the disasters. The very fact that CIPFA was prepared to publish such a piece may indicate a tougher role under a new President.
More news about the failures of South West One ......
.....there are now around 30 schools in Somerset which have decided to become Acadamies. Somerset County Council would prefer them to continue to buy services via South West One - like payroll and Human Resources. This would normally be operated with the dismally inefficient SAP software so beloved of IBM. But in order to keep the academies sweet and in an effort to retain any business at all South West One is now sub-contracting these services to more efficient suppliers! This ludicrous charade must be costing South West One a packet.
July 19th 2011
Does the cap fit?
It is the toughest job in British policing. It will require a candidate of proven ability and complete integrity. Sir Paul Stephenson tendered his resignation following suggestions of conflicts of interest. The man (or woman) who seeks his crown will have to display a cupboard entirely absent of awkward skeletons, visits to health farms or cosy relationships with the media. (In respect of the media Mr Port has an abrasive reputation, which may have now become suddenly fashionable!) Mr Port's uncanny ability with arithmetic (translating a huge corporate loss from South West One into a miraculous saving of public money) has now been submitted to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. It reads well but defies detailed examination. The submission fails to mention that the costs of South West One exceed the savings! But who bothers to check the figures? Who puzzles at the sight of a Chief Constable on the board of an IBM-dominated company from which his force now buys all its services? Who wonders why he went to Germany a couple of years ago to trumpet the achievements of this self same IBM-dominated company? Well I for one do wonder. Which is why the Home Affairs Committee has now been given all the facts rather than the sanitised submisssions of Avon and Somerset Police. Mr Port would like South West One to become the model for the Home Secretary's new idea - a national police procurement organisation. I have no doubt that Theresa May will wish to examine the small print very carefully indeed before she reaches any decision. And here's a little small print to help her, extracted from one of the Police Authority's own "budget monitoring reports". It represents a superb example of creative accountancy:
Look at the "procurement savings" - in brackets (which means nothing was actually saved!) In 2010 they hoped to save £361,000 but (see outturn column) but it actually cost £148,000 to achieve! That's £500,000 down the pan!
July 6th 2011
The Art of Understatement...
I have just finished reading a wonderful document - the annual report and accounts of Somerset County Council (with no Love's Labours Lost on South West One!) The Author, Kevin Nacey (SCC's Finance Chief) bears a passing resemblance to the Bard. He also wastes few words before sticking the dagger into South West One and SAP. If you have time on your hands try to download the whole tome from the council's website. But the juiciest bits of understatement are reproduced here:
"SAP – our new financial system and our system of buying in goods and services.
Since its introduction in April 2009, our financial system (SAP) has proved difficult to use effectively. Despite a number of SAP experts helping us resolve a number of issues, Finance staff - in particular - continue to struggle with the poor initial set up."
and there is more......
"Southwest One provides a number of services to the Authority through a contract. These services include finance and corporate support, facilities management and technology services. In 2010/11 expenditure on services from Southwest One, including contract payments, was £33.876 million and income received from Southwest One, including payments for salaries of staff seconded from the Council to Southwest One, was £24.314 million."
Mr Nacey states the facts without any need to exaggerate. SAP is still dreadful and South West One is still costing the council a packet. It came as no surprise to Mr Nacey. He called in a firm of specialists to help him deal with the cowboys of South West One when he became Finance Chief. Mr Nacey was never a fan of SAP. He was far fonder of the much better system it replaced. Who can blame him.
June 24th 2011
Welcome to the company that turns truth on its head...the company that promised to save Somerset County Council a fortune and dismally failed to deliver...the company that boasts about its work for Avon and Somerset Police (or else gets the Chief Constable - he is on the board after all - to do the boasting for them)
Mr Port's account of SouthWest One "savings" was extremely imaginative The Police Authority has now published its own version of so-called savings:
3. The savings recorded as at 31 May 2011 are summarised as follows
Future agreed anticipated savings 6
Projected “pipeline” 10
In other words only £5 million has actually been saved - the rest is wishful thinking. But when you dig a little deeper even these savings look suspect. The Police have just admitted, in response to a Freedom of Information Request, that they spent £8,393,906.00p putting in the dismal SAP system. And it may well cost the Police around £1m every year to keep SAP updated. This reduces so-called savings to well below zero. Indeed SouthWest One could have cost the Police upwards of £3m in totally wasteful extra spending! Heads should roll......
there is talk of headhunters sniffing round SouthWest One's top "talent"
(there must be some desperate employers around)
June 15th 2011
Dr Jane Guise seems a formidable lady. She is Chief Executive of the Royal Bath and West. We may meet soon. I like to equip myself with useful facts beforehand. A revealing profile from the Western Daily Press mentions that the most memorable book she has ever read is "Stig of the Dump".
June 13th 2011
I will be at Ascot this week in my capacity as an active member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Horse. There are many equine interests within the constituency that need taking to the top. The Royal Family has a long, proud tradition of support for rural and agriculural matters. Her Majesty the Queen is patron of the Bath and West Show and the Countess of Wessex is a regular visitor. I hope to get the chance to raise a number of topical issues.
June 9th 2011
Anthony Gibson is spending the day at the Royal Cornwall Show. Apparantly it is raining. I do hope he keeps his legendary temper under control. Last week the air was blue at the Bath and West when he launched an extraordinary verbal tirrade at me for daring to criticise the way this show is organised. St Anthony is, of course, a director of the Royal Bath and West Society. Perhaps he gets paid to promote it? But I note he is also a "consultant" to the Devon County Show - an event that took place from May 19th to 21st. Does he accept a fee for promoting Devon? The Devon show uses his lyrical prose on their website:
Presumably the Bath and West is also his show (when it suits him) and maybe the Cornwall show too. St Anthony is a bit of a junkie when it comes to agricultural events. And his knowledge of anglo-saxon phrases is surprising. You can follow the great man's slightly less vulgar ramblings on Twitter. And if you fancy his Cock Cup there are several similar examples on the market.
June 6th 2011
"Solace co-managing director Mike Bennett said the article in a members’ bulletin was clearly branded as being by IBM. It appeared because the company was a business partner of Solace, though the arrangement had now ended. A Socitm spokeswoman said: “We have already taken steps to add wording to the site to make it clear that content on the site should be regarded as not necessarily having Socitm’s endorsement.”
So Solace has got rid of its business connection with IBM and SOCITM is distancing itself from IBM too. Beware the Ides of Mogg!
One way to waste £20 is to buy a ticket to the Bath and West Show. Last Wednesday a constituent invited me to witness this lame excuse for an agricultural event. It was truly awful. I have criticised the Bath and West before and will do so again. The show has nothing for Somerset and precious little for farmers. But critical visitors may get a tongue lashing from some of the organisers.
I bumped into St Anthony Gibson, late of the NFU, (who bears an resemblance to Jeremy Clarkson when in a bad mood.
The Blessed Anthony greeted me in a dialect hard to understand:I do hope he is now feeling better!!!
May 26th 2011
I have some bones to pick with two organisations that claim to be independent (and therefore trustworthy) but publish reports and even films which were conceived and paid for by IBM - and I also have details about the latest attempt by the police to prevent us knowing exactly how much South West One really cost .
First on my hit-list is SOLACE - the mouthpiece of Local Authority Chief Executives. Solace claims to have undertaken a detailed study of SouthWest One and come to the conclusion that this dreadful loss-making outfit is better than sliced bread. This is a public relations stunt. SOLACE has been had. Their report should be shredded, burned and ignored. Every blessed word was dictated by IBM! Here's the e-mail proof:
From: Eleri Evans
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 1:30 PM
Subject: solace focus
Re your query about who authored the Southwest One article in the April issue of SOLACE Focus. Amanda LeGood (copied) should be able to help you. She sent the story through to me
Next on my hit-list is SOCITM - the Society of IT managers. I have had reason to praise them lately. They gave Somerset County Council's revamped website (South West One revamped it!) a "poor" rating for the second year running and also produced some damning evidence for a House of Commons Committee about the dangers of outsourcing.
But SOCITM has also branched out into web tv - and the only way to pay for it is to get the contributors to fork out! Enter IBM again. This deep-pocketed bunch of cowboys bankrolled a tacky film which purports to show that South West One is really working well.......the SOCITM blurb (dictated by IBM) reads thus:
"Revolutionary shared services provider Southwest One is on its way to saving around £200 million over 10 years through a Strategic Procurement Service for Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Avon and Somerset Police. Supported by partner IBM, the service has become a Centre of Excellence for procurement, staffed by highly-trained experts who deliver valuable business advice and analyse and query demand to make best use of budgets.With access to greater scale and expertise, each of the partners are benefitting from transformational savings and are better able to preserve frontline service delivery even with the need to make cuts."
The above is a paragraph of prime porkies.
My final bone is reserved for the relunctance of Avon & Somerset Police to answer legitimate Freedom of Information queries. Read the whole exchange, but the following extract says it all:
Q: How much have Avon & Somerset Police paid IBM/South West One for
Transformation to date?
A: Information relating to the cost of transformation
is sensitive as the information if disclosed could undermine any
future negotiating position that the Partnership may have, because
competitors would therefore gain advantageous information.
On balance, the damage incurred by release of this information is
likely to prejudice the commercial interests of SouthWest One,
including a possible actionable breach of confidence against the
constabulary and the possibility of increased public expenditure in
the future, outweighs the benefit of accountability for public
funds. After weighing up the competing interests, I have determined
that the disclosure of the above information would not be in the
public interest. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your
interest in Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
May 17th 2011
Did you catch Colin Port on Radio Bristol this morning? Did you note his bizarre comments that South West One had somehow saved the force £26 million? I was amazed and still am. Mr Port seems to have based his arithmetic on an unsubstantiated internal guess....not on audited figures. The guess work is contained in this document, published in March. See the graph on page 4. It is all unsigned off "hoped for" savings.....rather like predicting the date of Colonel Gaddafi's downfall - ie: a very uncertain science and somewhat misleading.
South West One has so far failed to save any one of its original members anything bankable. In most cases it has cost huge sums of taxpayers money. Take what happened to Somerset County Council.
For a reminder of the most telling comments made about South West One here's a film I put together (with thanks to the BBC)
May 16th 2011
Another dissatisfied customer of South West One is about to abandon the dreadful IBM outfit and save itself serious money. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service "relied" on South West One for its payroll and some of its computer services. But not for much longer. They've had enough of high prices and inefficiency. Haven't we all.
May 9th 2011
The fight for council seats is done. The wretched AV referendum is (at last) behind us - and Nick Clegg's party has been battered by the results of both. But the coalition carries on regardless. Funny old world.
April 7th 2011
I take a dim view of mice. They are only useful when connected to computers.....provided that those computers have nothing to do with Somerset County Council. Somerset is the dubious beneficiary of computer technology from IBM (via South West One) who designed the Sargasso-sea of a website now operated by the council
SOCITM is the professional IT body commissioned by the Government to rank all local government websites. They've just given Somerset a measly single star and a rating of "poor". This time last year they also awarded a single star and a "poor" verdict. IBM immediately promised to do better. They had already charged the county £7 million to make improvements. But it is still as bad as ever.
Only one other website gets a similar raspberry - Suffolk County Council. The link between Suffolk and Somerset is interesting. Both counties were lured into big deals with IT giants by the same clever consultant.....Sue Barnes is her name. Wife of the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset.
March 23rd 2011
I applaud recent comments by my friend, the leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr Ken Maddock about the future of South West One. To paraphrase his words on BBC Points West: "If its broke it certainly needs fixing, if not discarding it altogether wouldn't be a bad idea." Ken gave the BBC an honest appraisal. Avon and Somerset Police, however, are still pretending that everything in the garden is lovely. Today the Chief Constable claims unbelievable savings of at least £15 million. But please examine the small print - particularly the chart on page 4. These so-called savings are pie-in-the-sky because they haven't been "signed off". In other words they are barely worth the paper on which they have been printed.
March 16th 2011
Without wishing to add to the "distress" of the Chief Constable (let alone make him burst into any more pretend tears) readers may be interested to learn that in addition to his annual pay of £148,194 he is also entitled to £4935.90 in rent allowance. This sum would normally be added to his salary although it carries no pensionable rights. He also qualifies for a car allwance and health insurance. Such entitlements could push the annual bill for our frugal police chief well above the £151,000 figure I quoted in the Mogg posting that caused him such "distress". So why did he bother complaining?
March 13th 2011
Life's tough for the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police. According to the Daily Telegraph he has to scrape along on £151,000 per year and only claims a meagre bonus of £16,000 extra. No doubt The Telegraph will soon be receiving a stern letter from police lawyers (as I did, by special delivery on Friday night) pointing out that Mr Port actually earns a paltry £148,000 and has also waived his right to a bonus. I am grateful for the correction and say hurrah for his generous gesture!
But he can still, presumably, still afford the best quality eyewash.
I am inserting this link for clarity. Mr Port appears to believe that eyewash means something completely different. Police lawyers suggest that I have been defamatory about their boss. They claim that I was accusing him of pretending to cry: "in the course of the webchat the Chief Constable displayed fake sincerity about financial issues.....". Eh? Yer what? That is not what eyewash means or what I said - let alone meant. I am happy to lend the force a good dictionary.
Mr Port was certainly droning on to his officers about the "wonders" of SAP and South West One. Below is the section of the transcript I used. The lawyers complain it was a "selective" section. (If Mr Port and his lawyers would like me to publish the complete transcript I have no doubt I can obtain one and I am more than happy to oblige - with added eyewash throughout!)
Transcript from Thursday 17 February 2011, internal web chat with Chief Constable Colin Port
Q: "Please can you give your personal view of the value to the organisation of SAP, is it fit for purpose? I can say on behalf of rank and file officers who have used it regularly that it is a time wasting, ineffective and extremely confusing system, are you aware of this?"
Colin: That is your opinion which you are entitled to. There is no doubt that there have been some glitches with SAP and those are fundamentally to do with because we failed to realise the impact of the complexity of police regulations, staff conditions and payments and shifts had upon this piece of software which is used by many many local national and international companies very successfully.
Q: "What lessons have been learned after the disastrous implementation of the SAP system?"
Colin: I don't think the implementation of it was disastrous I think what we did learn or what we have learnt is that SAP is a straightforward system complicated by police regulations, staff terms and conditions and shifts. We should have tried harder to ensure that SAP understood this. It clearly didn’t.
Q: "We all are aware of the importance of making efficiency savings - however, in resources we operate systems which are not fit for purpose and performance is appalling. As a result, our SAP Task flow increases because we can't process quickly enough because we have too many, this impacts on performance yet gain. To catch up we have to do this on overtime before the whole process starts again. When are we going to get systems which are fit for purpose?"
Colin: I appreciate your frustration with some of our legacy systems and the interaction with SAP. We are working through this and actively pursuing technical solutions but I do appreciate the frustrations and believe me there are good people working on this.
Mr Port has become one of the chief apologists for SAP and South West One, sounding more like an IBM salesman than a senior public servant. But then he is on the board of South West One - arguably the ultimate conflict of interest.
Avon and Somerset Police secured a six-year contract with Medacs - the longest deal of any UK police force.
Mr Port protests that there is no difference between Avon and Somerset's contract with Medacs and that of any other force. He claims Dyfed Powys Police has an identical arrangement.
Not according to Medacs. Their own website gives full details. Most forces limit themelves to three or five-year contracts (including Dyfed Powys Police) Only Avon & Somerset Constabulary has a six-year contract. (check for yourself by clicking the Medacs link and examine their map region by region)
Mr Port also insists it is untrue that he was involved in the awarding of the contract. I didn't say he was - though, presumably, as Chief Constable, he would have known about it and could (or should) have had the right to veto it.
Anyway Mr Port probably had steam coming out of his ears when he briefed Police lawyers on Friday. He believes I have defamed him and would like me to publish a cringing apology which the lawyers have been kind enough to compose:
"On 10th March 2011 I published false and inaccurate statements concerning the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police Mr Colin Port. These concerned a webchat in which he had engaged and the award of a contract by Avon and Somerset Police to Medacs. I am happy to correct the record and confirm that these statements were false and inaccurate and to apologise to Mr Port for the distress and harm caused."
FOOTNOTE: In this instance Mr Port used the services of Avon and Somerset Police Legal Directorate for what appears to be a purely personal matter. Is this not very strange indeed? He usually calls in the services of expensive libel lawyers.
Perhaps times are hard?
March 11th 2011
Another nail in South West One's coffin of broken promises - as of this week local employment agencies have been completely frozen out of the process of supplying temporary staff for Somerset County Council. IBM doesn't like small suppliers. This explains why a contract has just been signed with a giant company
The word on the street is that Reed don't do it cheaper or better, but IBM feel easier dealing with multi-nationals! Somerset County Council used to have a perfectly good relationship with a number of local companies but Somerset Staffing is now another area of sensible life which has been scrapped in the tarnished name of progress. It will end in tears.
March 3rd 2011
South West One (however hard the company blows lies out of its own plastic trumpet) has been a financial disaster for Somerset County Council....that's why a renegotiation of the contract is about to begin. But I'm puzzled. Why don't the other partners want to renegotiate? This came in from almost-bankrupt Taunton Deane Council:
From: Adam, Shirlene
to renegotiate the contractwith Southwest One.
Our position is different. TDBC currently has no intention of entering
February 21st 2011
Napoleon didn't like retreating. Neither will Somerset County Council.
SCC has finally admitted what I have been telling them for three years - that the deal with South West One was fatally flawed from the word go.
Now they are embarking upon a formal renegotiation. Excellent news. About time too.
This is work in progress. It may be good, but it is not good enough. South West One has cost us all a packet because SCC quietly nodded acquiesence at the start. Since 2007 the county has been bled by IBM. It must stop. And it must stop soon. The waste is unbelievable. Too many mistakes have been made. The management of public money by the County is wildly expensive.
I could go on.....and I probably will.
February 18th 2011
On Feb 11th we reported SCC's effort to be "transparent" The published spreadsheet for December takes a lifetime to download and requires hours of study. But we know (because Mogg did the sums) that Somerset County Council handed over
£2,617,218.20p to South West One in December alone.
Multiplying by twelve could mean an annual payout of:
Perhaps December was a particularly expensive month? Mogg is a kind-hearted pussy and waited. But then the figures for Taunton Deane Council came in. Taunton Deane is a tiddler compared to Somerset County, but their published effort at "transparency" for the month of December also shows South West One cleaning up big time. Taunton Deane shelled out:
Taken over the whole year that would come to:
This is seriously big money - £36 and half million quid for the two councils and all going into the pockets of a company three-quarters owned by IBM. No prizes for guessing who wins. And no prizes for working out the real losers. If South West One had lived up to its promise of making huge savings we'd all be singing their praises. But South West One has saved virtually nothing and cost every taxpayer in Somerset a fortune. Worse still the computer and accounting systems they introduced are still responsible for glaring cock-ups. Mogg has already reported how South West One continues to pay people twice for the same work -"As at 7 January 2011, there were still unrecovered 330 payments totalling £577,000 which arose in 2009/10 and the current year" (from a letter written by SCC's ex Resources Chief, Roger Kershaw)
But now we have proof of even bigger financial discrepancies from another partner in this corporate den of thieves - the law enforcers themselves:
Chief Constable Colin Port sits on the Board of South West One (conflict of interest? - don't be ridiculous!) and presides over a force that is now struggling to keep its spending under control. We have evidence that Mr Port's company - South West One - has manifestly failed to do its sums properly for the police - they counted £16 million twice! (maybe they simply took last year's corporate losses and added them in?!)
If it happened in a Primary School the Headteacher would be out on his ear. But in the wacky world of South West One the "transparancy" of truth doesn't seem to worry them. The Audit Commission has finally put out its annual "letter" concerning Avon and Somerset Police and the Police Authority. We will save you the trouble of waiting for this 19 page document to download. Here's a crucial bit:
The approved financial statements were amended by officers to eliminate double counting of ￡16 million of expenditure and income relating to Southwest One.
This reduced gross expenditure from ￡303 million to ￡287 million and gross income from￡79 million to￡63 million.
The Auditors, however, are not always capable of spotting a rotten red herring when it is waved in their faces.
Contractual arrangements for the provision of shared services through Southwest One continue to offer significant economies of scale -
- providing savings in the region of ￡10m over the next 10 years
The above statement is total bunk.
Real savings are more likely to be £1.1 million and even that figure depends on what really happens. The proof is contained in a graph in one of the Police Authority's latest publicly released documents
But take care to read the very very small print underneath:
This graph summarises the benefits that should flow from Procurement activities whose implementation is now complete (assuming that actual spend profiles match those predicted)
Which means - you can't believe a word about South West One despite all the best efforts of transparency.
February 16th 2011
Two scantily-clad figures adorn the crest of Bristol's Society of Merchant Venturers. Today I am happy to reveal their identities. Both appear dressed for a dip and both will get very wet indeed if and when their dodgy outfit - the Bristol Port Company - deliberately floods Steart. I intend to pull the plug on their dodgy plans.
Mordaunt & Ord
Terence Mordaunt and David Ord took out out a lease of Bristol Port back in 1991. They've cleaned up nicely. Which is probably why Mr Mordaunt cultivates the Colin-Firth-at-the-Oscars- look and Mr Ord appears to favour one of Elton John's hand-me-down hairpieces. Basically they've reached that stage in life when they think they can get away with anything. This may explain the Society of Merchant Venturers link. Mordant and Ord share membership with another dodgy geyser - the chairman of South West One!
February 12th 2011
An Ord thing happened this morning. You might call it extra-Ord-inary. I was invited to meet some important people over breakfast including an extremely rich bloke called David Ord.
Mr Ord is co-owner of the Bristol Port Company which has a dodgy plan to flood Steart. Mr Ord may have heard I was coming. But he seems to have done a bunk before the bacon and eggs. Shame. I am always in-Ord-inately polite to strangers.
February 11th 2011
Wonderful news: Somerset County Council is now publishing full details of everything it spends. This spirit of openness, however, only came about because the Government ordered all local authorities to reveal the facts. You will need a magnifying glass and several hours to make sense of the first spreadsheet the County has produced. It covers the month of December 2010.
Happily my feline friends have done the digging for you to discover who gets the the biggest payout.
The winner? South West One Ltd.
Somerset County Council paid them £2,617,218.20p in December alone. It beggars belief, but its true.
February 9th 2011
I got my paws rapped last month for describing the Bristol Port Company (and its mad plan to flood Steart) as dodgy.
Readers will be pleased to learn that the paws are fine - but the company's flood scheme is as dodgy as ever - if not dodgier. To make matters worse this flood scheme seems to have been agreed with the knowledge of the Government Ministry DEFRA. I have just received a letter from the Minister explaining why the Environment Agency is spending shed loads of public money putting up flood defences. You would naturally expect that the justification for building defences is to protect life and property - but not in this case. In fact the so-called flood defences will safeguard not a single dwelling...and that's official. This is the crucial bit of the document :
Regional Flood Defence Committee
Risk Management Authority
Number of households to benefit from reduced flood risk when scheme completed
Steart Coastal Works
Total properties protected
February 7th 2011
This is the site of the new Avon and Somerset Police operation on Bridgwater's Express Park. A brand new, three storey building - designed to house a big custody suite and bring together specialist operations. Not to mention a new communications centre for all emergency calls - read all about it in their own blurb. But perhaps they would rather I didn't mention communications.
The communications team is currently based in these old buildings in Taunton
Now they've been told they wont be moving to Bridgwater after all - but miles away to Portishead. The lads and lasses are said to be puzzled and miffed. Something fishy is afoot. And since SouthWest One is heavily involved in the whole process I am deeply suspicious and intend to ask some pointed questions.
January 27th 2011
Roger Conway is one of those determined citizens who does his best to ferret out the truth when he discovers something rotten. And when he got a whiff of South West One and its allies Alan Jones and Roger Kershaw (respectively SCC's expensively sacked ex-Chief Executive and the just-departed ex-Director of Resources) Mr Conway realised he was on to something rotten to the core. He attended the Audit Committee meeting last December, made some critical comments and asked some pointed questions. The rules forced Roger Kershaw to reply in detail - days before he cleared his desk and quit Somerset for a new life in Derby. Kershaw's words unveil a crazy catologue of failure. The worst example may well be the inability of South West One and SAP to spot that it is still paying suppliers twice! As of January 7th 2011 this cock-up left South West One's books out of balance by £600,000 - which means everyone in Somerset has to pay!
Mr Conway forwarded the letter to all Somerset's MPs. It is in the public interest that the contents should be seen by everyone.
Dear Mr Conway
Audit Committee – 9 December 2010
Thank you for your statement. I have tried to provide answers to the questions raised within it as follows: (RMC questions in blue italics)
“Paper C for this meeting states that the level of aged debt has not improved, in spite of the amount of money spend on SAP and that a large proportion of the aged debt will need to written off – How much will that actually be? And is it in addition to the £25million that has disappeared into Iceland?”
SAP is now fully functioning in terms of aged debt reporting enabling the debt collection process known as dunning. Now we have the information we need, there is now an imperative for the individual SCC services who are owed outstanding monies to pursue their debts. The County Council treats such debts as outstanding until paid and will only be writing them off if all other avenues for collection are exhausted. Most of the larger debts are with public sector bodies whom we are confident will pay up eventually.
“Paper D tells us that until the introduction of SAP, duplicate payments were not an issue, but now they are. Is this not an indictment of those who authorised the spending of £30million on such an ineffective package, who must be ‘sick as parrots’ to learn that both Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire have installed the same system for a fifth of the price? I note that the director of Resources has written to SWO about this. Did he write this as SRO or as S151 officer?”
As at 7 January 2011, there were still unrecovered 330 payments totalling £577,000 which arose in 2009/10 and the current year. Letters have been sent to suppliers in receipt of a duplicate payment and South West One have raised 201 sales invoices. These sales invoices will be subject to the normal debt recovery processes, with previous correspondence acting as the initial dunning letter to ensure swift referral to legal as necessary. Monitoring of the recovery of duplicate payments is being carried out on a weekly basis by Southwest One and SCC Finance.
South West One and the County Council have also agreed an Action Plan to prevent future duplicate payments being made. This plan tackles the problem in two ways: firstly by educating all staff involved in making payments to follow the process properly and secondly by the implementation, in the week commencing 3 January 2011, of a pre-payment duplicate checks program (Etesius) to ensure that any future duplicate payments are identified and stopped prior to payment being made.
Continued Audit Work
“Do the committee think they have any obligation to protect the public interest against being further ‘ripped off’ by SWO? And how do they think that they will be able to do so, now that any semblance of independent audit disappears with the demise of the Audit Commission?”
The loss of the Audit Commission will not mean the end of external audit input to the County Council. The Commission will in fact be in place for the accounts for both the 10/11 & 11/12 financial years, after which alternative arrangements, possibly through appointment of auditors through competitive tender will be introduced. We await final guidance on this from the Government . All areas of the County Council's operations are subject to ingoing scruting and audit through officer, Member and public channels in the normal ongoing manner
Corporate Director – Resources
If Roger Kershaw can be accused of sloppy financial management in Somerset, spare a thought for his new employers in Derby. Kershaw's first day at work was January 17th. Yet by January 19th he had allegedly managed to examine and agree the council's three year budget plan (all 115 pages of it). Like so many things about the man it is very hard indeed to believe that he did more than scratch his illegible signature on the dotted line.....just like he did on the deal that started South West One!
January 20th 2011
Just suppose that all schools in Somerset were denied access to their websites. Imagine the chaos....and then stop imagining. This week that is exactly what happened when an over-zealous geek (working at South West One for Somerset County Council) pressed some incorrect keys and published every school password to the world! Oops!! The ensuing digital muddle made South West One look even sillier than it normally is. If you want to find the culprits SCC's Blue Book is a good place to start:
Truth is this fiasco was probably human error rather than South West One incompetence - but, hey ho, what the heck!
.............a few other bits and bobs:
The Bristol Port Company (according to Companies House there is only one)
THE BRISTOL PORT COMPANY LIMITED
Company No. 02641767
Date of Incorporation: 30/08/1991
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Company Type: Private Limited Company
Nature of Business (SIC(03)):
7499 - Non-trading company
Accounting Reference Date: 30/06
Last Accounts Made Up To: 30/06/2010 (DORMANT)
Next Accounts Due: 31/03/2012
Last Return Made Up To: 30/08/2010
Next Return Due: 27/09/2011
Non trading? Dormant? Eh? So what are they playing at with a massive new terminal project in Bristol and a cockeyed plan to flood Steart?
The Colin Port Company (well they're both based at Portishead!)
And, like the other port, they've been raising eyebrows too - ever since they joined SouthWest One and installed SAP. Its all supposed to be going swimmingly - except everyone knows the entire arrangement is a disaster. So the Police Authority hired a big firm of consultant accountants to take a look.
RSM Tenon were paid to think the unthinkable - and their report (click their logo to read it in full) suggests that SouthWest One's police deal may not be quite as wonderful as Colin Port claims. For example:
“The involvement with Southwest One limits the organisation’s options with regard to any back office redesign that may be considered as potential cash savings, as the ‘traditional’ back office functions are rolled into the Southwest One arrangement. This does not mean however that being part of the partnership will not continue to deliver planned savings and improvement, it simply adds an additional layer of challenge to this area. It would be prudent to continue to monitor the outputs and outcomes that result from the arrangement, and consider all options open to the organisation with regard to shared services. This is particularly pertinent as the context and working environment for the Police and partners has radically altered since the Southwest One agreement was signed, and it would be entirely appropriate to evaluate as part of the transformational journey in the future whether the arrangement is still the best for Avon and Somerset Police.”
In other words.....maybe the cops should get out of South West One.
January 16th 2011
A harmless little word you may think, especially when used (by me in a Westminster speech last week) to describe a company which intends to do very little good to the Steart peninsula when it floods the area. The Bristol Port Company would have you believe that the locals are already in agreement with their plans. But this is hard to swallow since the public exhibition doesn't hit Otterhampton until next Tuesday.
January 4th 2011
Another anguished goodbye to another of Alan Jones "special appointees" (they got their jobs without the usual pariphenalia of interview boards or aptitude). This time Sonia Davidson Grant (£139,000 a year) is “leaving”. She was in charge of potholes, snow clearance and all those important little things that never get done properly. Anon, my favourite poet, writes:
“And so farewell Sonia Davidson-Grant
(Can she help you? No she can’t)
County Hall could use her room
She’ll twiddle her thumbs in Ilfracombe”
Was she really necessary? In the words of the Chief Executive: "Sonia’s position will not be filled until the Council has had an opportunity to review the position in light of the current financial situation." hmmm!
Happy New Year to SouthWest One - they'll pursue you beyond the grave!
If you die and then get a council tax demand from Taunton Deane blame SouthWest One.This dismal joint venture run by IBM ought to be pushing up the daisies itself. Instead it is has been trying to extract money with menaces from a poor old lady who died in December. In the real world this might be a one-off mistake. But SouthWest One has form. They harried another pensioner to claw back the princely sum of ONE PENNY!
December 17th 2010
Rumours reach me of Yuletide merriment at the expense of a computer system favoured by the Chief Constable.
(To the tune of Jingle Bells)
"Santa’s on his way, up from South West One. Rudolph simply can’t work out how the timesheet’s done.
Elves are in a flap, can’t get hours on SAP - no expenses paid, it’s all a load of ****!
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, cutbacks all the way, Rudolph’s wont get overtime for working Christmas Day.
Savings here, savings there, cutbacks all the way Oh what fun it is to serve the public on half pay!"
And talking of the Chief Constable (it was his wife - Sue Barnes - who helped set up SouthWest One) I now read that yet another of her "ventures" (this time with BT) has proved to be a financial disaster area, mired in overspend, underperformance and scandal
So no change!
December 10th 2010
The three musketeers responsible for foisting South West One on Somerset are now a depleted trio. Alan Jones (former Chief Executive) got the chop. Roger Kershaw (Resources Director - ie Jones' bagman) will be out by Christmas. Last man standing is Creepy Crouch, head of HR.
Richard Crouch should read the Audit Commission's latest report which roundly damns SouthWest One.
Mr Crouch is the remaining rent-a-quote at County Hall, ready to spout complete garbage to the specialist press in the hope of drumming up more business for his mates at IBM. Some hope. South West One is now a dead duck. It always was. Not that you'd think so when you read his absurd words to the trade paper "Personnel Today"
"This project has put Somerset Council on the national stage," uttered Mr Crouch with absurd abandon at a time when it was already glaringly obvious to everyone that SouthWest One was an abject failure. But instead of buttoning his lip the man let rip with more
"If you're going to jump into bed with a partner like IBM, you have to realise they speak a different language, work differently, think differently, act differently. It's too easy to forget the reason why you brought in a partner in the first place. If they're no different to you, there's no point. But the relationship works because you think about the bigger picture."
It is only fair to warn interview panels of these colourful Crouchisms in case he applies to leave Somerset.....before he's pushed.
December 7th 2010
News from the thin blue line........where SAP (the dismal computer software foisted upon Avon and Somerset by IBM) has been rechristed "Stops All Policework". Senior officers are now learning to loathe SAP as much as everyone else. Once a fortnight they gather to discuss how to keep the budget in order. SAP has now rendered these meetings completely useless because SAP is incapable of providing any credible financial detail. When the current Chief Constable finally quits very few in the force believe that SAP will survive him.
DONT SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU!
Meantime the Audit Commission, in a remarkable burst of pre-abolition honesty, has produced a detailed report about SouthWest One. My Master has been quick to criticise the Audit Commission in the past. But this time the lads have made a decent fist of finding the truth. Forget all the garbage spouted by SouthWest One and its creators. At last the Audit Commission has unearthed some salient facts about this awful mess.
This week the Audit Committee of Somerset County Council has the Audit Commission's findings upon its agenda. They may prefer to note the report and move swiftly on. This would be a grave pity. The committee should reflect upon their own past actions and inadequate scrutiny. Three years ago it was the Audit Committee that rubber-stamped SouthWest One's miserable contract without so much as a whimper. DONT SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU.
November 30th 2010
Q: What is the most expensive item in education?
A: The staff payroll.
Q: Who deals with staff payrolls for Somerset’s state schools?
A: SouthWest One.
Q: How much can a school save by buying payroll services elsewhere?
Q: Is it any wonder so many schools are now considering Academy status?
A: No wonder at all
The new Taunton Academy has only been in business for a few weeks but it has already seen payroll costs tumble by three quarters since it switched to DataPlan from the over-priced and inefficient SouthWest One. Are these IBM cowboys still ripping off your school? Tell my master: email@example.com
November 23rd 2010
It is unseemly when a local authority tries to undermine a neighbouring council which seeks to grow the economy by attracting new jobs. But that is what appears to be happening with Taunton Deane which is now trying to bung a spanner in the works of Sedgemoor District Council's stategic plan.
This spat seems to be born of jealousy and spite. Taunton Deane thinks it should be top dog. But Taunton Deane is almost penniless. It was a founder member of SouthWest One, so it is lumbered with broken promises, SAP and more debt. Now it seeks to scupper Sedgemoor's sensible proposals by fair means or foul - and it looks like they've opted for foul:
November 10th 2010
Ronald Arthur Biggs (aka Roger Kershaw) appears to have been busy e-mailing his fond farewells as Derby beckons. I received the message below and suspected it might be a spoof......until I noticed the substantially redacted sections. Crossing things out, of course, is Kershaw's trademark. He used it to try and discredit former Lib Dem Deputy Leader Paul Buchanan in evidence to the Standards Board.
I shall miss working with you
Oh yes, we are sure going to miss him. Roger was rarely one for the limelight. He preferred to leave publicity to the likes of Alan Jones. But he did have a cameo role in one of Alan's best-loved films:
November 7th 2010
In normal circumstances I would greet the departure of one of my master's constituents with sadness. But Roger Kershaw (grinning on the left of the picture) is different. Mr Kershaw was Alan Jones' right-hand man in the dodgy deal that formed South West One - the disastrous partnership with IBM. Mr Kershaw not only knows where the bodies are buried, his finger prints are all over the shovel. He blundered on as Somerset County Council's Resource Director after Jones' sudden exit, but now the burghers of Derbyshire County Council have given him a job. Derbyshire also uses SAP and has encountered similar problems with this awful system. If Mr Kershaw has billed himself as a succesful troubleshooter then Derbyshire is in for an expensive shock. Kershaw's ridiculous predictions about the savings that could be achieved with South West One have never (and will never) be realised. Somerset County Council would not now be facing a huge financial crisis but for the failure of the systems Kershaw helped to introduce. Roger Kershaw's mistaken beliefs may well cost 500 employees their jobs. To those who doubt the theory that the most odiferous faeces continue to remain buoyant, Mr Kershaw's record offers ample proof. Derbyshire is welcome to him.
November 2nd 2010
Good to read that many users, all across the globe, find SAP such a dreadful system sold by such a shoddy and sometimes unscrupulous company....currently there is an important case in the US courts against SAP. Multi million dollar damages are predicted. Tee hee.
October 25th 2010
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Jones-the-Jaws rears his ugly head again. On Friday I reminded readers that SouthWest One was designed to save so much money that all the job cuts at Somerset County Council would have been avoided. SouthWest One, of course, was pushed through by none other than Alan Jones who made an ass of himself promising how wonderful it would be. Forced retirement may have interfered with his memory but has had no effect upon his arrogance. Thus when an SCC employee e-mailed Jones over the weekend, the Great Man (sic) chose to copy me in on his bizarre reply:
Subject: Re: Message from Future Communities website
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2010 07:44:59 +0000
Thank you for your message.
The 1,900 employees losing their job has nothing to do with South West One, or with me.
Good luck! Alan
From: One of 1,900 employees losing their job
Subject: Message from Future Communities website
Sent: 24 Oct 2010 08:10
Your egotistical adventure into the controversial and disastrous SW1 has not produced any meaningful savings against all the extra costs
and £30m of borrowing. SAP is rubbish; web sites are Poor; buildings tatty.
Good to know that you left with your pockets jangling though.
Maybe Devon where you now live will not be as badly hit, as they didn't succumb to the nonsense that is SW1 - a World Class Disaster!
Thanks for nothing (what most of us will get),
A disgruntled employee (one in 6,500 - for now)
If Mr Jones' old colleagues wish to contact their former Chief Executive to congratulate him for his contribution to saving their jobs I am sure he will welcome all electronic corresponedence!
(And if Mr Jones is in any doubt about the cuts at county hall, he should take time to read this)
October 22nd 2010
My attention has been drawn to a letter in one of our local papers:
From where are the losses of Southwest One to be met?
The response of our MP Jeremy Browne to the reported losses of SW1 is intriguing. If the liabililities aren't borne directly by the taxpayer and the only source of income for this company comes from the three public bodies concerned, from where are the accumulated losses of £19m to be met? Either IBM has to provide hard cash to balance the books or this sum has to be capitalised, which will leave a large hole in their finances. If neither, the charge for the company services to Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane and Avon and Somerset Police will have to be increased. If the charge is not increased a lower level of service must be provided for the fixed price of the contract. Though the current administration is not responsible for letting this contract, if it does not manage the outcome the voters of Somerset can only vote against them as it is a private company which is losing our money.
D Huw Watts
Methinks Mr Watts knows what he's talking about. And, now that severe job-cuts are being considered at County Hall - it is well worth noting that SouthWest One was set up (by Alan Jones and the Lib-Dems) on the promise of saving enough money every year to avoid any job cuts at all. But we were all completely conned.
October 21st 2010
So farewell Richard Allen.....he used to be Avon and Somerset Police's head of IT, then he joined SouthWest One....the rest is hysterical hype:
October 17th 2010
I have learned of a new SAP gremlin currently causing consternation among serving policemen - particularly detectives. If they have expenses to claim - but have no receipts to back them up - they are required to submit an empty expenses envelope! It should be too mad to be true, but we have the email proof:
To: \All (Police); \All (Specials); \All (Operational Support)
Subject: OPS: RESTRICTED: IMPORTANT: ADVICE RE EXPENSES
If - for whatever reason - you are claiming expenses but do not have any receipts then this advice will be valuable. You may not have receipts due to various reasons. Below are just a number of personal examples, I'm sure there are more:
1) You are claiming London congestion charges. When you paid the charges over the phone you asked for a receipt to be sent to you. You never received it
2) You are working abroad, & are therefore entitled to overseas subsistence allowance as set by Home Office. As this is an entitlement you can spend the money on what you wish, whilst you are away & therefore do not need a receipt. This is an allowance entitlement.
3) Car park charges when the ticket goes into the machine and you end up with no receipt.
4) You forget to ask for a receipt (i.e. surveillance work) or you subsequently lose the receipt.
Now, I may be stupid but when I put expenses onto SAP & explain the various reasons as to why there are no receipts & this process is authorised by my line manager I thought that was it. But I have now been informed that even if you don't have any receipts you should send an empty receipts envelope with your details & ref number on it.( I thought one of the advantages to SAP was to make it paperless. I appear to be wrong. ) Amazingly I have been informed that the system relies on these envelopes & not by the various entries going into someone's electronic mail box.
P Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this email?
October 8th 2010
There are now 77 shopping days to Christmas, and one local "hero" has already compiled his list - you may recognise the signature
Yes folks, Santa Kershaw - the overpaid oaf in charge of Somerset's Resource Directorate has named the day to issue compulsory redundancy notices to staff. And the day is........ (wait for it)........ December 25th.
Ho Ho Ho ? not according to UNISON
Perhaps new readers should be reminded that Mr Kershaw was in at the birth of SouthWest One, and deserves a fat slice of the blame for the disasters that have ensued. In fact if SouthWest One had done what Kershaw promised - saved real money - chances are no redundancies would be required. But the SouthWest One disaster log is unstoppable. Have a look at the latest from the Somerset Association of Secondary Headteachers:
SASH March 2010:
4.12 SAP – Rob B confirmed that the implementation of SAP 2 went ahead as planned but it had not been quite as smooth as they had been led to believe it would be. Ali Crudgington will be taking up any issues via Schools Forum.
SASH April 2010:
10.9 Bursars’ Association – With reference to the implementation of SAP2, Mark highlighted issues with the latest payroll reconciliation which had taken a day to sort out. Steve J asked Mark to let him have a summary of all the issues so that he can follow up. Mark suggested schools receive a refund if the system goes down for any period of time. Action MP
11.1 ICT – Steve J expressed concern about the recent problems with email and the length of time it was taking to identify the source of the problem. There is concern that this might be directly related to the recent staff turnover and lack of technical knowledge at a senior level. Steve J asked colleagues if they would be interested in exploring the possibility of going direct to SIMS for support and the kind of deals that might be available as a family of schools. There was unanimous agreement with the proposal that SASH Exec look for alternative ICT provision in the light of problems that have arisen since SouthWest One was awarded the contract.
11.2 SouthWest One, meeting with Fiona Capstick – Rob B met with Fiona to discuss the concerns around the implementation of SAP and poor support to Client Services Group from SW1 personnel. Fiona is keen to work with SASH/Schools Forum/SEPT to explain next steps and decide on best strategic direction to work with schools and would welcome the opportunity to attend SASH Exec. Action BB
SASH July 2010:
1. ICT – Tony B referred to the letter addressed to Fiona Capstick, sent on behalf of SASH, SAPHTO and SAHSP which summarised the current issues and set out a timescale for action. This letter was the result of a meeting with the LA, reps from across the school phases and chaired by Bob Clark which was arranged to bottom out the main issues. Fiona Capstick has subsequently issued an apology letter which colleagues have seen. A small working group has now been established to meet regularly with SWO with the aim of drawing up an Action Plan by mid July to put right the immediate issues schools are facing with their networks. However, there is a much wider issue concerning the area network which will not be fit for purpose in terms of traffic and the capital investment required and who will be responsible for it. SWO has an opportunity to tender for this work and there is a process underway to find an alternative to SWO. This is moving fast and could be decided during the summer holidays. Tony B’s IT Manager is currently going through a summary of the Contract of Provision which colleagues acknowledge will have to be much sharper in the future. Rob B thanked Tony B for all the work he has done over the last month and assured colleagues that Fiona C is aware of the scale of the problem and of the desire to hold regular meetings with SASH/SAPHTO to discuss wider issues and this has been agreed. In effect, SWO is on trial and will have to stick to deadlines. Geoff T asked whether the ICT contract is a separate entity or part of the overall package which includes other services. Simon F thinks it is part of the wider remit but that the IT part may be separated out and put out to tender.
Finally, commiserations to the deranged team of Liberal Democrat county councillors who have now (mysteriously and belatedly) recognised that SouthWest One is a complete failure. Cllr Sam Crabb has worked himself into a ludicrous lather of feigned indignation. He seems to have forgotten that he signed the deal for South West One and trumpeted the alleged advantages it would bring. Its a funny old world!
September 30th 2010
The SS South West One is sinking fast. The useless computer system it uses (SAP) has caused a debt crisis at Somerset County Council. The council's own figures show how debt has increased since SAP was introduced . So what happens if this wildly expensive computer system goes belly up? You would expect IBM and South West One to have provided some kind of guaranteed data recovery scheme in the event of a disaster. But they haven't.
"SWOne have not provided SCC with a formal Disaster Recovery Plan (though we have a contracted obligation upon them to do so)"
Still, who needs a proper disaster when South West One has already helped Somerset County Council produce wildly inaccurate annual accounts. So wildly inaccurate that there are huge amendments tagged on the end of the published document.
Statement of Accounts – Amendments
4.1 Environmental Services income and expenditure for concessionary fares is overstated by £2.690 million. This has arisen from duplicate payments made during the year. A credit was incorrectly raised as additional income rather than netting off against expenditure. The error has been corrected in the accounts.
4.2 Environmental Services income and expenditure for structural maintenance of highways is overstated by £18.233 million. The transfer of this expenditure to capital was incorrectly reported as additional income rather than as a reduction to expenditure. The error has been corrected in the accounts.
4.3 Children's Services and Education Services income and expenditure are overstated by £1.8 million. An adjustment made in the general ledger, to transfer Sure Start grant income from one cost centre to another, wrongly posts the debit entry to an expenditure code instead of reducing income. Income and expenditure are overstated in the accounts. The error has been corrected in the accounts.
4.4 The audit identified inconsistencies between the fixed asset register kept by the accountants and the asset listing kept by valuers. Some properties revalued in the year have not been included in the accounts. Fixed asset values in the accounts are understated by about £5.2 million. The error has been corrected in the accounts.
4.5 The Council operates four ledger codes for each bank account - two credit and two debit accounts. These accounts should be netted off to provide one balance for each account. However, in the accounts these balances are shown separately. As a result the cash figure on the balance sheet is misstated by £147,000 and the overdrawn balance by the same amount. The error has been corrected in the accounts.
4.6 Of these amendments only the netting off of cash and overdraft referred to in 4.5 was an error which falls within the Corporate Finance remit. The other errors havebeen made by SWOne finance staff and we will need to address these throughthe regular performance meetings. It is also notable that these errors are notclosely related to SAP functionality or expertise but they are basic accountancytreatment issues.
Statement of Accounts – Unadjusted error
5.1 We are aware that the income and expenditure account net cost of service is overstated by £628,000, in relation to duplicate payments identified after the draft accounts were approved. The exact amount is not known at this stage and correcting the accounts with an estimated figure would be inappropriate. We need time to examine the details provided by services to ensure that the correct adjustments are made.
This is a dismal state of affairs and a concrete admission of failure. Talking of which, South West One has just announced its own accounts and showed a pre-tax loss of £16.5 millions! How long before South West One sinks , unmourned, altogether? Can anyone row ?
September 14th 2010
The crazy situation inside HMRC (those wild demands for extra payments) ought to ring a few bells in Somerset. Once again a big public body has been duped by a US computer giant! (read more)
Subject: Sent on behalf of Fiona Capstick
Ladies and gentlemen,
The purpose of this note is to confirm to you that Halleh Missaghi will leave Southwest One and IBM in the UK in the middle of September to return to Australia. Halleh has been a great asset to Southwest One since she joined last year and her leadership will be missed across the team. I will personally miss her drive, attention to detail and Antipodean sense of humour.
We are working on the next steps with regards to the Director of Operations and will communicate that to you all shortly. In the meantime I know that you will all joining me in wishing Halleh all the very best for the future.
Thanks and regards Fiona Capstick, CEO, South West One
Halleh Missaghi's sense of humour was well known. She will no doubt laugh like an antipodean drain when she reads what's been going on at Avon and Somerset Police as a result of SouthWest One and its abominable SAP operating system. The following comes from a senior officer:
“On several occasions we have had people turn up at the main gate of the HQ to demand payment for goods supplied and not paid for because of SAP. This is what happened to our Legal Services. They had some racking installed for their files when they moved from their portacabin back into the HQ building. But the payment was held up in SAP system which led to men with a van turning up stating they were going to remove it! An emergency cheque had to be signed to avoid legal proceedings.
We’ve also had terrible problems getting doctors’ statements for court cases as SAP wouldn’t pay the doctors fees. We reached the stage where medics refused to supply evidential statements without payment up front.”
SAP of course is a worldwide problem. Have a look at what has happened in one American County because of the wretched system. And keep an eye out for SAP disasters on another interesting blog
August 16th 2010
Congratulations to the Daily Telegraph for uncovering more scandalous waste in local government - this time the crazy sums of public money squandered on "improving" council websites. Sadly there is no mention of the biggest spender of all - Somerset County Council. The Somerset website revamp (ordered by ex-chief executive Alan Jones, and executed with customary greed by IBM via SouthWest One) cost a record £4.5 million plus an extra £3 million for the "call centre" to connect with the public. Even expert geeks regard the revamped site as "poor"....and so we all will be (poor, that is) having been made to pay for the wretched thing.
August 15th 2010
Make a date for next Saturday......
Today the Audit Commission was sent packing by the Coalition Government. Given the Commission's inability to stuff the huge turkey of SouthWest One - even when we gave them all the forcemeat evidence- its demise is not to be mourned. The Audit Commission conducted shoddy audits and should never have been commissioned at all. They got it so wrong about South West One they even believed the crass hype pushed out by IBM about how much it was going to save. Remember those wild promises about £200million in savings? Well it has proved to be a complete pack of lies. The official figures -obtained by one of the unions under Freedom of Information, and passed to the Audit Commission - show exactly what a waste of time and money South West One has been.
August 3rd 2010
It has been brought to my attention that my splendid column has been vilified in a dusty corner of the blogosphere. Most publicity is good publicity. The author of Political Scrapbook, however, sadly misses the point. Just for the record, Mogg adopted the catchphrase "Excellent Pussy" to mimic the Lib-Dem County Council and its appalling ex chief executive who referred to all council activities as Excellent - even when they were anything but. So stick that in your scrapbook and print it.
Coming soon........fresh revelations about Avon and Somerset Police.
July 13th 2010
The Roger Kershaw Protection Society (better known as CIPFA) has been attempting to browbeat a doughty Somerset resident, Roger Conway, again. Mr Conway wanted Kershaw investigated. CIPFA sat on the issue for the best part of two years, finally produced a report exonerating Kershaw, and then (bizarre of bizzares) refused to let Mr Conway (or anyone else) see the findings unless they signed a gagging order......even though the report has already been heavily edited (probably by Kershaw himself ) !
“We note that Mr Liddell-Grainger has made some amendments to his blog but remain concerned at the incorrect/misleading information which remains on in together with the unauthorised use of the CIPFA logo. Once again we would request that you take steps to have this material removed from the relevant web site. In addition, although we appreciate that confidentiality may not attach to it, out of an abundance of caution, we will be drawing to the attention of the Standards Board for England that a document connected with an investigation that it has conducted has been published on Mr Liddell-Grainger’s web site”.
Am I bovvered? What do you think!!
(PS.....has CIPFA forgotten what is happening to the Standards Board?)
July 1st 2010
Roger Kershaw (see my June 24th entry) deserves a sceptical plaudit for his very survival. This was the man who was put in charge of ISIS (Improving Services in Somerset) by the awful former Chief Executive, Alan Jones. Mr Kershaw chose to maintain his legal role as Section 151 Officer at the same time. More scrupulous public officials would have recognised a huge conflict of interest staring them in the face and stepped aside.
Kershaw secured his "day-job" - Resources Director - by dint of his close relationship with Alan Jones. The previous incumbent left suddenly and our Roger was ushered into the role first as a caretaker and then, with Alan Jones connivance, as the full-time replacement. He was given the title without any of the standard HR policies being followed. There were no other candidates! It was, of course, Roger Kershaw who signed the deal that created SouthWest One. He did the deal at 2am on a Saturday morning! Overnight his pay went up by £30K year and since then his pension has increased by another £15K.
Mr Kershaw is a member ofa professional Association with a strict code of conduct and ethics including:
One doughty Somerset resident has struggled to persuade CIPFA to examine Kershaw's conduct. It took two years to get them to investigate. And now they have produced a whitewash which my Master will only be allowed to see if he is prepared to sign an extraordinary gagging order.
CIPFA have spent two years avoiding the real issues and protecting their "member". They have generated a report rejecting Mr Conway's complaint, but"redacted" much of it (in other words all the sensitive bits have been - mysteriously - excluded)
Redacting sensitive documents is nothing new (the House of Commons authorities tried to do it with MPs expenses, and we all know how the public reacted!) Redacting details usually misfires. It smells of cover-up. And Mr Kershaw has a track record in redacting things - see his "evidence" to the Standards Board for England (long and loud do I applaud its abolition!) in which substantial sections of his original words were scored out.....presumably by Mr Kershaw himself!
In the current CIPFA case the complainant cannot even see the heavily-edited version until he signs away his right to talk about it! It is the ultimate Catch 22. Mr Conway is now enlisting the support of all Somerset's MPs to get closer to the truth.
We think he's got a big point. Kershaw has form. My Master now intends to challenge CIPFA for explanations.
My Master's mailbag continues to groan with correspondence from disgruntled employees of SouthWest One. Next week I intend to publish material that has arrived from serving police officers complaining that their salaries are still not being paid properly or on time....all because of SAP. But today I bring you an e-mail from a very disgruntled Somerset County Council employee - now seconded to SouthWest One:
28 June 2010 14:15:55
1.The majority of ICT staff still do not really know what they are meant to be doing. This is a real shame as we are all intelligent, hardworking, skilled and committed to the people of Somerset
2.Management is displaying far less leadership than before the creation of Southwest One. It seems to be a case of IBM says "Jump", our management say "How high?"
3.We have had no training on how we deal with SCC/TDBC staff in our now commercial Southwest One status. IBM has stated internally that, regardless of status, all calls on ICT are chargeable.
4.Hopefully IBM will be shocked by the number of people registering their interest in voluntary redundancy or early retirement. The irony here is that the best, most productive, people will be lost for short term savings. As someone who has worked both commercially and for the public sector, I am amazed at IBM’s lack of understanding of how the public sector works. They see us as a money pit - this personally disgusts me as it is nothing more than robbing from the people of Somerset for the sake of profit (or less net loss) than actually providing services of benefit for the public.
5.SAP. Where do I begin - any position that becomes vacant in ICT becomes the property of the SAP project meaning that all other ICT projects suffer because of the monster that is SAP. There is no real budget for internal training - that all went on pulling in SAP "experts" from India who have completely failed in their supposed duty for KT (knowledge transfer for those unenlightened souls who do not know IBM speak). SAP has been a complete disaster - I was working with IBM consultants 24 months ago who stated that the only way to make it work in Somerset would be to junk what we had and start again to provide a software model that worked for a rural County Council (as opposed to a northern municipal council.
6.The overwhelming majority of SCC and TDBC staff seconded to Southwest One are frustrated that they cannot serve the people of Somerset as well as they could 3 years ago. Please do not be harsh on us seconded staff - we had no say in this!!!
June 24th 2010
Don't say we didn't warn you. For months I have been twitching my whiskers about the dismal operating system that IBM forced Somerset to buy when South West One was formed. SAP is the pits. And now Somerset's own official auditors admit it! Their report has just been delivered to Somerset County Council's Audit Committee. Click on the SAP logo to read it in full, but here are some meaty morsels starting on Page 7:
3.23 The audit review has identified that due to system errors within SAP CRM there is as yet no formal monitoring of feedback and it is not possible to report on learning outcomes from complaints. In addition to this, the feedback from customer satisfaction surveys is not reported on, again because the system is unable to provide the required reports.
3.30 While SCC Finance and representatives of SWOne have endeavoured to address problems encountered during the early part of SAP implementation, a number of control weaknesses have been identified through this process. Staff across the County Council experienced problems with using elements of the SAP system. This led to a need to introduce alternative working methods and at times this compromised internal controls. Reconciliation and budgetary information was delayed and large numbers of duplicate payments were processed.
3.52 Our annual review of the key financial controls has identified a number of control weaknesses which can be attributed to issues surrounding the implementation of SAP. Staff across the County Council have experienced problems using elements of the SAP system. This has led to having to work around the system and put a great deal of time and effort in trying to cope with the work-arounds, which in turn has caused major disruption in some areas and had an adverse impact on the assessment of operating controls. The problems the Council experienced during the implementation of SAP in respect of the payment of invoices, the raising of and collection of monies owed to the Council have had a significant effect on back office services.
So which overpaid Somerset official is to blame for all of this? Some say the County's Corporate Director of Resources Roger Kershaw (seen here in a Ronald Arthur Biggs pose) ought to be hanging his head in shame. He was in at the start of the whole dreadful fiasco as Alan Jones' right hand man.
June 14th 2010
The cracks within Southwest One are widening fast.....the rats inside may be preparing to abandon ship. All those predictions about how the company would save money for Somerset County Council have proved empty and worthless. Now the police are waking up to what a fine mess Colin Port and his missus got them into. At the end of last month Mr Port produced a report about "Strategic Alliances". It disclosed for the first time that the police are withholding payments to IBM for SAP - because it is proving to be such complete rubbish. The police hired a "procurement category manager" to try and move things along. This hapless individual quit after only three weeks! SouthWest One hasn't saved any money for the boys in blue and all talk of cooperation with other forces seems to leave SouthWest One out. Which begs the question, Mr Port, isn't it time you jumped overboard too?
Here's the full report (read, carefully, between the lines)
June 10th 2010
Have you looked at Somerset County Council's webpages lately? They should have named it "austerity.com" It is full of grim news about cuts to come. It is slow, ugly and functions worse than the site it so expensively replaced. Don't believe me? Ask the experts:
This is a huge irony because it was built by (wait for it) IBM and it cost far more than the £4.5million the Council is now seeking to save from the budget. So perhaps it is no surprise that the new Chief executive, Sheila Wheeler, decided she wouldn't waste a single penny of taxpayers' cash by launching a Blog on SCC's inefficient IBM creation. Instead she put her Blog up free via Wordpress. Members of staff are allowed to make comments. There are quite a few fruity ones about the appalling SAP system foisted on Somerset by IBM!
May 19th 2010
But the manufacturers offer no guarantees against chips, cracks or complete collapse. Don't say I didn't warn you.
May 14th 2010
Should I be hanging my head in shame? Nope. I stand by what I said. Finding their way out of a paper bag is not one of the Liberal Democrats strongest sports. That's why we should be keep our eyes wide open as the new coalition government proceeds.
PS.....Lib Dem lunacy has a habit of coming back to haunt us all. It was the Lib Dems who signed up with IBM and agreed to the installation of their wildly inefficient SAP operating system. SAP cost a packet and has delivered nothing but nightmares. There are still at least ten Indian nationals working in Taunton in highly sensitive areas who have not been security vetted. Happily the new Conservative administration at County Hall is currently investigating how to get some cash back from IBM for this whole disaster. And I'm pleased to report that Taunton Deane is also hot on the trail of SAP too.
May 12th 2010
During the election I have not had the opportunity to bring you up to date on the latest comings and goings within SouthWest One.
Dr Moira Hamlin, chair of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority will be stepping down in a matter of weeks. Dr Hamlin and the Chief Constable gave glowing testimony about SouthWest One to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last November. But they both singularly failed to tell the committee that they were (and still are) members of the board of SouthWest One. This "oversight" caused consternation amongst the committee staff - who are sticklers for accuracy and honesty. As a result the evidence given by Dr Hamlin and the Chief Constable remains on the record but was, effectively, treated with kid gloves when the final report was published.
May 7th 2010
Elections are, or ought to be, humbling experiences. Politicians will be trying to digest the lessons of last night for months - maybe years. I am not prepared to risk indigestion. I fought the campaign on my local record as a battler. I am not suddenly going to turn soft. So contact me whenever you need help. Tip me off about wrong-doings. And allow me one last filmic dose of self-deprecating triumphalism before we get down to business. Meet my tv hero:
April 11th 2010
Snoopy will be equipped with a collar-cam. Stand by for her video reports direct from the front line.
(ps - you can e-mail the boss on: Vote4Ianliddellgrainger@gmail.com
March 31st 2010
I was going to run this story tomorrow, but I did not want my loyal readers to think it was just another April Fool's joke. First, though, please answer the following questions:
All is now revealed in a gushing, tacky e-mail from the Chief Executive - a certain Ms Fiona Dipstick
To:Southwest One Staff
Subject:SWONE Recognition Scheme - Information for Colleagues
SENT ON BEHALF OF FIONA CAPSTICK - SWONE CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Southwest One is pleased to announce the introduction of a new Recognition Scheme - 'Rewarding Excellence'.
This scheme will enable us to recognise and celebrate the special efforts and specific contribution of our colleagues. The scheme brings together some of the ways in which our partners have traditionally recognised high performance as well as introducing some new ways to celebrate success.
Individual Awards enables any of us, as staff in Southwest One, to nominate a colleague for recognition.Nominations for the other awards will be made by line managers and can include nominations of whole teams for their particular joint efforts. The other award categories are:
· Special Award
· Team Award
· Chairman's Dinner Award
Yes folks, the big event is dinner with Big Jay Tidmarsh himself - flame grilled, high on cholesterol, and so low on profits that South West One's founding members will soon be demanding their money back.
March 26th 2010
I had good reason to report the minutes of Somerset's Secondary Heads Association last November - they were (quite rightly) complaining about the fiasco of SAP and how school budgets had been rendered unworkable. Now I have become the subject of SASH discussions.......this is what they recently had to say about me:
1. LIDDELL GRAINGER – Barry made reference to the email from David Taylor over Christmas informing colleagues that Liddell Grainger had posted a copy of the minutes from the SASH Exec meeting on 13 November on his website, drawing attention to the issues with SAP and SouthWest One. Barry felt it was important to note that SASH Exec minutes are not confidential and it might be timely to investigate the possibility of password protections for minutes or separating out any confidential items on the agenda.
If they want to keep their problems with SAP a secret, that's a shame. But - so far - the official minutes of the latest meeing (15th January) are still available on their website. No doubt Sir Jay (all-news-is-bad-news) Tidmarsh will soon be sending them a letter demanding SASH removes every detail!
March 23rd 2010
An anguished letter from Sir Jay Tidmarsh has arrived on my desk - I wept as I read it, but mostly with laughter:
He seeks the return of "confidential documents" - one page of which I published recently. Sir James clearly misunderstands the role of an MP in protecting the interests of taxpayers and constituents. The document about which he protests might have been intended by the senior officers of South West One to remain confidential, but was handed to me in good faith by someone who was disturbed at the contents. So am I. Sir Jay may prefer to keep the parlous state of his company out of the public eye, but Sir Jay should understand that it is both my job and my duty to ensure that public money is not wasted.
March 14th 2010
When the board of South West One gathered at Valley Road. Portishead (offices of the Police Authority) on September 22nd last year the accounts for the first year were three months late in filing and still unfinalised. But Finance Director Mark Whittle still produced a graphic forecast:
He gloomily predicted losses of £3.6 million for 2008 and a whopping £24.6 million for 2009! We await formal publication of the 2009 accounts to see how accurate Mr Whittle was.
February 26th 2010
Congratulations to the new regime at County Hall. This week an important inquiry began into how South West One was created. I applaud the initiative and wish the inquiry team well. The contract for South West One was signed in the small hours of a September Saturday morning in 2007. The Lib-Dems and the former Chief Executive were responsible.
The inquiry should prove what a shoddy deal it was. Meantime we have to live with the consequences.
A loss of £2.5 million is shown. But this may not be the whole story. Some financially astute observers of the situation have sent me the following interpretation:
"A glance at the balance sheet and note 11 to the accounts, however, suggests that the company is operating a policy which might be called: "Capitalise the Cock-up". What it looks like they have done is this: They have incurred £17.5 million of "transition costs" up to 31 December 2008, and instead of putting these as expenses in the profit and loss account (which would have given them a loss for the period of £20 million, not just £2.5 million), they put the £17.5 million as assets in the balance sheet. Now, to an auditor (especially veterans of the credit-crunch), these might look suspiciously like "toxic assets". Certainly, the £17.5 million would evaporate the instant SW1 ceased to be a "going concern" Furthermore, the company is only a "going concern" because of guarantees provided by IBM (see directors report). From a commercial point of view, this would not matter if everything started to get rosy. After all, if it's a 10 year contract, they could write off the £20 million over the remaining nine years (still a hefty charge to the profit and loss account of over £2 million per year ... but not necessary disastrous - for IBM at least). From Somerset's point of view it is not quite so great, since this still means squeezing £20 million out of the contract."
I very much hope the inquiry team will be able to shed a lot more light on the financial position of South West One. And I am yet to be convinced that the inherent faults of IBM's awful SAP system have been completely cured. Last night the following e-mail arrived. I understand a copy has already been sent to the County Council Leader.
NAME REDACTED FOR DATA PROTECTION
25 February 2010 17:10:04
The great and good at County Hall who keep on telling us that the South West One contract and particularly the SAP accounts programme is the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ continue to live in their fantasy world. Their belief in SAP is so high that they actually paid up the whole contract sum (£40 million) before it had been fully installed or properly tested, which is neither a sound nor usual business practice. To emphasis the foolhardiness of this action, people are starting to receive bills that have absolutely nothing to do with them in any form whatsoever. One of my neighbours, who is 93 years old and with failing sight, received a payment request for £288 relating to a ‘Lakeview monitoring visit’. You can imagine the worry and distress that this unexpected demand for, what is in the circumstances a large sum of money, caused. Fortunately, there is a lot of support for neighbours in our little community and the appropriate office at County Hall was contacted and the error identified. The SCC Officer was most apologetic about their “rogue” accounts system which has been issuing many such false accounts and requested the return of the papers to help her track down the problem. The whole SAP and South West One farce is simply just not good enough. It is costing the Council Tax payers an absolute fortune for a system that doesn’t work and it has already resulted in local jobs being exported to India, not to mention that 75% of any ‘profit’ goes straight into the pockets of an American Multi-National Company.
February 5th 2010
Ask a sensible question - get a silly answer
I don't give up easily. Yesterday I quizzed the Leader of the House about these pathetic Ministerial responses .....and, by gum, she's going to do something about it. Watch this space.
January 31st 2010
Mogg welcomes the new Chief Executive of Somerset County Council:
She answers to the name of Sheila Wheeler and comes with a no-nonsense reputation. Her salary will soon be part of the SCC payroll entrusted to SAP, a computer system that gives a new meaning to the word efficiency (another legacy of Alan Jones).
I am snowed under with leaks about SAP from the boys in blue.
Sheila should put South West One and SAP top of her Taunton hit list.
January 28th 2010
Much has been - and will continue to be - written about this subject, because, frankly the whole thing stinks And if you want to get a real close up whiff of the smell I invite you to revisit the "evidence" given by Dr Moira Hamlin - chair of the Police Authority - and Mr Simon Humberstone - of IBM and South West One. They were called in by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. In view of South West One's dismal performance and SAP's disastrous implementation their words seem positively absurd. You can read the whole thing by clicking this link - but my feline friends have found the best bits:
"The Chair of the Police Authority, Dr Moira Hamlin, explained that the two drivers behind SouthWest One were "funding" and "a desire to transform and modernise the services." Avon and Somerset is the second worst affected force in the country in terms of the impact of the application of the funding formula, meaning that in 2009/10 the force potentially has to address a £5m funding gap: SouthWest One is intended to enable savings in the region of £35m over the next ten years, including £15 million in procurement savings and £18m from the unitary charge.
January 26th 2010
Click the glass and you can read the latest disastrous news about Buckinghamshire County Council's "Pathfinder" project - an effort to save money by outsourcing....except it all went terminally wonky. BT and Capita pulled out. IBM was the preferred bidder and now IBM has been given the bum's rush. Sounds horribly familiar? Somerset County Council and Avon and Somerset Police linked up with IBM when South West One was created. Every Council Tax payer in the county is now footing the bill for this corporate cock-up. And guess what?
The architect of both the disastrous South West One and Buckinghamshire's failed Pathfinder programme was Sue Barnes, wife of Colin Port, Avon & Somerset's Chief Constable. What a fine upstanding couple they make.
January 20th 2010
The editor of the influential "Police Review" tells me he has his team on my security scandal story. Mr Herbert (and others) will also be interested in the latest official response from the Government. I asked the Home Office to tell me how many temporary visas had been issued to IBM(India) staff working in the UK on the Avon and Somerset Police contract. This was the pathetic response:
I intend to relentlessly pursue this matter until we get proper answers.
PLUS.....another Government cock-up:
The Department of Energy gave in to local pressure and arranged an extra meeting about Hinkley. The meeting is next week (January 27th) but you can't go unless you register your name on the Department's website and that registration process is already full - see for yourself. This is crazy. I am demanding an additional meeting to satisfy demand.
January 15th 2010
I raised the issue of the South West One security scandal in Parliament yesterday (and there will be more where that came from!)
Meanwhile a voice from the past has come forward to confess all about this fiasco. Yes, folks, Alan Jones is bragging again:
"Alan promoted and led the creation of South West One, a groundbreaking public-private sector partnership of national and international significance."
You couldn't make it up! Jones was effectively dismissed from Somerset County Council, but is now advertising himself as a guru of partnerships. My attention has been drawn to his tacky new website where he rambles on at nauseating length about how he can save the galaxy.
BUT AT LEAST WE NOW KNOW WHO TO BLAME!
January 11th 2010
If you are a police officer helping to keep Somerset moving in the big freeze, here's some bad news. Chances are you will not be getting overtime payments quickly. Avon and Somerset Police now relies on SAP. SAP is a dismal and expensive failure. The Police Federation is already grumbling and the Home Secretary ought to be kicking up a stink. But there is much worse news. The SAP fiasco may be a national security scandal too. Mogg brings you the story in full today.
June 4th 2009.
Another leaked document from the beleaguered folk at County Hall struggling to deal with a system isn't fit for purpose:
"Approximately 1000 invoices are being received at the Accounts Payable Team in County Hall each day and there are seven people employed full time to deal with this. Invoices of up to £20k are being pushed through without any checks being made. This is just to clear them. There are daily payment runs, sometimes eleven runs a day. Business rates have been paid late. There have been several County Court Summons about this. SAP contains an application called "webcycle" which is meant to track invoices. It doesn't work. The Accounts Payable team are forced to make hundreds of emergency CHAPS payments (at £15 a go) simply to pay customers. Staff responsible for County Council Imprest bank accounts have been told they can overdraw - never mind the costs. The new remittance advice notes only tell customers how much they are being paid, not what each payment is for! Some bills have been paid to the wrong suppliers. Some suppliers have been paid twice for the same service!"
The only sensible news is that Somerset County Council has frozen two monthly payments to IBM (around £5million) because of the cock-ups.
May 23rd 2009.
Councillor David Greene plays the didgeridoo and picks up £25,000 a year for being (allegedly) an "expert" on SouthWest One. He's on the Board of the company. He ought to know what he's talking about. On May 20th he presented a report to full council.
"We took the decision to ‘go live’ with the delivery of the finance and procurement aspect of SAP on 1 April, and are planning to implement the rest of the SAP modules in the summer to bring the whole system on line".
This is nonsense. SAP is a disaster. And within 48 hours Alan Jones had to tell everyone something completely different:
Sent: Fri 22/05/2009 15:12
Subject: SAP Update
I am writing to update you as to where we have reached with the implementation of the SAP project. I know in particular you are keen to hear when we intend to go live with the additional modules - SAP HR/Payroll, CRM and Portal. It is clear now that we will not be in a position to go live on 1 June as planned. The South West One Project Team has recently confirmed this and we are currently discussing with them an alternative project plan. We will notify you of revised dates when we have concluded those detailed discussions. I would like to emphasise that we do not intend to go live with the additional modules until we receive adequate assurances that the system has been properly installed and tested. We are working with the South West One Project Team to ensure that we will have these assurances.However we do need to contuinue to prepare, so please support requests you may receive to get involved in testing and training processes.Many of you will have had your help desk calls closed this week. This is because of many generic fixes that have led to groups of calls being closed. However we know some of you still have specific problems. If your particular issue has still not been resolved please relog it quoting your original ticket number. We will continue to monitor progress closely on help desk calls next week with a view to closing as many as possible. We are continuing to reduce the number of invoices in the system waiting to be paid. The calls from suppliers chasing payment should begin to tail off shortly.Again can we thank you for your patience and your resilience as we deliver the SAP project.
But, as ever, Alan never tells the full horror story. Here are some fresh tales from the Trabant front line
1. Dillington House was in danger of close-down due to suppliers refusing to supply goods as they had not been paid and Dillington were unable to raise orders through SAP
2. Volunteer car drivers have not received their out of pocket expenses from SCC - many have refused to continue to provide the service
3. SCC Managers buying high priced stationery & copier paper from local suppliers on corporate credit cards because we are unable to place orders with preferred suppliers
4. £285,000 worth of goods were paid last week without any checks being made just to help clear the back log
5. A number of County Court Summons have been served on County Hall for non payment of goods
May 15th 2009.
At SCC we are reliably informed there are now 40,000 different invoices waiting to be paid (because SAP doesn't work)!
News from the Police - and, like all news about SAP - its also bad. There is a UK wide police support unit called the National Association of Applied Learning Technologies, set up (in part) by the Met. It helps to train officers in 43 different forces. EXCEPT AVON & SOMERSET! The reason? Colin Port - a key director of SouthWest One (and part-time Chief Constable) - is having SAP installed, and SAP can't run with NCALT. Result? All NCALT training cancelled!
UPDATE.....now SouthWest One admits the NCALT fault in a newswire dated this very afternoon:
Transformation Programme #24
In this week's e-newswire;
The support team are working through all of the SAP issues raised to the helpdesk, and find in many cases that the issues have now been resolved. If you have reported to helpdesk an issue previously that has now been fixed, please let the helpdesk team know so they can close the ticket promptly.
E-learning update for SWOne staff on secondment from Avon & Somerset Police
The training team and Police Change team have agreed to remove the Employee Self Service (ESS), Manager Self Service (MSS) and Work Force Management (WFM) e-learning courses from NCALT. The e-learning team will be reviewing and updating the content, and once this has been completed and approved the new versions of these e-learning courses will be published to NCALT. You will receive a notice when the new versions of the e-learning courses are available.
Sending Invoices for scanning
If you have received an invoice, please send it through the internal mail to “AP Scanning Department” without stamping the invoice. The scanning team are experiencing difficulties scanning invoices into SAP due to date stamps on the invoice obscuring key information.
But you read it all here first!
May 10th 2009. Latest SAP disasters....starting with an insider's account of how few customers have been paid:
“There are 2000 payments worth over £20k EACH stuck in the system...”
Meantime a team of "SAP consultants" have been flown in from India to try and sort the mess out. They are working in a Taunton basement!
The Police are now admitting, in public, that SAP doesn’t work. The document is available to anyone on the Police Authority Website. It openly tells how tests of SAP failed. And if a public document says it so clearly, chances are the real situation is a whole lot worse.
On March 28th IBM responded to a Government consultation document called “Digital Britain” with a report citing all sorts of wildly exaggerated claims about the success of SAP. They say that SCC and Taunton Deane have identified a 15% cut in “avoidable calls” because of the introduction of the new “portal” (in English this means the new website) The document fails to point out that the “portal” has been delayed yet again, probably until the autumn, because SAP doesn’t work properly. Nice to know that IBM are deliberately misinforming the Government!
Alan Jones seems to have been told to shut up about SAP. His initial e-mails to staff provided such a get-out card for IBM that no matter how bad SAP becomes it will be publicly deemed a "success" simply because Jones said so!The extraordinary e-mails issued by Alan Jones during April are in date order below. Latest SAP news comes from his deputy, David Taylor - and it is obvious that things are still going badly wrong. Indeed I am told that the launch of the new Somerset website is to be delayed indefinitely and that SAP will be unable to pay staff until July....or August...or beyond:
From: Robert Gunning
Sent: Fri 01/05/2009 16:56
Subject: SAP Update
On Wednesday I sent out a note to all staff about SAP and the problems we have all faced over the past month. I started then by thanking everyone for their hard work and patience. I’d like to do so again now. Your efforts really are appreciated. The senior management team really does understand the frustrations that some of the issues have caused. This weekend a team of people will be working throughout Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday to finally clear the backlog of SAP invoices that were generated by problems when we first launched. This will be an important achievement and I’m really grateful to those who are giving up their Bank Holiday to do this work. We are working through a list of people who do not have IDs or passwords and again there is a big effort to make this happen. As I mentioned earlier this week, anyone with issues should report them immediately to their Superuser or Change Team. We are making steady progress with SAP and with a big push over the next few days we will really crack many of the issues. Once again, I can reassure you that I understand the problems people have faced I will make sure that the pressure is kept on to get it right. Finally can I thank those who sent in questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. As there were only a handful sent in, I thought I’d again offer the opportunity for you to send in a question. I will make sure we have the answers for you. Thanks again for your hard work and perseverance and for those not working, enjoy that rarest of things, a Bank Holiday in the spring sunshine.
From: Deborah Porter
Sent: 29 April 2009 17:02
Subject: SAP update
Message from David Taylor
Deputy Chief Executive
I thought I would give you all an update on where we are with SAP, to let you all know that ongoing problems have the highest priority within the council, and to set out a timetable for improvement.
First though, I’d like to thank everyone for their patience over the past few weeks. We have been open about the fact that we have had problems, and that the system has not delivered as well as it should. So a personal thank you from me and the senior team for dealing with the issues that you have faced. We are now one month in and have made a huge amount of progress since SAP went liveeven though there is still a way to go. There are fixes in place, the SAP system itself is now working far better but I know that in some areas it is still a frustrating experience. We are working flat out to sort these remaining issues and problems.
I thought it useful to highlight some key targets that have been achieved. There was a well documented backlog of suppliers’ invoices. That has now largely been cleared. We have extra floorwalkers in place, more staff taken on to process work, and all key authorising personnel now have access to the system. And I have asked all Directorates to hold daily meetings to feed specific problems into the early morning SAP Board that meets every day. This meeting raises with Southwest One and the SAP Project Team each and every issue and gets agreement as to what must be put in place and when, to resolve these this is recognition of how important the impact of the problems has been to our staff.
In the meantime, anyone with issues should report them immediately to their Superuser or Change Team to ensure it is escalated into your directorate meeting. In summary, SAP is improving daily, I know how difficult is has been and I will ensure that the pressure is kept on to make sure we get it right. We have set clear targets that we want to achieve and will be reviewing these at the end of the week. Finally, I’m sure many of you will have questions and I’m happy to answer as many as possible. Please email them to the communications team at email@example.com and we’ll send out a Question and Answer sheet picking out the main themes by the end of the week. Thanks again for your hard work and perseverance.
Sent: Fri 17/04/2009 13:04
Subject: SAP Update/More Bollocks
First of all, on behalf of SMB and everyone involved with the SAP project, I would like to record our sincere thanks to all staff for working with us this past week in implementing the SAP system and for providing valuable feedback each day to drive improvements. Things are moving forward, and I am monitoring progress every morning with colleagues from our organisation, from Southwest One, and from IBM. David Taylor will continue to chair this group across the course of next week whilst I am on leave, but you should be assured that this project remains our top priority. Overnight, the SAP system was enhanced to allow all 'Requisitioners' (people who order goods and services) to do so in a more streamlined manner. You will now see when you go into the system to create an order that all our delivery addresses have been loaded, and staff can directly enter cost codes from their respective cost centres to accompany the order. Should you need them, we have posted all the cost codes on the intranet or you can of course speak to your finance support team for help.
We ran a successful 'BACS' run yesterday, but still needed to process a handful of payments manually, and I want this number to continue to decrease or disappear as soon as possible. Supplementing the on-line 'e' training many of you will have undertaken in recent weeks will be further one to one sessions with 'floor walkers' and also SAP 'surgeries' across next week and beyond.
Finally, we have agreed with colleagues in the procurement service that they will help us to clear the backlog of orders which have been placed this week and they are working on this task now. I know we're not there yet, but I also know that we will make SAP a success by continuing to work together, thank you again for supporting this approach.
Sent on the move
From: Alan Jones
Sent: 15 April 2009 16:02
Subject: SAP update
With a fair number of staff on leave this week, SAP user numbers have also dipped today. Despite that, the number of procurements made using SAP again rose sharply.However, rather than recount every day to you what we know has been performed on the system, I am more concerned today to know if some users are having to resort to other means to carry out day to day operations. We are of course aware that there are still difficulties in raising requisitions and the team is working hard to resolve them. If you need to make some urgent purchases and SAP is not delivering the functionality you require, please let your super users know.A number of you have emailed me directly and I am always happy to receive this instant feedback. Where appropriate, I have forwarded your messages and concerns on to the appropriate staff to resolve but your quickest route to an answer is via your super users, who may be able to answer things instantly.My management team and I meet every morning with key project and transformation managers and being able to relay your comments to them is very helpful to ensure we concentrate our efforts on those areas where we will get the best and quickest return.Following today’s meeting, I have had conversations with Richard Jones, the Chief Executive of South West One, on his return from leave, to brief him of the issues that we are facing and enlist his support to resolve them. I also called Julian David, Vice President of IBM’s Public Sector Business to alert him. He has promised to make sure that everyone at IBM understand the urgency of resolving these matters and has reiterated what we already know, that IBM will work as long and hard as it takes to sort these implementation problems out.
Sent: 14 April 2009 14:48
Subject: SAP update
At my Management Team briefing this morning we heard about the progress made with the SAP rollout since last Thursday.We continue to see daily progress in many aspects of the SAP system. Progress is slow but steady. Although we see more users on the system making transactions, it is clear that it will take some time before staff become familiar with the scale and potential of SAP.There are still difficulties in raising requisitions and the team is working hard to resolve them If you have raised a call to the help desk and you have not had a solution to your particular query yet, please do not think that we are not working on it. Many calls have been logged for similar issues and we are working on a general resolution to these. You may not receive a response to you personally as we are concentrating on resolving issues affecting several callers. In many cases we are finding that the loading of new data is likely to address your concerns by the following day. We are grateful for your assistance in doing whatever you can do to familiarise yourself with SAP and resolve issues personally. Remember also that we have a number of 'floor walkers' out there to help you and also a large number of designated 'super-users' who will provide assistance.
Sent: Wed 08/04/2009 17:04
Subject: SAP Update
Further to my e-mail yesterday, a great deal of work continues each day, and throughout the night to deliver the full functionality of our SAP system. At a meeting with my Directors today, we have received a full briefing from the senior Project Manager and Project Sponsor on the latest position.All calls which have been received by the ICT helpdesk, the issues which have been escalated to our 'Super Users' and the messages from our Change Team are being logged and resolved as quickly as possible, and your feedback is valued through these channels. We have seen good progress. There is clearly much more work to do, but I want every member of staff to understand that we do care about the difficulties you are facing, and we are working hard to make sure they are resolved quickly.The biggest concern we are working to resolve is related to procurement, and the ability to order goods and services. This problem mainly relates to making sure every user, or 'requisitioner' has the correct budget codes assigned to them. We have prioritised the County Council's Requisitioners to ensure that these business critical people are supported appropriately.As I said stated yesterday, this is a huge project, and it is not without its challenges. No new system of this scale and complexity can be introduced into an organisation like the County Council without some implementation difficulties. It is perfectly normal for those issues to be worked out in the first full month of its operation.Whist we expect continued turbulence over the coming weeks, particularly when the further elements of the SAP system are launched, please be assured that your concerns are being monitored and addressed quickly. We have also put in place contingency arrangements to ensure that your service requirements are fully supported. At senior management level, we will continue to receive a daily briefing in my office to ensure we understand what is going on ‘one the ground’ and to keep you informed of the latest position.Once again, thank you for your patience. This system will improve every day and become fully functional over the next few weeks. As it does and as you become more familiar with it, the current concerns will recede and we will find that we are in a much stronger place to manage our services than we were before.
From: Alan Jones
Sent: 07 April 2009 14:24
As you know SAP was launched last week for SCC, TDBC, the Police and Southwest One. I’m conscious, however, thatfor some staff SAP has not yet gone live or is not yet capable of offering complete functionality. Many of you will be aware and some of you have reported to me, that we have encountered a number of teething problems, mainly technical issues, in using SAP for the first time. I am grateful for your patience and support in helping to resolve these issues.I’m sure you will appreciate that this an extremely complex system and its installation and configuration is a huge task. It is perfectly normal for ICT projects of this scale and complexity to encounter problems during implementation. Despite all the detailed planning and preparation by our staff and those in South West One, many of these glitches can only be ironed out - frustrating though it is - during implementation. The set up needs to be absolutely right or SAP will not perform as well as we all want it to in the longer term.The main engine of SAP is working - it has been tested, and some staff have been able to process and create orders on the system. However, some staff have not been able to do so for a number of reasons. Please accept my apologies if you are one of those affected. I know that change managers are advising staff how best to deal with this, as we work to resolve these faults as quickly as we can.The project team and the change managers are working together to keep staff informed about the glitches discovered and the progress on resolution. The help desk feeds back twice a day on the nature of calls logged and the team can then focus on the most commonly reported issues. One of these is that some staff have not yet received their ID and log-on. This affects currently less than 150 staff across all 4 organisations out of the 3,670 created in this phase of the roll out. This issue should be resolved today. The single biggest issue creating calls to the help desk is that for some people the correct SAP attributes for an individual’s role have not been loaded. This was a massive data load of over 30,000 records and some have failed. This problem was most prevalent within the Environment Directorate. We have had to reload this data and it will take some time to correct the attributes for all 3,670 users. We hope that the majority of these will be corrected in the next few days and apologise for this delay.Another commonly reported issue is that some staff cannot raise requisitions because they cannot access e-catalogues. This is a technical issue that has been referred back to SAP and we await their advice as to how to resolve this. In the meantime, we advise using the catalogues wherever possible on the vendor’s website and then using free text orders as a temporary measure. The SAP project team is working relentlessly -day and night - to fix all the issues raised via the help desk, so that we can resume normal service as soon as possible.
The project team provides an update on progress twice a day at 9.00 and 5.30 and we feed this onto change managers as soon as we have it. We are doing all we can to ease users through this massive transition. Thank you for your patience in the meantime and I will continue to keep you informed of developments.
Sent on the move
Any new problems that emerge will be reported here (and there will certainly be problems) SAP cost Somerset £35 million. Alan Jones has been apologising for it ever since.
Question: If SAP is such a "great success" (backed by the global power of IBM) why is SouthWest One so desperate to find someone who knows what he's doing to try and fix it? They're offering £2000 a week!
You have to admire his gall in turning the truth on its head. Every Friday Somerset's Chief Executive blows his own trumpet and publishes the results for his 'loyal' team to swallow and absorb. Friday April 3rd was no exception - pure undiluted spin:
Despite the fact that 80 percent of the great SAP project is still delayed Jones writes:
"To have developed and implemented this order of change in such a large organisation on time and on budget, was –notwithstanding the glitches and frustrations – a great success"
©2003,2004 Ian Liddell-Grainger. All rights reserved. www.somersetwest.org.uk