Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Communications Contract

We called in to debate at Full Council, the decision to increase spending on communications by another 50% hidden away in the small print of the new contract for Westminster Council to provide our service. Because this is now a shared service between two local authorities, normal rules for tendering do not apply.

Westminster are acknowledged as the best at what they do. We know that it is vital for any Council to inform residents and to hear back from them. However, this does not mean that contracts can be given out, unchecked by politicians. This was due to be agreed by a mechanism called a Delegated Decision Notice (DDN) which is usually reserved for smaller decisions that have to be made in a hurry. THe DDN is circulated to councillors and if no-one calls it in, an officer can give the go-ahead.

£600,000 per year is not an amount that we believe should be just waved through. Cllr Brett Young, the lead councillor for communication showed disdain and irritation for having to come before the Council to explain what he has been doing over the last year, explaining that he was puzzled why we would possibly want to discuss this.

Parents who are going to be affected by the restrictions on school transport for SEN children had left by this point, so they did not see how eager the lead councillor was to crow about where this extra money was going. He is also the lead councillor for Children, Young People and Learning Services who pushed through the cuts for children with learning difficulties earlier in the evening.

It never ceases to amaze me how this administration is visibly running out of steam. Once the public gallery empties, they resort to cheap points scoring without addressing the specific points that are up for discussion. I can handle a bit of political argy-bargy but find it extraordinary that they appear hurt and personally wounded when their policies are criticised, but think nothing of finding novel ways of blaming Maggie Thatcher, Boris Johnson for their woes and wondering why the opposition are not implementing any of their own policies, forgetting that we are not in power. Oh well, politically it suits me if they carry on in this vacuous way. As a resident who gets the bill once a year, I'm not so chuffed.

Update: Background music removed from video by popular request.


Anonymous said...

At 50 years old, I still cannot work out how we can justify not only the comms budget increase but the phenomenal cost of the new LBS website which both make the SEN "savings" pale into insignificance.

I agree also re the futility of the constant Thatcher references, its a generation ago! You may just as well cite Asquith, Gladstone or Pitt the Elder! The world has changed and 2009 is what matters!

Adrian Short said...

How to spend £208K on a website:

1. Pretend the market doesn't exist by commissioning an expensive proprietary content management system that's only available from and supported by a single vendor, rather than a widely-used open source system that is itself free and supported by thousands of businesses in a competitive market.

2. Lock yourself into this extortionate deal by giving your supplier a five year contract.

3. Get "MUG US" tattooed on your corporate forehead. This stage is optional but is a shortcut for stages one and two.

I've written about a few serious problems with the new website here and how to fix some of them here.

Re: the video. A good idea but a bit too much information overload. I'm finding it hard to listen to the audio while simultaneously filtering out the background track and reading the text. Setting the audio of the speakers to a video showing title cards for each speaker is a good idea, though.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the feedback on the video Adrian. I was trialling it as a new idea but it is incredibly labour intensive and I do understand your view on information overload. In previous videos, I have spouted on about my thoughts on the meeting. Including the audio is supposed to highlight the best and worst of what was a 3.5 hour meeting. (We sit through it, so you don't have to.) Boiling this down to manageable chunks seems to be beating me at the moment.

Adrian Short said...


You can improve the video quickly and easily by reposting it without the backing music. I think YouTube lets you "replace" an existing video with a new version. Shouldn't take a minute.

There's no easy answer to good editing except to employ a general strategy that works well for most unbounded work: set a time limit for the video and your time to edit it and stick to it. Three minutes video / 90 minutes editing is probably more than enough.