Jul 29 2014

Harrow Council Spends Residents’ Money on YAA (Yet Another Accreditation)

harrow_council_logoHarrow Council is trumpeting the news that it has been awarded Investors in People accreditation for it’s resources directorate. Indeed, quotes from Cllr Graham Henson rattle on about “…our staff who do a tremendous job…” and “…its great to know the team believes the council is looking after them.”

But what about the residents, who have ultimately funded Yet Another Accreditation?

According to Tom Whiting, the Council’s Director of Resources, it’s taken two years to get to this stage. Whether that’s two years of hard, gut-wrenching work, or two years of pondering who’s CV will benefit the most from the accreditation, isn’t clear. But an FOI request (already in the works) should answer that.

Of course, it’s great that the council achieves something – but residents would probably much rather have bins emptied, potholes filled, and the thousand and one other things that they expect a council to do, rather than squander their money on nicely framed certificates and plaques. But what did the council spend?

A note from the University of Aberdeen says it can take 5-10 days at £550 (plus expenses) per day of consultant time.  IIP themselves offer a “workshop”  entitled “Preparing for an IIP Assessment” at £800/day. Our FOi request might establish what this exercise cost, how many consultants the council rolled in to help, and how many man-days of officer and staff time were wasted. But given the Council is trying to ignore pointed questions, it maybe won’t. In fact, we’re fully expecting the Council to stop answering FOIs soon on the basis it thinks we’re being vexatious (again). But when you have a council that refuses to communicate, and dreams up unwritten policies to prevent websites and blogs from talking to directors, that’s no real surprise.

But burningourmoney.blogspot.com can do better that us at telling the story (from 2006) of whether IIP accreditation is worthwhile or not:

…take one of the many local authorities to have “won” accreditation. Take Liverpool City Council, accredited in 2003, yet two years later rated by the Audit Commission as being among the bottom 2% of councils in Britain.

Take the Department For Work and Pensions. It’s had full IIP accreditation for years and says it“will continue to implement the principles of IiP and of the Excellence Model, to support delivery of today’s business performance”. You wonder what planet they’re on: the shameful reality is that DWP is a notorious shambles, where a recent staff survey revealed only 6% of the staff have confidence in senior management.

You can read the sickeningly sweet PR spiel here. Then you can ask Dave if those potholes in your street will be fixed any quicker.


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  1. Concerned Harrovian

    Thanks for submitting the FOIs Paul. I get the feeling that the administration are running Harrow as if they were a secret society with Cllr Dave as the invisible man.

    Another word for the administration diary – confidential – meaning- don’t let the voting plebs know what is going on.

    1. the red mirror

      a little paranoid are we?

  2. Linda Robinson

    You’re right Paul. Investors in People Gold accreditation is pretty meaningless in the context of Harrow Council, which is a shame because many businesses and voluntary sector organisations really have worked hard to attain and keep this IiP standard as a means to genuinely improve their services.

    For Harrow Council, though, I suspect investing in people means giving some of them a lot of money in the hope of a return in the form of some sort of performance to shout about to make Harrow look good. Unfortunately it’s a vain hope and a poor investment. Ironically, the departments concerned – Access Harrow, Council Tax, and Communications for example – are in my experience the ones where you’re particularly likely to come across staff who are not helpful, efficient, knowledgeable or even polite. They certainly do not “ensure that benefit support is handled effectively” or show commitment to “being the very best they can be”.
    They may well feel looked after and supported, because their mistakes are covered up and no action is ever taken against unacceptably poor work or behaviour. But a cosy, comfortable safety net for the workers is not what we pay our council tax for – instead we expect them to provide reliable, quality services.

    It will be a long time before managers and officers at Harrow Council will qualify collectively for any kind of gold award for actually doing their jobs properly. No resident who ever deals with these departments needs a recognised external body to prove that fact. It would be more promising if Graham Henson and Tom Whiting stopped kidding themselves. Staff will say whatever you want them to say as long as you keep on paying them for being useless. Customers and service users will tell you the truth.

    Good luck with the FOI request, Paul… for all the good it will do, especially now that Dave’s in charge.

  3. PraxisReform

    I’ve heard about Investors in People accreditation from a number of different people in the past. It’s all about continuing professional development for the staff, with the idea that more competent better trained staff will provide a better standard of service.

    All very commendable, but unless it’s being driven from the top, with Council workers being sent on challenging courses to improve their skills, asked to do learning in their own time etc. and then being periodically appraised on the success or failure of their development, it will just end up with people skiving off for an afternoons diversity training, or sitting about chatting, instead of listening to the speaker, whilst attending a course with no test at the end.

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