Monday, 28 November 2016

Future delivery of digital and ICT services

Today, I took part in a committee meeting which called in a report on the  the future delivery of digital and ICT services by Glasgow City Council. The report was called in by four SNP councillors and myself for further scrutiny. I was able to present key concerns about the proposed arrangements to deliver ICT services when the current contract comes to an end. 

Critical is the calculation of long-term costs. I asked what account has been taken of outcome of the business case established when Serco was awarded a 10 year, £265m contract in February 2008 to deliver ICT and Property Services to Glasgow City Council.
Service Glasgow LLP (trading as ACCESS), a Limited Liability Partnership jointly owned by Serco and GCC was formed soon after to deliver the contract from 1 April 2008. The contract was to deliver savings to GCC in the order of £70m over 10 years, according to GCC’s Business Case. 

The projected savings arise mainly from a guaranteed reducing charging profile over 10 years. Serco has committed to underwrite the performance of ACCESS to provide the services for 30% less by the end of the 10 year term and so the savings are guaranteed to GCC. These savings were to be achieved by increased productivity, requiring less staff to deliver the services and significant reductions against the third party supply chain of £12.4m inherited from GCC. I enquired if the costings have been reviewed, evaluated and used to help inform the development of the proposals emerging for the services from 1st April 2018?

In the committee report at 6(3), it refers to an annual budget of £57m with a 7 year budget of £399m. The provision of this annual budget would appear to be significantly higher that was originally set out in the contract established in 2008. I asked for reasons for this annual budget and ongoing costs for the next 7 years. I enquired how does the budget process for the existing contract inform development of the budget for the new proposal.

Another concern is the assessment criteria. At 2.3 in the report, it refers to key criteria for the assessment.

The current contract focused on benefits and protections for Glasgow City Council to ensure that Best Value continues to be achieved. These include providing GCC with:
  • A single point of accountability;
  • Streamlined governance processes;
  • Economies of scale;
  • Standardisation of systems and processes;
  • Established track record of delivery.

The overarching commercial framework provides the Council with cost certainty and protects the Council by transferring the financial and delivery risk to ACCESS (which is underwritten by Serco), while continuing to share any additional benefits.

This new proposal has been developed without reference to the above list of criteria. It refers to;
  • service delivery and ability to innovate
  • affordability
  • risk transfer to the party best placed to manage it and
  • time to implement the option

It seems to be a lack of continuity in terms of assessment of:
  • A single point of accountability;
  • Streamlined governance processes;
  • Economies of scale;
  • Standardisation of systems and processes;

Due to the significant change in the criteria used in the assessment process, it would appear that the current contract arrangements provided by a joint venture model are less likely to emerge as the preference for future service provision.

I asked what process has led to the key criteria being chosen. Also, why did the criteria change from the list used as part of the current contract arrangements? I am particularly concerned about a council assessment process removing any reference to provision of "a single point of accountability". This proposal involves millions of pounds of public funding and there appears to be a lack of any consideration to ensure accountability for decision-making within the contract.

There is reference to a list of principles at set out in section 3 of the report.

At 3.5 there is reference to protection for staff:
Terms and Conditions, including pensions, protected
No compulsory redundancies
No compulsory relocation from Glasgow

How is this going to be achieved without current governance arrangements, processes and procedures? Reference to structure of the current ACCESS Board was not provided. What is the Project Board? How will the contract report to councillors and committees? What about the adoption of the Living Wage? How will the proposal guarantee job security? How will all current terms, conditions and employment status be retained for all staff? How will current pensions arrangements be guaranteed for all staff?

There is no mention of property and asset management in the list of principles. How will this contract support Facilities Management and Preventative Maintenance? How does the contract support carbon management and sustainability of our assets?

There is reference to details provided in section 6 risk transfer.The Council is now completely reliant on ICT to run services such as Education and Social Care. There is move to a paperless office and mobile services. The context of the proposal including changes since 2008 are not mentioned and trends for the next 7 years are not detailed. I asked what about the risks associated with financial systems and impacts of any failures. I sought details of safeguards to be in place if the ICT is outwith council control and there is significant failures in service delivery.

I mentioned the consultation with the council family and ALEOs to develop the proposal. There is no reference to any discussions across the council services and ALEOs. I asked for information about consultation to develop the principles as set out in section 3.

After committee deliberations between 1.30- 4pm, there was a vote on a motion by Green and SNP councillors to refer the report back to the Executive Committee seeking independent appraisal of all of the options for the future of digital and ICT services. This was passed by 8 votes to 7 votes.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Raising funds for the Beatson

Yesterday, I took part in the West End Festival's Torchlight Parade to celebrate St. Andrew's Day. The procession weaved its way down Queen Margaret Drive to Byres Road, on to University Avenue and Kelvin Way. We had dry, cold weather which provided ideal conditions to put on a fiery display. 

View of the Torchlight Parade.

It was an enjoyable, worthwhile event with local pipe bands and samba band providing excellent musical performances. 

We raised funds for the Beatson Cancer Charity and gave vital support for cancer care. Further information available at:

Everyone has an HIV status

Yesterday, I attended Waverley Care's Health in Faith Conference and Dinner to mark World Aids Day and European Testing Week.

I very much appreciate the dedication and commitment that people of faith have made and continue to make in the fight to end HIV and AIDS in Scotland and around the world. It is also a time to remember those who have died due to HIV and AIDS and to support those affected.

I am increasing concerned about the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers with HIV and AIDS. A particular issue that has been highlighted is access to housing and financial support. There is a need to renew our commitment to human rights as a cornerstone for informing policy and practice in relation to HIV-positive Asylum Seekers.  

Work-related rights could be reviewed and Asylum Seekers given permission to work if they have been waiting for more than six months for their cases to be concluded, or if they have been refused asylum but cannot be returned home through no fault of their own. This will prevent vulnerable people being left in a state of limbo for prolonged periods of time, will reduce the burden on the taxpayer, and will allow a small number of asylum seekers to support themselves and their families while contributing to the economy.

UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted concluding observations at its 49th meeting, held on 24 June 2016 with regards to Asylum Seekers in the UK:-

"The Committee is concerned about the challenges faced by asylum seekers in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly those that are due to restrictions in accessing employment and the insufficient level of support provided through the daily allowance (art. 2 (2) and (11)).
The Committee recommends that the State party increase the level of support provided to asylum seekers, including through the daily allowance, in order to ensure that they enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the right to an adequate standard of living. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see E/C.12/GBR/CO/5, para. 27) and encourages the State party to ensure that asylum seekers are not restricted from accessing employment while their claims are being processed."

In terms of what community leaders can do to make a difference, there is a need to reach out and extend collaborative working across the voluntary sector and involve new groups. We can building expertise on migrant destitution and help to increase capacity within the sector. As highlighted  by the work of Waverley Care's African Health Project, there is also a need for formal voluntary sector organisations to link up with faith-based organisations, African-Caribbean churches in particular, so that destitute migrants can access good quality advice, facilitated by people they trust.
Access to quality advice is the most important operational concern for voluntary sector organisations in the response to migrant destitution. There is a need for resourcing of a technical solution for managing referrals and booking appointments for services, including advice, thus formalising joint work between organisations, making it more efficient. Investment in IT systems would support a systematic way of collecting data on the extent of and nature of destitution amongst migrants. Alongside this, hubs of expertise on destitution amongst migrants could operate and work in partnership with a broad range of organisations across the voluntary sector, and including churches and other places of worship, to ensure wide access points into the system.

The development of authoritative and up-to-date research on the extent of destitution, and the qualitative nature of destitution, amongst migrant children and families is needed. This is required to provide evidence to inform policy. There is a need for evidence on the kinds of services and intervention that work and do not work, based on what outcomes they have.

By taking forward three areas of development – extending collaboration, investing in new systems to facilitate access to advice and building a strong evidence base – will not solve underlying problem of migrant destitution, but will help to strengthen the voluntary sector’s capacity to inform policy, and to alleviate the destitution of this group of children and families.

It is recognised that demand for services is likely to grow alongside a diminished statutory response, and so, the need for such voluntary sector developments has never been more acute or timely.

Further information on support for destitute asylum seekers is available at: 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Celebrating heritage of the Annan Gallery

I am interested in promoting the rich history of the Woodlands area. The Annan Gallery on Woodlands Road is a long established business within the area beginning in 1855. Along with local residents, I am gathering support for a heritage project supporting this gallery's contribution to the area.

Views of the Annan Gallery.

If you are interested in taking part in this project or have any information about the history of the Annan Gallery to share, please let me know.

Support for Interfaith Glasgow

Last week, I gave my support to the development of Interfaith Glasgow by attending a launch event for Interfaith Week in the City Chambers and taking part in a Fun Day at Hillhead Primary.

Fun day at Hillhead Primary

There is a need to bring people together from different faiths to promote better understanding, and develop mutual respect.  I am concerned to ensure that there is support for people who experience religious hate crime.

Further details about Interfaith Glasgow available at: 

Meeting up with Dyslexia Action

In the last month, I have been supporting voluntary organisations who are tenants based in offices at the Napiershall Street Centre. 

During discussions, I have heard about the work of Dyslexia Action. Several leaflets are available about their free information and advice services in Glasgow.

Free Literacy Catch-up Clubs are provided in conjunction with local libraries and Glasgow Life for parents and children and for adults who need help with literacy skills.

Staff at Dyslexia Action are available to assist adults, children, and organisations with dyslexia, literacy and numeracy and specific learning difficulty needs. 

Further information is gained from their website at:

Birdlife on the River Kelvin

Last week, I enjoyed a walk along the Kelvin Walkway between Kelvinbridge and the Botanic Gardens to go to a meeting. I was delighted to find a heron on the riverbank. 

If you are interested in the wildlife on the River Kelvin, please support FORK. Details at: