Open government

Could Birmingham become “A truly citizen-centric council”? Professor David Bailey hopes so.

Professor Bailey, an economist at Aston University, has set up a petition calling for more clarity on the city’s £126 million-a-year services deal with Capita plc, which may be accessed here:

In November, Barnet Council’s website reported that they had published a second contract as part of their One Barnet programme. Both are with Capita Plc, which has redacted as little information as possible and they say that some of those redactions will go as further contracts are signed.

Councillor Daniel Thomas, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Policy and Performance, said: “Barnet Council is determined to set a gold standard for local government transparency. The publication online of the contract to provide our back office services was a landmark for local government so this second contract has to be seen as part of an ongoing commitment to openness.“

However some would like to go further; the Barnet Eye looks at Sefton council’s termination of a ten year contract with Capita five years early this September .

Concerns voiced in the Birmingham press include:

  • Professor Bailey’s assessment of a report as presenting a £20 million cut coming from a £50 million Capita contract when it was, in fact, coming from a £120 million deal;
  • Capita, aka Service Birmingham, made £26 million in gross profits last year which Bailey describes as “the tip of the value-extraction iceberg” because of the additional Capita Group profit from a range of equipment purchased from 15 of their firms for £54 million;
  • the lack of transparency, which is such a problem that a sub-committee was set up for councillors who publicly admitted they did not know how much money the council was paying Capita via Service Birmingham.

The Post quoted his proposal on the 12th December: “Simply publish the Capita Service Birmingham contract in full so everyone can make their own mind up about it before commenting on the rest of the City Council’s budget proposals. Barnet has done it. Why can’t Birmingham?”

There is little time left to answer this call for “an open and frank conversation with the taxpaying citizens of Birmingham about the future finances of the city” – the council’s 2014/15 budget is open for consultation only until January 10th.

Further reading

This article first appeared on