Private Eye picks up on UK government contingent labour issues

Following our debate about Capita last week, it was coincidental that they featured in the current issue of the UK's leading satirical and investigatory magazine, Private Eye. Well, maybe not that coincidental as they feature fairly regularly, as do Serco, Atos, BT, G4S, A4E and a number of other government suppliers.

Anyway, this one covered the Government Procurement Service (Crown Commercial Service) ‘Contingent Labour One” framework contract for temporary labour – known as CLone to its friends (not ‘CL1’ as Private Eye  says).

Now my consulting firm, Procurement Excellence, which was my main business pre Spend Matters days, has been a supplier on the old OGC ERF framework for years, providing a handful of top level Gateway reviewers and similar to government. We started doing it years ago around the time of the Procurement Capability Reviews, really as a service to OGC and to the reviewers, who were in the main people we knew well. On a margin of around 5%, we were never doing it to get rich!

But under the new CLone framework, all such work and all the firms like Procurement Excellence have to go through Capita, who won that contract as a sole supplier.  For reasons I won’t go into, as I suspect I signed a confidentiality agreement at some stage, we have withdrawn from CLone.  We have not therefore been part of recent briefing meetings, and we certainly haven’t talked to Private Eye.  But without further comment, let’s just quote some of their article.

“According to a group of small agencies, the deal will add up to 4.7%, or more than £10 a day, on the margin for a typical temporary worker. The arrangement also amounts to a monopoly for Capita on choosing employment agencies – with all the risk for costs that come with monopolies. Then there are blatant conflicts of interests, since Capita also runs employments agencies. Indeed, at a recent briefing one of the firm’s suits admitted that so far 17.4% of contracts under CL1 have been awarded to Capita companies”!

So, I will just add two things. The Cabinet Office staff we have worked with recently, and indeed over past years, on the ERF framework have, in the vast majority of cases, been really good, helpful and professional to deal with. We won’t mention names but it was nice to do business with you! And we should say that the CLone agreement is not the work of the current GPS / CCS senior management – it goes back further than that. This one isn’t down to Mr Crothers, although it is now under his wing of course.

And finally, it’s interesting to speculate whether anyone involved in the whole process likes CLone. The sub-contracted agencies and recruitment firms? The users in government departments? The temporary staff themselves?  Even Capita – despite the Private Eye sniping, they may well be working on thin margins given they won a pretty competitive bidding process. I can’t possibly comment on what those views around the system might be, although I know where my money would be.

So is anyone doing any satisfaction surveys through the whole supply chain here? Anyone prepared to publish the results?

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  1. Effwhitt:

    The only survey I could offer would be the exit poll of disgruntled temp staff leaving to seek employment through other routes than CLone. UK Gov cannot support any weakness in the requirement for individuals to be tax compliant but I dont think that is the point; VAT, employment rights and a plain badly written contract seem to be more the issue.

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