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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

DSO - an apology

I really owe the guys in the DSO an apology over my suggestion that they had lost the Council about £100k last year.

I was utterly wrong.

With a total final loss of £365,000 for last year, it is clear that such an achievement was beyond those who slog their guts out in the day-to-day operation of the various parts of the organisation.

A loss of such a magnitude requires the involvement of management i.e. the Council, with their superior abilities to create cock-ups on such a scale and with such inability to see the blindingly obvious as it passes over their desks.

  • Simple question 1: Who has responsibility for making sure the DSO operates efficiently?
  • Simple question 2: Why has the DSO gone from being profitable just a few years ago, to being the biggest millstone?
  • Simple question 3: How on earth does moving the loss making DSO into Technical Services make it a profit-making organisation?

Instead, let's look at some simple realities.....
  • The DSO ran as a profitable organisation for many years, because it had an excellent and highly able Director who took sole responsibility for beating it into shape
  • Now there is no direct responsibility, so no-one is making sure that the bad practices are being stopped
  • The DSO made a small profit and was always on the edge because it had a huge fixed cost base - overheads and staff costs
  • If the volume of business dropped and turned the profit into a loss then there was a viscous circle of increased costs spread over less income and hence bigger and bigger losses
  • The new schools project has meant that the Building Maintenance DSO has little or new work from that source and this is what has tipped the underlying position for the entire DSO from being sustainable to being unsustainable
So how does this go forward? Sorry, guys, but it is hard decision time....
  • 'No job losses' is an absolute nonsense at current levels of business (without, of course, an enormous subsidy from you and I)
  • Closing down parts of the DSO will simply push the remainder into bigger losses and speed up the closure of the entire DSO
  • 12 months to develop a business plan - join reality and do it in 1 month, maximum
  • Who will take over some of the specialist operations or take on the staff under TUPE?
  • The Marybank depot is unsaleable, as it is contaminated land and will cost (perhaps) £5m to remedy
  • Why, oh why, oh why, is the Council trying to run a range of commercial business when there are plenty of private sector businesses who are leaner, cheaper, and more efficient (and yes, with poorer terms and conditions)
  • With large budget cuts imminent, is there any place for a large ill-managed loss-making organisation that duplicates the private sector?
Tough times, caused by management taking their eye off the ball, need tough decisions; but the ones who are going to suffer are the poor bloody infantry, and not the donkeys who lead the lions.


Anonymous said...

In the real world of commerce most businesses would:-
a. Have 12 days to formulate a plan not 12 MONTHS!!
b. Lay off or put staff onto short term working until new work can justify them coming back on full-time. Face it folks, there are many business on the Islands, in the same industry, who have had to do just this.
c. Not have the taxpayer (US!) to bail them out of the hole until such time as they pull their fingers out and take some action. (RBS and HBOS excluded from this point)

Why is it that every day I wake up, I have to graft in the vain hope that my customers pay me on time, if at all, while I still have my wages bill to pay at the end of the month and I decide who gets paid last, usually me.

This COU story disgusts me as it will many hard working self-employed islanders.

I just hope that when we next get the chance to vote, we will have an option to get rid of "The Leader" and his band of merry men who live in a world of fantasy.

Lairy McHairy said...

Since Malcolm Burr was appointed in mid-2006, he has overseen the biggest single outflow of experienced managers in the history of the Comhairle.
In three years he has so far said a tearful farewell to Directors of Corporate Services, Social Work, Education, Sustainable Communities, and Technical Services; Depute Directors in Finance, the Chief Executive's Department, and Social Work. There are now more (living, still economically active) former members of the Comhairle's Senior Management Team outside the Comhairle than there are inside it. As Oscar Wilde (nearly) said, to lose one Director can seem like an accident. To lose so many looks like......well, you decide what it looks like. None of them have been replaced with experienced outsiders as is usual in Local Government - all of the replacements have been internal appointees. This is a tidal flow of net lost experience.

But the point is that there is now no-one in the Council in a senior position (Head of Service or above) who was in a similarly senior position the last time the DSO went belly up. Every single person who helped the DSO back onto its feet in 2002/3 and into profitability has now walked out of the door - willingly or otherwise. Even on the client side (Housing and Technical Services) and in Finance, the senior folk (Principal Officers) have quit.

Anonymous said...

So, do I get this right? The Council has lost about £350k of our money playing at running a construction business. No-one is to blame, of course.

What are the staff doing, then? How can it take till November 2009 to spot that they lost money LAST financial year? Don't they have accountants? And how much have they lost so far THIS year?

How are they going to repay this money? And how much is it going to cost to make all these people redundant? Never mind saving the Range in Uist - closing this down is going to put just as many people out of work. And how did this happen under the noses of highly-paid managers?

Anonymous said...

Don't they have accountants?

Yes, but they are too busy hiding the evidence of their own mishandlings and protecting their own arses to be bothered to manage the finances of the Comhairle.

How are they going to repay this money?

No sorry, How are WE going to repay this money. Don't forget that they are funded by us the Council Tax payer.

And how much is it going to cost to make all these people redundant?

Shit loads, of our own hard earned money, if the Comhairle ever had the balls to make anyone redundant. Instead they pay them off with large lump sums and enhanced pensions which costs even more.

And how did this happen under the noses of highly-paid managers?

Please refer to first point

Anonymous said...

Oh yes but its' better than being run by someone else!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have stood on the sidelines as the exercise in the shifting of crap from the Uists to Marybank swung into action over the past few years. I think that even a primary school kid could see the folly - and expense - in this particular undertaking.

Talking about the environment being protected while the green skips travel the length of the long island reminds me of the philosophy espoused by a chap called Canute, or was it blind Willy?

The obsession with being seen to tick the right boxes irrespective of the commercial viability, and disregard of the community viewpoint, appears to have nuetered any logical thought process by council officials.

Shit shifting from island to island is only one farcical undertaking, having capital assets lying empty and denying access to them by the public that has paid for them is another. This is the so called 'Not on a Sunday' policy regarding, for instance, the sports centre.

I could go on, and on, but the anger that I feel when I see the squandering of public money by the council and the abuse of allocation of resources by council officers and policy makers...AAARGH!

Where are our so called community leaders? Are they scared of the long hand, and memory, of the council and won't speak out in case they end up being targeted?
Perish the thought.

Dr Evadne said...

A consultant was employed this year to look into the running/organisation of the COU and a report has been produced. Presumably this report has either been ignored or ignored. So another 12 months is required and presumably more reports will be commisioned, another re-organisation will be drawn up and ignored.

Headless chickens.

Anonymous said...

Were councillors told about this change?

Anonymous said...

The council is Burr and no need to tell the councillors

Anonymous said...

Talking of badly run businesses - any truth in the rumour that wee-w's is going bust?

Anonymous said...

Scale that up to UK population levels and that is a loss of £830 million pounds, for an organisation that - doesn't do very much. At which point there'd be resignations, sacking and demotions.

As there should be here.

It's remarkable. 26,000 people here and this one unit has managed to 'lose' over a third of a million pounds in no time at all. I wonder at what point government at a national level will say "No more, you just are not competent", then will abolish this council and subsume its responsibilities within a larger one?

Hound of The Baskervilles said...

Whilst the COU take a hammering it would appear that HHP have very much escaped under the radar. Let us not forget that a good deal of the COU's woes are probably down the the dreadful terms and conditions of the maintnenance contract they signed up for with HHP. Let us also not forget that HHP were/are the CNES old housing dept in disguise, bailed out by tax payers, once, twice, three times, more? The COU have probably bailed out HHP too by providing a service that was costed on the back of a fag packet.

If you run a business selling Teflon overcoats, you are about to see your sales go through the roof.

Anonymous said...


I don't know - do you want it to?? What 'rumour'? Are you hearing little voices in your head?

Anonymous said...

Wee W? Well, when you go around taking the same suppliers that other independent shops in the town have and offer the same goods at increased prices than them, it does not make for a good biz. plan. That together with a not well thought biz. model, its not looking good. And no I don't think anybody "wants it". Every day products Extortionate prices.

Anonymous said...

Why are the council a law unto themselves? Why are our councillors not protecting our interests – what or who are they scared off? They are elected to look after the interests on the people/businesses in the Western Isles - what has happened - are they all sleeping now? Why are these people not more answerable...

Bring in someone who actually knows how to run a REAL business not play shop with our money! How much have our local businesses actually lost out in this too - the COU have obviously tendered recklessly therefore no wonder local operators are unable to compete… this has gone on to long – any advice on how anyone can stop them though??

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the leader as 8.55 said and his merry men only people working outside the council understand how we feel I would like a job with the council and get paid for turning up and taking a salary for doing very little

Anonymous said...

I want Angus to be the boss of the council he knows the job inside out and he would not stand for any shit from anybody anybody want to vote with me

Councillor X said...

Dr Evadne
Any insight as to who the consultants were?
I never knew we appointed consultants. I've been told that this should have been done long ago but I'm not allowed to ask questions.

LazyChicken said...

I've had to pull two comments on this post that made inaccurate and potentially libelous comments about individuals.

I don't want to censor the blog, so can you please make sure that you don't make me have to.

Anonymous said...

The Council appoint consultants endlessly, which makes you wonder what they (the council)are there fore, until you find out that they usually ignore the advice of the consultants, and do what they wanted to do anyway or the advice is completely pointless. For example, the Hebrides branding study, the countless renewable energy studies, which just say the same thing over and over again to the point that they are almost cut'n'paste jobs...

Dr Evadne said...

Councillor X
I do believe it was carried out by someone(s) called Gilchrist (accountants!).


Councillor Y said...

Policy & Resources Committee 18/12/08 Item 31.

The Chief Executive submitted a Report in relation to the Technical Services Department Mr Stewart Gilchrist, Consultant, SOLACE Enterprise had been commissioned to provide guidance on the integration of the Commercial Operations Unit into Technical Services Department. The Report, which was at first draft stage made a significant number of observations and recommendations but required further work with the Consultant. The Report stated that improvements in relation to management systems could be achieved through the Corporate Investors in People programme which was currently underway. It was suggested in the Report that the model was used as a framework to evidence improvements.


Missed the big picture completely. What good is IIP to a bankrupt department?

The actual report is not on the website as it contains individuals' names.

Anonymous said...

7:51 no, of course i don't want it to... but i could have given them tips that would make sure they don't