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New management for troubled council department

Temporary managers are to take over a council’s street scene services, including waste collection, on 1 March because of concerns about poor performance and allegations of financial irregularities.

Following what Barnet Council describes as “a lack of senior management capacity”, and allegations of fraud, it is transferring responsibility for the Street Scene Delivery Unit (DU) to The Barnet Group for six months.

The Barnet Group is a local authority trading company set up by the council in 2012. It already runs housing and adult social care services in the borough.

It will set up an Environmental Services Unit to make changes and help develop long-term options for the service. It will also help to deliver agreed savings of £5m for street scene and £2.6m for waste disposal.

A council spokesperson said: “This is an interim measure that will be in place for six months. It does not impact on street scene staff who will remain employed by Barnet Council.”

The review carried out by the council identified “a lack of senior management capacity within the DU. Whilst this has been raised previously through the various audit processes, the DU has not taken the opportunity to increase the senior management capacity within the service to enable the service to deliver against key objectives.

“As a result of this lack of response, significant change has not occurred and outcomes have not been delivered against key performance Indicators.”

Other areas of concern included delivery of savings, achieving recycling targets, audit investigations and commercial waste services.

In January, the local newspaper reported that the council’s corporate anti-fraud team found that refuse crews inappropriately took cash from business owners for removing their waste.

It also found a catalogue of poor practice and inappropriate activity, including the risk of nepotism in recruitment, broken CCTV and council vehicles potentially being used for personal reasons.

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