Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Has Wornington Green gone Porto-belly-up?

It was a bit of a give-away when the construction vehicles were spotted loading up and leaving the demolition site at Phase 1a Wornington Green. Some of the workers looked quite upset, one admitted they were being moved to another site. So we peeked behind the HUMUNGOUS and very expensive hoardings, to be met with ...

We went upstairs in Faraday House which is now full of temporary co-op tenants since the original tenants were decanted, and peeped over the balconies, only to see ...


Rumours abound as usual at Wornington Green where everyone knows everyone's business, and if they don't they just might make it up so get your word in first ... too late mate, the word is, the builders have been sacked because KHT's development arm, Catastrophe - oops - Catalyst by Design, were trying to negotiate another five million quid off the price.

Given that they have already told the Council they can't afford to reprovide the park, and rumour has it not the Venture Centre either, and they are now allegedly trying to prune £5m off the cost of the first phase, some may assume that the whole development may be about to go Porto-belly up.

Even if, as we are led to believe, Catastrophe by Design are hunting for a cheaper builder, this would take forever and a day to reorganise. Deadlines are already gathering dust and cobwebs and shortly could crumble into dust. The HCA might ask for their £19m back; in short, the whole project is looking more and more improbable.

We could say, toljer, because, guess what, when you put a bunch of incompetents in charge of a £300m-odd project, there is an off chance it could go pear-shaped. We could even afford ourselves a wry laugh. The utter stupidity of calling the development 'for marketing purposes' Portobello Square, when there is a pre-existing Portobello Square just down the road, the idiocy of having one WG website on the Catalyst main site, then another that you can't find on Google (called 'from here to eternity' or some such rubbish)plus innumerable other mishaps and misrepresentations that I cannot mention for fear of litigation - well, it all adds up to greed+incompetence=chaos.


But given the genuine heart-ache so many residents have already been put through, the blatantly desperate need for more and larger homes (not that they were going to get them at W Green anyway despite the spin) and the quite shameful state of some of the existing buildings due to bad management, it is absolutely not funny at all.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Euphemism Alert: Code Red

RBKC Councillors and officers are on Euphemism Red Alert as Tri-Borough discussions become more pressing and more complex. Far from the blissful harmony we are led to believe the three Leaders and three Town Clerks enjoy, we are informed there is vigorous and immovable dissent, plus hard-wired personality clashes that promise behind-closed-doors fireworks. There is also growing concern about who will reap the benefit of the savings [cuts] if indeed there are any, and how these will be distributed.

It is a huge concern that the future of IT for the three Councils is a source of such confusion and disagreement. Local servers or cloud? In-house or out? On-shore or off? Which Business Groups can be sensibly aligned and which would be frankly idiotic? Once again the danger is of K&C Council accepting poor advice because there are so few who understand the issues, but instead have been programmed by hard core IT consultants pitching for the work so that that when they hear the word *clouds* their eyes light up and their brains switch off.

Gentlemen, for the sake of clarity please note: a cloud is just a big computer somewhere else, probably in Slough.

Without sufficient forethought – space to think – more thought – planning in detail – space to think – yet more thought and planning, they could end up with a system more complex to use, needing constant back-up and regular re-training for end users. In short, a system that is not fit for purpose and is hugely expensive. For example, the two, count’em two IT companies providing computing services for Council housing are, to put it politely, in the early stages of production and are very expensive as virtually everything is customised and there is so little competition in this field. And let us remember the very sad case of the super-duper FireControl IT system that was to save a fortune by replacing 46 call-centres with just 9 nationwide, but encountered such intractable technical problems that it has been ditched, with £40m written off. Can we please wait for the second generation?

We are probably safe from being outsourced off-shore because of security concerns, but it will in all likelihood mean that Capita will benefit again from Council contracts, in which case former boss Ron Aldridge could contribute far more to the North Ken Academy.

There are certainly services within the three boroughs which it is absolutely appropriate to review and make more efficient, which may or may not come about working with two other boroughs. Are Cabinet Members sufficiently knowledgeable to make these decisions? What is certain is that the wrong decisions on IT could wipe out any savings for many years to come.