back to article Ministry of Justice IT bods to strike over outsourcing fears

Nearly half of the unionised techies at the UK's Ministry of Justice have voted to strike over proposals that could shift IT service work into the private sector. At the heart of the matter is the Cabinet Office's excitingly titled Next Generation Shared Services Strategy, which was published in March 2013: the strategy's …


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  1. Dan Paul

    Just strike on principle!

    Stike now and strike hard...outsourcing is the reason why so many government IT projects all blow up anyway. Continuing to do the same thing you have always done,the same way; and expecting better results is the very definition of insanity. (or stupidity). Speed does not equal efficiency, especially when you do the wrong thing faster.

    Outsourcing should be illegal, everywhere!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just strike on principle!

      First off, I would like to add that I used to work for one of the companies mentioned in the article (Steria) on a very similar project but for the NHS.

      These 'Shared Services' are actually joint ventures between the company and the government (in my case the NHS) so it is not being fully outsourced. They can also deliver incredible savings. Trust me, I sat through enough boring meetings discussing this!

      A number of the people on my project were drafted to assist with the the MoJ project so I became quite familiar with it. The inefficiencies in the various departments was staggering. In just one particular area the MoJ had a team of 18 people doing the exact same job that the NHS was doing (better) with only 4.

      I appreciate that, by rationalising these processes, people are being transferred and possibly losing their jobs but, at the end of the day, it is our taxes that are paying for these inefficiencies. The money saved can be better spent elsewhere or, better yet, not taken from us at all.

      I am not a fan of outsourcing in general (the reason I left the NHS project was because my role was going to be performed offshore) but these 'Shared Services' are actually a really good model and should not be tarred with the same brush.

      1. JimC

        These 'Shared Services' ... can also deliver incredible savings.

        I'm sure that's literally correct...

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Just strike on principle!

        >it is our taxes that are paying for these inefficiencies. The money saved can be better spent elsewhere

        Such as on dole for all the people made redundant ?

        Look at the shining model of the South Yorkshire coalfield.

        Spend 10x as much as you used to spend on subsidizing coal on dole, inward investment grants, regional development grants, depressed area grants, extra policing, extra healthcare etc.

        And 20years later you still have an area that s completely fucked.

        But at least you now have millions of quid going to Moscow to pay for the gas you are using instead. Well done comrade Thatcher - have an Order of Lenin

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Just strike on principle!

          Reducing expenses does not equal more available money for government. It would be kind of nice if it did work that way for governments, but it doesn't. You free up money in one place and and if that department doesn't have anything else it spend it on the funds just keep walking (being dragged) back up the hierarchy. In the unlikely event the funds escape the agency, they're lost for all time in the screwy mess of finances all governments seem to revel in.

          It's entirely possible to eliminate inefficiencies and create situations where the prison potato vendor doesn't have to deliver potatoes by flying a Sopwith Camel inverted over Cardiff after filing the requisition for indigent shoe shining. But that won't actually affect government financials beyond reducing the number of claims related to potatoes falling on Welsh people and whatever sort of structures Welsh people live in.

          The problem, which is the same you run into with any large organization, public, private, charity or commercial, is that finances can't reflect the present. Expenses cut today reflect the budget of the past which are based on forecasts of the future. You can make that work in a commercial setting because you've got very granular control of everything. But in government, about 2/3 of all the regulations they operate under are related to money. You've got little control of the money because everything has been preordained. It's all very silly.

          Unfortunately, I don't know how to improve on any of it. In hindsight the solution was easy, but if you go restructuring the government to limit its mission as one of protector of the land and citizens, not provider for the cronies and companies then everybody gets all 'kill the traitorous rebels' and it all goes to shit. So I guess we're all stuck.

        2. JimC

          Re: Still have an area that's completely...

          OTOH there have been many fewer deaths and injuries down the mines, many fewer people crippled with silicosis, all sorts of things like that

          Deep mining was/is a damn awful industry and its fairly hard to wish it back again. The failure to find new employment to replace the old is a nationwide phenomenon, not unique to mining or indeed unique to any particular flavour of government. How does a government create real new economically productive jobs in the Western world? Tell them, they'd all like to know.

        3. Why Not?

          Re: Just strike on principle!

          You do know Labour closed more pits than Thatcher don't you?

          You know most remaining pits are automated now because its cheaper and much safer? A few million quid of machinery is cheaper financially and morally than workers that strike and contract breathing problems. Arthur and co wouldn't modernise or accept job losses.

          Of course we could have kept the pits open and subsidised heavily so we were vaguely competitive with German open cast mines but there was no money left.

          Do you also write outraged on behalf of quill pen makers, lion tamers and chimney sweeps who suffered the same sort of fate when the world changed?

          Now what Maggie and the prime ministers that followed (and those that preceded her and closed pits ) should done was to create replacement jobs in the area.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just strike on principle!

        I had the misfortune of working in a 'shared services' setup. In my case between a corrupt quango offshoot (lots of cronies got very rich) of the FO called FCOS and HP. We had to do a worldwide rollout but HP were so thick they only had 240V kit on the catalogue. 2 months in a married couple pair from the original FCOS troughing (non-technical) contractors threw a '1 million pound contract' party to celebrate husband and wife grossing £1m. (You couldn't make it up). Meanwhile my team was handed a psychotic HP manager who made Rose West look well adjusted.

        All in all probably the most toxic and Kafkian place I ever worked - they burned through half a billion when 25 Million would have done the job. All presided over by David Milliband - so I would take ED any time!

      4. Another Ben

        Re: Just strike on principle!

        The "incredible savings" seem to become credible only to the people who have sat through all those boring meetings. To those who rely on the services in question, they remain incredible.

      5. Jim 59

        Re: Just strike on principle!

        IT sure is the whipping boy when it comes to cost savings, and a handy scapegoat when the cheapened system goes wrong

    2. Mark Dempster

      Re: Just strike on principle!

      >Stike now and strike hard...outsourcing is the reason why so many government IT projects all blow up anyway. Continuing to do the same thing you have always done,the same way; and expecting better results is the very definition of insanity. (or stupidity). Speed does not equal efficiency, especially when you do the wrong thing faster.

      Outsourcing should be illegal, everywhere!<

      I agree, and I work for an outsourcing company!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just strike on principle!

        "I agree, and I work for an outsourcing company!"

        If you're posting under your real name you may have got the tense wrong, I'm afraid.

    3. HollyHopDrive

      Re: Just strike on principle!

      Given the government are claiming that IT is saving Britain economy and want a UK silicon valley do they want to destroy our economy by outsourcing?

      as for "Outsourcing should be illegal, everywhere!" - I'm not sure I totally agree but....

      ---- all state / government work should NOT be allowed to leave British soil but I can't help think that's just common sense though [not that anybody seems to use common sense these days]

      ----outsourcing should be illegal outside of Europe (we have to accept 'free EU trade - that part of the deal of being in europe - but india & china we not part of Europe last time I checked']

      And as somebody who's work with outsourcing (both in and out of Europe) its shit. It cheap and saves money at the expense of delivering anything. "You can't make a silk purse out of a Sow's ear."

  2. James 51

    Have the ever outsourced IT and it went well?

    1. The Man Himself Silver badge

      but also...

      What have ever done in-house that went well?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: but also...

        I worked for the gov for six years. All our projects were on time and to budget. The problem is that those projects don't interest journalists and civil servants aren't allowed to advertise.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: but also...

        CESA. On time, under budget, all required function points delivered. The last

        Civil Service led and managed project delivered to the Inland Revenue before IT privatisation.

      3. cocknee

        Re: but also...

        M!6 and GCHQ's evesdropping systems (see Snowden releases). They seem to have worked well.

        There are others that I can't comment on as it would give the game away but I used to run a larger operation in a large whitehall dept that is still in house, still delivering massive solutions that touch all out lives but no-ones ever heard of. All Civil Servants, with some expert contractors as required.

        The only time it goes tit's up is:

        a) because it's being run for pennies and they won't even fund an A/C upgrade or UPS upgrades, let alone storage or servers: oldest servers are 8 years old (lots), youngest almost 5)

        b) an outsourced provider fucks up the networking or gateways

        c) the outsourced provider take over a year to package a simple desktop client - well still counting!

        d) staff leave for far better paid jobs and can't be replaced because of recruitment freeze

  3. TopOnePercent Silver badge

    The whole of the public sector needs to adjust to an attitude and environment of doing more for less. Outsourcing will inevitably have to be part of that picture, as will redundancies.

    To quote the Labour partys Liam Byrne "I’m afraid there is no money".

    1. Dan Paul

      Bullship! (Strike HARDER now!)

      You sir, are either a naive, stupid, gullible, government management dork who was obviously lied to by the outsourcing company or an employee of the same outsourcing company.

      Outsourcing IT vendors regularly lie to the government about what they can do, how much it costs etc to get the contract. Then they wait for the change orders they can bill extra for. "Oh, that wasn't in the scope of the offering". Whatever the offer was will then be inflated after the fact.

      Government management numpties who believe their lies need to be the redundant ones, NOT the programmers.

      There would be plenty of money left if every project the government (any) outsourced did not need to be scrapped and done over (again, rinse and repeat AGAIN)

    2. Don Jefe

      Outsourcing is a monument to the failure of education systems. It turns out all that useless algebra and esoteric calculus was incredibly useful after all.

      Regardless, outsourcing isn't about saving money, it never has been. Outsourcing is about accounting and that's what confuses people. Outsourcing increases costs, by a significant amount, but it lets you book the expenses in temporary categories as opposed to indefinite categories like HR.

      There are about 5,357 different ways to do it, but the end result is that you're amortizing HR and reducing headcount (often through attrition, but sometimes redundancies) to free up funds to distribute to other budget lines. It appears as if you're doing more with less, and contemporary accounting supports that notion, but you're just kicking the can.

      Outsourcing let's you, legitimately, say you are shrinking the organizations footprint (aka: smaller government) and reducing expenses, which is true. But in reality you've just broken expenses apart and thrown the pieces ahead. The trouble is that everybody is doing that and what would otherwise be little bumps you could absorb by virtue of sheer scale start to pile up. You're building your own ramp and sooner or later you're going to launch off the end and fall a very long way.

      In a commercial setting you can get by with screwy books because you've got all sorts of options and failure is one of them. You can cut losses and go home. You really can't do that with a government though. Outsourcing government processes is a fashion, not a goal. In the end it's a terrible idea.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the case of the UK Research Councils, "shared services" ended up with a central office doing less, and individual universities and researchers doing more admin and correspondingly less research. As someone has pointed out in another comment, outsourcing is basically an accounting trick, and ends up just shifting inflated costs to another part of the system, where they can be conveniently ignored by those making the decisions.

    4. cocknee

      Utter bollocks. More for less - well the pips are squeaking and outsourcing doesn't have any cost savings - show me a single case??????? Having working in and out of Govt - have seen the outsourcers fleece the taxpayer and deliver fuck all. I don't mean a poor service, I do mean FUCK ALL for £100M+ they should be in the Tower!!! and the fuckers that outsourced it in the first place. The last 3 govts are all as bad for this!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    whether the techies were delivering value for money

    read: we'll outsource them, pay less (and hail it as a victory for the goodness of the British people), and if they don't want to work for shitty money, that's their problem.

  5. cyberelf
    IT Angle

    The more efficient private sector ..

    "Nearly half of the unionised techies at the UK's Ministry of Justice have voted to strike over proposals that could shift IT service work into the private sector."

    As a potential customer of HM Ministry of Justice, I feel entitled to forward an opinion here. Look, once privatised, the outsourcing companies will make three times the money and provide one-third the service. That'll be followed by a report that calls for the wholesale selling off of the inefficient Justice IT department to the private sector. What could go wrong, I mean look at the current state of the NHS.

    * Notalota people know this but the UK Justice system is run under Admiralty law, hence you appearing in the "Dock" ..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The more efficient private sector ..

      Obviously criminal justice != admiralty law.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Centralized services, Yes. Outsouncing, No, Offshoring f**k right off.


    Police forces services and councils have started to do this and strangely enough when it's not mandated as some nationwide Whitehall mandated giga project it seems to work modestly well.

    The real problems is that once you've done the analysis of each organizations processes and rules for maximum benefit you have to generate a single set that applies to both (ofr future events) and also work out how you're going to merge existing cases (from both) into this new result. Compromised does not really work here.

    This is where you needed senior staff to show leadership and that is something very lacking in UK organizations in general and large government aligned ones in particular.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Offshore Justice?

    Sweet! Should be easy enough to get my criminal record cleared once the database is being managed by someone on a pittance-a-day. Fifty quid ought to do it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can someone please remind me how the NHS got on with outsourcing IT to 2e2 a few years ago?

    Did that turn out alright or was it a god almighty disaster?

  9. Why Not?

    you know there are Silos of waste but outsourcing is probably not the answer.

    Its a bit like realising the house is untidy so you sell it for £1 to someone who says they will tidy it up so you can live in it.

    a few months later you are living in the Garage which is still a tip and the house has been sold.

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