In January this year the “Chief Executive” of the British Council Martin Davidson announced that the British Council was advising other government departments about "outsourcing" (i.e. exporting jobs) to India. The British Council, Davidson crowed, had made itself “significantly more efficient”. Downtrodden British taxpayers can only hope, albeit against the trend, that the DFID and FCO are not so stupid as to take their advice.
The Chief Financial Officer of the British Council, Bidesh Sarkar, has issued a circular to British Council staff in Manchester informing them that because the British Council senior management thought they would have to pay for only two floors of the building in Bridgwater House when the landlord actually requires them to pay for three, and because they have empty floors in Spring Gardens for which there is no tenant, they “are significantly behind our UK savings targets”. So while the Chief Executive says the British Council is “significantly more efficient”, his financial controller says they are “significantly behind”. Significant or what?
All this has come about because the British Council outsourced 75 finance and IT jobs to India, sent 240 staff away with expensive sweeteners to create “voluntary” redundancies, and have apparently made such a success of this attempt to become more efficient that now “we will have to consider new ways of working and the services we are able to retain in Bridgewater House, such as meeting rooms, the reception and canteen.”
Chillingly for British Council staff in Manchester, the Chief Financial Officer writes “we value the work you do”. Evidently he’s not sharp enough to realise that the “you” in that phrase betrays an intention by “us” to create distance, and make a rather clear distinction between London, where the British Council chiefs are (so no threat to the canteen there), and Manchester where they are evidently so valued that, thanks to the monumental incompetence of London and their failure to even understand their property contracts - much less actually manage them - employees will have to huddle together and find "new ways of working" as they do without their customary and, in London's view, superfluous facilities.
The full text of the letter follows:
o Dear colleagues,
In July you were informed that the Executive Board (EB) had approved recommendations to retain two floors in Bridgewater House.
Since then, the landlord has required us to pay rent on three floors until September 2012, rather than just two floors, as we had expected. Added to that, the UK property slump has meant that it may take longer than anticipated to secure a subtenant in Spring Gardens. All this means that we will have to pay more for longer and are significantly behind our UK savings targets in this austere Comprehensive Spending Review period to 2015.
The EB have therefore taken the decision to consolidate Manchester operations onto one floor to make important savings.
These changes are due to take place in a years time, September 2012, but I wanted to let you know as soon as possible. I realise this is not the news you would have wanted to hear.
This decision means we will have to consider new ways of working and the services we are able to retain in Bridgewater House, such as meeting rooms, the reception and canteen. We will consult with you and Trade Union Side on our developing options.
Although were having to make these changes, Manchester continues to be an important operation for the Council. We value the work you do and we are renewing the Bridgewater House lease for the next 10 years with a standard option to review after three years.
Alex Chaplin (Director Global Business Services), Eddie Byers (Managing Director Programme and Projects) and Angela Gibbins (Deputy Director Global Estates) will be holding an open staff meeting in the Boardroom this Thursday 24 November at 1500, where you will be able hear more and ask any questions. More details on that to follow.
With kind regards,
Chief Financial Officer