Transformation with V4 Services and Verto in Peterborough

Many will remember that the subject of consultants has been rumbling on here, ever since Cllr Mike Fletcher asked some difficult questions back in January 2010 and later. If this means nothing to you, and you’d like to find out more, here is as good a place as any to start.

If you’d rather have a quick summary, here it is. Peterborough City Council have spent many millions per year on consultants, in order to achieve claimed savings of many more millions. Others dispute the benefits. What follows is one person’s interpretation of the situation.

This is the consultants’ description of their methodology:

v4 powerpoint
That’s from the V4 pitch on  the IESE website, “accelerating public sector transformation.”, signed by Paul Tonks, Heather Darwin and Chris Wright, all giving Peterborough City Council email addresses.

As I understand it, the method is to come into the department without telling anyone what you’re doing, (not sure why).  Establish a base. Get some data. Work out some plans. Put it on the new computer system you brought with you. Calculate predicted future savings. Show management the savings. Send in the bill. Not necessarily in that order.
They have a plan to sell that software to Government, on the basis that it has been a great success in Peterborough, and could be rolled out nationwide.

cabinet pitchThat’s from here: Innovation Launch Pad. Cabinet Office

The argument arose when it became apparent to some councillors that some consultants were taking a salary for a top interim deputy chief executive job, for example, and also sending in their invoice for the consultancy work, at the same time, since they also owned the company doing the consulting. This went on for several years.
When questions were asked, V4 Services were sheltered behind the main contractor Amtec, who refused to divulge details of how much their subcontractors V4 Services were taking themselves out of the approximate £12 million annual bill for consultants, on top of the executive wage packet for the director(s).
And Council, when they finally delivered their report, which is due to be discussed in Marco Cereste’s Cabinet at 10am on June 13th 2011, redacted much of the information. They may or may not have been threatened with legal action if they revealed details.
The whole report can be found here. There is no easy summary unfortunately.

So the argument boils down to the quality and quantity of the forecast savings, as shown in the new Verto software, compared with the approximate £12 million annual bill for the consultants who deliver the programme. For example, some councillors may question if the savings were made by simple outsourcing, or a change in accounting procedures, or indeed sacking staff, and if so then why pay millions? Those are the facts to be established. There are other ways to sum up the situation, but that will do for now.

Full Council may or may not be given a chance to debate the report at 7 pm on 13th July 2011, a full eighteen months after the questions were originally posed, with a local election inbetween.

A very salient comment has appeared beneath this post.

2 thoughts on “Transformation with V4 Services and Verto in Peterborough”

  1. A strange approach which may be a means of by passing the usual tender regulations and internal staff issues. Where is their PCC office based and do they pay the usual overheads all other sections and departments contribute to?

  2. Joining Up The Dots – The Use of Consultants in Local Authorities

    The use of consultants in Local Government LG is now so common and wide spread that they gain influence and power over all aspects of LG. Decision are being made without proper scrutiny and democratic accountability. The concern is that the smoke and mirrors approach to LG is lining the pockets of a few at the expense of the many. People should be more aware of what’s being done in their name and at their expense. What picture will emerge when the simple pen of truth joins up the dots of concealment?

    Based on information available from web searches (referenced at the end) the following is some simple research that shows that PCC failed in their own claim to be open and transparent. Peterborough City Council have paid millions of pounds of public money to consultants to procure a change in the way the council does business, the real story is about consultants writing contacts for which they become the beneficiary and the councils extraordinary lengths to conceal the financial arrangements they have with those consultants.

    When Peterborough City Council (PCC) wanted to procure a Professional Services Partnership (PSP) they used their consultants who they had employed to run the procurement department. The procurement of this PSP contract was arrange via the directorate responsible for procurement. Adam Jacobs of Virtus was appointed (Procurement Project Director PCC) to structure and implement a new and more flexible procurement approach with clear objectives. This definitive contract is the equivalent of putting a fox in charge of the hen house.

    There are documents in the public domain that show contractual relationships existed between PCC and various companies whose directors hold senior positions at PCC.

    From a FOI document FOI-09-0107(reference 10,11) issued from Peterborough City Council The following companies received

    GAJ Services Limited £231311.38
    Options Enterprises Ltd £198815.50
    TMI Systems Ltd £48900.00
    V4 Services Ltd £50000.00
    Virtus Services Ltd £423021.60
    This amounts to £952048.48

    This is the best part of a million pounds between Nov 2008 & Nov 2009 paid by the council to these companies. Who are the directors of these companies?
    From the level business web site (reference 19) the following companies and their directors are listed.

    • Virtus Services Ltd(reference 4,2) Tara Tonks Paul Tonks, Adam Jacobs
    • Options Enterprises Ltd (reference 3) Ben Ticehurst, Lorraine Caroline Ticehurst
    • V4 Services Ltd Ben Ticehurst, Paul Tonks, Adam Jacobs (reference 1,5)
    • TMI Systems Ltd (reference 6,7) Anne Nelhams, Philip James, Ross Matthew Mardell, Daniel Mckeever, Paul Tonks (Non Executive Director), Christopher Andrew Wright
    • GAJ Services Limited (reference 8) Adam Jacobs, Genevieve Sarah Jacobs

    The following people hold or have held senior positions at PCC and are directors of the companies listed. Ben Ticehurst, Paul Tonks, Adam Jacobs, PCC claim they are not employees but subcontractors of Amtec the PSP.

    The PSP was signed by PCC cabinet on 01/08/2008, (reference 9) the list produced by PCC FOI-09-0107 (reference 10,11) is a list of all the companies that have done paid business with PCC. The report is undated but relates to a 12 month period. At PCC the FOI numbers started at FOI 001 on 04/01/05 but were all renumbered with a year date and it would appear that FOI-09-0107 (reference 11) (formerly R 1727 -1 – P) was issued in November 09 so the accounts referred to are from about November 2008, this is after the PSP agreement was initiated with Amtec. They may represent the final accounts of the pre existing agreements between these companies and PCC, and undeniably show that there was a direct contract between them and PCC, whilst the directors were and are employed by PCC in senior posts. Conversely FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST – FOI-11-0238 (reference 12) denies any contracts existed. This may be figuratively correct given that the information requested is for the period 1st April 2009 to the 28th March 2010.

    In April 2008 Ben Ticehurst, Paul Tonks and Adam Jacobs, had formed V4 Services (reference 1) and I therefore believe that this FOI-11-0238 request (possibly by one of the aforementioned directors or a stooge) is a subterfuge to allow PCC to refute the allegations in a factual way. Had the request referred to an earlier period PCC could not deny the obvious contractual links with these companies. There are plenty of web sites (reference 2,5,7,13,14,15) describing the profiles and work these consultants do and their association with PCC which is promoted through various media formats, aimed at other Local Authorities, in this way the Peterborough Model which they have worked on and invested public money in can be marketed and sold on to other Local Authorities .

    Through acquisitions and mergers AMTEC (reference 16) are now part of NTT DATA A Japanese IT company with worth about £11bn. V4 Services as a company was formed just prior to the initiation of PSP contract at PCC and the directors all joined 23/04/2008.

    PCC claim that V4 Services is the delivery partner of Amtec and that PCC have no direct contractual arrangement, but they did and they have paid V4 services £50k as shown in the FOI document (reference 11). In order to do business with PCC companies are required to submit financial details, vat registration, bank account details, company names and address. Its inconceivable that PCC should not hold these details on companies they pay and therefore know that these payments were made and to who.

    V4 is a services organisation focused on transformation and cost reduction in local government. They have grown to a £5.5million+ turnover within 3 years. Their offerings are around procurement, cost reduction/transformation, capital programmes /strategic property and leisure. (reference 14)

    There are many documents that have been issued in which V4 Services & PCC are joint authors and share the copyright (©). If you take for example the publication Infrastructure finance: the Peterborough model, (reference 10) it was written by Ben Ticehurst, in 2009 he was Deputy CEO of PCC and a director of V4 services and V4 services are a delivery partner to Amtec. The © is with PCC & V4 if he wrote the document as Deputy CEO of PCC then should the © be wholly PCC? If he wrote the document as Director of V4 then should the © be with Amtec? as there was absolutely no arrangements (reference 12) with PCC & V4 Services. It may be that Amtec relinquished intellectual rights to these publications leaving V4 Services free to © any material as their own whilst being paid by Amtec?

    PCC claim to be open and transparent but the hole in which they have dug themselves is a pit of misery and desperation, rapidly concreting them into a bunker to conceal the truth and avoid the shells of dissent and derision that rain down on them.

    The truth is that the PSP contract was written by consultants from a position within the council. The consultants have formed the company V 4 services, with the determination and intention of securing the on going business for themselves. The consultants wrote the contract for the council that committed Amtec to use V4 services as the delivery partner thus ensuring that they benefit from the continuance of this arrangement and the freedom to promote their business model to other Local Authorities.

    The council are attempting to separate the PSP contract with Amtec and the relationship that existed between the directors of the companies with which they had employed and had been working with in a collaborative way for many years. It is not surprising that people will draw inference that the councils duplicity is an attempt to conceal more disreputable accounts. Did they turn a blind eye or were they deluded by more tangible encouragements to procure services in this way? It was a cabinet decision, it wasn’t called in and it commits the council to spending public money in way that can not be accounted for in a public arena. Is this gross stupidity and dereliction of duty in a public office or is it a council mired in a web of corrupt practise that allows public money to be spent without public accountability?

    PCC have to prevent the publication of the details of the contract and the millions of pounds of public money spent because of the implications that will expose the hypocrisy of the state of affairs in which they have become snared by a group of sharp individuals who with guile, cunning and greed specified a contract which only they could fulfil. Were the council blind to this?
    It is insincere of PCC who say they are open and transparent yet seek to conceal their relationships with these people and their companies.

    The council may like us to believe that having appointed Amtec as the PSP they had no influence over who Amtec use as a delivery partner. The reality is that PCC were fully aware that the consultants they employed, procured a contract in which they would be the beneficiary, and have now gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal these arrangement.

    The report USE OF CONSULTANTS (reference 18) by the SUSTAINABLE GROWTH SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SGSC) has failed to find out where the tax payers money in relation to consultants particularly those companies listed in this document, has been spent. All the questions put by Cllr Fletcher were written and submitted in to members and officers in advance so the officers concerned could have found the answers simply by asking the main consultancies for them. The officers and members decided not to ask the questions or go out of their way to seek answers, thus the answers provided were limited. The apathy and dismissive contempt that was shown by those members and council officers in the thin, incomplete answers to the questions pervaded the determination to render the report ineffectual. The lack of cooperation in this investigation is reprehensible.

    What should also be questioned is the resolve on the part of the SGSC to get to the truth? If the information contained in this document can be put together in a few days from existing sources and although some has come from the investigation it is all available in the public domain. As elected councillors surely they could have easily checked the councils procurement records going back at least five years most of which would be currently held on the procurement system set up by the consultant directors to facilitate the eprocurement process? The SGSC spent over 18 months looking into this matter and what came out was fudge. The members and council officers who took part in this report chose to answer questions posed in 2009 with answers relating to the changed position in 2010. It can only be concluded that the time spent on this report was used to cover up rather expose the truth.

    The council have used exemptions under FOI and commercial in confidence clauses in contracts to conceal the nature of the contract of the PSP with Amtec and the purposefully formed V4 Services being the delivery partner, consisting of consultants who they have previously paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for services whilst directly employed by them in senior posts.

    The lack of transparency and contracts with ‘commercial in confidence’ clauses are fine in private companies. However when used by councils to prevent disclosing the nature of the contract to their own tax payers on the money they have paid out and to whom and for what is just plain devious. The council by putting projects through Amtec can avoid scrutiny and treat their tax payers and constituents with absolute contempt, this can only benefit Amtec and their delivery partner V 4 services whose directors procured the PSP whilst working within the council. The real picture that emerges by joining up the dots is that of a disingenuous council, cloaked in a fog of duplicitous arrangements with companies who can not be held to account.
    These are extraordinary lengths for a council to go to conceal a business transaction that is supposed to be the best thing that’s happened in Peterborough since the foundation stone for the Cathedral was laid ‘upon this rock’.

    Reference Links

    19. LEVEL BUSINESS LIMITED Sophia House 32 Featherstone Street London EC1Y 8QX Email:

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