One Barnet “My worst fears” – by John Burgess UNSON Branch Secretary
In my role as Branch Secretary I am currently taking part in consultation over the transfer of over 550 staff from Barnet Council to Capita Group. Unfortunately, I have had extensive experience of transfers of staff out of Barnet Council, more so in the last 12 months. However, the Capita transfer is the biggest and most complex transfer I have ever been involved in.
The big difference with this transfer to Capita is that Capita have announced that the majority of the jobs will be based out of the London Borough in Barnet. The jobs are been exported to Belfast & Carlisle, Blackburn & Southampton to name but a few destinations. The impact of these proposal is that hundreds of local jobs will be lost to our local community at a time when there is need for jobs.
In the discussions with Capita we are trying to negotiate an alternative to jobs being moved out of Barnet in order to keep jobs and prevent redundancies and I have asked for support from the Council to help in this aim.
However, last week I was shocked and upset by the news that the first One Barnet Project ‘Your Choice’ was failing, so badly that it needed a £1million loan from Barnet Homes just to survive, But the loan is not enough, ‘Your Choice’ submitted a proposal which if implemented would decimate low paid care workers terms & condition.
I take no comfort from saying “we told you so!” as last year UNISON submitted several reports on the proposal to create a LATC where we said: “The options appraisals and business cases for Adult Services and the Housing Service and the business plan for the LATC have serious weaknesses and the process has been deeply flawed. They Council should not be making decisions on the future of services and public assets based on such poor information, analysis and advice.” (UNISON January 2012)
Unsurprisingly Cabinet Committee ignored our comments.
BUT now we can see our worst fears have been realised.
The problem is that instead of ‘biting the bullet’ and admitting this One Barnet Project had not worked, ‘Your Choice’ is trying desperately to hang on to a business model that simply won’t work.
Take a look at the ‘Your Choice’ consultation document (to view click here), there is no information or evidence to explain why the Councils Business Case produced in May 2011 (to view click here) could be so WRONG.
A lot has been made on the money spent on consultants and legal advisors for the One Barnet Projects. Many a time councillors defending the One Barnet Programme have responded that they have learnt lessons from previous mistakes. In which case why are the Council not publishing the ‘One Barnet Lesson Learnt reports?’
UNISON is asking the Council to honour the Councils Business Case (which stated in Business Case at paragraph 7.4 “Commercial risk ultimately remains with the Council and in the unlikely event of failure, the services will need to be brought back in-house.”)
We believe the proposals in the consultation document are de-skilling and reducing support at a time when the focus post Francis inquiry is on need for better trained and skilled staff and more supervision.
“What does this mean for the other One Barnet Projects?”
The stakes are so much harder for the Capita contract and the Development & Regulatory Services (DRS) contract (preferred bidder has not yet been announced, it could be either EC Harris or Capita).
What worries me is that if the Councils Business case could be so wrong for what was a very simple contract, what is the chance that the bigger One Barnet Projects could also go the same way?
Where has this been done before?
There are very little examples of Local Authority Trading Companies around the UK. Here are a few but because they are so new there is little to report.
1. Essex County Council’s Essex Care Ltd
2. Kensington and Chelsea London Borough’s Chelsea Cares Ltd, went into liquidation in its first year.
3. Wokingham Council’s Optalis Ltd Optalis was set up in June 2011
4. Northamptonshire County Council’s Olympus Care Services Limited, Olympus started trading in March 2012.
5. Stockport MBC created Solutions SK to provide a wide range of services. Integrated Solutions SK was established, alongside, but under the management of Solutions SK, in 2009 to provide a wide range of adult social care services. It has recently disclosed that it has not won any external contracts and is failing to deliver the services that the council pays it for. The council agreed at Meeting of Extraordinary, Adults & Communities Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 19th December, 2012 (Item 4.)
“That the Executive be recommended to give approval to the return to the Council of the home support elements of Individual Solutions SK as soon as is practicable having regard to any HR and legal requirements and that further consultation be undertaken with any affected staff on the proposed transfer back to the Council.”