‘A relentless drive for efficiency’

Third aim outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report (July 2009).

It is public money, so we must be transparent and accountable for every penny spent on public services. The impact of the global recession has already had a significant impact on Future Shape. The previous sentence reflects the vulnerability and complexity of decision making with regards to planning public services in the Future.



The mainstream political parties are having a ‘bun fight’ at the moment on the true financial realities of public services. No doubt their message for public sector workers, will be we must accept the pain.


I am reminded of something a wise trade union colleague said at our lobby of Barnet Council Cabinet (6 July 2009) when he said this of politicians…… 

“Get real they will say,……we live in difficult times. You must feel the pain. I always find it strange that the people who tell us to feel the pain never have to feel it themselves!”

How true. I hope members remember this come election time!

As for staff in these extraordinary times it is even more apparent that we all recognise this and understand that in house services need to be high quality and value for money. We are already seeing a growing attack from the media, our pensions our pay. Incredible, public sector pay awards have consistently fallen behind inflation, yet the way our pay is discussed, you would think public sector workers were turning up to work in Ferrari’s, supping champagne.


So it is understandable public sector workers are not popular, with 4 out of 10 adults having lost their jobs, unemployment figures continue to rise, it is understandable that public sector workers are going attract negative attention.


There are still opportunities for savings in the public sector, but it does not have to be staffing that feels the pain first. Across public services & central government, there has got to be much more ‘commercially savvy’ procurement practice. It is worrying to hear how much public money is wasted by poor procurement practice, inadequate contract monitoring.


When we go into partnership with the private sector we need to make sure we understand the rules, because they do!


For those trying to understand what Barnet Council is trying to do you need look no further than to look at what has happened to Social Care provision in the UK.

Social Care in the UK

Over the past 20 years we have seen public services go out and come back , but one service that hasn’t returned is Social Care. The NHS & Community Care ACT 1990 marked the beginning of the end for in house Social Care services. The driving force of change was to turn NHS & Councils from providers to commissioners of services. Nationally, the majority of home care services are provided by the private sector, very few councils still provide residential or day care services. In Barnet we have outsourced, residential & day care for older people, sheltered housing, home care, meals at home


Some of you may have seen the Panorama documentary on Home Care services which documented a horrendous story of abuse of services users. In light of the fact that these services are no longer provided in house we need to have much more robust monitoring. If councillors believe it is better to privatise these services rather than direct provision then we need to scrutinise the delivery.


Social care provision must be regulated & monitored for service quality and value for money and the processes to ensure this is done be transparent. If you or a relative are receiving services then why not check it out with you Council, I know I would if a relative of mine had to receive social care services.


Here are the questions I would be asking.


Magnificent Seven Questions

  1. Does the Council/NHS Trusts regularly monitor home care & residential providers?
  2. Do you check the staff lists working on your contracts & ensure staff are CRB checked?
  3. Do you check staff turnover?
  4. Do you check what training staff are receiving?
  5. Do you visit the work place to check their records are up to date?
  6. Do you check on quality of the service?
  7. Do you work with services users & their carers to enable them to feel able to report concerns, without the fear of losing the service?  

It is public money, we have the right to expect that all the above happens, but I expect that we could have Panorama reports from every council in the country. For many this experience only beomes real when someone close requires support and suddenly realise how important it is to feel confident to let a stranger play a key role for your family or friend. It is appalling to think that someone who has led an independent life could find themselves enduring horrendous abuse in the final years of their life.


The dogma ‘public bad, private good’ has dramatically changed social care provision, for the worse in my opinion. It is my view this has not led to the improvements the ‘dogma’ championed. Social Care provision should not been seen as a burdon on the state, it should be a statement of the sort of society we want to live in. When we gave up provision, we lost our knowledge & understanding of what providing social care is all about. The providers know we can’t easily bring services back in house and that puts Councils at a serious disadvantage. 

The challenge to councillors, commissioners, procurement officers and contract officers is enormous.

‘A one public sector approach’- The Borg?

Second aim outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report (July 2009)

Apologies to those of you who are not Sci Fi fans. The Borg are known to take over other species through forced assimilation. Those of you who have been on the Chief Executives Road Show will have seen one of the slides which refers to the Borg.

‘One public sector’ the second of three aims outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report. This aim has its origins in what is called Total Place .

Total Place’, is “an ambitious and challenging programme that, in bringing together elements of central government and local agencies within a place, aims to achieve three things:

1. To create service transformations that can improve the experience of local residents and deliver better value

2. To deliver early efficiencies to validate the work

3. To develop a body of knowledge about how more effective cross agency working delivers the above”

In ‘plain english’ terms it means looking at total public sector spend across an authority. To see if money can be spent more effectively to achieve better outcomes.

Total Place reared its head in Sir Michael Bichard’s work on the Operational Efficiency Programme (February 2009) which looked at the scope for efficiency savings in the public sector.

The question is how much will the other public sector bodies ‘buy in’ to this approach to delivering better outcomes for Barnet residents. Will they voluntarily sign up to the ‘one public sector approach’ or will we need the Borg?

Sheltered housing campaign goes National

On 8th June Barnet Cabinet Committee agreed a proposal which marked the end of on site wardens in favour of a floating support service operating from possibly three hubs around Barnet.  

Having commissioned ‘floating support’ for some of my clients when working as a social worker I am familiar with the merits of a ‘floating support’.  I have worked in social care for over 20 years and come from the advocacy approach to social work. Working with service users to feel empowered enough to start taking control of their lives for me is fundamental to anyone working on social care. The last few years has seen the emergence of the Personalisation agenda, placing the service users at the centre, handing back the power and letting them decide on what services they want. Sounds great in theory and if it works and enables just one service users enjoy a greater quality of life then it is worth it.  

But what if a service user chooses a service which the organisation in this case the Council does not want? 

In the case of Barnet and a number of other Councils up and down the UK service users choosing on site sheltered wardens have been overturned by the financial imperative of the Council to make savings. Some will argue that disbanding the service is going to improve services to more residents and this maybe the case, but then we have to be honest with our service users. Perhaps the message on Personalisation should be ‘Choice, but with qualifications.’ 

I am not convinced that we don’t need on site wardens as part of a range of services on offer to residents. It is my belief, which is shared by others that simply having a warden on site enables residents to maintain their independence.

In Barnet, I think there has been a conflation of issues such as need, the criteria for automatic right to sheltered housing when you reach a certain age, and funding. It did not help that the deletion of on site sheltered housing was announced as a budget saving proposal rather than a review of service provision.  

What has happened since the Budget proposal has been a remarkable story of a large group of Barnet residents organising together to oppose the proposal. They have turned up in wheelchairs, Zimmer frames, walking sticks on a local march and several lobbies, culminating in huge rally (200+) of Barnet Councils Cabinet Committee on 8th June.  

Whilst the Cabinet decision to replace the schemes has been made, the campaign continues. The residents have enlisted the support of a solicitor  who is seeking a judicial review.  

It is clear from the work of Sheltered Housing UK that this issue is not going away and the options for residents should include on site sheltered wardens.  

Sometimes in my trade union role you come across groups of staff who are exhausted, demoralised and frightened and unable to find any energy to fight what at times seems an impossible fight. I am reminded of a comment David Cameron said earlier this year about residents feeling disempowered about decisions being made by politicians. 

So it is great to see that our senior citizens are showing all of us that you have to stand up for things you believe in. Nothing is for free, some times you have to say no and do something about it.  

Next week residents are going to protest in Parliament Square at 12.30 pm on the 22 July I wish them good luck and message of support from Barnet UNISON.

Are you a Barnet Resident?

“Do you belong to a Faith Group/Community Group/School/Resident Associations?”

READ on:London CITIZENS is a powerful grassroots charity working with local people for local people. Our goal is social, economic and environmental justice. We meet that goal by training people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds to take action together for change. Our dynamic campaigns have secured many victories for the people of London. Beginning our journey twelve years ago as TELCO, our membership today includes over one hundred civil society organisations across the city.” 

Barnet UNISON is part of a North London Citizens Steering group. We are looking to complete the circle (i.e. we have a East, South & West London Citizens).

If you belong to a FAITH group/School and would want to know more about London Citizens contact the Barnet UNISON office on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Future Shape Consolidation phase

HitchhikersTrade Union Guide to Future Shape Consolidation Phase

(Subject to the report being approved at Cabinet on 6th July) 

Hopefully staff should already had chance to read the Future Shape report . One of the key things to note is what is termed ‘Consolidation’ process. A number of services have been clustered together to form Bundles. The Timescale for Wave One is 2009-2011 followed by Wave Two. 

Another work stream concerns group of services identified as Support Services (including HR,ICT,Legal, Finance, Audit, Procurement) 

Members will be aware that the Trade Unions have had ongoing issues about employment issues for any staff being transferred to another organisation. In the Report a ‘people’s stream’ group will be created which will give the Trade Unions an opportunity to discuss our concerns. We will be providing a more detailed briefing to members.

In the interim please read the following guidance

What you can do

1. Please try and attend one of the Chief Executive road shows which start this month.

2. Please read all UNISON Bulletins on Future Shape

3. Make sure you read the Council All Staff email bulletins in relation to Future Shape.  

4. Ask for Future Shape to included on the Agenda of your team meetings

5. If you have a query on staffing issues address it first with your line manager.

6. Read Barnet Council Press release http://www.barnet.gov.uk/press_releases.htm?id=1996

7. If you find the Future Shape Cabinet heavy going read the ‘Plain English’ version (copies on Council intranet).

8. Any questions on the report you can contact UNISON office at contactus@barnetunison,org.uk or telephone 02083592088

9. Come along to the Lobby on 6 July

Background to latest Future Shape report

The 6 July Future Shape Cabinet report is 58 pages long. 

Staff, residents will find it hard going.

The report names three aims

  • A new relationship for citizens;
  • A one public sector approach;
  • A relentless drive for efficiency.

In an attempt to understand what is driving the ‘relentless drive for efficiency’ I have had re-cap over the last 30 years.  

Take a look here!

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