Press release :“EasyCouncil or John Lewis – Are You Being Served?” –

The Council Trade Unions has responded to the news – reported in The Guardian on Thursday 18 FebruaryLabour’s plan for first “John Lewis” Council.

In case these highly paid consultants need to be told (not that they should especially when they are earning in some cases up to £1,000 a day). Barnet Council and all the other Councils across the UK are not “Department Stores” said UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess, “less of the spin and more details – we need adequate funding for public services.”

“We have always said that we are willing to work with the Council to improve services – our members who work on the front line workers know how to improve services and want to do so. The first step should be to sack all the expensive consultants who are costing us several hundred pounds a day each and talk to workers and residents about how to develop our services for the future.”

Tony Travers describes in the Guardian that this as “an ideological war fought by proxy” – will local government jobs and services be the “collateral damage” in this ideological war?

The Trade Union movement has seen too many examples of the “collateral damage” done to services and staff as a result of privatisation.

Even the Audit Commission have cast doubt on whether local authorities really manage to get value for money from the outsourcing that is now endemic across the public sector.

We want to encourage our members – in Barnet – to engage with plans to improve public service provision. But we will also be prepared to resist cutbacks in, or privatisation of, essential services.

Our message to the Council – is clear. Sack the expensive consultants and listen to your workforce and we can work together to defend and improve public services.

 End.

Contact: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on 07738389569 or email john.burgess@barnetunison.org.uk

 Information/links

1. Boom times for outsourcing firms as public sector cuts bite, 17 February, 2010 Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/feb/17/outsourcing-boom-as-cuts-bite

2.  

“Lambeth v Barnet: Local councils fighting a proxy war,” Tony Travers guardian.co.uk Editorial Wed 17 Feb 2010.

http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/srX4k78Vm3oL5iLRAfqL-dQ/view.m?id=326454&tid=120787&cat=Search 

3. The future for local authorities: is it John Lewis or easyCouncil? Allegra Stratton. The Guardian News Thu 18 Feb 2010.

http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/srX4k78Vm3oL5iLRAfqL-dQ/view.m?id=326664&tid=120787&cat=Search

 

 

Future Shape Bundle No.1 – Regulatory Services

The Joint Trade Unions are conscious that members are concerned about what is happening in the Regulatory Services Bundle discussions.

To read the first of a series of Briefings which is aimed at staff working in Planning, Housing & Regeneration (PHR) click here.

I am also enclosing the Future Shape Transact Group report which was referred to at Mondays PHR Future Shape presentation.

To view click here

What is the Transact Group?

The Transact Group was one of the Seven Future Shape Groups which included staff, consultants, other public sector partners, consultants and consultants.

The Regulatory Services Bundle are now at the beginning of the Future Shape process.

The concern of members with regards the current position is the transparency.

  • “Why is the Joint Venture model getting top star billing amongst all the other options?”
  • “Where is the in house option? “

Staff asked these questions at a PHR staff meeting on Monday 15th February and were referred back to 6th July Future Shape Cabinet report

http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=8265

I am asking members read the Transact reports and let me know what they think of the Options Assessment contained within the report.

Barnet College –unprecedented cuts to services & staff!

Barnet College is facing the worst level of cuts it has ever had.

The FE sector the Cinderella (wrongly named in my opinion) service in education sector is the first to feel the effects of the predicted financial Armageddon scenario predicted by political commentators.  According to National UNISON press release: Commenting on the Association of Colleges’ evidence to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ Select Committee, which states that cuts in adult education could lead to 7,000 job cuts in colleges in England,

Christina McAnea, UNISON’s Head of Education, said: UNISON will fight any attempt to make 7,000 job cuts to such a vital service.

“Many people, who are desperately trying to re-train during the economic recovery in a bid to find work, would see their courses cancelled.

“The cuts would also add thousands of highly skilled adult education staff to the dole queues.

“Colleges must act responsibly and not make any rash decisions before they have received their final budget allocations, as the funding picture is not yet clear.”

For Barnet College staff the cuts mean 50FTE lecturers and 60 senuior managers and business support staff

Formal consultation began last Friday with the joint trade unions. 

Any members needing advice/support please make contact first with Paul Keightley Paul.Keightley@barnet.ac.uk  & Kirsty Watson Kirsty.Watson@barnet.ac.uk

We will post details of how members can campaign against these cuts to the FE sector.

Keep an eye out for E NEWS

Bad news for our private sector members in Barnet

Sad news from our excellent rep for our members providing the repairs service to our council tenants. Another round of cuts. I think the shocking statistics for this group of ex-council workers is the numbers of staff who have gone since they were first transferred 5 years ago. Out of a workforce of 90+ only 22 are ex council workers. That is 75% of the workforce gone since they were first TUP’D to Barnet Homes then TUP’D to Connaught’s.

Another sobering fact is that those 75% are no longer paying in to our Pension Scheme. If large swathes of the workforce start to march out of the Council there are serious risks to our Pension Scheme. This is why we need to have an answer to our demand for TUPE Plus.

Hopefully staff can understand why UNISON along with our trade union colleagues are calling for TUPE Plus for any services which are transferred out of the Council.

Future Shape – Is In-House a dirty word?

On Wednesday 10th February I attended the first Future Shape Overview & Scrutiny Committee along with other trade union colleagues and staff working in Planning, Housing and Regeneration (PHR). 

As I listened to the presentation from the Director of PHR it became apparent that we are speaking in different languages.

http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/meetings/meetingdetail.asp?meetingID=5912

Why do I say that?

Because of the language being used in the meeting. I heard phrases such as Options Appraisals (OA), Options, Business Case (BC) Outline Business Case (OBC) but what do they mean and where do they fit into the process?

This is why the Joint Trade Unions submitted a Draft Corporate Procurement Policy. The Policy would help everyone understand the process. 

So, have staff and the trade unions ‘jumped the gun?’

I don’t think so. 

When the Director of PHR was pushed by councillors about the other Options he responded……

“Yes, we have looked at other models……Salford Urban Vision, this Joint Venture and more recently a management buyout”

I waited…….and waited……..to hear the words all PHR staff wanted to hear ‘and a new improved in house model linked to joint working with other councils’ but it never happened.

No evidence of any work on an in-house Option for Regulatory Services was produced. If this Option is not viable where is the evidence?

I think it is important to be clear that the in-house model we are asking for would not have been the service as is. It would have been a service looking to the future and it would have certainly looked at developing cross borough working with other regulatory services.

What is staggering about the decisions not to put faith in the workforce to come up with a strong in-house option for the Council is that these are services that are providing excellent services some of the best in the region if not the country. They do provide value for money and they are in the top quartile for performance according to Audit Commission.

So why not ask the staff to work up an Option?

It makes no financial or service delivery sense, unless we are dealing with a political dogma that in-house services are bad. I understood we had dealt with this and that each Bundle or Service was going to be given the chance to compete with all the other Options.

On Monday 15th February all PHR staff attended a Future Shape Briefing and were taken through an updated version of the powerpoint presented to the committee last week.

The key question was where is the work on the ‘what about the in-house option?’

staff were referred back to the work of the Transact Group and the reports which went to Cabinet last July

http://committeepapers.barnet.gov.uk/democracy/reports/reportdetail.asp?ReportID=8265

Dallas Theory?

There again……..perhaps I will emerge from my shower tomorrow and all of the above will never happened, we never invaded Iraq, John Smith is the Prime Minister (Tony Blair was never PM!) there is no recession, we don’t know about MPs expenses and Burnley FC are on the top of the Premiership…………..?

Footnote:

Housing Needs and Resources staff I want to draw your attention to slides 13 & 14

“What is ALMO plus?”

 

Barnet UNISON Call centre 4 Schools?

One of our biggest challenges is reaching our schools members. Last term we held a school conference and piloted this approach to contacting members. It was a success and we are doing it again our Conference is on Monday 15th February.

Details in our newsletter click here

This evening and next week a number of local reps have agreed to come in to the Barnet UNISON office to ring our members working in schools.

 

We still need help so if you can come in for a few minutes to help please let the branch know by ringing 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

In the meanwhile our office is buzzing with “good evening, my name is ………”

 

7 MAY 2010

Imagine this: You wake up 7 May 2010 and you hear the news Nick Griffin has just become the first elected BNP Member of Parliament.  You then go through the next weeks and months seeing him invited on all the radio and TV shows giving his particular comments and views on any subject of the day.

Remember how after being elected MEP he talked about torpedoing boats of immigrants coming to Europe? What do you think this will do for your morale or the morale of the people you live with and work with?

Will you be asking yourself: If only I’d also joined in the campaign to stop this happening….

Barnet goes to Barking

The battle is on to stop the BNP being elected in Barking and Dagenham. Unite Against Fascism will be holding its annual conference Saturday 13 February 9.30am to 5pm in the TUC Congress Centre, WC1 B and will be discussing this is more detail. http://www.uaf.org.uk/events.asp. I will be attending this event to find out more so that we can encourage maximum participation in the project of stopping fascism. If anyone would care to join me let me know: contactus@barneunison.org.uk.

Remember if you are in any doubt about the democratic credentials of Nick Griffin, he said:

“The electors of Millwall [backed] what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan ‘Defend Rights for Whites’ with well directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate”.

 

Slough Council bring ALMO back in house

Slough’s commissioner for neighbourhoods and renewal James Swindlehurst (Lab) said:

“With its primary aim achieved, People 1st becomes an expensive organisation to maintain. Significant savings can be achieved by reducing the number of buildings occupied, and reduce duplication of services.

“The council needs to review how to maximize efficiency, reduce unnecessary overheads and ensure that tenants receive value for money and more investment in front line services.”

http://www.lgcplus.com/news/planning-and-housing/unitary-takes-housing-back-in-house/5010663.article

“Do you work in Housing needs and Resources or Barnet Homes?”

“Are you aware of the following consultation?”

Public Consultation on the Housing strategy 2010 – 2025 (draft)

http://www.barnet.gov.uk/index/council-democracy/consultations/housing-strategy-consultation.htm

Consultation ends 26 February 2010

The Trade Unions are going to submit a response. If you have any comments please send them by Friday 19th February to john.burgess@barnetunison.org.uk

easyCouncil continues to attract attention

Barnet Council has full page article in Guardian

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/sites/default/files/easyCouncil3FEB.pdf

or you can go online and read comments

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/03/mike-freer-easycouncil-interview

Before Total Place started to grab headlines Future Shape was already looking at efficiencies beyond the council’s budget & workforce. It looked at Local Strategic Partnerships (LSP’s) and whether they could be a tool to deliver greater efficiencies across public services whilst at the same time provide better services to residents. The CIPFA document ‘After the downturn’ http://www.cipfa.org.uk/pt/cipfasolace/download/After_the_Downturn.pdf

see page 8.13 which talks about Total Place as a potential option and in 8.6 poses the question

“Are new powers necessary to enable and or incentivise pooling of resources on a significantly more extensive scale in the public interest.”

The easyCouncil sound bite continues to capture media attention and had provoked a debate about the future of public services. But what does it mean for residents and staff?

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