BREAKINGNEWS: No cuts to services for War Memorials and Church yards in Barnet

Barnet UNISON announced last week that our members in Grounds Maintenance had been told they would no longer providing services to a number of War Memorials and Churchyards in Barnet.

See here http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2019/03/28/breakingnews-grounds-maintenance-for-barnet-war-memorials-and-closed-churchyards-ends-1-april-2019/

Once the story broke it seems there has been a ‘change of heart’.

Today, Barnet UNISON have had confirmation that normal services will resume for all of 2019/20.

A big thank you to all who publicly spoke out against the cut it appears to have been helpful.

To those who believe this story was untrue, be careful. Barnet UNISON had very concrete evidence of the cessation of the services.

 

 

Press Release: Barnet UNISON respond to “Worse Choices for People with Disabilities”

Press Release: Barnet UNISON respond to “Worse Choices for People with Disabilities”

https://bit.ly/2FOn6pr

Look at the line E6 on this chart and you may start to understand why disabled activists are going to get extremely angry. Barnet UNISON will support community activists and workers fighting to keep the standards high for people with disabilities.

The struggle and fight for disabled people has always been about “How I can keep in control of my life?”

For a number of years local authorities, including Barnet, have been trying to get people with disabilities out of residential care homes and into a variety of supported living settings. Along the way there have been a number of arguments about whether this is a cost saving exercise (it was always approved if it did save costs) and about whether the quality of support could match that in residential care homes.

Residential care homes always struggled to match their residents’ aspirations to live a “normal life” – to make the kind of choices most of us take for granted, such as when to pop out for a social visit. They now often struggle to match the aspiration of providing quality basic care.

This is the background against which Barnet and other local authorities are looking to save money again, but this time by seeing who they can “persuade” or “encourage” to move into a residential care home. Whichever way it’s looked at, this is about cutting costs and forcing people with disabilities to manage with less, which will limit their aspirations in a way which is wholly unacceptable for the rest of the population.

If there is money to keep ploughing into the pockets of Capita, to keep an extensive and expensive senior officer group running, then there has to be money available to continue offering residents of Barnet a degree of choice and control over how they are supported.

Remember – people with disabilities are any one of us. Most disabled people were not born so, they acquired their disability in later years. What would we choose for ourselves or our parents or our children? This is why we will show solidarity with those campaigning for quality services and defend those providing quality services.

“When I saw the headlines my heart sank. Comrades started contacting me on social media to get our reaction to the very scary proposal outline in the Budget Cuts report which was agreed at Barnet Council meeting on 5 March 2019. I am not surprised this attack on people with disabilities is a direct consequence of the decision of the Council to keep funding the two big Capita contracts. Barnet was contracted to pay Capita £252.2 million by this time however with all the extras they have in fact paid Capita £386.71 that is an extra £134.17 million of taxpayers money. Our branch will be doing our utmost to work with our community to ensure no one is forced into residential care it’s the least we can do. John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

End.

Notes to Editors

Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: john.burgess@barnetunison.org.uk

Background:

Concerns over Barnet Council’s social care plans

https://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/17534511.concerns-over-barnet-councils-social-care-plans/

Tory council set to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/tory-council-set-to-force-disabled-people-into-residential-care-to-cut-costs/

Bring back Barnet Pension service in-house now

The following email was sent to all Barnet Councillors:

Dear Councillors

I am writing to all of you on behalf of all of my members who are part of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

I am writing to all of you for help.

The latest debacle with the failing Pension Administration run by Capita should have been the final straw.

The failings have been well documented in Barnet Council Committee meetings over the last four years. The problems are not going away. Some do then others rear their head.

The service is out of control.

Have you not noticed a pattern?

Capita are always contrite and happy to agree to action plan after action plan.

But year on year, another damning report or comment emerges from either internal or external audit and now the risk to the Triannual Valuation of our Pension Scheme.

The Chair of the Local Pensions Board has gone on record in their Committee meeting and recently at the Pension Fund Committee on 25 March 2019 to say the Pensions Administration service is “appalling”.

Now the Actuaries have joined the ever growing numbers of concerned people who are warning Barnet Council of the serious risks of a failing Pension Administration service.

The Actuaries warned the Council three years ago.

Yet here on the eve of the deadline for the Pensions Regulator (31 March 2019) the serious critically flawed pension data issue has not gone away.

I have listened to the recent Pension Fund Committee (26 March 2019). I did appear to me that the scale of the risk was reflected in the discussions.

I note with concern a quote below from Dan Taylor, director at third-party administrator Trafalgar House.

 “The more poor data you have, the bigger that assumption gets, and the further away you get from the actual known liability position, which could involve employers, sponsors paying more than they have to”

Barnet Council has recently agreed at the Budget Council meeting on 5 March 2019, a Five Year Budget cuts programme, looking to make £70 million of cuts by 2024.

I find it inconceivable that Councillors would not be concerned that as a result of serious failing Pension Administration the Council and other employers would have to contribute more money to the LGPS.

Money that should be spend on vital public services.

Barnet UNISON has over the past five years dealt with some of the following issues impacting directly on our members

  • 2015 Annual Benefit Statements not sent to all by statutory deadline
  • 2016 Annual Benefit Statements not sent to all by statutory deadline
  • 2015 Annual Benefit Statements not all correct – CARE benefit incorrectly based on taxable pay rather than pensionable pay
  • 2016 Annual Benefit Statements not all correct – CARE benefit incorrectly based on taxable pay rather than pensionable pay
  • 2017 Annual Benefit Statements not all accurate – missing previous LGPS membership, more than one statement, CARE benefit based on part pensionable pay
  • Barnet Pension communicated on another local authority’s letterhead showing two different e-mail addresses for communication with them
  • Insufficient details provided for pension calculations to check accuracy

Yet our active members are still experiencing problems.

I am sure all Councillors will have a work or private Pension.

You will all expect that when it is your time to take your pension it should be a stress free experience.

I have to say that is not the experience in Barnet.

The ongoing issues mean that until our members have had their Pension checked by UNISON and it is paid correctly into their bank the stress levels for those retiring are extraordinary high.

Contrary to some comments I have heard councillors make at Committee, we simply did not have these problems with the in-house Pension Administration Team. It is a matter of fact not opinion.

I know many believe that Barnet Council will not end this contract because it would be seen as a major climb down and an admission that the One Barnet Programme has failed.

That is possibly true. However I know there are still quite a few Councillors who were deeply involved in the One Barnet programme. Whilst I and my union disagreed with Barnet Council on One Barnet I do not believe that those voting for One Barnet would have envisaged this happening to the Pension Administration service.

But is has happened.

No amount of action plans will restore the service to the level of excellence it was operating before it was privatised in 2013.

Finally, I am not allowed to address most of the Committees but if I did I would ask Barnet Council “Why are you defending the indefensible?”. Barnet Council needs to instruct senior officers to terminate the Capita contract for Pension Administration and begin the process of bringing the service back in-house before there is further damage to the service and the reputation of the Council.

Background:

  1. Ongoing data problems spark valuation concerns at Barnet http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Ongoing-data-problems-spark-valuation-concerns-at-Barnet
  2. Barnet in TPR breach as Capita misses payments http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-in-TPR-breach-as-Capita-misses-payments
  3. Barnet grapples with data difficulties http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-grapples-with-data-difficulties
  4. Regulator fines Barnet over pension failings https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2017/07/27/regulator-fines-barnet-over-pension-failings/

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.

Barnet UNISON

0208 359 2088

www.barnetunison.me.uk

BREAKINGNEWS: Grounds Maintenance for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards ends 1 April 2019

No, this is not an April Fools joke it is for real.

Barnet UNISON have been informed that our members who work for Grounds Maintenance have been told as from Monday 1 April that they will no longer providing the following services for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards

  • Weed spraying
  • Shrub Prune
  • Remembrance Sunday works
  • Grass Cutting
  • Hedge Cutting
  • Planting Weeding and maintaining annual bedding

To the best of our knowledge this decision has not been subject to any public consultation the sites affected are as follows.

  1. Bells Hill Burial Ground
  2. Christ Church yard , St Albans road
  3. East Barnet Village War Memorial
  4. Golders Green War Memorial
  5. Holy Trinity Church yard
  6. Ridgeway War Memorial
  7. St James’ Church yard
  8. St Marchs Church
  9. ST Mary’s Church Green
  10. St Marys Church Yard /Church End.
  11. John the Baptist C.O.E
  12. Station Road War Memorial

At the time of this post Barnet UNISON has asked the following:

  • Which Council department proposed the termination of the services?
  • When did the public consultation take place for this proposal?
  • Where was this saving identified in the recently agreed Councils Medium Term Financial Strategy 5 March 2019?
  • Are there any Health and Safety risks as a result of the termination of this service?

Our Pensions: What on earth is going on?

On Tuesday 26 March 2019, members of the Pension Fund Committee will discuss the latest debacle about the Pensions data.

I have sat in numerous Barnet Council meetings over the past few years reading and listening to senior officers and councillors discussing the failing Pension Administration Service currently provided by Capita out of their Darlington office.

“5.1.1 Employers will pay £48 million of contributions into the pension scheme in 2018/19. Changes in contribution rates can have a significant cashflow implication for employers and will impact on the Council’s ability to spend in other areas.”

5.2.1 There are no immediate financial implications from the report. However, higher deficits (particularly if sustained) may translate into higher contributions from the ouncil and other employers. Engaging with the Scheme Actuary in advance of the 2019 triennial valuation will enable the Committee to identify ways to stabilise future contribution rates.”

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51758/Planning%20for%20the%202019%20Triennial%20Valuation.pdf

What are the risks?

  1. The Triannual valuation of the Pension Fund is being placed at risk due to ongoing systemic Pension data errors.
  2. The Employer may have to increase their contributions which will mean there is less money to spend on services.
  3. This could lead to some services reducing or stopping altogether.
  4. Could lead to redundancies
  5. Less money to invest and resulting in the Pension pot reducing.

There have been warnings

The Pension Regulator (TPR) has intervened twice here in Barnet

First in In 2017:

TPR issues first fine to a public service pension scheme

“The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has fined a public service pension scheme £1,000 for failing to submit basic information required by law…………

TPR issued a scheme return notice to Barnet Council on 9 July 2016, requesting the scheme return be submitted by 12 August. The return was not received and, further communications from TPR not replied to, so the matter was referred to TPR’s Determinations Panel on 24 February 2017.”

https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/en/media-hub/press-releases/tpr-issues-first-fine-to-a-public-service-pension-scheme-

Then in 2018

Barnet in TPR breach as Capita misses payments

“The failure to produce 447 statements constitutes a breach of law and a report is being prepared for the Pensions Regulator that will identify the relevant non-compliant employers,” the minutes read.”

http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-in-TPR-breach-as-Capita-misses-payments?ct=true

 

Three strikes and you are out.

“5.5.1 The accuracy of the valuation relies on the accuracy of the data provided to the actuaries. Any errors in the provision of the data could have a significant impact on the required contribution rates, particularly for the smaller scheduled and admitted bodies.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51758/Planning%20for%20the%202019%20Triennial%20Valuation.pdf

Last week Barnet Council published Pension Fund Committee reports for the meeting on 26 March 2019.

The shocking news was that the critical errors had not been addressed and now the Triannual Valuation of our Pension Fund is now at risk.

In the Data Quality report it states:

“1.3 The quality of membership data is central to the valuation process. Should the quality of data not be to the standard required by Hymans Robertson then there could be delays to the valuation process. Also, inaccurate member data held could result in erroneous benefit statements being issued.

1.4 The results show a significant number of ‘critical errors’ that the administrator will be required to address before actuarial calculations can begin.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51904/Data%20Quality%20Report.pdf

What is worrying is the pattern of behaviour. The issue of data quality is not new. It was raised two years ago.

Now, on the brink of the valuation there are still a “significant number of critical errors’”

The Pension Scheme is one of the most important Terms and Conditions for Barnet Council staff yet since the outsourcing of the service it has been beset with issues.

Barnet UNISON believes that the repeated failures of the Pension Administration service which now threatens in-house services must be brought back in-house along with Payroll in order to restore confidence and assurance both for members of the scheme and employers.

Barnet Council are currently reviewing both Capita contracts.

The Pension Administration service is in Phase Four which is 18 months away.

The service can’t wait that long it needs to come back in-house now.

You mean Capita actually use SAP????

 

What is SAP?

 “An important factor is to develop mechanisms to support service areas in developing their efficiency and the corporate capacity of the council. One way that this is being done is by implementing corporate frameworks to allow better ways of working. For example, modern core systems for finance, HR and procurement and a new technology infrastructure to support all technological advances. This dovetails with service planning where the Information Systems service engages with service areas to identify opportunities for development.” (Source: Cabinet ICT Committee 14 September 2005

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/CeListDocuments.aspx?CommitteeId=0&DF=14%2f09%2f2005&MeetingId=335&Ver=2 )

Clear as mud? 

The implementation of SAP involved serious changes for hundreds of staff and included redundancies. As with many IT projects the original cost of SAP quickly escalated as local Blogger Mr Reasonable wrote “How a £2.5 million project ended up costing £21 million – Why we need to learn the lessons.”

You can read the whole sorry tale on his blog here

https://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-25-million-project-ended-up-costing.html

Incredibly, after spending so much money on SAP, the Council entered into a contract with Capita in 2013 and as a consequence Capita replaced SAP and provided Barnet Council with Integra and HR Core.

Barnet UNISON can report that very soon after the replacement systems were implemented staff started experiencing problems. Five and half years into the contract and our members are still not happy with the systems.

Imagine my reaction when I found out that Capita use SAP.

So, it was ok to remove IT systems which cost Barnet Council upwards of £21 million with what appears to be an inferior product, but Capita choose to use SAP.

How does that work?

Why are the Council not asking for SAP to be restored at no cost to the Council?

I am often heard saying “You couldn’t make this up” when talking about issues that come to our Barnet UNISON office.

This is yet another sorry tale of how adherence to the mass outsourcing easyCouncil ideology has led to bad decisions for services, staff and residents and none of those who drove these changes through are around to answer the questions.

 

No, it is not an April Fool, Capita staff are coming back in-house!

On Monday 1 April 2019 Capita staff working in Strategic Human Resources (HR) and Finance services will return back in-house.

This follows a decision made at Policy and Resources Committee 11 December 2019 to start a review of which services should be brought back in-house.

Finance and HR were identified in Phase One to return back in-house.

Below are the details of the other Phases and the service included.

  • Phase Two: Highways & regeneration
  • Phase Three: Estates, Social Care Direct, Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Strategic planning, Procurement, Insight, Cemetery and Crematorium, Revenues and benefits
  • Phase Four: Customer services, Information Services (IT), Planning (development management and enforcement), Regulatory services, Transactional HR services (including Payroll and Pensions Administration), Any other remaining services.

You can read more details of reasons for the Capita Review by clicking on link below.  https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s50134/Review%20of%20Capita%20Contracts.pdf

Barnet UNISON has demanded that all of the above services are brought back in-house citing Southampton, Blackburn and Darwen, Sheffield and Birmingham Councils who in 2018 all made decisions to bring back services from Capita.

 

Barnet House: East of Borough Hub?

 

Barnet UNISON wrote to the Council last year asking if there was a possibility that part of Barnet House could be an East of Borough Hub for staff and residents.

We set out details in our post below. http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2018/11/02/barnet-house-hub-proposal-barnet-unison/

Our proposal was not accepted.

However on reading the responses to Mr Reasonable questions at Financial Performance and Contracts Committee, Monday 11th March, 2019 7.00 pm

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51645/FPC%20-%20Public%20Questions%20and%20Comments%20-%2011%20March%202019.pdf )

Barnet UNISON believes that the proposal could have some legs and here is why.

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“After June 2020 where will the family services be located in the East of the Borough and what reassurances can you give that funding for a permanent East Hub will be allocated?”

Council response:

“The provisional plan is for a Family Friendly Hub to be created in the East Barnet Library, once the partnership library moves to the New Barnet Leisure Centre in the Summer. The allocation of funding and confirmation that East Barnet Library is a viable solution is subject to a successful capital bid and supporting business case, which is currently being developed.”

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“Given that last week I was told that an exit from the Barnet House lease had not yet been agreed, why wasn’t this identified as a risk in the report at section 1.16.7 and what is the scale of the financial risk – i.e. how many months will we have to keep paying rent for Barnet House once it has been vacate?”

Council response:

“The business case for the move to Colindale assumes that LBB will continue to pay for the Barnet House lease all the way through until the end of that lease in 2032. This is because there are no breaks in the lease so surrendering the agreement is subject to negotiations with the landlord, which are by no means guaranteed to be successful. Nevertheless, reducing running costs and / or sub-letting the building is expected to result in significant savings.”

Barnet UNISON response:

In light of the recent news the Council has budgeted to continue to pay the lease (£750k a year) until 2032 which we estimate is around £9.750,000, Barnet UNISON has written to the Chief Executive to ask if the Council will consider leasing part of Barnet House for an East of Borough Hub.

Watch this space.

 

Bring back Pension Service in-house from Capita

Dear Councillors

Please find enclosed latest Barnet UNISON Briefing on the Pension Administration service.

The in-house service was taken over by Capita in September 2013 and in 2014 all the staff were sacked as the service was sent to the Capita Pension offices in Darlington.

This services has been subject to ongoing concerns since 2014. The service has been reported to the Pensions Regulator twice.

My observations are that in spite of action lists being agreed the service has not even reached the levels before the outsourcing and more worryingly the reports at the recent Local Pension Board meeting reveal that it is now impacting on Pension 2019 triennial valuation:

“The results show a significant number of ‘critical errors’ that the administrators, Capita, will be required to address before actuarial calculations can begin.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=753&MId=9712

The Pension Service is something that our members strongly support. The performance issues since Capita have taken over are causing great anxiety and anger from workforce.

This is why on behalf of all of our members I am asking that the Pension Administration Service is fast-tracked in terms of the current review of the Capita contracts. This is a failing service that desperately needs to be brought back in-house.

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.

Barnet UNISON

0208 359 2088

www.barnetunison.me.uk

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