Barnet Alliance for Public Services meeting 23 September

Barnet Trades Council are organising a mass community meeting on

Thursday 23rd September

7-9pm, Emerald Suite, North London Business Park (NLBP),

Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1GN

Speakers invited include :

Alasdair Smith, Anti Academies Alliance,

John Lister Health Emergency

Shirley Franklin, Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition

Ken Loach, Film Director

Democracy at stake in Hammersmith & Fulham

Barnet UNISON members who attended our branch meeting last month heard speakers from Essex and Hammersmith describe what was happening in their boroughs.

 

These Branches were invited because Barnet, Hammersmith and Essex are often quoted together as possible pilots of what council services will look like under a Cameron government.

 

What is happening in all three boroughs is very different which is why I am shocked to report that three branch officers including the Branch Secretary, have been de-recognised at a time when the whole workforce have been dismissed and re-engaged on inferior terms and conditions.

The issue has been brought to Parliament through an early day motion

See link below

http://www.edms.org.uk/edms/2008-2009/2116.htm

Please encourage your local MP to sign this motion.

The next five years are going to provide very challenging for staff working in public services. Our country has a proud record about democracy and belonging to a trade union is one of them. Trade Unions must be allowed to represent the views of their members. Attacks on trade union reps are an attack on democracy and must be condemned.

In Doncaster the UNISON Branch Secretary Jim Board was suspended for giving an interview on Channel Four.

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2009/09/16/112581/doncaster-strike-threat-over-unison-officials-suspension.html

The response from local UNISON branches, General Secretary and the region swiftly brought the suspension to an end.

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2009/09/22/112653/doncaster-council-reinstates-childrens-worker-jim-board.html

I fully expect to hear news that a similar response both nationally and regionally will bring an end to the de-recognition and allow the democratically elected UNISON officers to carry out their legitimate duties to represent their members.

I can report that UNISON members are currently being balloted on industrial action in response to the dismissal and re-engagement on inferior contracts.

I will ask for an update from the branch.

Report back from Lambeth UNISON

What is your name?
Jon Rogers

What UNISON branch?
Lambeth local government

What is your branch officer position?
Joint Branch Secretary (jointly with Nick Venedi)

Have any of your services been privatised? Please explain?
Lambeth was scene of what was at the time the largest privatisation in the history of English local government in 1997 when almost all our then remaining in-house manual workforce was privatised to a “joint venture company” part-owned by the Council. This proved a failure and the contracts are now with a range of different private contractors. We have had some successes in bringing privatised “white-collar” services (such as Housing Benefit and Legal Services) back in-house.

Do you know if there are any plans to share services with other public sector organisations in your borough?
We have not heard of any detailed proposals yet!

Do you have any privatisation proposals in your borough?
At the moment our ALMO (Lambeth Living) is proposing to privatise our emergency caretaking service, our Concierge service and the estate cleaning service (in those parts of the borough where it is still in-house). We have got the Council to agree to pay a consultant from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) to work with us to try to respond to these proposals – and this work is underway right now.

What do you think will be the big challenges for public Services over the next four years?
We will face spending cuts and further privatisation proposals, as well as the shared services agenda. At the same time a future Tory Government will probably mount new attacks upon our trade unions for which we need to prepare.

What is your message to Barnet UNISON members?
Your branch is leading the way in showing how we should respond to the coming challenges and other branches can learn from this – but we cannot fight one borough at a time. We need to work together and to make the official structures of our trade union work for us as best we can. Right now I think we can make use of the national Union’s Million Voices for Change campaign to provide a coherent theme nationally for the fightback in local government and beyond. The Peoples Charter also provides a national framework, supported by the Trades Union Congress, for our local demands and campaigns.

News from Southwark Council – Revs & Bens: Back in House

Revs & Bens: Back in House

On 29th September Southwark Council Executive Committee voted to bring Revs& Bens back in house.

Some quotes from the report:

“Lack of direct control on the part of the Council, leading to slow and reluctant responses to Council-led initiatives to improve the service for the people of Southwark.”

“The main benefits of bringing the service in-house are:

  • “the authority can directly implement new initiatives and methods of working for service improvement quickly and without the need for contract variation.
  • “the authority is able to build more robust relationships with key departments and external stakeholders.
  • “Bringing the service back in-house will eliminate a major 3rd party interface.”
  • “the authority can have direct day to day management of the service and speed of making decisions and implementing change will be quicker.”

To view the full report click here

http://moderngov.southwarksites.com/Published/C00000118/M00002832/AI00002969/$Gateway1ProcurementStrategyApprovalProvisionofRevenuesandBenefitBackofficeservice.docA.ps.pdf

Tales from Tower Hamlets

What is your name?

John McLoughlin

What UNISON branch?
Tower Hamlets

What is your branch officer position?
Branch Secretary

Have any of your services been privatised? Please explain?
Yes. Many of our big manual services – waste collection etc were privatised many years ago. More recently we have fought a long battle on Housing Stock transfer – winning many ballots – although the Council then established an ALMO with no vote. There is still pressure on many areas – Waste Education has just controversially been given to Veolia and our Tenancy Support Team is to be transferred to Look Ahead. We have also had successes however. When I was convenor of Benefits we stopped privatisation to ITNET, and big campaigns also stopped the privatisation on all of our Home Care and School Meals.

Do you know if there are any plans to share services with other public sector organisations in your borough?
There has been an experiment in sharing senior HR management with the PCT but that has been deemed unsuccessful and is ending. No major plans yet – but we’re all watching what happens in other Boroughs

Do you have any privatisation proposals in your borough?
Just the ones above at present

What do you think will be the big challenges for public Services over the next four years?
All the major parties are trying to outdo each other in who can make the most savage cuts. Everything will be up for grabs – jobs, services, pensions, pay and conditions. Yet no one seems to ask one simple question. We were told that the trillions poured into the banks because of the collapse caused by the reckless greed of the wealthiest in society would all be paid back. So why are low paid Public Sector workers expected to pay for the crisis?

What is your message to Barnet UNISON members
Our unions need to unite and stand up to these attacks. In 2005 when public sector unions started to come together we forced the government and employers back on pensions. We need to do that again- on a bigger scale. We have seen the possibilities at a local level. In Tower Hamlets College we have just succeeded in getting no compulsory redundancies after lecturers in UCU took all out strike action and won widespread solidarity.

Breaking news……..Hillingdon ALMO to come back in house

Yes you have read correctly.

Only last week , Barnet UNISON shared with its members the news that Ealing ALMO was failing and Ealing Council were looking to privatise it.

Last week we announced that Hillingdon Council were considering bringing the ALMO in house

Today we can confirm Hillingdon Cabinet Committee made the following recommendation
That Cabinet agrees:
1. To instruct officers to carry out a tenant and leaseholder test of opinion on dissolving Hillingdon Homes and bringing the council housing services back in house.
2. To instruct officers to report back to Cabinet for a final decision on the future of Hillingdon Homes as soon as possible once the test of opinion has been completed.
To view the documents which went to Cabinet click on this link

http://modgov.hillingdon.gov.uk/Published/C00000115/M00000510/$$ADocPackPublic.pdf

To view the agreed minutes click here

http://modgov.hillingdon.gov.uk/Published/C00000115/M00000510/$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

There are some significant comments made in the report which members and residetns may be interested to read. With Future Shape very much in everyone’s minds the following makes interesting reading.

“There would also be significant financial benefits to tenants by returning to the council.”

“Financial considerations are also a driver in testing resident opinion for the return of the landlord service to the council. Significant savings are likely to arise which can be used to fund service improvements. Potential savings from the costs of governance of the ALMO are likely to be in excess of £300k per year”

“While the ALMO vehicle has enabled the council to achieve the decent homes standard and improved satisfaction ratings from tenants and leaseholders, there is no over-riding strategic value in continuing to maintain this method of operation. It is also increasingly evident that the vehicle in itself has not been significant in the achievement of excellent standards of service.”

“Any future plans for the council housing services will look to build on the advantages of this involvement. The “freedoms and flexibilities” for ALMOs that were promised by Government have, however, failed to appear.”

“The review of council housing finance has now been published by the Government. One option allows local authorities to buy out of the national HRA subsidy system and finance the maintenance and management of housing stock via rent (and other income), re-investing according to local need. It is not expected that the review will lead to any new specific benefits regarding ALMOs.”

“Although originally there was potential to exploit the ALMO as a delivery vehicle of the council, the case for retaining the ALMO has now been weakened. Local authorities have been offered many of the freedoms that were previously offered only to ALMOs, for example, bidding for Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) social housing grant to develop housing. In addition, the government has now announced that local authorities are able to retain the rental income from homes they buy, build or bring back into use, to invest in new housing. This had previously been a major advantage of the ALMO.”

“In general terms it is also clear that the ALMO vehicle has not been a sufficiently useful model in furthering the wider objectives of councils. Where initiatives of this nature have been developed (e.g. the development of Hillingdon Homes Direct to procure private sector housing for the council) the government’s financial regulations meant it was unable to compete on equal terms with Housing Associations and was therefore not financially sustainable.”

“Maintaining the ALMO as a stand alone vehicle involves a strong duplication of effort in a number of areas, most significantly, governance, strategic direction, performance management and communication functions.”

“In the absence of an ALMO, the council will have complete control over the in-house housing management service and will be able to introduce an improvement programme to meet the council’s corporate standards and ultimately further develop services to residents.”

“Returning the landlord service to the council’s direct management would allow Hillingdon to maximise the potential of the contact centre as well as greater integration with adult social care. It is likely this will deliver substantial benefits to the tenants and leaseholders of the council.”

“TUPE costs are also likely to be minimal if, as envisaged, the terms and conditions for Hillingdon Homes’ staff have not deviated significantly from those of the council. However, this would need to be investigated in more detail.”

It is clear that senior officers have done theor homework and recognised the ALMO has had its day.

Barnet UNISON will be pushing that a similar exercise takes place for Barnet Homes.

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