Extinction Rebellion: Ilkley Moor on fire in April we need to act now

Also in Yorkshire Marsden Moor another fire

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/22/huge-area-of-yorkshire-moorland-destroyed-by-fire-barbecue?CMP=share_btn_tw

Not just in West Yorkshire but in

Wales: “Gorse fires cause havoc in UK with hills above Blaenau Ffestiniog blanketed in blaze” https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gorse-fires-cause-havoc-uk-14448221 and

Ireland: “Fears more dry weather will cause repeat of west Donegal gorse fires” https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/fears-more-dry-weather-will-cause-repeat-of-west-donegal-gorse-fires-1.3868181

Scotland: “Fire crews dealing with large wildfire in Moray”

https://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/news/national/17590235.fire-crews-dealing-with-large-wildfire-in-moray/

All the above areas historically have lots of rain especially in the winter months. The fact that the ground is bone dry and we are only in April is another conformation that our climate is changing and the need for action now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISS Pay roll changes put low paid workers at risk.

Barnet UNISON have been informed that ISS nationally are changing their Payroll process.

This change impacts on all ISS workers not just here in Barnet.

We raised immediate concerns about the hardship this would place on low paid workers.

We were told that loans are being offered with a repayment plan spread of four equal payments.

Barnet UNISON have asked that the option for repayments to be spread over a longer period of time.

Barnet UNISON have sought confirmation that staff are not paying any interest on the loan.

If you work for ISS Catering service in Barnet Council and need advice and or support please contact the Barnet UNISON office on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison,.org.uk

BREAKING NEWS… Barnet says Goodbye to Fremantle

Barnet UNISON has just been informed that the Fremantle Trust is to enter into TUPE consultations to hand over the running of its care homes: Meadowside, Apthorp Lodge and Dellfield Court to Your Choice Barnet.

We welcome this transfer as a positive step in the right direction. Your Choice Barnet is 100% owned by the Council which places the running of the homes under greater local accountability. We will do all we can to continue to represent our members who have consistently done their best to deliver support to vulnerable residents, often under difficult circumstances.

We believe there are now real opportunities to address the concerns of staff and residents in a positive and constructive way and look forward to working with Your Choice Barnet to achieve this.

The transfer of staff and services is planned to take place at the beginning of July 2019.

Barnet UNISON has already approached Your Choice Barnet in preparation for formal TUPE transfer meetings which will be looking to take place shortly.

Any members who have any questions please contact the Barnet UNISON branch on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

End.

 

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

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.

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.

 

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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Not a member? Join Today at http://unison.org.uk/recruitment/  or by contacting the Branch Office 0208 359 2088

Barnet Council: Bring Apthorp Lodge back in-house now!

Barnet UNISON is shocked and saddened by the CQC report which details poor staffing levels resulting in poor staff morale and unsafe working practices at Apthorp Lodge. We have already recommenced asking for Apthorp Lodge to be brought back under direct Barnet Council management. We believe this is the safest way forward for all residents and would be of immense benefit to the staff. Care workers do not go to work wanting to do a bad job. They deserve to know that they are working for an employer which manages them well and fairly and which enables them to be the best they can be.

The CQC report is critical of the actions of staff but highlights how poor the staffing ratios are, how little training has been given and how necessary information for staff to carry out their role is either not present or is inadequate. It also highlights positive interactions observed with staff. It is particularly critical of the leadership of Apthorp Lodge although it acknowledges the current manager had only been in place a few weeks before the inspection took place.

https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/new_reports/INS2-4699435949.pdf

“The ‘effective’ audit identified gaps in care plans and a need for greater personalisation. However, the actions required did not have a timescale for completion and had not been delegated to a named member of staff. The actions had not been completed effectively by the time of our inspection in December 2018 despite some of them being recorded as requiring “immediate” action.”

“While people’s routines were described, their preferences were not consistently recorded.”

“The impact of the staffing levels described in the safe domain had a significant impact on people’s dignity. For example, we observed two people, on separate occasions, had soiled themselves and were walking through communal areas of the flats.”

“Three different staff members spoke to them briefly asking them to eat as they passed through the lounge but none of them sat with the person. The person’s meal was removed without them eating a bite.”

“Staff described how they supported the person when distressed, but there was no written guidance which mean new staff, or staff who knew the person less well did not have information about the impact of their health condition on their care needs.”

“Staff had not received the training they needed to perform their roles.”

“We reviewed the rotas for the service and these showed there were not always enough staff deployed to meet people’s needs”

“we saw a care worker gave one person a tablet then walked away before checking the person had actually swallowed their medicine. There was no information to inform this care worker about how to support this person to take their medicines properly.”

“The flooring in some bathrooms was damaged meaning that they could not be effectively cleaned and posed an infection control risk. Where they were not damaged the floors were dirty and water stained.”

The effect on the residents is extremely damaging. Yet if Apthorp Lodge is closed and the residents have to move to another placement, this will prove fatal for many residents as studies show 37% of residents forced to move die within 1 year of that move. Furthermore the distress caused by the move means that their last months and weeks are deeply traumatic.

We believe this is unnecessary and Barnet Council should act to take back control of Apthorp Lodge in order to safeguard the residents there and provide good support and leadership to the staff so that they can do the job to the best of their ability.

Notes to Editors:  

Barnet UNISON submits London Living Wage proposal to Fremantle Trust

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/barnet-unison-submits-london-living-wage-proposal-to-fremantle-trust/

“Is ‘Low pay, poor terms & conditions’ good for social care services in Barnet?”

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/%E2%80%9Cis-%E2%80%98low-pay-poor-terms-conditions%E2%80%99-good-for-social-care-services-in-barnet%E2%80%9D/

Fremantle Trust propose big cuts to pay for care workers

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/fremantle-trust-propose-big-cuts-to-pay-for-care-workers/

Fremantle care workers campaign – relaunch 7 August 2008

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2008/08/04/fremantle-care-workers-campaign-relaunch-7-august-2008/

 

 

 

 

Update on Community Safety Team restructure

In three days another austerity driven Barnet Council restructure will end with the possibility of another redundancy.

Barnet UNISON had noticed a few discrepancies in the data accompanying the report namely the staffing numbers and the lack of any idea as to what savings were required from this proposal.

This is odd because all the savings are detailed in the latest Medium Terms Financial Strategy report which was recently agreed at the last Policy and Resources Committee on 20 February 2019.

You can view the report here https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51255/Appendix%20Q%20Summary%20of%20savings%20proposals.pdf

As you can see when reading the above report there is no identified saving for the Community Safety Team.

Barnet UNISON wrote to Executive Director of Environment and asked the following:

“In paragraph 2.9 it states:

“The proposal decreases the core funded council posts from 9 FTE posts to 7 FTE posts. Whist doing this it also brings the current staff costs in line with the staffing budget and increases the capacity on the front line where there is the most demand.”

As you know there is a potential redundancy with this proposal. In which case it is important to understand what saving is required for this restructure as there isn’t a saving figure provided in this document.

      • What is the saving required for this restructure?

This leads to next question.

I’ve looked at the Savings proposals (attached) going to Policy and Resources Committee on 20 February 2019 and I am unable to find under environment and reference to a saving for Community Safety.

      • Is this proposal linked to the MTFS Budget savings
      • Please can you forward the Equalities Impact assessment?

I’d like to add that Barnet UNISON would support any proposal that ensures the Barnet Community Safety Team has the capacity and structure to deliver on the commissioning, enforcement, strategic, policy and operational statutory community safety functions of the team.

At this stage our view is that the proposed reduction of Community Safety Managers would put this at risk.

Lastly, please confirm that the consultation does conclude on 28 February 2019.”

Last week we received the following response:

“Please note the answers to your email below:

Community Safety would be contributing approximately up to £68,000 to Environment savings.

The proposal is contributing to overall Environment savings.

As there are fewer than 10 staff working in Community Safety it is not appropriate to compare their equality data against the corporate data, both in terms of the limited metrics and from the perspective of inappropriately disclosing information of a sensitive personal nature which would enable the identification of the individuals concerned.

The report will therefore focus upon more general approaches to equalities and fair and equal treatment of staff in the workforce based on protected characteristics. You can expect this before the end of consultation.

I can confirm that consultation concludes 28 February 2019.”

Barnet UNISON responded immediately:

“Thanks for this information.

As there is a risk of redundancy and as a result the level of support for staff may be impacted by the redundancy I am think it important the Council communicates the information provided below.

For consultation to meaningful its important all of the key information is made available to the staff team.

In terms of the equalities impact information. I note that risk number ST027 in the Corporate Risk register quite rightly identifies the risk of not having a dedicated Equalities Officer in place. As you know the post holder has left and the Council has chosen not to replace this post. In which case I do think it important that with the consultation period due to end in just 7 days your report which you state will “focus upon more general approaches to equalities and fair and equal treatment of staff in the workforce based on protected characteristics” will be shared with all staff as a matter of urgency unless of course the Council decides to extend the consultation date.”

Barnet UNISON is unaware if the above responses have been shared with staff. If not it would be a concern as consultation must provide open and transparent information for the workforce in order they may be able to consider any alternatives to redundancy.

Watch this space…….

 

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