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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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…….

 

Barnet Bin Workers Update: “Where is the money coming from?”

“Where is the money coming from?” or “I thought the Council was in financial trouble?”

At Policy and Resources Committee tonight (20 February 2019) the Corporate Risk register has been produced.

Barnet UNISON notes;  Risk Number STR032

“Implementation of new recycling and waste collection rounds

If issues with the implementation of the new recycling and waste collection rounds continue into the New Year this could lead to further service disruption and financial strain resulting in resident dissatisfaction and reputational damage.

Chief Executive, Statutory Duty,ENV – Modernising Environmental Services

-Ongoing communication with residents on new/revised collection days.-Additional and narrow access vehicles deployed to complete rounds.-Issues with blocked access and assisted collections followed-up.-Additional resources put into Contact Centre to handle increased volume of customer contacts.-Social media monitored and follow-up daily.”

(Source: Corporate Risk Register https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51240/Appendix%20O%20Corporate%20Risk%20Register.pdf

Barnet UNISON agrees with the risk identified if the Bin collection service does not return to the excellent service standards it was achieving before the Bin collection service was changed on 4 November 2018.

Feedback from the workforce.

Reports have been coming in this year from across our members working in the Bin collection service about an army of agency workers (sometimes as many as 80 agency workers a day) being deployed to ensure the bins are collected here in Barnet. We are also hearing that there is plenty of overtime for any staff wanting to work extra hours. We are hearing reports the service is sometimes working until late into the evening (10 pm) in order to collect bins for that day.

Unfortunately Barnet UNISON has been unsuccessful so far in obtaining the details of agency workers spend for the Bin collection service or the amount of overtime being used to clear the bins.

Our concern as it clearly identified in the Council Corporate Risk register is that it appears the Bin Collection service is heavily reliant on an army of agency workers and overtime.

Barnet UNISON is fully aware of the financial pressures on Council finances as identified in the reports for the Policy and Resources Committee this evening. Barnet UNISON is attending numerous consultation meetings with staff across the Council who are being subjected to cost saving proposals/restructures because the Council needs to make savings.

It is therefore deeply troubling to see the Bin Collection service appear to be relying on army of agency workers and lots of overtime 16 weeks since the service was changed.

In the absence of any information from the Council we note that at Environment Committee on 21 January 2019 it was agreed:

“That the committee noted that a report in relation to the bin collection arrangements be added to the work programme and submitted to the next meeting on 14 March”

(Source: Environment Committee, Monday 21st January, 2019 7.00 pm https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=695&MId=9733 )

Barnet UNISON was present at Environment Committee, Monday 21st January where officers reported that they had spent an extra £250k trying to collect the bins. If our members reports are correct that figure will be a lot higher.

We await to read the detailed report on the Bin collection rounds going to the Environment Committee on Thursday 14 March 2019.

Watch this space……….. 

***Please note that the use of emphasis/underlining is made by Barnet UNISON.

 

#Capita: Southampton Council & the risk of delays

“Southampton staff affected as council ends Capita deal.”

24 July 2018

“Capita has run Southampton’s customer services, HR pay, revenues and benefits, procurement, health and safety, print, post room and IT services for 11 years.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-44937942

Barnet UNISON comment: There was no Council Committee decision publicly made before this announcement until Southampton Council held a Cabinet meeting on 18 September 2018. The report to Cabinet Committee was confidential and only the following was reported:

Cabinet: Tuesday, 18th September, 2018 4.30 pm

Update on Strategic Services Partnership

 Confidential report of the Leader detailing an update on the Strategic Services Partnerships.

Minutes:

(i)  The Service Director for Digital and Business Operations, after consultation with the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Customer Experience, is authorised to commence formal dispute resolution proceedings over commercial disputes with Capita if required;

(ii)  Adult social care expenditure is included in the Procurement Guarantee for the purposes of the Council’s claim in the event of formal dispute resolution;

(iii)  A ‘no comment’ policy continues to apply while commercial negotiations with Capita continue;

(iv)  The Service Director for Digital and Business Operations is authorised to instruct Capita’s Procurement team to immediately begin procurement of a Revenues and Benefits system and any other systems or products deemed essential to the continued delivery of services to staff, Members and the public, to ensure no service interruption;

(v)  The Service Director for Finance and Commercialisation is authorised to highlight the financial risks posed by the Capita claim and the cost of an arbitration process as necessary in public budget consultation documents, which may need to set out what additional savings are required as a result of not reaching agreement with Capita.

https://www.southampton.gov.uk/modernGov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=126&MId=3826&Ver=4

The decision to end the contract with Capita was publicly reported the following month in the minutes of the Cabinet Committee.

Cabinet: Tuesday, 16th October, 2018 4.30 pm

UPDATE ON STRATEGIC SERVICES DECISION MADE: (CAB 18/19 21455)

On consideration of the confidential report of the Leader and Clean Growth and Development, Cabinet agreed the following:-

(i) Cabinet approved the recommendations set out in the confidential report.

https://www.southampton.gov.uk/modernGov/documents/s37129/Minutes.pdf

 

What happened next?

TUPE transfer negotiations are currently taking place with staff due to transfer back into Southampton Council by July 2019.

This will mean a large contract with Capita will be terminated and services transferred back to the Council within 10 months.

Barnet UNISON comment:

In our report to Policy and Resources Committee in December 2018 we identified serious risks with the prolonged 18 month review of both Capita contracts.

Feedback from our members of staff vacancies and changes are undermining morale.

It has become evident that vacancies on the Capita contract are not helping provide services for the Council or for residents.

 Capita: Commissioner and User satisfaction.

The table provided above by Barnet Blogger Mr Reasonable paints a worrying picture. Things are getting worse not better and it is not the union saying it, it is the “Users” and the “Commissioners”.

Barnet UNISON comment: It’s not working, Commissioners by their own admission are unable to hold Capita to account. Barnet Council needs to grasp the nettle and announce the end of both contracts and set out a clear transition plan for the return of services and their budgets.

Highways Service.

“Risk ID OP14: Insufficient staff in Highways: “Difficulties in retaining experienced and qualified Highways staff could lead to non-qualified staff being tasked to deliver specialised priority tasks resulting in poor delivery of tasks, non-compliance to statutory design requirements/standards, risk of Injury, insurance.”

(Source: Corporate Risk Register 20 February, 2019, Policy and Resources Committee https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51205/Appendix%20A%20Corporate%20risk%20register.pdf )

Barnet UNISON comment: This is a high profile service and we can confirm that this risk is still real. The prolonged delay on the decision to bring the service back under Council control is exacerbating the issues and the knock on negative impact will continue to be felt by residents.

 

To view flyer click here Briefing Number 4 – Southampton and

Vote Now To Save Your Job In Your School

 Vote Now To Save Your Job

UNISON is conducting an online ballot of UNISON members working on Schools in England.

 Schools are facing cuts each year that directly impact on our members.

 This has to stop.

The online ballot asks only three questions.

1. Do you believe the government funding cuts are having a negative effect on jobs, workloads, stress, etc. 

2. Do you believe Unison should continue to campaign on school funding for jobs pay and terms and conditions.

3. Would you be prepared to take industrial action to secure more money for jobs, pay, and terms and conditions in schools.

 

It’s that simple. UNISON needs to hear from every single member working in a school.

NOT VOTED YET?

Check that we have your current email address at unison.org.uk/myunison

We will send you an email when the ballot opens explaining how you can vote.

Visit unison.org.uk/speakupforschools to get more information on the issues and a link

to the online ballot.

To vote you will need your date of birth and your National Insurance number or UNISON membership number.

Please have your say – we need to know what you think.

Ballot closes 5 March 

 

HEALTH WARNING: Barnet UNISON members “Your Rights At Work” guide.

This short “Your ‘Rights At Work’ guide is intended to alert all of our members working for Barnet Council to their ‘Rights at Work’

We have noticed a significant increase in case work across the Council and in some cases we are hearing reports of workers being told ‘you don’t need to involve the union’.

Please, please do not go into meetings without your trade union rep. It is much harder trying to protect “Your ‘Rights At Work’ if you have gone into earlier meetings without your union rep.

To view our “Your Rights At Work” guide click on link below.

2019.01.31 Rights at work FINAL

 

Remember this:

“If in doubt ring Barnet UNISON on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk”.

 

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