BREAKING NEWS: Barnet Homes announce termination of outsourced Mears Housing repairs service and domestic gas service

BREAKING NEWS: Barnet Homes announce termination of outsourced Mears Housing repairs service and bring back domestic gas service

The following announcement was made to all Barnet Homes staff on Wednesday, 9 October 2019

“From 1 April 2020, the Barnet Homes repairs service, currently provided by contractors Mears, will be brought in-house. This means that Barnet Homes will be responsible for repairs in tenants’ homes, refurbishing void properties and repairs to communal parts on our estates.

The domestic gas service will continue to be managed by Mears until 1 October 2020, when it will also be transferred into Barnet Homes and run as an in-house service.”

“This is fantastic news. Housing repairs was one of the first contracts to be outsourced by Barnet Homes. Housing repairs is a critical service and should not have ever been outsourced. Housing repairs was originally delivered by Barnet Council (and should return back there) after which it was first outsourced to Barnet Homes then sold off to Connaughts which became bankrupt. The service was handed on to Lovells and finally to Mears. Looking after council tenants needs to be under the direct control of the Council. This is a welcome first step to that end. The role of Council Housing needs to be seen just as important as Family Services in addressing the brutality of child poverty. All Councils must learn lessons from Grenfell and accept Housing is a human right and as such should be provided directly by the Council.” John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

Our grave concerns about Barnet Council “Mind the gap” depot.

Barnet UNISON read with dismay the following report entitled “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” which is going to Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday 3 October 2019.

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s55442/Oakleigh%20Depot%20Remedial%20Works.pdf

What’s it all about?

The issue of subsidence was noted by Barnet UNISON from the moment we moved into Oakleigh depot in August 2017.

The report which is going to Policy and Resources Committee does not reference the significant involvement of Capita.

Capita Property & Infrastructure Ltd (“Capita”) provided the following report entitled: The “Oakleigh Road South Depot Phase 2 Ground Investigation & Assessment April 2015 report” and the “Soil Stabilisation report dated 1 February 2017”.

Here are the two key documents

Barnet UNISON has over the last 18 months attempted to work with Council officials to ensure safe working at the depot. However once the crack opened up across the road and the fuel tank area was splitting from the pavement, management stopped sharing vital information.

Below is a summary of UNISON requests for information.

  • August 2017. UNISON raised concerns over the sufficiency of reinforcement measures to prevent ground movement at the depot.

The Council responded that it did not believe that the reinforcement was insufficient.

  • March 2018. At a meeting with the Council UNISON asked if the Council had investigated the problem and what plans had been made for repairs. We asked for the surveyor’s report which the Council had commissioned.

We were given details on the plans for repairs and have not yet received a surveyor’s report.

  • July 2018. UNISON submitted an Inspection report for the depot which identified that the rifts in the surface had widened and deepened and extended over a larger area.

The report included a request for the relevant surveyor’s reports and asked what contingency plans for the service were in place if vehicles were prevented from using the depot should repair works be needed.

We received neither the surveyor’s report nor any information on a contingency plan

  • September 2018. At a meeting with the Council, UNISON repeated our request for a surveyor’s report.
  • January 2019. Following another UNISON inspection of the depot which noted that the fissures and subsidence had not been repaired the Council’s response was that the situation was being monitored and there was no imminent danger. UNISON requests for details of the monitoring where not met.

 

What does the “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” report say?

In paragraph 1.10 it states “With health and safety a priority…….” and in paragraph 3.1 it states: “Officer have been unable to identify options that have no, or lesser, impact on service. The option to do nothing was discounted due to health and safety risk.”

In paragraph 5.5.1 refers to an “Environment risk register” it goes on add “To manage health and safety risk, the council’s health and safety lead is reviewing proposals alongside operational staff. Additional health and safety capacity will be brought in if and when required.”

The reason for our grave concerns is that Barnet UNISON was unaware of any Health and Safety risks at the depot because someone in the Council had made a decision not to share this information. This shocking revelation that there are health and safety risks raises serious questions marks as to who decided not to share information with the trade unions.

Health and Safety legislation is very clear:

“Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, 1977.Regulation 7 Inspection of documents and provision of information.

(1)       Safety representatives shall for the performance of their functions under section 2(4) of the 1974 Act and under these Regulations, if they have given the employer reasonable notice, be entitled to inspect and take copies of any document relevant to the workplace or to the employees the safety representatives represent which the employer is required to keep by virtue of any relevant statutory provision within the meaning of section 53(1) of the 1974 Act except a document consisting of or relating to any health record of an identifiable individual.”

Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974

“2 (6) It shall be the duty of every employer to consult any such representatives with a view to the making and maintenance of arrangements which will enable him and his employees to co-operate effectively in promoting and developing measures to ensure the health and safety at work of the employees, and in checking the effectiveness of such measures.”

Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, 1977. Regulation 4A

“(1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 2(6) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, every employer shall consult safety representatives in good time with regard to – (a) the introduction of any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of the employees the safety representatives concerned represent;”

In light of the publication of the above report Barnet UNISON wrote to all three authors of the Council “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” report.

We have made the following demands:

  1. All reports/documents in relation to the ‘crack’ which identify health and safety issues are provided to the trade unions by the end of the week, including all data relating to ground movement.
  2. A weekly update meeting to take place at the depot with the trade union health and safety reps.

Failure to provide the information above will mean Barnet UNISON has no option but to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

View reports click on links below

CH-SSP-UK-MGridEG-Oakleigh Road South Depot-Rev 01 Feb 17

15_04005_FUL-SITE_INVESTIGATION_REPORT-3112004 (1) (1)

 

 

Good News! – Pay Cut for Adoption Workers Stopped

North London Business Park, Unison workers go on strike
29/04/15 BP
Credit: Anne-Marie Sanderson

You may recall that a group of workers were due to be TUPE transferred to the North London Regional Adoption Agency at the start of this month. Shockingly they were informed at the last moment that if they transferred they would lose their Recruitment and Retention payment. This was after being part of the work done to deliver a good Ofsted rating. The Council argued this was not part of their terms and conditions. This would have meant a pay cut of 15%! Only when our union stepped in with legal advice to say they would take a court case on this if the Council went ahead, did the Senior Management back down and now these workers will transfer with their usual wages including the R&R.
It is unlawful to inflict a detriment on workers changing their terms and conditions due to a TUPE transfer. This was absolutely the line our Family Services Senior Management were pursuing.
It pays to be in a trade union. These workers went through a difficult time for several weeks and months not knowing what their income was going to become or where they would end up working. However, they stuck it out and acted together patiently waiting for positive news which did in fact come.
Solidarity to those workers!

Call out in solidarity for local democracy in Barnet 30 July 2019

On Tuesday 30 July 2019, 7pm in Hendon Town Hall, Barnet Council will vote on a proposal that in will restrict Barnet residents’ ability to ask questions and speak at future Council Committee meetings.

The London Borough of Barnet has a wealth of community activism which includes Barnet Bloggers (Mr Reasonable, Mrs Angry, Mr Mustard and Barnet Eye) and Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) to name just a few.

Their contributions over the last decade have largely been supportive of the services our members provide.

However, their contribution to future committees will virtually cease if the proposed rule change is passed at Full Council on 30 July 2019.

Barnet residents have responded by setting up a petition entitled “Stop Barnet Council From Gagging Residents”

You and read and sign in solidarity by clicking on this link here

https://t.co/P7sb0e3KNU?amp=1

Barnet UNISON is asking members to show solidarity by joining Barnet residents on Tuesday 30 July outside Hendon Town Hall from 6 pm onwards.

Lest we ever forget the million pound plus fraud committed by a Capita employee

Below is an extract from a report submitted to

Audit Committee 17 July 2018 


Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT) Annual Report 2018/19

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s52410/Appendix%201%20CAFT%20Annual%20Report%201st%20April%202018%2031st%20March%202019.pdf )

2018-19 saw CAFT officers investigate and prosecute an unprecedented internal financial fraud. In Response to his officer resource was diverted from all sections within the team to deal with the investigation. The case was given the name Operation Rouble which subsequently proved to be the most challenging, complex and substantial fraud that Barnet has experienced.

  • The fraud related to two offences of ‘abuse of position’ which were committed by a Capital Investment Manager, employed by Capita and working for Regional Enterprise. The offender created instructions for CHAPS payments in excess of £2 million to be processed in relation to fictitious compulsory purchase orders.
  • The CAFT were notified in December 2017 and utilised their financial investigators powers to obtain tangible evidence which resulted in the offender being arrested and suspended within 24 hours of the investigation being initiated.
  • The criminal aspect of the investigation was evidenced and prepared for prosecution within five months which subsequently led to the successful conclusion of the case in July 2018 which saw the offender being sentenced at Harrow Crown Court to 5 years imprisonment.
  • CAFT has carried on the financial investigation and continues to do so in order to ensure all proceeds of crime are identified and recovered accordingly
  • CAFT has also worked closely with Internal Audit and Finance in relation to recommendation from the external review of financial controls and the ongoing audit testing relating to financial controls.
  • CAFT jointly conducting a payments data analytics exercise with Internal Audit in order to identify irregularities and/or make recommendations for improvement.

Further details of the investigation can be found in the noteworthy investigation section, and full details of the external review into financial control conducted by Grant Thornton is available on the council’s website Financial controls https://www.barnet.gov.uk/citizen-home/council-and-democracy/finance-and-funding/Financial-controls.html


12 months later at Policy and Resources Committee 17 June 2019 Barnet Council decided to keep both Capita contracts largely untouched with a review sometime in the future. 

 

 

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