Barnet UNISON members are key stakeholders in the Barnet Pension Local Government Scheme.
Barnet UNISON has been in discussions with Barnet Council and Capita for over 14 months in relation to most of the concerns identified in the recent Audit of the Pension Administration Service. We are presently meeting with Capita Pensions and senior officers to go through ongoing and sometime new emerging issues on behalf of our members.
As part of our role in support of our members, Barnet UNISON has the following questions for the Pension Fund Committee:
“I want to thank members of the Pension Board in particular the Chair for the statement above. Barnet UNISON had already raised a large good deal of the concerns detailed in the audit report mentioned at the Pension Board meeting with our employer. We share the grave concerns expressed so concisely by the Chair of the Pensions Board, however we do not share the optimism of the Council that a service improvement plan will be sufficient. Shortly after Capita took over the Pension Service, staff were made redundant as the service was moved to Darlington. The service is not comparable to the in-house service provided by our members. It our view that the Council should begin negotiations for the service to be brought back in-house. Joining a Pension Scheme is one of the most important financial decisions a worker can make, which is why I am inviting UNISON members who are in the Local Government Pension Scheme to join me at the Barnet Council Pension Fund Committee meeting on Monday 26 February 2018, at 7 pm Hendon Town Hall” (John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON)
Full details of Pensions Fund Committee meeting here
“It would be an understatement to say this is the most important item on the agenda this evening.
In this context I must remind us all that the London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund Board acts in support of the Pensions Committee.
It is the Pensions Committee of the London Borough of Barnet which is, I think, composed exclusively of Councillors which is as it were operationally in charge of our the entire pensions operation.
It is the job of the Pension Fund Board to advise the Pension Committee to encourage it and warn it, but of course the Pension Fund Board is a public body open to members of the public, our agenda is public and so it should be.
I would be derelict in my duty as chair of your board if I did not put on the record for our minutes the grave concerns of the Pensions Fund Board with the current situation concerning Messrs Capita.
Now I am pleased to say that I have observer status on the Pension Fund Committee.
The Pension Fund Committee will be meeting later this month.
The reason that I am an observer there at the next meeting is actually, technically, formally speaking, to present the annual report of the Pension Fund Board to the Pension Fund Committee.
But I don’t want anyone to be in any doubt particularly Messrs Capita that I should use that opportunity to relay to the Pension Fund Committee the concerns and anxieties of this board in relation to the Pension Fund Committee, and the boroughs relationship with Messrs Capita.
In that connection, I would like to first move formally from the Chair that the report we have just been discussing, although it is already a public document, none the less that it be communicated formally to the Pension Fund Committee.
Can I take that as approved?
I must then point out a certain chronological scenario and my understanding of the contract between the Borough of Barnet and mentioned Messrs Capita, is that it provides inter alia for a series of remedy notices as an official term to be issued and members of the Pension Fund Board, will know, that one remedy notice the first was issued, I think last year, last August after the Borough was fined by the Pensions Regulator.
So colleagues, I would not be at all surprised, I would not be at all surprised, if, by the next time the Pension Fund Board meets then, there is some intimation of a second remedy notice.
I’m not saying that it is imminent but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.
My understanding is and I am advised that if a third remedy notice is issued this would mean, I am very much looking to my colleague on my immediate left, to correct me if I am wrong, that this would mean that the borough would be at an imminent state of taking back the contract, yes?
Thank you I am grateful for that clarification.
Our job is to advise the Pension Fund Committee, encourage and support and that’s the purpose of the statement I am making.
In that connection, summarising very broadly there are two overriding concerns that this board has, our main concerns communication with members and the quality of the data.
There are other concerns, but those two top ones, and when I present the annual report of this board to the Pension Fund Committee at the end of this month and when presumably now we have agreed I should also present formally the report we have been discussing.
I shall advise, encourage and warn the Pensions Fund Committee to be exceedingly vigilant on these issues, before the next meeting of the next of this Pension Fund Board, of course this will be an item it goes without saying at the next agenda
In the last few months Senior Library Managers, consultants and other Library staff have been in Barnet Libraries during Self-Service hours wearing green T-shirts bearing the words “Here to help”. The Council is employing them to encourage the public to use self-service machines and people to sign up for access to unstaffed opening hours. Many members of the public are under the misguided impression these are the volunteers as described by the Council in various statements concerning the Library changes. This situation has arisen because the Council has failed to recruit volunteers for Libraries.
In June this year Barnet UNISON raised objections to the Council imposing Here to Help duties on Library workers. We did this because our members had informed us of their concerns around this issue.
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At Barnet UNISON we were appalled to hear of the racist abuse being expressed against the planning application for an Islamic Centre at the Hippodrome in Golders Green.
The title of this piece comes from the press officer, Ahmed Al-Kazemi, of the Hippodrome Centre in Golders Green. This is just one comment made to appeal to those who would condemn the opening of the centre as an Islamic Centre on racial grounds.
We welcome and would echo the comments made by Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of the Golders Green Alyth Reform congregation and Laura Marks, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust condemning the racism and appealing to a prouder anti-racist tradition.
We also support Barnet Council’s decision to remove all comments relating to this planning application from the public domain on its website.
We celebrate the fact that when the Bravanese Islamic Centre was tragically burnt down a few years ago, the response from all Faiths in the community and people from the broad anti-racist political spectrum was quick in rallying round to support that community and show solidarity.
This is the kind of Barnet we want to belong to.
We would very much like to be a part of a similar response to the racist abuse being levied at the Hippodrome Centre now.
For background information please read these articles:
Last week our branch was contacted by members working at Flower Lane Autism Service to say that Bob had passed away in his sleep at the weekend.
I have known Bob for over 20 years he was one of the first UNISON reps I worked with in the old Barnet Social Services department back in the day.
Bob was much loved by his work colleagues and the service users. He was deeply compassionate man who loved his work and the trade union his energy and enthusiasm was infectious. I had the opportunity to witness Bob dealing with very senior managers about serious matters affecting members and I always believed that they found it hard to say no to him. He had that way about him.
Bod was always on hand to take up case work for UNISON members in distress, he didn’t like to see anyone in distress or being bullied he very much wore his heart on his sleeve.
Bob understood the importance of solidarity. He was directly involved in the two big outsourcing fights we had between 1997-2002 over residential and day services for older people and Home Care services. But it was his determination to stop the outsourcing of Learning Difficulties a year later that showed his true grit. This fight went on for over a year and eventually after all the effort the Council decided to keep the services in house. I don’t know if members really understood what Bob did during that time, but I was both honoured and impressed to have worked alongside him.
Over the years I saw less of Bob, but when I did it was if it was only yesterday we had last spoke. I could still see the passion for the job (even though he had retired he came back as an As & When) in his eyes.
I have recently spoken to a few staff who have worked alongside Bob and I understand that this news has really taken everyone one by surprise.
Bob Allan will always be associated with Flower Lane.
He will be sorely missed by staff service users and their carer’s as a kind generous man who gave everything he had to help others.
I am proud to have known Bob, solidarity Bob, Unison member and comrade.
Please note on page 2 of the UNISON REPORT ON THE 2016 FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
It states in Section 6. Funding for Branches and the Regional Pool
“The funding formula agreed at the 2001 Conference came into operation on 1 January 2002. Under the formula at least 23% of subscription income has to be available for direct funding of branches with a further 0.5% available for the direct funding of the regional pool. If the direct funding of branches is not utilised, any balance is credited to the regional pool. Funding available in 2016 was £38.5 million being 23% of subscription income of £163.8 million. In the year £37.7m was credited to branches with the balance of £0.8 million being added to the regional pool.”
So not all of the 23% funding goes to the branches that do almost all of the work for their members.
At UNISON conference the year before on page 2 of the UNISON REPORT ON THE 2015 FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
“The funding formula agreed at the 2001 Conference came into operation on 1 January 2002. Under the formula at least 23% of subscription income has to be available for direct funding of branches with a further 0.5% available for the direct funding of the regional pool. If the direct funding of branches is not utilised, any balance is credited to the regional pool. Funding available in 2015 was £38.9 million being 23.5% of subscription income of £165.8 million. In the year £38.1m was credited to branches with the balance of £0.8 million being added to the regional pool.”
I can report that our branch does need more funding in order that we can build on and improve the services we need to provide to our members.
It is clear that 23% for branches and 77% to UNISON HQ and Regional Offices does not represent the best deal for our members.
The challenges that are driving the need for us to do more to support our members are the brutal austerity policies that are destroying our public services.
We have had six years of austerity, one million public sector workers have been sacked in that time, this equates to 465 public sector workers being sacked every day for the past six years. This figure does not include the millions on zero hours contracts and casualised terms & conditions.
The status quo or tinkering with the funding around the margins is simply not sustainable.
It is our member’s money after all, funding needs to go to the “coalface” where branches are struggling to defend and support our members.
One proposal would be that in light of the austerity attacks all branches should as a minimum receive a third (33%) of their member’s subscription as a starting position whilst a review of the 77% takes place.