Late Friday afternoon 27 April 2019 Barnet UNISON were contacted to say that Barnet Council staff who had previously opted out of the Council Pension scheme had been enrolled back in.
Whilst Barnet UNISON supports and encourages members to join the Council scheme, workers do have the lawful right to opt out.
Barnet Council must obey the law and in this case this means they must auto enrol workers into the Council Pension Scheme. However, they must give notice to the worker and advise them of their right to opt out.
This did not happen.
- Members on the Audit Committee were told that Capita Payroll only found out at the last minute (Friday 26 April 2019) that an auto enrolment programme had been set up to auto enrol those workers who had previously opted out of the Council Pension scheme.
- Members on the Audit Committee were told that 170 workers were auto enrolled into the Council Pensions Scheme which meant they had pay deducted from their wages.
- Members on the Audit Committee were told that although the workers had pay deducted they had not been auto enrolled.
- If this is true, it must follow that Capita’s auto enrolment procedure failed. Auto enrolment is directed by legislation. Barnet Council must auto enrol staff every three years, unless staff sign a form to opt out. This incident has exposed another Capita system failure which needs to be addressed immediately.
- Members on the Audit Committee were told that the workers contributions which had been deducted would be paid back to the 170 workers on Friday 3 May 2019.
- Members on the Audit Committee were not told if employer contributions were paid and if so where did the money go. However, if the employer contributions were not paid, why not? Is this another system failure?
- Have Capita Payroll in Carlisle auto enrolled Barnet Council school staff?
- If not, why not, as they are the same employer?
- Why were Councillors auto enrolled by Capita as Councillors have not been eligible to join since 2014?
Barnet UNISON comment:
You really have to be in a Council meeting to believe what happens. Year after year different Capita managers roll up to give excuses and make promises that the latest service improvement plan will improve the services.
What is unbelievable is that Councillors are still accepting this serial offending.
All the while Capita are raking in the millions from Barnet Council.
We are in Year Six of a Ten Year contract and the two Capita contracts have cost £145 million pound more than they were originally contracted to be paid.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Barnet UNISON announced last week that our members in Grounds Maintenance had been told they would no longer providing services to a number of War Memorials and Churchyards in Barnet.
See here http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2019/03/28/breakingnews-grounds-maintenance-for-barnet-war-memorials-and-closed-churchyards-ends-1-april-2019/
Once the story broke it seems there has been a ‘change of heart’.
Today, Barnet UNISON have had confirmation that normal services will resume for all of 2019/20.
A big thank you to all who publicly spoke out against the cut it appears to have been helpful.
To those who believe this story was untrue, be careful. Barnet UNISON had very concrete evidence of the cessation of the services.
Press Release: Barnet UNISON respond to “Worse Choices for People with Disabilities”
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.
Notes to Editors
Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: email@example.com
Concerns over Barnet Council’s social care plans
Tory council set to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs
The following email was sent to all Barnet 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.
- Ongoing data problems spark valuation concerns at Barnet http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Ongoing-data-problems-spark-valuation-concerns-at-Barnet
- Barnet in TPR breach as Capita misses payments http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-in-TPR-breach-as-Capita-misses-payments
- Barnet grapples with data difficulties http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-grapples-with-data-difficulties
- Regulator fines Barnet over pension failings https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2017/07/27/regulator-fines-barnet-over-pension-failings/
0208 359 2088
No, this is not an April Fools joke it is for real.
Barnet UNISON have been informed that our members who work for Grounds Maintenance have been told as from Monday 1 April that they will no longer providing the following services for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards
- Weed spraying
- Shrub Prune
- Remembrance Sunday works
- Grass Cutting
- Hedge Cutting
- Planting Weeding and maintaining annual bedding
To the best of our knowledge this decision has not been subject to any public consultation the sites affected are as follows.
- Bells Hill Burial Ground
- Christ Church yard , St Albans road
- East Barnet Village War Memorial
- Golders Green War Memorial
- Holy Trinity Church yard
- Ridgeway War Memorial
- St James’ Church yard
- St Marchs Church
- ST Mary’s Church Green
- St Marys Church Yard /Church End.
- John the Baptist C.O.E
- Station Road War Memorial
At the time of this post Barnet UNISON has asked the following:
- Which Council department proposed the termination of the services?
- When did the public consultation take place for this proposal?
- Where was this saving identified in the recently agreed Councils Medium Term Financial Strategy 5 March 2019?
- Are there any Health and Safety risks as a result of the termination of this service?
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.”
What are the risks?
- The Triannual valuation of the Pension Fund is being placed at risk due to ongoing systemic Pension data errors.
- The Employer may have to increase their contributions which will mean there is less money to spend on services.
- This could lead to some services reducing or stopping altogether.
- Could lead to redundancies
- 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.