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I was re-reading the Transact Report again……and noticed the following comments on school catering…….which said “most local authorities do not provide an in-house school catering service”
Now as someone who has always asked questions…..I really need to see some evidence for statements like this. In July 2009 the Trade Unions submitted a report to Future Shape Cabinet Committee with a number of questions in particular about the Transact Group.
I have to say trying to find out what the group was actually doing and who was doing the doing has felt like being in a Dan Brown novel!
However, 11 months after asking for the Transact report it finally appeared in my in box…….I took a deep breath and opened the report……..had I finally got my hands on the Future Shape Da Vinci Code?……would I finally understand the mysteries of easyCouncil? ….would I hear a choir of angels singing in my ear…………?
No….this is what I saw?
You tell me.
“Sack the expensive consultants, listen to your workforce, and we can work together to defend and improve public services.”
Barnet & Lambeth UNISON Right of Reply in yesterdays Guardian
Thursday 18th February 2010
“EasyCouncil or John Lewis – Are You Being Served?”
You report that our employers, Tory Barnet Council and Labour Lambeth are to be rival flagships in a battle between “EasyCouncil” and the “John Lewis local authority” (The future for local authorities: is it John Lewis or easyCouncil?” 18 February).
Setting aside the spin-doctors’ soundbites, Tony Travers describes this in your pages as “an ideological war fought by proxy” – will local government jobs and services be the “collateral damage” in this ideological war?
UNISON has made clear our reservations about the Tory “EasyCouncil” model – the judgment of the court, which you report, that Barnet could not lawfully remove sheltered housing wardens reinforces our concern that the Council is rushing to give up its responsibilities to the vulnerable.
Robert Booth is also right to report that behind the “EasyCouncil” gloss much of what is being proposed in Barnet is simply “old fashioned privatisation” – and as you have also recently reported, the Audit Commission has cast doubt on whether local authorities really manage to get value for money from the outsourcing that is now endemic across the public sector (Boom times for outsourcing firms as public sector cuts bite, 17 February).
If “EasyCouncil” seems to offer little to our members, the ideas behind Lambeth’s co-operative “John Lewis” model might have more to offer the workforce and local people if it became a means to unlock the enthusiasm and imagination of the multi-skilled multi-talented local government workforce – and engage with the local community about what they want from public services.
However, alarm bells ring for trade unionists when Council Leader Steve Reed, advocates, as you report “handing over some of the council’s more simple tasks to the voters to sort out for themselves.” There is a danger that this could lead to the same attempts to offload responsibility which we see in Barnet.
Similarly, the suggestion that local primary schools should become mutually owned organisations echoes the experimentation with forms of ownership which has fragmented public service provision and is one of the most poisonous elements of New Labour’s legacy.
You report correctly that Lambeth already has more tenant-run estates than any other borough – but do not mention the problems which have led to the closure and enforced merger of some tenant managed organisations in the borough.
You report further that Greenwich Leisure Ltd, which runs Lambeth’s leisure management contract is “employee-owned” – but not that it is currently making redundancies affecting many of its workers in the borough.
Mutualism and cooperation are, of course, a strong part of the history and ethos of the trade unions – but so is a strong commitment to the public provision of public services.
You report Tessa Jowell stating that “the mutual movement is one that will be grassroots-led, not Whitehall-imposed” – in that case we expect options to improve public services within the public sector to be given full and fair consideration.
We want to encourage our members – in Barnet as much as in Lambeth – to engage with plans to improve public service provision. But we will also be prepared to resist cutbacks in, or privatisation of, essential services.
Our message to Council Leaders – Tory or Labour – is clear. Sack the expensive consultants and listen to your workforce and we can work together to defend and improve public services.
John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON
Jon Rogers and Nick Venedi, Branch Secretaries, Lambeth UNISON
The Council Trade Unions has responded to the news – reported in The Guardian on Thursday 18 February – Labour’s plan for first “John Lewis” Council.
In case these highly paid consultants need to be told (not that they should especially when they are earning in some cases up to £1,000 a day). Barnet Council and all the other Councils across the UK are not “Department Stores” said UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess, “less of the spin and more details – we need adequate funding for public services.”
“We have always said that we are willing to work with the Council to improve services – our members who work on the front line workers know how to improve services and want to do so. The first step should be to sack all the expensive consultants who are costing us several hundred pounds a day each and talk to workers and residents about how to develop our services for the future.”
Tony Travers describes in the Guardian that this as “an ideological war fought by proxy” – will local government jobs and services be the “collateral damage” in this ideological war?
The Trade Union movement has seen too many examples of the “collateral damage” done to services and staff as a result of privatisation.
Even the Audit Commission have cast doubt on whether local authorities really manage to get value for money from the outsourcing that is now endemic across the public sector.
We want to encourage our members – in Barnet – to engage with plans to improve public service provision. But we will also be prepared to resist cutbacks in, or privatisation of, essential services.
Our message to the Council – is clear. Sack the expensive consultants and listen to your workforce and we can work together to defend and improve public services.
Contact: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on 07738389569 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Boom times for outsourcing firms as public sector cuts bite, 17 February, 2010 Guardian.
“Lambeth v Barnet: Local councils fighting a proxy war,” Tony Travers guardian.co.uk Editorial Wed 17 Feb 2010.
3. The future for local authorities: is it John Lewis or easyCouncil? Allegra Stratton. The Guardian News Thu 18 Feb 2010.
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The Joint Trade Unions are conscious that members are concerned about what is happening in the Regulatory Services Bundle discussions.
To read the first of a series of Briefings which is aimed at staff working in Planning, Housing & Regeneration (PHR) click here.
I am also enclosing the Future Shape Transact Group report which was referred to at Mondays PHR Future Shape presentation.
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What is the Transact Group?
The Transact Group was one of the Seven Future Shape Groups which included staff, consultants, other public sector partners, consultants and consultants.
The Regulatory Services Bundle are now at the beginning of the Future Shape process.
The concern of members with regards the current position is the transparency.
“Why is the Joint Venture model getting top star billing amongst all the other options?”
“Where is the in house option? “
Staff asked these questions at a PHR staff meeting on Monday 15th February and were referred back to 6th July Future Shape Cabinet report
I am asking members read the Transact reports and let me know what they think of the Options Assessment contained within the report.
On Wednesday 10th February I attended the first Future Shape Overview & Scrutiny Committee along with other trade union colleagues and staff working in Planning, Housing and Regeneration (PHR).
As I listened to the presentation from the Director of PHR it became apparent that we are speaking in different languages.
Why do I say that?
Because of the language being used in the meeting. I heard phrases such as Options Appraisals (OA), Options, Business Case (BC) Outline Business Case (OBC) but what do they mean and where do they fit into the process?
This is why the Joint Trade Unions submitted a Draft Corporate Procurement Policy. The Policy would help everyone understand the process.
So, have staff and the trade unions ‘jumped the gun?’
I don’t think so.
When the Director of PHR was pushed by councillors about the other Options he responded……
“Yes, we have looked at other models……Salford Urban Vision, this Joint Venture and more recently a management buyout”
I waited…….and waited……..to hear the words all PHR staff wanted to hear ‘and a new improved in house model linked to joint working with other councils’ but it never happened.
No evidence of any work on an in-house Option for Regulatory Services was produced. If this Option is not viable where is the evidence?
I think it is important to be clear that the in-house model we are asking for would not have been the service as is. It would have been a service looking to the future and it would have certainly looked at developing cross borough working with other regulatory services.
What is staggering about the decisions not to put faith in the workforce to come up with a strong in-house option for the Council is that these are services that are providing excellent services some of the best in the region if not the country. They do provide value for money and they are in the top quartile for performance according to Audit Commission.
So why not ask the staff to work up an Option?
It makes no financial or service delivery sense, unless we are dealing with a political dogma that in-house services are bad. I understood we had dealt with this and that each Bundle or Service was going to be given the chance to compete with all the other Options.
On Monday 15th February all PHR staff attended a Future Shape Briefing and were taken through an updated version of the powerpoint presented to the committee last week.
The key question was where is the work on the ‘what about the in-house option?’
staff were referred back to the work of the Transact Group and the reports which went to Cabinet last July
There again……..perhaps I will emerge from my shower tomorrow and all of the above will never happened, we never invaded Iraq, John Smith is the Prime Minister (Tony Blair was never PM!) there is no recession, we don’t know about MPs expenses and Burnley FC are on the top of the Premiership…………..?
Housing Needs and Resources staff I want to draw your attention to slides 13 & 14
“What is ALMO plus?”