The Right Honourable…?

Just some of the claims

£4.47 for dog food, £115 for 25 light bulbs, £305.50 to “cure noise problems”, with her boiler, £312 for the fitting of mock Tudor beams, £600 for hanging baskets and pot plants, £765 claim from Ikea, £768 from Marks and Spencer’s for a bed, £1,350 in house repairs, £1,500 gardening bill, £2,000 to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court, £2,074 for furniture and £2,339 for carpets, £3,194 bill for gardening, £9,000 a year for gardening, £13,000 in moving costs, £14,553 solicitors’ fees and stamp duty, £30,000 for doing up his £120,000 constituency, £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster £35,000 in mortgage interest payments,

The former Prime Minister used his parliamentary expenses to remortgage his constituency home for £296,000 – nearly 10 times what he paid for it – just months before buying a west London house for £3.65m.

The prime minister paid his brother, Andrew, £6,577 for arranging cleaning services for his Westminster flat for 26 months

You can view it all online BBC website here.

Rank hypocrisy… politicians want to take your pension and hand you over to the private sector in order to bail out the inefficiency and gross negligence of the financial sector

I recognise not everyone is a Local Government Anorak. The day before the Budget the Treasury Department released a report ‘Operation Efficiency Programme – Final Report’ view it here.

It is clear whoever wins the General Election next year, the Government will get in!

Local Government is set to face hardship it has probably not had to face in over a generation. I know Council workers will ask what they have done to deserve this doomsday scenario of council services. The answer is nothing. In Barnet Council staff have delivered almost £60 million in savings and delivered a Four Star service.

What can’t happen is that Council Services across the UK are decimated in a crude attempt to offset £billions of debt bailing out the financial sector.

The role of the trade unions, staff and residents will be key to how council/public services are delivered in Barnet.

Make sure you make time to attend the rally at the Future Shape Cabinet Meeting on Monday 6 July 2009

Future Shape – Newcastle Story…

Members will have heard about the Newcastle story. It is a real life story of staff, managers, elected members and residents coming together to design & deliver first class services and deliver efficiencies.  

Here are two links to national papers out today

Read in Guardian Today

Read in the Independent

Whilst what is done in one council can never be easily transplanted to another Council, there is still a lot that we can take from Newcastle to help address the financial challenges facing public services in Barnet. What I found key was unlocking the potential of the staff  to help design services for the future. All too often public services will call on the services of the big consultancy companies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloittes etc  at a considerable cost.

Tonight I will be going to:

Public Service Reform…but not as we know it!

Debate alternatives to privatisation
18:00 to 19:30, 05 May 2009, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Speakers: Hilary Wainwright (author); Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Communities and Local Government Secretary; Jon Cruddas MP; Heather Wakefield of UNISON and Kenny Bell, UNISON

Future Shape – Cems & Crems – Good News!

Members will be pleased to know that following our last post on this item (see here)

We are meeting with management to discuss the options for this service including the in house option. Obviously the Trade Unions’ concerns about the process have been acknowledged. We will be providing updates on progress.

Tales from the Private Sector – Ashes to Ashes?

Angry workers occupying their workplace sounds like something from the 70’s (or a scene from the BBC 1 series Ashes to Ashes!)… but it happened and not too far away…Enfield in fact. 


The workers at Visteon UK, formerly a part of Ford, about 560 of them, were made redundant without notice. They had contracts mirroring those of Ford workers, but, with Visteon going into liquidation, will only receive minimal statutory redundancy terms. They are upset and angry, and have done the only thing they could that would get them a hearing: refused to leave their former workplace. Their demand: better redundancy terms (not much to ask for after years and in some cases decades of loyal service).

When the Trade Unions say they are concerned about any staff being transferred out of Council ownership you don’t have to look too far away to see why.

Future Shape – We want…

We want to talk about service improvement, we want to talk about service efficiencies, we want to talk about working closer with our partners in public services, we want to talk to residents about improving their experiences of public services. We want council staff to be given the chance to utilise their skills and expertise to improve outcomes for Barnet residents.

We want to work with the Council… when can we start?


Useful discussion on Newcastle success story

Today some Barnet staff had the chance to speak to Hilary Wainwright ( author of ‘Public Service Reform – But not as you know it’ a real story about how Back Office services in Newcastle fought off a bid (with the support of Dexter Whitfield) from BT to run their improved City Services. Dexter who is supporting the trade unions here in Barnet helped along with Hilary to answer questions from staff on what happened.

Our branch along with some of our trade union colleagues will be arranging a visit to Newcastle shortly. We have extended an invitation to our Chief Executive and members of his senior management team.

We hope to meet the Newcastle Chief Executive and the senior management team to listen to their approach to trade union/staff and resident engagement.

Future Shape – When will we learn our lessons?

Members will be familiar by now with the name of Fremantle & their partner Catalyst Housing

Read excerpt below

“8.2 In 2006 and 2007, two ‘Deficit Claims’ were received from Catalyst; both were subsequently rejected by the Council, and in 2008 these were formally referred by Catalyst to Arbitration. Given the size of the substantive claim, the Council’s legal advisers have recommended that an expert who has experience of outsourcing the management of care homes be appointed by the Council, to give evidence as to how an experienced provider should manage the Care Contract, to support the Council in the preparation and presentation of its case by Counsel and other consultants.”

Find the whole report online here


I am one of the few still around from when the decision to privatise all our care homes and day services was made. It was clear that councillors were rushed into an ill thought out decision that has now back fired. Those Officers responsible have long gone……isn’t it always the case!

In terms of the report it is good news that the Council is seeking expert advice to support them with the arbitration process. Whatever the outcome of the decision valuable resources have been wasted over the last couple of years just dealing with the claim. If there is one lesson to be learnt it is don’t rush into decisions without making sure you have robust procurement and contract monitoring.

Money wasted on trying to clean up badly procured contracts is a waste of public money…money we are told we don’t have.

Five months ago the Trade Unions submitted a report on suggested improvements to our Procurement and Contract monitoring…we are still waiting to begin discussions.

Future Shape – ‘Quick wins’ begins

It has been widely reported that the Trade Unions are being consulted throughout the Future Shape process. The Joint Trade Unions want to make it clear that they have had no part in the decision to privatise these services

Last week the Trade Unions were informed that Cemetery & Cremations services were going to be privatised (read public report here

Pages 74 – 80

The background papers can be found here

10.1 London Borough of Barnet – Barnet Cemetery and Crematorium Option Appraisal – October 2008 – Sector Projects)

The Consultants were Capita. Their report was conducted between August and October last year. Yet the Trade Unions and staff were not told that the report was being conducted?

The report was written before the recession.

Do you remember this?

This appeared in January 2009 as part of Phase Two of the Future Shape. Cems & Cremas are clearly defined as a Quick Win. Clearly someone knew something the Trade Unions and staff didn’t.

Cems & Crems Timeline

August – October 2008 Capita Report produced (Trade Unions & staff not informed).

January 2009 Cems & Crems appears described as a ‘Quick Win’ in Future Shape Document

14 April 2009 TU’s told for the first time that a report recommending privatisation of Cems & Crems is going to Cabinet Resources Committee

23 April 2009 Cabinet Resources Committee make a decision on Cems & Crems


The Trade Unions are seeking an urgent meeting with the Director responsible for these Services


Future Shape – What do you want?

There are currently Seven Future Shape working groups looking at how public services could be configured in the future. Whatever the outcome of these meetings it is going to mean change. In the case of Future Shape it could mean significant change for you as staff.

It is no secret that a number of models of service provision are being looked at and ultimately costed.

This should be no surprise to public sector workers. In the 80’s and 90’s we had contracting out of public services under Thatcher & Major. The colour of the government changed but under Blair & Brown (New Labour) we have seen an increase in privatisation of public services. The difference with New Labour is that instead of the using ‘privatisation’ they used ‘outsourcing’ and introduced the friendly cuddly third sector i.e. voluntary bodies and charities. In Barnet we have seen a disastrous model of privatisation using the ‘third sector’. Our older people homes and day services were taken over by Fremantle & Catalyst. Not content with decimating our members’ terms & conditions they have only provided 3 out of the 5 brand new homes they were supposed to provide. To top it off they are in Arbitration over a claim against the Council for £8.672 million!

We expect the Groups will be looking at

  •  Privatisation
  • Joint Ventures
  • Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs)
  • Social Enterprises
  • In house services

For each service they will look at the above models and see if there is a business case. The Trade Union concerns are how these business cases are costed. This is not rocket science. The biggest cost to all Services are staff costs i.e. your terms & conditions. It is now widely acknowledged that the privatisation has meant a deterioration in terms & conditions and pensions for staff.

We are literally two months away and we have not been able to discuss these issues. We are concerned that if any business cases are presented to Cabinet on 8 June or any other Future Cabinet that they have to include TUPE Plus and Secondment costings.

TUPE does not protect the workforce after transfer which is why we submitted our employment charter to the Council in September last year. 

Make sure you make time to come along to the public  

Lobby of Barnet

Council Cabinet Committee on

8 June 2009


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