Our submission to Cabinet Library Strategic Review

This evening Cabinet Committee considers the Library Strategic Review at Hendon Town Hall at 7 pm.

Please find enclosed report sent to all councillors


Dear Councillors

Please find enclosed UNISON response to the Library Strategic Review. I think it is a balanced response to the review.


1.No library branches to be closed, since there is demonstrable support both nationally and locally that the current number of branches remain in place. Also, there are currently legal challenges in regard to Gloucestershire under the 1964 Museum and Libraries Act. The High Court has imposed an injunction on the disposal of library buildings in Gloucestershire and Barnet should therefore respect this status quo until a ruling has been made.


2.If there closures are to be made these should not take place until the plans for any projected replacements are fully funded, signed and agreed by the council.


3.         That no further alteration in the ratio of public-facing and back-office functions take place, and that no posts be deleted until it can be demonstrated that the current levels of service be maintained.


4.The methodology, quantitative and qualitative data of the consultations is fully shared with the staff’s representatives.  Should the quantities of respondents to the consultation requesting changes to the service (e.g. longer opening hours) equal or be less than the numbers indicating they wish to save their libraries from closure, through the consultation and petitions, equal regard should be given to these numbers.


5.The management fully negotiate guidelines, policies and procedures regarding the use of volunteers and with specific reference to the issues of safeguarding and data protection with the trade unions, and that no volunteer be taken on until those negotiations reach a satisfactory conclusion.


6.Before any further changes to the Library Service are shared with the public, agreement should be reached through negotiation with the trade unions regarding changes that impact on the staff’s current hours and working practices

 7.         Staff at libraries directly affected by the implementation of the Library Strategy are provided with full information about their future terms & conditions and locations.

To view full report click here “

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.


Standing up for staff and public services

“We are marching as a community on 26 March….Join us, it is the national interest we all do!

Trade Union members, friends, work colleagues, families, community groups and residents from Barnet are going to march together as a community.”

Join us on Saturday 26th March 2011 and say NO to unfair and unnecessary spending cuts!

We’ll be marching in March to defend our public services from cuts & privatisation:

·         Hospitals

·         Libraries

·         Day centres

·         Youth services

·         Schools

·         Pensions

Meeting places in Barnet:

·         Finchley Central Tube Station—9am -9:15am (sharp)

·         Brent Cross Tube station—9am -9:15am (sharp) UNISON Contact Louis Smyth 07909156552

UNISON’s final meeting place is outside the * Savoy Hotel Strand London, WC2R 0EU from 9:30am till 11am nearest Tube Leicester Square.

March Starts around 11am on from ‘The Embankment’

UNISON contacts John Burgess 07738389569, Helen Davies 07940189807

We require volunteers to help take equipment to the March, carry during and bring it back to the UNISON office. Pick up will be the week prior and drop of ASAP after. If you can help please contact Lorraine on 020 8359 2088 or email: contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

* = Scene of Peasants Revolt 1381

Westminster UNISON is organising a mass lobby Monday 21st February 2011 at 6pm

Westminster UNISON is organising a mass lobby of the next Westminster Cabinet meeting.

Members and Community Groups are urged to meet up outside

Westminster City Hall, Monday 21st February 2011 at 6pm


As well as a further 201 redundancies, Westminster Council are proposing to:

Reduce Care services to 3,000 vulnerable adults; Cut £200,000 from the Portman Family Centre; Reduce Street Cleansing; Close Play Centres ; Dismiss Youth Workers employed to reduce gang crime ; Change to the Meals on Wheels serviceClose St James’s Library in September and reduce staff in other libraries with self service machines.

And this is just the beginning. The Tri Borough Report cites 50% reduction in management alone. Phases 5a and 5b redundancies will start next week . As Westminster demands reductions in the contract price from its outside contractors, further services will be reduced and more staff will be made redundant.

This week Housing21 issued 361 redundancy letters to the Home Care workers employed to look after Westminster’s most vulnerable residents.

However, Westminster has spent £3,973,952 on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost  over £500 a day.

The Temporary Head of Regeneration and Partnerships, costs the Council £745 a day and has cost £453,446 for the 608 days worked for the Council.

A Senior Project Manager, costing £600 a day, has cost the Council £852,600 for 1,421 days’ work, while a Senior Business Analyst, costing £521 a day, has cost the Council £827,400 for 1,588 days’ work.

Information released by the Labour Group last week detailing some £74,259 spent on flowers as well as £91,390 spent on media training. Whilst these sums may not seem large, the spend on flowers alone is equal to two average staff posts (excluding on-costs).

Oxford fighting Library closures & Big Soicety

Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.

Best-selling author Philip Pullman spoke to a packed meeting on 20 January 2011, called to defend Oxfordshire libraries. He gave this inspirational speech, which we are very pleased to co-publish with openDemocracy.

“Here in Oxfordshire we are threatened with the closure of 20 out of our 43 public libraries. Mr Keith Mitchell, the leader of the county council, said in the Oxford Times last week that the cuts are inevitable, and invites us to suggest what we would do instead. What would we cut? Would we sacrifice care for the elderly? Or would youth services feel the axe?

I don’t think we should accept his invitation. It’s not our job to cut services. It’s his job to protect them.

Nor do I think we should respond to the fatuous idea that libraries can stay open if they’re staffed by volunteers. What patronising nonsense. Does he think the job of a librarian is so simple, so empty of content, that anyone can step up and do it for a thank-you and a cup of tea? Does he think that all a librarian does is to tidy the shelves? And who are these volunteers? Who are these people whose lives are so empty, whose time spreads out in front of them like the limitless steppes of central Asia, who have no families to look after, no jobs to do, no responsibilities of any sort, and yet are so wealthy that they can commit hours of their time every week to working for nothing? Who are these volunteers? Do you know anyone who could volunteer their time in this way? If there’s anyone who has the time and the energy to work for nothing in a good cause, they are probably already working for one of the voluntary sector day centres or running a local football team or helping out with the league of friends in a hospital. What’s going to make them stop doing that and start working in a library instead?

You can read the full article here

“Something in the water…….?”

Last Thursday over two hundred six form students marched to the offices of MP Mike Freer last night in a protest over the decision to allow university tuition fees to rise. You can read the report online here.

The previous week a large delegation of students from Middlesex University travelled down to central London to protest about the university tuition fees increases.

The previous months a number of sheltered housing residents (average age 70 y/o) protested outside Hendon Town hall as they began their campaign to oppose the removal of their wardens.

Over the last two months Barnet residents have been running community stalls at the weekends and leafleting streets in Barnet opposing cuts & privatisation proposals.

On 23 September 250 residents and staff turned up at the launch of Barnet Alliance of Public Services

In the last six weeks almost 4,000 people have signed the Save our Libraries petition.

In the past few months 500 council staff attended two Lobbies at Hendon Town Hall

Is there something in the drinking water or are Barnet residents and staff finally waking up to the implications of the Spending Review?

Chris Leary Surrey UNISON on their in-house call Centre

1. What is your name?

Chris Leary

 2. What branch and who do you work for?

I’m a member of the Surrey County branch of UNISON, and I work as an Employee Services Officer for Surrey County Council.

 3. What is your role in the branch?

Communications Officer, Convenor for the Change & Efficiency Directorate and the Chief Executive’s Office, Shared Service Centre & Contact Centre Steward

4. Do you have a call centre?  

Yes, our Contact Centre is based in Conquest House in Kingston upon Thames.

 5. What services does the call centre provide for?

It is the first point of contact for the County Council. It handles queries for Libraries, Registration service, Roads and transport, Schools, childcare and adult education, Adult social care, Children’s social care, recruitment, suppliers and payments for music lessons and the arts service. People can call one number and renew their library book, book a wedding ceremony, report pot holes, vulnerable children and adults to social services, find out about adult education courses in their area, and much more.

6. How long ago has the call centre been in place?

The call centre was established in 2003.

7. How is the new call centre performing?

Excellently. It has won numerous awards for customer service, and is seen as a benchmark throughout the entire public sector for customer service and contact. Just recently it was shortlisted for Best Customer Service in the European Call Centre Awards 2010, placing it alongside blue chip companies such as energy company Scottish Power, insurance firm LV=, telecommunications business Telefonica O2 UK and supermarket chain Tesco.

 8. Is your Council looking to privatise the service?

Not at the moment!

9. Have you got a message for Barnet UNISON customer Service members?

Your bosses might like to tell you that the public sector is bloated and inefficient, but Surrey has shown that to be absolute rubbish. With the right investment and support, public services can more than compete with the “big boys and girls” of the private sector. Keep tall, keep fighting, and show them why public is best!

Barnet Council Support Services & Adult Social Care staff ‘shock World Cup exit’

For the last two years the Trade Unions have been seeking to ensure that the Future Shape programme is:

1.     The process is open and transparent

2.     There is genuine trade union and staff engagement in delivering an in-house option for the Options Appraisal.

On Wednesday 30 June I attended the first of two ‘Away Days’ being provided for staff delivering services such as Finance, Legal Services, Customers Services, Libraries, Audit, IS, Procurement, Property Services, HR, Pay Roll, Pensions, Revs & Bens. 

The purpose of the meeting was to launch the creation of the New Support Services Future Shape project and to explain the reasons behind it.  The major staffing revelation was that the Council has decided not to include the Option of an in-house bid in the Options Appraisal process. Staff were told that they would be looking to the services of one of the big top 100 FTSE companies e.g. IBM, SERCO, MOUCHEL, CAPITA

Whilst this should not have come as such a shock to staff, hearing officially that the Council would not be giving them the opportunity to compete clearly upset some staff.

More important is on what basis an in-house bid has been ruled out of the Options Appraisals. No data has been produced or provided to the Trade Unions which could demonstrate the rationale for this decision. Last year I sought a meeting with the previous Leader of the Council because of fears that in spite of the Future Shape jargon, what we was seeing was old style privatisation with a 21st century makeover!

The meeting was useful and he provided the following quote:

“Once we get to look at the ‘who’ it may be that we partner with other organisations to provide a service in a different way.  Equally, it may be that we continue to provide a service because we are the only organisation that can achieve sufficiently high quality at sufficiently low cost.  This is an interpretation the Council does what only the Council can do. Clearly we have many excellent services and we would not embark on unnecessary disruption, but we would be in favour of change if we were confident it would bring significant improvements in quality and value for money”.

which we published last year for the full article click here

The question which remains unanswered for the 700 staff is

“How can the Council be ‘confident’ they can bring in a private sector partner to deliver better value and service improvements if they do not put up an in-house option in the Option Appraisal process?”

This would be a massive contract for the private sector and we along with other Councils have had our fingers burnt by the private sector. If we really have learnt lessons then “why are we ‘shunning’ in-house bids?”

Options Appraisal or Group Stage explained

One of the regular criticisms of Future Shape has been the jargon used. To try and help members understand the process I am using the analogy of World Cup group stage qualification process.

Service Delivery Options

Points scored

In-house team


Management Buy Out (MBO)


Barnet Homes


Local Authority Trading Company (LATC)


Joint Venture


Private Sector sale


Closure of Service


 Please note: We have asked the Council, but have had no response as to how many Options go through to the next stage where a Full Business case will be produced (Followers of the real World Cup will know that only the top two go through to the next stage).

MEMBER ALERT: If you do not progress to the next stage you are out. If the in-house option is discarded at this stage staff will be facing the prospect of being transferred out of the Council.

To help understand the process and implications it is often best to see a live example.

Below is a table showing the scores of an

Options Appraisal for the Future Shape Adult Social Care Provision.


Strategic Fit for Transforming Social Care








Transfer to Barnet Homes
















Social Enterprise (start-up)








Remain In-House







19 15*

Tender/Trade Sale








Closure of Service









* Please note the table sent to the Trade Unions (see above) scored the in-house option 19 but as you can see the total is 15.

The Trade Unions have registered a ‘failure  to agree’ over the Options Appraisal process to council officers and have requested a Corporate Joint Negotiation Consultation Committee with councillors in order we can formally discuss our concerns. The example above has been shrouded in secrecy from the outset once the decision to exclude the Trade Unions was made. We have attempted to engage in the process. We have submitted 46 questions to the Adult Social Care Future Shape Project team and to date we have not had a response.

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