Future Shape – frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

I have attended many meetings with staff across the Council. There have been a number of common questions from staff.

Q. Where did the idea of a Joint Venture for some of our income generating services come from?

A. If you read the 6 May 2008 Cabinet report on pages 15 & 16

“2.3 Strategic partnership

This project supports that outlined in 2.1 and 2.2, by exploring how the council can take forward proposals to develop a major service partnership or Joint Venture Company (JVC) to deliver some of the council’s predominantly income generating services. It will be used as a pilot to inform the development of a special purpose vehicle for wider commissioning and service delivery.

The JVC is a particularly attractive option as it draws on Barnet strengths of being low cost and relatively high performing and its ability to attract significant capital investment through the leverage model. Putting the funds into a JVC model or a similar venture that can trade, will allow the council to focus on building strategic capacity and enable it to focus more effectively on its place shaping role.

 Work has already been done in scoping development services, where potential for a JVC has been identified, so this is an area that is likely to be suitable for an initial pilot. Further scoping will be required across the Council to identify other packages of services, but another potential package could be back office services, including revenues and benefits.”

The ‘work has already been done in scoping development services’ is likely to be the Cabinet briefing paper written in January 2008. The paper identified the possibility of setting up a Joint Venture. It identified four groupings:

Planning and Environmental Protection

Building Control

Planning, Development Management

Enforcement and Appeals

Land Charges

Environmental Health

 

 

Environment and Transport

Parking

Highways

Greenspaces

 

 

Resources

Financial transactional processes – payroll, accounts payable/receivable

HR transactional processes – recruitment, day to day advice

Property management

Facilities management

IT and systems support

Revenue collection

 

 

Housing

Benefits

 

 

Clearly the list of services is not exhaustive; the remit of the Future Shape project team is to look at all Council services and different models of service provision. The Council have engaged consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to look at current in house services and other possible service delivery options.

Q. Is this just a done deal?

 

A. I believe no. I think we are going to have a significant say over the future of services in Barnet. The issue for the trade unions and staff is when that process starts. Staff are key to the Future of Barnet Council.

 

Q. Is it true the data from the PWC spreadsheet will determine whether we are going to be privatised?

 A. I have been assured that this is not the case. Apparently 217 managers completed spreadsheets and the data is being assessed. Further work will be required and a commitment to involve the staff and Trade Unions has been given.

Q. What is the time scale?

A. When reports have to go to Cabinet there are clear timelines to have the report cleared before it is published online, before the Committee. Under current timescales the report would have to have been ready by the end of October in order that it could go through the various checks before publishing. The Trade Unions had understood that it was likely that we would know the basis of the report by the end of October. However last week I heard that this timescale has been extended. It is likely we may not see the report until late November which is obviously a concern.

Q. What is the three year plan?

A. I have not seen any documentation relating to a three year plan; however the Chief Executive did make reference to a three year plan at his visit to speak to staff at the depot several weeks ago.

 

Q. When could we be privatised?

A. It depends upon what option is chosen for your service. It could be as quick as 6 months to 2 years from March next year.

Q. Why won’t the Council sign up to Trade Unions (Briefing 3) TUPE Plus proposal?

A. Don’t know. I have not had a response to our proposal to safeguard members transferring to the private sector or external organisation. I don’t know what they agree or disagree with in the document. For example in TUPE Plus I want a commitment that any contractor will not offshore work. It is worrying that the Council has not responded to this point and the 13 other points in Briefing 3.

 

 

Joint Trade Unions ask for a suspension

To: Leader of Barnet Council   

Subject: Future Shape

While we appreciate the complexities of modern Local Authorities and the need for them to evolve to meet the future requirements of residents, we call on the council to suspend any proposals made in the report to the 3 December cabinet committee to transfer any services to external providers or private sector companies.

To view full statement click here

Barnet Council – Icelandic Banks

Colleagues You will have received the First Team email sent out to all staff from the Chief Executive this morning in response to what has been reported in the Press this morning Barnet UNISON welcomes the reassurance given that the financial position of these Icelandic Banks will not have an impact the Council’s ability to pay bills, pensions or salaries. Clearly this is affecting other Councils and a number of them in London: Barnet Council: £27m Hillingdon Council: £20m Westminster City Council: £17m Brent Council: £15m Havering Council: £12.5m Sutton Council: £5.5m Haringey Council: unconfirmed Bromley Council: unconfirmed Transport for London (TfL):£40m Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA): £30m We understand the Council along with a number of other Councils are seeking an urgent meeting with the Chancellor Alistair Darling to request protection for councils as has been given to personal customers of IceSave and other failed Icelandic banks. Barnet UNISON fully expects to hear the Chancellor provide confirmation that all Councils will be covered and end the insecurity/anxiety this news has caused. It is inconceivable that the Government ‘bail out’ the Private Sector and refuse to offer the same level of support for the ‘Public Sector’. It is good to see UNISON HQ issue a Press release today urging the government to “protect local authorities from losing millions of council taxpayers’ money held in failing Icelandic banks” (full article click here) What about our Pension Funds? Inevitably our Pension funds have been exposed to significant risks especially over the last few months. We have asked for an urgent update on our Pension Fund investments. Contractors Like most Councils we have a number of contractors providing services for Barnet Council. We have asked for a copy of the risk assessment carried out in relation to our contractors. Clearly they are also at risk. If some of our contractors are unable to comply with their contractual obligations; it is important that plans are in place to ensure the Council is able to continue to serve the residents of Barnet. Future Shape Over the last two months as the global financial crisis has unravelled on a daily basis members have asked: ‘why are the Council considering going into partnerships with the private sector?’ It is a good point and one that has been made in many of our weekly meetings. In light of recent events and lack of any sign of economic stability we are asking for a postponement of any Future Shape proposals involving the private sector. To read newsletter click here

Extra days annual leave?

Last night we asked that Barnet staff be given an extra days leave this year in recognition of their role in the Council gaining Four Star status. There was a lively debate and it was agreed that HR would go away and cost the proposal.

So hopefully we may have some good news for Council staff!

Trade Unions to be given a voice at General Functions Committee!

The Trade Unions have made a request to be able to speak to any reports they submit to General Function’s Committee. This Committee deals with staffing matters such as redundancies, TUPE transfers etc. It is essential that if and when we submit reports, councillors are able to ask questions or seek clarification from the Trade unions.

I can report that both the Leader of the Council and the whole Committee unanimously supported this proposal and agreed to make a recommendation to the Constitutional Committee to approve this request.

Future Shape – Hot off the Press!

Last night the Trade Unions had their first opportunity to discuss the Future Shape with our Employers (councillors) at the Corporate Joint Negotiation and Consultative Committee (CJNCC).

The meeting did not start well as the Employers initially objected to Dexter Whitfield providing the Committee with a brief commentary on the six briefing papers. Their objection was that we were talking about something which ‘may or may not happen in the future.’ The Employers view was that that until something is produced any discussion would be premature.

The Trade Unions asked for an adjournment to consider this objection.

On our return the Employers made another proposal which allowed debate on the process of Future Shape. Dexter gave a short presentation on the rationale behind the six briefings and reinforced our view that our briefings are about process. We had a positive exchange with councillors on the process and our specific concerns in particular staff and Trade Union fears about this being a privatisation exercise. 

In terms of answers to our Briefings and in particular TUPE PLUS we established at the meeting last night that these will be answered once a model of service delivery is established.

Clearly the Trade Unions felt it would have been better if a commitment to TUPE PLUS could have been made at the start of the process, if only to reassure members that if they do transfer out of the council they will have much better protection of their terms and conditions (t&c’s).  

As a direct result of Trade Unions concerns about process the Leader offered to set up a group to look at the Future Shape process. The group will be composed of elected members from all political parties and Trade Union representation. The Trade Unions supported this proposal and today have requested for this to be actioned as a matter of urgency.

Furthermore, the Chair of the Committee agreed to hold a Special CJNCC before the council cabinet committee on 3 December. The Trade Unions have requested this meeting should take place week commencing 24 November 2008.

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