Council Budget 2009 UPDATE
Supporting the Vulnerable
First of all I want to thank those of you who have already sent messages of support to the welfare rights unit which is down be deleted in the budget proposals being considered at the Cabinet meeting tonight. We still need more of you to send in your messages of support. This is a service that provides to those with the highest need. In these severe economic times it is imperative that these service users are supported. Our report which we will be submitting to the Council (which will be publicly available found that the Unit is the last 12 months raised a staggering £1.8 million in benefits for service users in Barnet.
If you would like to send a message of support for this service please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheltered Housing Scheme under threat as a result of proposed £950,000 budget saving. We have not had the opportunity to go through the proposals but our members working in sheltered accommodation understand that if this proposal goes through they will lose their jobs. We do not know who or what support will be provided to the 500 residents using this valuable service.
If you would like to send a message of support for the Sheltered Housing Service please email email@example.com
The Trade Unions have not had the opportunity to discuss the proposals as they first need to be approved at tonight’s Cabinet Committee. You can find the Budget proposals online at
What you can do
If you work in a service where there are redundancies please let the branch office know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or ringing the branch on 0208 359 2083/2088 in order we can arrange support for you and the service.
I hope everyone had a good holiday and I hope we all get at least something of what we want and need next year!
Those in Adult Social Services will be aware of the major restructuring taking place there. Since late November we have been incredibly busy working on the 11 new Role Profiles covering well over 100 staff members at all grades. I’ve held meetings with most staff groups to go over the Role Profiles and points raised have been forwarded to the management team at our consultation meetings. Many points have been taken on board but some key concerns remain:
– Non-professionally qualified staff will continue to make complex decisions and handle complex situations but will their pay reflect this? So far this has not been the case. UNISON will continue to press for the pay these staff deserve.
Most of what has been achieved could not have been so without the input of our members attending meetings and without the extra facility time given to the union. Has anything been achieved?
Role Profiles have been re-drafted and some major changes on some/ minor changes on others have been made reflecting the comments and questions raised by the unions. Whether this now means we all agree with the re-drafts is another matter!
On the 2 points outlined above there is greater insight into the complexity of the issues involved.
The next round of meetings should clarify the outstanding issues of principle.
I look forward to seeing everyone again in the next round!
Branch Chair and Adult Social Services steward.
You will be aware that in the weeks leading up to Christmas the Sun newspaper has managed to whip up a massive campaign against social workers blaming the individual social worker for the death of Baby P. It delivered a petition demanding the sacking of the social workers and managers involved in the case. Since then any child death reported in the media seems to be scrutinised for potential involvement by social workers and then discussed in terms of the failure to intervene.
Why? Could it be social workers try to work and understand people who are disadvantaged in society instead of simply labelling them as “scroungers” as one Sun journalist on the Today programme referred to people living on the estate in Dewsbury where Shannon Matthews lives?
The effect of the campaign against social workers will make it more difficult to recruit and retain workers in the profession – particularly in Child Protection work. It has overnight also pushed up the cost of caring for children as rather than take risks there has been an increase of some 36% of children being taken into care. In turn the work which relies on trust between the social worker and families has been damaged, potentially increasing the risk for vulnerable people. Well done the Sun and its readership!
UNISON issued a press statement before the Sun petition was handed in and pointed out the difficulties social workers face in their line of work. It was critical of the attacks by the popular press. This statement was accessible on-line.
In our Branch we have discussed the statement at a variety of meetings (latterly our last Branch Executive) and in each case our members agreed for our Branch to forward solidarity greetings to Haringey UNISON which is involved in defending social workers bearing the brunt of the attacks.
Leo Boland’s (our former Chief Executive) statement to all council workers (15.12.08 First Team) was helpful as far as it went, but we think he could have gone much further. For instance there needs to be a serious commitment to cutting down the bureaucracy which is tying our workers to the computer instead of them having more contact with families. He could also have pushed for the 2 extra annual leave days in recognition of our 4 star status for all council staff as a measure of goodwill.
We do not have to feel helpless in the face of this attack on social work and social workers. The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) has an on-line petition. If people want a meeting or further discussion about this and related issues, we can organise this – contact us.
Finally let’s be clear: if the Future Shape delivers privatisation of Children’s services this will do nothing to protect our children but will put more children at risk and result in more frustration for our social worker members.
Branch Chair Social Services Convenor
Environment & Planning Services
Thurs 15 January 2009, Danube, Building 4
Tues 3 February 2009, Willows, Building 4
Wed 25 February 2009, Training Room5, Building 2
Thurs 26 March 2009, Conference Suite, Building 2
Resources and Corporate Governance
Wed 21 January 2009, Training Room 6, Building 2
Thurs 12 February 2009, Conference Suite, Building 2
Tues 3 March 2009, Danube, Building 4
Adults & Children’s Services
Thurs 29 January 2009, Training Room 2, Building 2
Tues 17 February 2009, Training Room 6, Building 2
Tues 17 March 2009, Training Room2, Building 2
Barnet House for all services 12–1.30 pm
Thurs 22 January 2009, Committee Room 2
Wed 18 February 2009, Committee Room 1
Thursday 19 March 2009, Committee Room 1
In Barnet Press Mike Freer, leader of the council said “The status quo is not an option” Status Quo were on BBC this morning, 40 years in the business and still ‘rocking and rolling over the world!’ They have just released a Christmas record, not bad, but have to agree they are not an option for services for Barnet residents!
Here is how the Barnet Press described it-
In Barnet Press Mike Freer, leader of the council said “The status quo is not an option”
Status Quo were on BBC this morning, 40 years in the business and still ‘rocking and rolling over the world!’ They have just released a Christmas record, not bad, but have to agree they are not an option for services for Barnet residents!
National Secretary for Local Government
Is coming to our Branch meeting.
16 December 2008, 12—2 pm
Conference Room, Building 2, NLBP
Guest speaker – Heather Wakefield, UNISON National Secretary Local Government
Agenda – Future Shape & Council Budget
Xmas Buffet is being provided
Time off for members to attend has been requested
Extra Annual leave – Seasonal greetings to Barnet staff
What did we get?
To find out what members of General Functions Committee agreed to give to Barnet staff for all their hard work click here
It was an incredible response from staff & Barnet residents on a bitter cold December evening……….hot drinks, mince pies and carol singing all helped fight off the cold.
So what happened in the meeting?
Well some of you may have seen or heard reports on the local TV & radio.
And a link to photos taken at the rally – http://photos.snapsthoughts.com/p352281318
It appears from listening to the Leader both on the TV and in the Cabinet Committee that the Trade Unions have jumped the gun.
The new public service model which is described in the report is “NOT about mass privatisation of the Council!”
That is good news….but it really is not clear in the report….we are not the only ones to apparently misunderstand the report. A Barnet resident sent the Cabinet report to the Plain English Campaign and this is their response:
Plain English Campaign’s assessment of Future Shape report discussed at Cabinet 3 December 2008:
“I think your suggestion that the council is planning to introduce outsourcing is correct although when they couch their plans in such gobbledygook, it is hard to be certain.
“Paragraph 4.3 seems to suggest that they are thinking of using ‘organisations other than the Council’ while paragraph 5.3 suggests staff could be transferred to other employers. And, the Council also seems to have considered the legal implications of what it is doing.
“In answer to your question about whether it is in plain (enough) English to serve the public interest, the answer is definitely not. From a plain English point of view, it is an awful document. It is so full of jargon and management speak that the message is hard to find. It is quite possible to write complicated stuff like this in plain English – in fact, as everyone is entitled to receiving information in plain English, it should be common practice to write clearly.
“Whether the Council is writing in this style to try to disguise what it is considering, or whether it is just a case of not thinking about the residents of the borough I can’t say. What I would do however is ask for the information in an appropriate style so that you, and all the other residents of the borough, are aware of quite major changes that could affect the way your council is run. And, as there seem to be huge implications for staff, I am sure they particularly need to be kept notified of what is happening.”
Barnet residents & Trade Union members came up to me and complained that they felt the councillor’s comments were rude and playing to the gallery. I am afraid that this has been a feature of both local and national politics for a long time. It is not surprising that there is such poor responses to consultations with the communities.
Wednesday 3 December 400 people felt motivated to find time to come along and take part in something we call democracy. Democracy means the right for individuals and organisations to lobby and give their views. Just because you don’t like what you read is not grounds for disrespecting other people’s views. What we saw tonight was deliberate misrepresentation of the trade unions’ report.
Clearly there is a serious lack communication not just with the trade unions but with staff and most importantly residents, I hope that rather than retreating behind party political jibes we are able to sit down and play an active part in the Future Shape programme. I would ask ALL staff not to feel disheartened but to take up the challenge and request YOUR Future Shape meeting in your workplace. According to the time table we have just under 5 months for the Council to thoroughly assess what it is doing now and how it might change?
Staff, residents and the Trade Unions are waiting for the next phase of consultation to begin!
Joint Trade Union response to the Cabinet Report
To read full report click here