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
Planning, Development Management
Enforcement and Appeals
Environment and Transport
Financial transactional processes – payroll, accounts payable/receivable
HR transactional processes – recruitment, day to day advice
IT and systems support
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.