What more outsourcing in Barnet Council? Really?

“You couldn’t make it up”, is a phrase often bandied about here in Barnet. Sadly it is oh so true.

Last Friday the day the Grant Thornton review about Capita was published on the Barnet Council website I found myself sat in a meeting listening to an assistant director propose to trial outsourcing of the the bulk transfer service.

The bulk transfer service involves the transfer of recyclables to the tip. It’s a small operation but it is done well by hard working committed staff who are always around to help out if and when there is a crisis here in Barnet.

Guess what?

I don’t have the details of the amount of savings they are looking to make because they were not supplied at the meeting. The staff who had no idea this was coming were understandably upset. Not just because they see a pay cut coming but because they were not asked if they had any ideas and when they asked for details there were none.

That is the problem we have in Barnet.

I have sat in too many meetings with senior managers and or consultants who come up with ideas that have not been put to the workforce first. If I had a pound for every time a senior manager told me that they agree that they should consult with the workforce I’d probably be able to bail out the Council.

Back to the discussions.

The workforce without any time or resources immediately started brainstorming ideas for the service. It was impressive to see and management agreed that they would produce the information that had led to the proposal to outsource the service.

Have a guess.

Yes, to date Wednesday 26 September no data has been provided to the workforce and the trade unions. It will be pretty hard now to convince the workforce that this proposal was not dreamt up on the back of a fag packet.

What’s new?

Nothing, this is just another example into the sort of flawed decision making about Council services that I have witnessed first-hand over the past decade. The damning Grant Thornton review has exposed just how services can be vandalised by outsourcing.

The sad thing it is only the staff and the residents who suffer the consequences, the officers who come up with these ideas are never around when the “s**t hits the fan”.

Anyway, we have a meeting this Friday with the staff and management , as far as Barnet UNISON is concerned the idea needs to be dropped. There is a much bigger issue facing Waste and Recycling. The new routes are due to start on 5 November. It is imperative that the new routes work for residents and that is where resources need to be going first.

John Burgess

Branch Secretary


Press Release: Capita Out, Capita Out, Capita Out Out, Out!

For immediate release: Capita Out, Capita Out, Capita Out Out, Out

Grant Thornton was commissioned by the London Borough of Barnet (the Council) to provide support in its response to the discovery of an alleged fraud.

On Friday 21 September 2018 Barnet Council published the Grant Thornton (GT) review https://www.barnet.gov.uk/citizen-home/council-and-democracy/finance-and-funding/Financial-controls.html

The GT review looked the two Capita contracts below.

Contract 1: The London Borough of Barnet and Capita (BRDS) Limited relating to the provision of Development and Regulatory Services signed 5th August 2013 “DRS”

Contract 2: New Support and Customer Services (NSCSO) Partnering Agreement between the London Borough of Barnet and Capita Business Services Limited. “CSG” contract commenced September 1st 2013.

The combined worth of both contracts over a 10 year period £424 million.

GT review reported:

“The individual is believed to have committed a fraud to a detected value of £2,063,972 by directing CPO payments to personal bank accounts.”

“Our view of both contracts has identified a number of significant weaknesses which may have resulted in contractual breaches. We have identified and reported what we believe are fundamental weaknesses in budgetary control and financial accounting.”

“We note both the DRS contract and the CSG contract detail consequences for the Service Provider of Persistent Breach”.

“Lack of effective review of controls over financial ledgers.

“The monthly and annual budgetary control process provided by CSG Finance for capital projects in Re lack sufficient rigour to challenge unusual transactions and journal entries.”

“Significant financial control weaknesses”

“Poor accounting controls

“Weakened scrutiny over regeneration scheme KPIs”


The GT review goes on to develop five broad themes and referred as control ‘Pillars’. GT had this to say about their ‘Five Pillars’

“In our view, if any one of these controls Pillars was functioning effectively at any point during the period (July 2016 to December 2017) on question it should not have bene possible for the individual to perpetrate the fraud…”

John McDonnell Shadow Chancellor said: “The Grant Thornton (GT) review of the two Capita contracts in Barnet provides yet more evidence of the folly of privatisation of public services. When I read “significant financial control weaknesses…“poor accounting controls” in the GT review it summed up what I have been saying about the current Tory government. They have failed our economy by rewarding their friends in big business, leaving our communities and public services to suffer at the hands their brutal austerity policies. I want to send a personal message of solidarity from the Labour Party Conference to Barnet UNISON and the residents who have fought side by side against a right wing mass outsourcing ideology. I fully support your campaign to #KickOutCapita from Barnet and bring services back in-house.”

Professor Dexter Whitfield who recently published a joint review entitled “’Future Shape’ ‘easyCouncil‘, ‘One Barnet’= Failure” with Barnet UNISON on both Capita contracts had this to say

“The Grant Thornton audit reveals very serious flaws and inadequate operational practice in both the Capita regeneration and back office services contracts. The fact that it took a fraud case to reveal the full nature and scope of these flaws is a damming indictment of Capita and Barnet Councils contract management and monitoring. Furthermore, implementation of the remedial action plan may address the current inadequacies but gives little reassurance that there are no other serious flaws that remain to be exposed. The audit provides further significant evidence for the Council’s review of both contracts and a decision to terminate the Capita contracts and return to in-house provision as a matter of urgency.”

John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary:

“I am shocked but not surprised at the content of the GT review of both Capita contracts. Barnet UNISON predicted that service quality would suffer once the services were privatised however there is little comfort in saying “we told you so” for the hundreds of local jobs in Barnet that were lost as a direct result of Capita winning the contracts. What is surprising, is that it took a fraud, to deliver the forensic scrutiny we have long demanded. Over the past five years frontline in-house services have endured vicious cuts whilst the two Capita contracts have drained badly needed public money, in order to satisfy the needs of Capita shareholders who put profit before quality services to residents. When Capita issued a dramatic profit warning on 31 January 2018, why did the Council not begin discussions to bring services back in-house. It seems clear from the GT review that even at an early stage there were serious endemic financial and budgetary issues. The Council is currently preparing a review of both Capita contracts. It is my view that in light of the GT review, it is untenable that the Council could even consider allowing Capita to run any of their services again. The relationship between the Council and Capita is in my opinion irreversibly broken, it’s over, and now is the time to end it, no expensive divorce bill, Barnet Councils services, and residents have tolerated enough of the mass privatisation ideology. Never mind #Brexit it’s time for #Capzit”.


Notes to Editors.

Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on or 020 8359 2088 or email: john.burgess@barnetunison.org.uk

1.“’Future Shape’ ‘easyCouncil’, ‘One Barnet’ = Failure http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Barnet-UNISON-Capita-report-2018.pdf

2. External Auditors explains Capita Pensions failure


3. How can Barnet Council even think of allowing Capita to run our IT services after this?


4. “Terminate Capita Contracts and Redesign the Council”


5. Is this the end of Capita in Barnet – Grant Thornton’s report is a devastating critique of Capita’s dismal performance.


6. Damning report slams Capita and financial management at Barnet Council


7. Project Rose: the devastating report Barnet Tories didn’t want you to read


Fire Safety at Barnet House Update 3

New developments

On Thursday 13 September 2018, a Barnet UNISON rep accompanied the Fire Alarm engineer on a comprehensive test of the Alarm points. Barnet UNISON has consistently requested that every single Alarm point be tested since 16 August 2018.

We can report that every Alarm point successfully set off the alarm.

One of the big issues has been the delay time from pressing the Alarm which can be as high as 10 seconds.

It has come to light that this is because the Alarm system works on radio waves. Barnet UNISON view is that there should be no delays once the button is pressed which is why Barnet UNISON want the Fire Alarm system to be hard wired in order to ensure the alarm sounds immediately.

We can report the following actions agreed with Barnet Council and Barnet UNISON:

  1. The London Fire Brigade (LFB) will be invited in to conduct a risk assessment of their own to provide additional assurance. ACTION: by agreed deadline with LFB.
  2. August 18 Fire Risk Assessment Review to be assessed to ensure validity and that actions are in-hand. ACTION: by 22 Sep 18.
  3. Timings for fire alarm technical testing are to be shared with UNISON.
  4. Timings for replacing the 2nd floor call point are to be shared with UNISON as soon as possible close of play 18 Sep 2018.
  5. Second floor call points are to be functionally tested by physically activating, with UNISON in attendance. Completed.
  6. Lift repaired. Complete.
  7. Fire evacuation procedures will be reviewed in collaboration with UNISON: Action: by 1 Oct 18.
  8. Fire Safety Training will be conducted to brief staff on:
  • How the fire alarm system is operated and how it works
  • How the system is tested, including call points and tamper alarms
  • Fire evacuation procedures. ACTION: by 20 Oct 18.

9. Barnet House fire drill is to be conducted once evacuation procedures have been reviewed and additional training conducted. ACTION: by 1 Nov 18.

Please keep a look out for eNEWS and the Barnet UNISON website for details of any further developments here http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/




Fire Safety at Barnet House Update 2

Below is a copy of an email sent to all staff yesterday.

“Wednesday 12 September 2018

Fire alarm test at Barnet House last night          

We are pleased to let you know that the comprehensive fire alarm test we carried out last night at Barnet House has confirmed that the fire alarm system is fully operational. We tested all alarm sounders on every floor, and will continue to carry out these checks on our normal rolling basis.” 

This is Barnet UNISON response to senior management in Barnet Council, Barnet Group and Capita.

Dear John

I do need to address the First Team email which went out to all staff yesterday which stated:

“We are pleased to let you know that the comprehensive fire alarm test we carried out last night at Barnet House has confirmed that the fire alarm system is fully operational. We tested all alarm sounders on every floor, and will continue to carry out these checks on our normal rolling basis.”

I was present for the test on Tuesday evening (8.30 pm). Those present included myself, Helen Davies Barnet UNISON Branch Chair and a custodian and one security guard.

I want to make sure that everyone knows the facts. There was no comprehensive fire alarm test and we did not confirm that the fire alarm system is fully operational. All we were able to do that night was check that when the alarm was triggered that the Klaxons were working. As I said before, I can confirm that all Klaxons on that occasion worked apart from one on the 10th Floor. Since I reported to you yesterday I have not had anyone contact me about which Klaxon. Can someone confirm that the Klaxon has been repaired?

On Tuesday 11 September in the morning some staff evacuated because they heard an alarm and others didn’t hear an alarm.

In conversations and correspondence it is very clear that there is some pretty fundamental issues with the Fire Alarm system. We have heard that testing on some occasions everything is deemed to be fine then we have an incident and it isn’t working.

A comprehensive fire alarm test which will confirm the fire alarm system is fully operational would require that all Fire Alarm points are fully working to be tested. To date this has not been completed. One of our reasonable demands was for a union rep to be present when this is carried out.

Fire Evacuation is worryingly an ongoing issue as this Tuesday has demonstrated. Apart from fixing the Fire Alarm I am proposing Fire Safety training is rolled out to all staff across all services and staff in Barnet House as a matter of urgency.

Finally I want reiterate the four reasonable demands we have made:

  1. A trade union rep accompanies the testing of each Fire Alarm point in Barnet House.
  2. On the second floor the fire alarm removed is replaced as a matter of urgency
  3. The fire alarms which have a ten second delay are replaced with Fire Alarms that go off immediately.
  4. Immediate alternative working arrangements off site set up immediately pending the resolution of the fire alarm system and evacuation plan issues.

I agree that this matter cannot be resolved by an ongoing email chain which is why I am asking to meet with someone who is able to make decisions on Fire Safety as a matter of urgency and not Wait until next Tuesday.

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.


PLEASE NOTE: Barnet UNISON will update our members of any further developments. 

Barnet UNISON: Fire Safety statement Barnet House

Dear Colleague

Following the tragic incident at Barnet House on the 15th of August Barnet UNISON raised our concerns about Fire Safety and Security at the building

These concerns included the failure of the alarm to sound throughout the building, including the area where the fire broke out. We also have concerns about the evacuation.

Since then UNISON members who were working in the building, including the area and adjacent meeting rooms where the fire broke have come to us and reported they did not hear a fire alarm, and the first they knew of the emergency was when they saw smoke and flames.  We reported this to the Council who took two weeks to confirm that one of the alarm points in the area where the fire broke out did not work and that the other had a planned 10 second delay.

On the 31st of August the Council removed the faulty fire alarm point leaving a sole alarm point in the area, citing that this fitted in with regulatory minimum requirements.

On the 31st of August UNISON asked the Council:

  1. While the regulations are that one should have to travel no more than 45 metres to reach a fire alarm point, it would be good practice for this distance to be reduced in the reception area on the second floor as people with limited mobility use the area
  2. Why is there a delay between using the single remaining alarm point in the reception area on the second floor and the sounding of the alarm?
  3. Are there other fire alarm points in Barnet House where there is a delay between operation and sounding?
  4. Will the removed fire alarm point be replaced?
  5. When were the fire alarm points in the reception area on the second floor last tested? The last record of the fire alarm point being tested is dated 16.3.18.
  6. How and how often are the fire points tested?
  7. Have the number of fire points been reduced in Barnet House over the last ten years?

To date there has been no response from the Council.

This morning following the Fire Alarm test at Barnet House the Alarm continued to sound in some parts of the Building. This led to some people evacuating the building at the same time as others were entering.  This situation led to confusion and worry for colleagues particularly for those who witnessed the fire in August. We have reports that staff on the third floor were told to evacuate. There was confusion over evacuations instructions on the walkie talkies and some staff evacuated and others didn’t.

The faulty alarm continued from 10.05 am to 10.37am.

Following this UNISON asked the Council why this happened and for confirmation that the fire alarm system was working.

The Council has not given this confirmation.

We therefore have no trust or confidence in the Fire Safety arrangements at Barnet House.

It is UNISON’s view that until the Council prove that the Fire Alarm can be heard in every part of the building and that every fire alarm in the building works then Barnet House is an unsafe place and people should neither work in it nor visit the site.

Our health and safety demands are as follows:

  1. A trade union rep accompanies the testing of each Fire Alarm point in Barnet House.
  2. On the second floor the fire alarm removed is replaced as a matter of urgency
  3. The fire alarms which have a ten second delay are replaced with Fire Alarms that go off immediately.
  4. Immediate alternative working arrangements off site set up immediately pending the resolution of the fire alarm system and evacuation plan issues.


Barnet UNISON has no higher priority than the safety of our members and that of the public whom they serve.

We will update on safety at Barnet House as there are developments.

Please note: 

We have written to John Hooton Chief Executive, Tim Mulvenna Chief Executive Barnet Group, Mark Dally, Partnership Director, Capita.

If you need advice or support please contact the Barnet UNISON office on contactus@barnetunison.org.uk




IMPORTANT: Update for all Capita Barnet UNISON members

Following discussions with the Council as to the process I can confirm the following information.

  1. Staff consultation to commence end of September
  2. Resident consultation to commence end of September
  3. Full business case to be submitted to a Council committee in December 2018.

What are the consulting on?

Barnet Council is now working up a full business case which will look at bring all services back in-house.

The Full business case will address the following options:

  1. Keep all services with Capita
  2. Bring some services back from both contracts with Capita
  3. Bring all services back from Capita

Barnet UNISON is campaigning on behalf of all of our members for Option 3.

Barnet UNISON is holding a number of branch meetings across Barnet house and NLBP. This is opportunity for Capita Barnet UNISON members to seek advice and ask questions.

Wednesday 12 September 12.30pm Committee Room 1, Barnet House

Friday 14 September 1pm Central room, Building 4, NLBP

Thursday 20 September 12.30pm Room G2, Building 2, NLBP

Friday 21 September 12.30pm Committee room 1, Barnet House

Tuesday 25 September 1pm Central room, Building 4, NLBP

Thursday 27 September 12.30pm Committee room 2, Barnet House

If you have any questions or need to speak to someone please contact the Barnet UNISON office on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

John Burgess

Branch Secretary




Barnet UNISON branch meetings September 2018

Dear Barnet UNISON member

It is important that our members are fully briefed as possible about what is happening in Barnet Council. We have organised a series of 8 branch meetings  throughout the month of September in order to discuss and to take questions.

Here is the agenda for all of the meetings.

  1. Capita contracts
  2. Barnet Council Finances.
  3. Fire Safety.
  4. Move to Colindale.
  5. Sick Pay deductions in Barnet Council
  6. Any other business

Please find time to join one of the meetings to held on:

Wednesday 5 September 12noon Committee Room 2, Barnet House

Thursday 6 September 12.30pm Central Room, Building 4, NLBP

Wednesday 12 September 12.30pm Committee Room 1, Barnet House

Friday 14 September 1pm Central room, Building 4, NLBP

Thursday 20 September 12.30pm Room G2, Building 2, NLBP

Friday 21 September 12.30pm Committee room 1, Barnet House

Tuesday 25 September 1pm Central room, Building 4, NLBP

Thursday 27 September 12.30pm Committee room 2, Barnet House




Incident on the 2nd floor Barnet House

ATTENTION all Barnet UNISON members.

You are probably aware of the incident that occurred on 2nd floor reception on Wednesday 15 August 2018.

If you have anything that you feel you would like to report or discuss in confidence, please come to the UNISON office and speak to our Branch Health & Safety Officer Hugh Jordan Hugh.jordan@barnetunison.org.uk

Barnet UNISON are working with Barnet Group H&S, chiefly Ben Wildman along with Capita H&S and Facilities  to address any failures which may have led to, or exacerbated the incident.

Barnet Homes have put counselling in place for staff who witnessed the incident, but ANY staff who feel they would like to talk to someone, please do not hesitate to contact the UNISON office on the first floor.

The Health & Safety of UNISON members at work is our top priority.

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