BREAKINGNEWS: Grounds Maintenance for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards ends 1 April 2019

No, this is not an April Fools joke it is for real.

Barnet UNISON have been informed that our members who work for Grounds Maintenance have been told as from Monday 1 April that they will no longer providing the following services for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards

  • Weed spraying
  • Shrub Prune
  • Remembrance Sunday works
  • Grass Cutting
  • Hedge Cutting
  • Planting Weeding and maintaining annual bedding

To the best of our knowledge this decision has not been subject to any public consultation the sites affected are as follows.

  1. Bells Hill Burial Ground
  2. Christ Church yard , St Albans road
  3. East Barnet Village War Memorial
  4. Golders Green War Memorial
  5. Holy Trinity Church yard
  6. Ridgeway War Memorial
  7. St James’ Church yard
  8. St Marchs Church
  9. ST Mary’s Church Green
  10. St Marys Church Yard /Church End.
  11. John the Baptist C.O.E
  12. Station Road War Memorial

At the time of this post Barnet UNISON has asked the following:

  • Which Council department proposed the termination of the services?
  • When did the public consultation take place for this proposal?
  • Where was this saving identified in the recently agreed Councils Medium Term Financial Strategy 5 March 2019?
  • Are there any Health and Safety risks as a result of the termination of this service?

Our Pensions: What on earth is going on?

On Tuesday 26 March 2019, members of the Pension Fund Committee will discuss the latest debacle about the Pensions data.

I have sat in numerous Barnet Council meetings over the past few years reading and listening to senior officers and councillors discussing the failing Pension Administration Service currently provided by Capita out of their Darlington office.

“5.1.1 Employers will pay £48 million of contributions into the pension scheme in 2018/19. Changes in contribution rates can have a significant cashflow implication for employers and will impact on the Council’s ability to spend in other areas.”

5.2.1 There are no immediate financial implications from the report. However, higher deficits (particularly if sustained) may translate into higher contributions from the ouncil and other employers. Engaging with the Scheme Actuary in advance of the 2019 triennial valuation will enable the Committee to identify ways to stabilise future contribution rates.”

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51758/Planning%20for%20the%202019%20Triennial%20Valuation.pdf

What are the risks?

  1. The Triannual valuation of the Pension Fund is being placed at risk due to ongoing systemic Pension data errors.
  2. The Employer may have to increase their contributions which will mean there is less money to spend on services.
  3. This could lead to some services reducing or stopping altogether.
  4. Could lead to redundancies
  5. Less money to invest and resulting in the Pension pot reducing.

There have been warnings

The Pension Regulator (TPR) has intervened twice here in Barnet

First in In 2017:

TPR issues first fine to a public service pension scheme

“The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has fined a public service pension scheme £1,000 for failing to submit basic information required by law…………

TPR issued a scheme return notice to Barnet Council on 9 July 2016, requesting the scheme return be submitted by 12 August. The return was not received and, further communications from TPR not replied to, so the matter was referred to TPR’s Determinations Panel on 24 February 2017.”

https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/en/media-hub/press-releases/tpr-issues-first-fine-to-a-public-service-pension-scheme-

Then in 2018

Barnet in TPR breach as Capita misses payments

“The failure to produce 447 statements constitutes a breach of law and a report is being prepared for the Pensions Regulator that will identify the relevant non-compliant employers,” the minutes read.”

http://www.pensions-expert.com/DB-Derisking/Barnet-in-TPR-breach-as-Capita-misses-payments?ct=true

 

Three strikes and you are out.

“5.5.1 The accuracy of the valuation relies on the accuracy of the data provided to the actuaries. Any errors in the provision of the data could have a significant impact on the required contribution rates, particularly for the smaller scheduled and admitted bodies.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51758/Planning%20for%20the%202019%20Triennial%20Valuation.pdf

Last week Barnet Council published Pension Fund Committee reports for the meeting on 26 March 2019.

The shocking news was that the critical errors had not been addressed and now the Triannual Valuation of our Pension Fund is now at risk.

In the Data Quality report it states:

“1.3 The quality of membership data is central to the valuation process. Should the quality of data not be to the standard required by Hymans Robertson then there could be delays to the valuation process. Also, inaccurate member data held could result in erroneous benefit statements being issued.

1.4 The results show a significant number of ‘critical errors’ that the administrator will be required to address before actuarial calculations can begin.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51904/Data%20Quality%20Report.pdf

What is worrying is the pattern of behaviour. The issue of data quality is not new. It was raised two years ago.

Now, on the brink of the valuation there are still a “significant number of critical errors’”

The Pension Scheme is one of the most important Terms and Conditions for Barnet Council staff yet since the outsourcing of the service it has been beset with issues.

Barnet UNISON believes that the repeated failures of the Pension Administration service which now threatens in-house services must be brought back in-house along with Payroll in order to restore confidence and assurance both for members of the scheme and employers.

Barnet Council are currently reviewing both Capita contracts.

The Pension Administration service is in Phase Four which is 18 months away.

The service can’t wait that long it needs to come back in-house now.

You mean Capita actually use SAP????

 

What is SAP?

 “An important factor is to develop mechanisms to support service areas in developing their efficiency and the corporate capacity of the council. One way that this is being done is by implementing corporate frameworks to allow better ways of working. For example, modern core systems for finance, HR and procurement and a new technology infrastructure to support all technological advances. This dovetails with service planning where the Information Systems service engages with service areas to identify opportunities for development.” (Source: Cabinet ICT Committee 14 September 2005

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/CeListDocuments.aspx?CommitteeId=0&DF=14%2f09%2f2005&MeetingId=335&Ver=2 )

Clear as mud? 

The implementation of SAP involved serious changes for hundreds of staff and included redundancies. As with many IT projects the original cost of SAP quickly escalated as local Blogger Mr Reasonable wrote “How a £2.5 million project ended up costing £21 million – Why we need to learn the lessons.”

You can read the whole sorry tale on his blog here

https://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-25-million-project-ended-up-costing.html

Incredibly, after spending so much money on SAP, the Council entered into a contract with Capita in 2013 and as a consequence Capita replaced SAP and provided Barnet Council with Integra and HR Core.

Barnet UNISON can report that very soon after the replacement systems were implemented staff started experiencing problems. Five and half years into the contract and our members are still not happy with the systems.

Imagine my reaction when I found out that Capita use SAP.

So, it was ok to remove IT systems which cost Barnet Council upwards of £21 million with what appears to be an inferior product, but Capita choose to use SAP.

How does that work?

Why are the Council not asking for SAP to be restored at no cost to the Council?

I am often heard saying “You couldn’t make this up” when talking about issues that come to our Barnet UNISON office.

This is yet another sorry tale of how adherence to the mass outsourcing easyCouncil ideology has led to bad decisions for services, staff and residents and none of those who drove these changes through are around to answer the questions.

 

No, it is not an April Fool, Capita staff are coming back in-house!

On Monday 1 April 2019 Capita staff working in Strategic Human Resources (HR) and Finance services will return back in-house.

This follows a decision made at Policy and Resources Committee 11 December 2019 to start a review of which services should be brought back in-house.

Finance and HR were identified in Phase One to return back in-house.

Below are the details of the other Phases and the service included.

  • Phase Two: Highways & regeneration
  • Phase Three: Estates, Social Care Direct, Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Strategic planning, Procurement, Insight, Cemetery and Crematorium, Revenues and benefits
  • Phase Four: Customer services, Information Services (IT), Planning (development management and enforcement), Regulatory services, Transactional HR services (including Payroll and Pensions Administration), Any other remaining services.

You can read more details of reasons for the Capita Review by clicking on link below.  https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s50134/Review%20of%20Capita%20Contracts.pdf

Barnet UNISON has demanded that all of the above services are brought back in-house citing Southampton, Blackburn and Darwen, Sheffield and Birmingham Councils who in 2018 all made decisions to bring back services from Capita.

 

Barnet House: East of Borough Hub?

 

Barnet UNISON wrote to the Council last year asking if there was a possibility that part of Barnet House could be an East of Borough Hub for staff and residents.

We set out details in our post below. http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2018/11/02/barnet-house-hub-proposal-barnet-unison/

Our proposal was not accepted.

However on reading the responses to Mr Reasonable questions at Financial Performance and Contracts Committee, Monday 11th March, 2019 7.00 pm

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51645/FPC%20-%20Public%20Questions%20and%20Comments%20-%2011%20March%202019.pdf )

Barnet UNISON believes that the proposal could have some legs and here is why.

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“After June 2020 where will the family services be located in the East of the Borough and what reassurances can you give that funding for a permanent East Hub will be allocated?”

Council response:

“The provisional plan is for a Family Friendly Hub to be created in the East Barnet Library, once the partnership library moves to the New Barnet Leisure Centre in the Summer. The allocation of funding and confirmation that East Barnet Library is a viable solution is subject to a successful capital bid and supporting business case, which is currently being developed.”

Mr Reasonable aka John Dix asks the following question:

“Given that last week I was told that an exit from the Barnet House lease had not yet been agreed, why wasn’t this identified as a risk in the report at section 1.16.7 and what is the scale of the financial risk – i.e. how many months will we have to keep paying rent for Barnet House once it has been vacate?”

Council response:

“The business case for the move to Colindale assumes that LBB will continue to pay for the Barnet House lease all the way through until the end of that lease in 2032. This is because there are no breaks in the lease so surrendering the agreement is subject to negotiations with the landlord, which are by no means guaranteed to be successful. Nevertheless, reducing running costs and / or sub-letting the building is expected to result in significant savings.”

Barnet UNISON response:

In light of the recent news the Council has budgeted to continue to pay the lease (£750k a year) until 2032 which we estimate is around £9.750,000, Barnet UNISON has written to the Chief Executive to ask if the Council will consider leasing part of Barnet House for an East of Borough Hub.

Watch this space.

 

Bring back Pension Service in-house from Capita

Dear Councillors

Please find enclosed latest Barnet UNISON Briefing on the Pension Administration service.

The in-house service was taken over by Capita in September 2013 and in 2014 all the staff were sacked as the service was sent to the Capita Pension offices in Darlington.

This services has been subject to ongoing concerns since 2014. The service has been reported to the Pensions Regulator twice.

My observations are that in spite of action lists being agreed the service has not even reached the levels before the outsourcing and more worryingly the reports at the recent Local Pension Board meeting reveal that it is now impacting on Pension 2019 triennial valuation:

“The results show a significant number of ‘critical errors’ that the administrators, Capita, will be required to address before actuarial calculations can begin.”

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=753&MId=9712

The Pension Service is something that our members strongly support. The performance issues since Capita have taken over are causing great anxiety and anger from workforce.

This is why on behalf of all of our members I am asking that the Pension Administration Service is fast-tracked in terms of the current review of the Capita contracts. This is a failing service that desperately needs to be brought back in-house.

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary.

Barnet UNISON

0208 359 2088

www.barnetunison.me.uk

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Barnet Council: Bring Apthorp Lodge back in-house now!

Barnet UNISON is shocked and saddened by the CQC report which details poor staffing levels resulting in poor staff morale and unsafe working practices at Apthorp Lodge. We have already recommenced asking for Apthorp Lodge to be brought back under direct Barnet Council management. We believe this is the safest way forward for all residents and would be of immense benefit to the staff. Care workers do not go to work wanting to do a bad job. They deserve to know that they are working for an employer which manages them well and fairly and which enables them to be the best they can be.

The CQC report is critical of the actions of staff but highlights how poor the staffing ratios are, how little training has been given and how necessary information for staff to carry out their role is either not present or is inadequate. It also highlights positive interactions observed with staff. It is particularly critical of the leadership of Apthorp Lodge although it acknowledges the current manager had only been in place a few weeks before the inspection took place.

https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/new_reports/INS2-4699435949.pdf

“The ‘effective’ audit identified gaps in care plans and a need for greater personalisation. However, the actions required did not have a timescale for completion and had not been delegated to a named member of staff. The actions had not been completed effectively by the time of our inspection in December 2018 despite some of them being recorded as requiring “immediate” action.”

“While people’s routines were described, their preferences were not consistently recorded.”

“The impact of the staffing levels described in the safe domain had a significant impact on people’s dignity. For example, we observed two people, on separate occasions, had soiled themselves and were walking through communal areas of the flats.”

“Three different staff members spoke to them briefly asking them to eat as they passed through the lounge but none of them sat with the person. The person’s meal was removed without them eating a bite.”

“Staff described how they supported the person when distressed, but there was no written guidance which mean new staff, or staff who knew the person less well did not have information about the impact of their health condition on their care needs.”

“Staff had not received the training they needed to perform their roles.”

“We reviewed the rotas for the service and these showed there were not always enough staff deployed to meet people’s needs”

“we saw a care worker gave one person a tablet then walked away before checking the person had actually swallowed their medicine. There was no information to inform this care worker about how to support this person to take their medicines properly.”

“The flooring in some bathrooms was damaged meaning that they could not be effectively cleaned and posed an infection control risk. Where they were not damaged the floors were dirty and water stained.”

The effect on the residents is extremely damaging. Yet if Apthorp Lodge is closed and the residents have to move to another placement, this will prove fatal for many residents as studies show 37% of residents forced to move die within 1 year of that move. Furthermore the distress caused by the move means that their last months and weeks are deeply traumatic.

We believe this is unnecessary and Barnet Council should act to take back control of Apthorp Lodge in order to safeguard the residents there and provide good support and leadership to the staff so that they can do the job to the best of their ability.

Notes to Editors:  

Barnet UNISON submits London Living Wage proposal to Fremantle Trust

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/barnet-unison-submits-london-living-wage-proposal-to-fremantle-trust/

“Is ‘Low pay, poor terms & conditions’ good for social care services in Barnet?”

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/%E2%80%9Cis-%E2%80%98low-pay-poor-terms-conditions%E2%80%99-good-for-social-care-services-in-barnet%E2%80%9D/

Fremantle Trust propose big cuts to pay for care workers

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2014/01/27/fremantle-trust-propose-big-cuts-to-pay-for-care-workers/

Fremantle care workers campaign – relaunch 7 August 2008

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/2008/08/04/fremantle-care-workers-campaign-relaunch-7-august-2008/

 

 

 

 

Update on Community Safety Team restructure

In three days another austerity driven Barnet Council restructure will end with the possibility of another redundancy.

Barnet UNISON had noticed a few discrepancies in the data accompanying the report namely the staffing numbers and the lack of any idea as to what savings were required from this proposal.

This is odd because all the savings are detailed in the latest Medium Terms Financial Strategy report which was recently agreed at the last Policy and Resources Committee on 20 February 2019.

You can view the report here https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s51255/Appendix%20Q%20Summary%20of%20savings%20proposals.pdf

As you can see when reading the above report there is no identified saving for the Community Safety Team.

Barnet UNISON wrote to Executive Director of Environment and asked the following:

“In paragraph 2.9 it states:

“The proposal decreases the core funded council posts from 9 FTE posts to 7 FTE posts. Whist doing this it also brings the current staff costs in line with the staffing budget and increases the capacity on the front line where there is the most demand.”

As you know there is a potential redundancy with this proposal. In which case it is important to understand what saving is required for this restructure as there isn’t a saving figure provided in this document.

      • What is the saving required for this restructure?

This leads to next question.

I’ve looked at the Savings proposals (attached) going to Policy and Resources Committee on 20 February 2019 and I am unable to find under environment and reference to a saving for Community Safety.

      • Is this proposal linked to the MTFS Budget savings
      • Please can you forward the Equalities Impact assessment?

I’d like to add that Barnet UNISON would support any proposal that ensures the Barnet Community Safety Team has the capacity and structure to deliver on the commissioning, enforcement, strategic, policy and operational statutory community safety functions of the team.

At this stage our view is that the proposed reduction of Community Safety Managers would put this at risk.

Lastly, please confirm that the consultation does conclude on 28 February 2019.”

Last week we received the following response:

“Please note the answers to your email below:

Community Safety would be contributing approximately up to £68,000 to Environment savings.

The proposal is contributing to overall Environment savings.

As there are fewer than 10 staff working in Community Safety it is not appropriate to compare their equality data against the corporate data, both in terms of the limited metrics and from the perspective of inappropriately disclosing information of a sensitive personal nature which would enable the identification of the individuals concerned.

The report will therefore focus upon more general approaches to equalities and fair and equal treatment of staff in the workforce based on protected characteristics. You can expect this before the end of consultation.

I can confirm that consultation concludes 28 February 2019.”

Barnet UNISON responded immediately:

“Thanks for this information.

As there is a risk of redundancy and as a result the level of support for staff may be impacted by the redundancy I am think it important the Council communicates the information provided below.

For consultation to meaningful its important all of the key information is made available to the staff team.

In terms of the equalities impact information. I note that risk number ST027 in the Corporate Risk register quite rightly identifies the risk of not having a dedicated Equalities Officer in place. As you know the post holder has left and the Council has chosen not to replace this post. In which case I do think it important that with the consultation period due to end in just 7 days your report which you state will “focus upon more general approaches to equalities and fair and equal treatment of staff in the workforce based on protected characteristics” will be shared with all staff as a matter of urgency unless of course the Council decides to extend the consultation date.”

Barnet UNISON is unaware if the above responses have been shared with staff. If not it would be a concern as consultation must provide open and transparent information for the workforce in order they may be able to consider any alternatives to redundancy.

Watch this space…….

 

Austerity is brutalising the workplace.

This is a short video written and produced by Barnet UNISON to expose the impact of bullying in the workplace.

Our experiences of representation in the workplace are clear. Bullying is rife. Its everywhere and the hand of Austerity is there for all to see. Year on year of cuts to staff has created a work place which is impossible to deliver. Something has to give, sadly it is often our members health and wellbeing.

We made this video for our members with the final message to contact us.

Feel free to share

 

 

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