Catching up with UNISON reps

It is always good to listen & learn from other UNISON reps. I always come away from Conference having learnt something. It was good to meet up with UNISON NEC rep John McDermott from Leeds. I first met John at Conference several years ago. John is a fantastic, hard working committed rep, someone I would be proud to work with and someone any UNISON member would want fighting in their corner. John was always supportive to the Fremantle Care Workers Campaign; John recently got the most votes in the for the male seat NEC elections in his region.

Keep up the good work John.

Council meetings this week and next

Ad Hoc & Scrutiny – Icelandic Banks investigation -Monday 22 June 2009

The committee are to receive an interim update on the investigation. In the backdrop of the latest farce with MP expenses being blacked out lets hope promises of transparency and openness are continued here in Barnet.

Audit Committee – Monday 29 June

One for the anoraks……I think we need to pay closer attention to these reports…I am very interested in the Meals at Home Audit. This service was privatised over a year ago and has not been performing well. Unfortunately the Trade Unions were not consulted until it was too late. When we found out we tried to convince the Council to look again. We were concerned that the business case had not been robust & contract monitoring not in place.




14 days to go – Witness your future!

Less than 14 days before we read the Future Shape Cabinet report!  

Everyone keeps asking me if I know what is going to be in the report.

“I don’t know, as I have reported before, I don’t know what is in store for Public Services in Barnet.”

It won’t be long before the report will be on the Councils internet, hopefully the week commencing 29 June.


“Are you going to vote for cuts/redundancies/dismantling of your Pension Scheme?”

It was a busy week at both Local Government and National Delegate Conference. It is always good to see how other UNISON branches are coping with the challenges facing public services.  

Barnet is still one of a few Councils looking at something as big as Future Shape. But the clear message from branches and national UNISON officers was that we are entering into unchartered waters. Future budget forecasts for ALL Public Services are not looking good.

Whilst it is good the Council needs to demonstrate to our residents that they are getting value for money. I don’t think it acceptable we just shake our heads an accept it. Politicians from all parties have to re-think what they are going to offer us the electorate next May.

“Why would we vote for redundancy and the dismantling of our Pensions?”  

That is all they are offering at the moment.

I think sometime in the next 11 months we are going to be asked a question. I hope we all agree that cuts/redundancies/Pensions Scheme dismantled is not what UNISON members would vote for.

Make sure you make plans to spend a few hours on Monday 6 July to attend the lobby of the Future Shape Cabinet Committee.

Future Shape – Message to all staff

On Monday 6 July Barnet Council Cabinet Committee will consider a report on the Future Shape of Barnet Council.


At the time of producing this flyer the Trade Unions have no idea what sort of recommendations will be in the report.

Our new Chief Executive has been providing staff with regular updates on Future Shape, recently he wrote:  

there is an emerging theme that all providers in the borough need to be working as ‘one public service’ so that we can better serve our residents.  Thinking through what this means and how we might achieve it seems to me to be crucial to not just the Future Shape Project but actually how the council will operate in the future.”

Whilst no one can predict what Council services will look like it is clear that services will not stay the same. In some cases staff may find themselves working for another organisation. For others it may be working more closely with other public services in Barnet e.g. Primary Care Trust, Barnet College This is why we need you to be discussing this in your team meetings and asking questions about what it could mean.


Economic Recession

Future Shape cannot be separated from the Government’s response to the global collapse of the financial sector. It is already  well documented that Public Services are facing £ Billions in cuts over the next five years. It is a concern for all of us as to what this will mean for services and jobs in Barnet.


Staff feedback

It is clear from members attending our Trade Union surgeries that staff are sceptical about Future Shape, viewing it as just another ‘privatisation model’. The Trade Unions understand these concerns and have repeatedly expressed them both to the Leader, Chief Executive and Councillors. The exclusion of the Trade Unions from the Seven Future Shape groups was a mistake. If major change is coming, it is vital that we are directly involved from the beginning of the process and throughout and not just at the end.  


Locally we have many examples of ill-thought out proposals resulting in staff being privatised only for the service to fail in quality & savings. The Trade Unions are keen that mistakes of the past are not just acknowledged but inform our future relations through Commissioning/Procurement and Contract monitoring.


After 6th July Future Shape Cabinet Committee

We are looking to see greater collaboration with our Employer after Future Shape Cabinet Committee. The Trade Unions need to be included in the detailed work on the Future for Services and that includes YOU the staff across all levels of the services.

On Monday 6 July it is important you are there in person with your work colleagues to witness your future both as a member of staff and the services you provide.


We are organising a Mass lobby of the

Future Shape Cabinet Committee Monday 6 July 6 pm

outside Barnet House,


North Finchley

Sheltered Housing – the end of an era?

Reading the report going to Cabinet Committee

I was struck by the numbers of responses. Clearly this issue has been taken up by residents, relatives, providers and the community. The question of whether services are being targeted to those in need was lost when the proposal was presented as a budget cut.

What we can see in the report is the strength of feeling about the proposal. I have copied a section near the end of the Council report which details the concerns. Reading them it is hard to see how they could be disregarded. Residents are afraid and it is not clear from the report how this fear is going to be addressed.

The Main Issues and Concerns Raised 

Loss of Scheme Manager Service

  • Security
  • Safety
  • Having to rely on alarm service
  • Community and social life
  • Individual emotional support and pastoral care
  • Loss of Scheme Managers knowledge of residents and their situations
  • Support planning
  • Health emergencies
  • Disabled, older or frail residents need consistent support by someone they know and trust
  • No monitoring or preventative work carried out
  • Maintenance and repairs – support in reporting/chasing up/allowing access
  • Practical problems – lost keys, residents stuck in lifts etc
  • Health and safety issues
  • Liaising with and monitoring other services
  • Will lead to strain on residents if younger/fitter have to help others, inappropriate as not trained 

Floating Support

  • Lack of operational detail, unconvinced it will work
  • Inappropriate – adds to security concerns
  • No social or community aspect – isolation will increase
  • Difficulty accessing by phone
  • Cannot cope with high levels of need/chronic conditions/dementia
  • Is the funding enough to cover all needs?

Alarm Service  

  • What will happen about communal areas if assessed individually?
  • Cannot respond as promptly as on site staff
  • Slow response

No longer Sheltered Housing

  • Younger people moving in
  • Potential for ASB and other crime – less secure and easily identified as scheme housing some vulnerable older people

Effect on Other Services

  • Increased demand so longer waiting times and higher costs
  • More bed blocking and demand for residential and nursing homes

Longer Term

  • Planned move into sheltered as long term solution, needs will not be met
  • Older people in community will have no incentive to give up larger properties
  • Funding for Floating support being cut

Reasons for and Context of Residents Views
Many of the reasons for and justifications of residents’ views are reflected elsewhere in the report but can be summarised as follows.

  • Sheltered housing currently provides a cost effective service that is highly valued, the proposals would effectively end that.
  • The security and safety of a vulnerable group will be compromised.
  • The assessment process meant the vast majority of residents had identified support needs when they entered sheltered housing, these have not reduced but rather have grown so sheltered housing is sustaining the oldest and frailest people partly as a result of this, there is no evidence the support is not wanted or needed.
  • Sheltered housing meets both general and specific needs e.g. language, cultural and religious, disability and ill health.
  • Staff have invaluable knowledge of residents and are trusted by them, cannot be replicated by Floating Support.
  • Many examples of a responsive on site service assisting promptly with illness, falls and other emergencies whereas delays were anticipated re alarm service response.
  • The preventative role will be lost, the social and community life will suffer and this is often important in maintaining health and well being. Daily checks help pick up signs of ill health or deterioration that residents themselves may not be aware of.
  • Services can be delivered/monitored effectively as there is a concentration of older people
  • Lack of evidence that Floating Support works, those whose needs are too great currently referred by Floating Support to sheltered housing
  • Independence can be maintained with low level but consistent support and prevents the use of more expensive residential care
  • Reasonable expectations and contractual obligations to continue the service will be broken. This point was emphasised by residents who had freed up large accommodation to move into sheltered accommodation for support.

Despite the attempts of the report to try to address some of the concerns rasied in the consultation it is clear from above that residents/relatives don’t believe it will deliver.

When a report has been published it usually means the decision has been made and it is a rubber stamp exercise.


Residents/relatives will be attending the Cabinet Committee, maybe …just maybe members of Cabinet may reconsider. It would be a revelation…….never happened before…… but when politicians ask the community for their view …sometimes…they hold up their hands and recognise they got it wrong……..could this happen on Monday night?

Will Barnet be the first?

The Right Honourable…?

Just some of the claims

£4.47 for dog food, £115 for 25 light bulbs, £305.50 to “cure noise problems”, with her boiler, £312 for the fitting of mock Tudor beams, £600 for hanging baskets and pot plants, £765 claim from Ikea, £768 from Marks and Spencers for a bed, £1,350 in house repairs, £1,500 gardening bill, £2,000 to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court, £2,074 for furniture and £2,339 for carpets, £3,194 bill for gardening, £9,000 a year for gardening, £13,000 in moving costs, £14,553 solicitors fees and stamp duty, £30,000 for doing up his £120,000 constituency, £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster £35,000 in mortgage interest payments,

The former Prime Minister used his parliamentary expenses to remortgage his constituency home for £296,000 – nearly 10 times what he paid for it – just months before buying a west London house for £3.65m.

The prime minister paid his brother, Andrew, £6,577 for arranging cleaning services for his Westminster flat for 26 months

You can view it all online BBC website here.

Rank hypocrisy… politicians want to take your pension and hand you over to the private sector in order to bail out the inefficiency and gross negligence of the financial sector

I recognise not everyone is a Local Government Anorak. The day before the Budget the Treasury Department released a report ‘Operation Efficiency Programme – Final Report’ view it here.

It is clear whoever wins the General Election next year, the Government will get in!

Local Government is set to face hardship it has probably not had to face in over a generation. I know Council workers will ask what they have done to deserve this doomsday scenario of council services. The answer is nothing. In Barnet Council staff have delivered almost £60 million in savings and delivered a Four Star service.

What can’t happen is that Council Services across the UK are decimated in a crude attempt to offset £billions of debt bailing out the financial sector.

The role of the trade unions, staff and residents will be key to how council/public services are delivered in Barnet.

Make sure you make time to attend the rally at the Future Shape Cabinet Meeting on Monday 6 July 2009

Future Shape – Newcastle Story…

Members will have heard about the Newcastle story. It is a real life story of staff, managers, elected members and residents coming together to design & deliver first class services and deliver efficiencies.  

Here are two links to national papers out today

Read in Guardian Today

Read in the Independent

Whilst what is done in one council can never be easily transplanted to another Council, there is still a lot that we can take from Newcastle to help address the financial challenges facing public services in Barnet. What I found key was unlocking the potential of the staff  to help design services for the future. All too often public services will call on the services of the big consultancy companies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloittes etc  at a considerable cost.

Tonight I will be going to:

Public Service Reform…but not as we know it!

Debate alternatives to privatisation
18:00 to 19:30, 05 May 2009, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Speakers: Hilary Wainwright (author); Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Communities and Local Government Secretary; Jon Cruddas MP; Heather Wakefield of UNISON and Kenny Bell, UNISON

UNISON loses a great branch secretary

“An empty seat at UNISON Conference, Stamford Bridge, Tolpuddle”

On Monday 27 April I took a call from Jon Rogers to say that Malcolm Campbell had died. I don’t have the sufficient literacy skills to articulate how I feel and describe how special Malcolm was. My heart goes out to his partner, family and friends because there is going to be a big hole in everyone’s lives now he has gone. Malcolm was a mentor as well as a friend to me. Being a branch secretary is not an easy role to take on, but Malcolm seemed to be able to maintain a calm, which sometimes I find difficult. He was good to sound ideas off and you always knew he would give his honest opinion. He was staunch, a real trade unionist. I feel angry at his loss. There are not enough Malcolm Campbells in UNISON.

I am also sad that he did not get elected as Regional Convenor. He would have made a bloody brilliant convenor. He would have done the work, he was member led he wanted to see things done.

I could see the social worker in his approach to issues. He would always look to see what could be done rather than look at how or why things couldn’t be done. He demonstrated an empathy towards others that was natural not trained. Malcolm was able to fit in so much into his life, when he wasn’t busy in his UNISON role he was active in his Trade Council, or off to follow Chelsea, drinking awful real ale! I know he would have been so happy at the result last night. In fact when I was with him last Friday he was considering putting a bet on Chelsea to do the treble, FA Cup, League and the Champions League! 

But he was also mad about live music, I remember talking to him about the Ting Tings……a couple years ago, I had never heard of them, but that was Malcolm he just liked music. The Festival season is about to start and I know there will be a lot of sad people who would have been going to festivals with him this year. 

Croydon and Barnet are as far apart as you can get. I used to joke with him that I would like to work in Croydon because he seemed to be so organised. You just felt if Malcolm was representing you, you were not alone, you were safe. 

Well Malcolm, I said that you were leaving a big hole, but just from speaking to so many of your friends, I think there will be more than enough stories regaled about you to help go towards filling our loss.

Malcolm was a big supporter of our Fremantle Care Worker Campaign , I have put together a short tribute to him and you can hear and see him speaking about Fremantle here

UNISON colleagues have set up a BLOG

John Burgess  Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON & Friend

Council Cabinet Committee – Local Health Services

I would like to refer our members living in Barnet to item

7. Healthcare for London consultation on Stroke and Major Trauma Services

This all comes on top of the recent announcement that a judge has overturned the previous decision to allow a Judicial Review into the closure of 24 hour A&E and maternity services at Chase Farm Hospital. See press release here

It is well documented that we have a growing & ageing population; which makes it all the more important that we have the necessary infrastructure in place and the best place is local. In relation to Strokes everyone knows that positive outcomes are determined by how quick you receive treatment, any delays are just not acceptable. I would suggest any Barnet residents reading the article take the matter up with the local MP immediately.

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