Future Shape – Hot off the Press!

Last night the Trade Unions had their first opportunity to discuss the Future Shape with our Employers (councillors) at the Corporate Joint Negotiation and Consultative Committee (CJNCC).

The meeting did not start well as the Employers initially objected to Dexter Whitfield providing the Committee with a brief commentary on the six briefing papers. Their objection was that we were talking about something which ‘may or may not happen in the future.’ The Employers view was that that until something is produced any discussion would be premature.

The Trade Unions asked for an adjournment to consider this objection.

On our return the Employers made another proposal which allowed debate on the process of Future Shape. Dexter gave a short presentation on the rationale behind the six briefings and reinforced our view that our briefings are about process. We had a positive exchange with councillors on the process and our specific concerns in particular staff and Trade Union fears about this being a privatisation exercise. 

In terms of answers to our Briefings and in particular TUPE PLUS we established at the meeting last night that these will be answered once a model of service delivery is established.

Clearly the Trade Unions felt it would have been better if a commitment to TUPE PLUS could have been made at the start of the process, if only to reassure members that if they do transfer out of the council they will have much better protection of their terms and conditions (t&c’s).  

As a direct result of Trade Unions concerns about process the Leader offered to set up a group to look at the Future Shape process. The group will be composed of elected members from all political parties and Trade Union representation. The Trade Unions supported this proposal and today have requested for this to be actioned as a matter of urgency.

Furthermore, the Chair of the Committee agreed to hold a Special CJNCC before the council cabinet committee on 3 December. The Trade Unions have requested this meeting should take place week commencing 24 November 2008.

Future Shape – TUPE PLUS


Please take the time to read this letter. It deals with employment issues such as TUPE and the impact on your terms and conditions including your pension. It is clear that if the Council genuinely want to make sure none of these private don’t attack your terms and conditions they need to sign up to TUPE PLUS

To read the full document click here 

Future Shape – Service delivery options explained

Beware, you will hear some say the Trade Unions are alarmist, scaremongering. Some will say staff have nothing to fear with privatisation.

Ask what evidence they have for that statement…

If the Council endorse the joint Trade Union Briefings on workforce issues, staff will have greater protection if they were transferred out of the Council.

However, three weeks on and they still have not responded. What are their reasons for the delay?

We have provided a Briefing paper 6 which looks to explain the types of service delivery models Price Waterhouse Cooper will be submitting to the Council for consideration.

Briefing 6 headlines:


1. The Council should make a commitment to ensure that in-house improvement and innovation, with staff and user involvement, is an option for all services and fully assessed alongside other delivery options.

2. The procurement process should not be commenced until a rigorous options appraisal process has been completed, a comprehensive business case prepared and staff and trade unions have been fully consulted.

To read the full Briefing click here





In house transformation Briefing 5

Key Briefing on In House transformation


The Council should ensure that the Future Shape of the Council programme adopts the key components of this initial transformation strategy:

1.      Innovation and new ways of working: using joint Council/trade union workshops to explore the scope for service innovation and integration, shared services and public-public partnerships and staff and user involvement and empowerment.

2.      Performance comparisons and benchmarking should compare like with like using verifiable and audited performance information.

3.      Development of options must be based on improved and innovative in-house provision reflecting the full potential of the service, not on the current service.

4.      Options appraisal criteria should be amended and based on twelve criteria described below.

5.      In-house bids should be submitted if procurement selected.

6.      An accessible evidence base is prepared to support the development and appraisal of options.

To read the Full Briefing click here

What has UNISON been saying in the consultation meetings?

“What has been going on in the consultation meetings?”

 Since the Cabinet report we have had very little to look at. However we have been using the time to try to research what is happening in other Councils across the UK

“Isn’t this just a smoke screen for getting rid of staff.”

I don’t know. From the start I was justifiably cynical that the Future had already been ‘shaped , the only outstanding issue…which services will be the first to move out of Council control?

In the meetings I have been consistently raising the need for in house services to have a level playing field with other service delivery options. The Project Director and members of the team have consistently reiterated that there is no set agenda and the outcome is not set. This has been reported in answer to questions to staff on the Councils intranet.

“If we provide a good service and have an in house transformation plan will we be safe from privatisation?”

No, in recent weeks the dominant theme that is emerging from our discussions is the following paragraph from the 6 May 2008 Cabinet report

“1. Developing capacity, shrinking organisational scale

The authority will look to scale down to a size which would mean it delivering only what the local authority must deliver in order to achieve efficiencies and improved services for residents (which might mean them being delivered by another organisation), what implications would that have for the council. This work stream will seek to address this.”

The Joint Trade Unions have been looking to establish a level playing field for in house services. Our Briefings have been looking to establish clear parameters by which in house services will be compared to other delivery options. However it seems the ‘shrinking’ element appears to be the key driver to Future Shape.

As we draw closer to 3 December Cabinet Committee’s decision on the Future for Barnet staff,  the Trade Unions and Council staff need to know:

1. What do the Council mean by developing capacity?

2. What do the Council mean by Shrinking organisational scale? (In Plain English this surely means getting rid of staff. The question is which staff and how many?)

3. What does Delivering only what the local authority must deliver’ mean?

4. Which services would they want to stop delivering?

Be prepared

In the past when the Council has carried out consultation on privatisation, the Trade Unions have been accused of scaremongering and misrepresenting the process. This was a familiar tactic to undermine the attempts of the Trade Unions to try and ensure elected members are fully appraised of the options. We do still live in a democracy and we are fully entitled to lobby councillors.

What is different this time?

In this consultation the Council has made a serious commitment by providing significant resources; they agreed funding for The European Services Strategy Unit to provide research and critical analysis for the Joint Trade unions in the consultation process and extra resources for both Trade Unions.

The Joint Trade Unions have made it clear to the Project team that they need to respond to the recommendations published in our five Briefings to date. In light of the real risk that some services may face privatisation, the Council must respond urgently.

Briefing 4 – Barnet to review their staffing contracts

The Future Shape of the Council programme is reviewing outsourced services. The trade unions welcome these reviews and want to ensure they are comprehensive and rigorous so that lessons can be learnt.


1.      The Future Shape of the Council programme should adopt a more comprehensive contract review process based on five criteria – Performance; Impact on the council, service users and staff; Service integration; Contract management and monitoring; and Employment issues.

2.      Each review report should be available to the relevant Committee, managers and trade unions.

An overview report should be prepared drawing together all the lessons learnt together with recommendations.

To view full Briefing click here

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