“Are the workers revolting?”

“Are the workers revolting?”

The latest occupation of the Danish owned Vestas factory in the Isle of Wight is but one of many examples of workers taking direct action to defend their livelihoods. At one stage it looked like the workers were being starved out of their occupation, but families & supporters have been trying to ensure food supplies are getting through.

 Even the Whiskey workers are revolting! 

Who pays for the financial collapse?

The answer it seems is Public Sector workers. It is hard to explain to members why they must pay after witnessed bankers being bailed out with OUR money. Because of their actions the public are being ‘groomed’ to accept their fate; unemployment, redundancies, rationing……rationing? Yes rationing, the Doomsday lobbyists are predicting a financial meltdown of epic proportions, worse than the Great Depression, worst in economic history ever??  

Perhaps not, ever wondered what happened to the great civilisations Egyptians, Aztecs, Inca’s? Could it be their economies got caught in some dodgy toxic debts? 

British spirit…..we’ll cope?

Mustn’t grumble…could be worse…….sounds like the start of a song 

Maybe it is the legacy of the Druids….in times of strife we need sacrificial lambs to help us in our time of need.  

Who shall we sacrifice? Why not Public Services? Government are not content with year on year efficiencies which has seen jobs cut, services cut, privatisation & terms & conditions eroded they want more and it is public sector workers & their families who must pay.  

So back to my original point, “are the workers revolting?”

There are approximately 6 million workers working in public services all going to have a vote next year and whoever gets in has got their services, jobs in their sights……. 

The message from politicians is that the best way out of this mess is to cut, cut, cut and cut again…haven’t we been here before? 

So we cut services, we cut jobs, but how does that help public services?

Public Sector workers are not known for taking direct action …but then again neither were those workers who have been taking direct action in the last 9 months. It would be a foolish politician that ignored the signs that the public are revolting and will continue to do so if they are given no hope and no alternative.

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

“It ain’t nothing to do with me!”

Wrong answer.

The Future Shape Cabinet committee meet on 26 October will sign off the final piece of the future shape timetable. It is important that staff understand what it will mean to the way they will be working in the future.  

Important message: social services

social workers in adults & children services this is going to affect you just as much as those staff working in services identified as bundles or stand alone services. The access & assessment group are due to report in October and it is clear their recommendations are going to impact on the way you work.

“One public sector approach”

The ‘one Barnet public sector’ has many advantages if it includes:

  • Improves democratic accountability, participation and transparency of all the public bodies providing services in Barnet.
  • Increases citizen involvement in designing services and actively participating in governance.
  • Provides more integrated services, particularly improving access and assessment.
  • Makes better use of public assets and encourages multi-use of sites and facilities.
  • Examines the scope for shared or joint public-public services.
  • Reduces the number of quangos and companies/trusts.


The July 2009 trade union report to Cabinet recommended that an effective consolidation process should consist of:

  • Staff and trade union participation in the consolidation process with a jointly agreed corporate protocol setting out good practice procedures and reporting mechanisms.
  • A commitment to continuing in-house provision of services on value for money and public interest terms.
  • A commitment to transparency and disclosure so that staff and trade unions have confidence that the consolidation process is genuine.
  • Jointly agreed corporate best practice templates to ensure improvement strategies are fully addressed, options appraisal and business cases
  • A commitment to TUPE Plus and secondment employment options and no compulsory redundancies.

The trade unions want to be engaged in a consolidation process which:

  • Examines new ways in which services can be delivered.
  • Assesses the effectiveness of current service improvement plans and how they may be improved.
  • Draws up plans and proposals for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of council services.
  • Explores the boundaries and responsibilities between the Council and other public agencies in Barnet and how these might or should change.
  • Develops a better understanding of the nature and level of needs and demands for services in Barnet and the strategic functions carried out by the Council.
  • Adopts a user-centred approach to service delivery and performance criteria.

Newcastle – Why we recommend a visit

Newcastle story is told in the book ‘Public Service Reform…..but not as you know it’ by Hilary Wainwright & Matthew Little.  The reason the Trade Unions have raised Newcastle with our Employer and staff is to look at how they approached engagement with

  • Residents
  • Staff
  • Trade Unions

Here are a few quotes from the book.

We put in unprecedented hours – 80 hours a week – and I remember sitting propped up in bed at midnight proof reading. When the document came together, it showed that if it could be made to work the council would be achieving far greater levels of savings than with BT – more than double in fact.”

Deputy Director of IT

 “My core belief – is that the public sector can be as good as – and in some ways better than – the private sector [in the management of public services] because of its social values.”

Development and Transformation team manager

The private sector has a very simple bottom line……If it doesn’t add value for shareholders, don’t do it. But there is no reason why this sense of focus can ‘t be applied to an organisation that has the complexity of local government, and where the bottom line is quality of service.”

Manager for Exchequer Services

In setting up City Service, we ensured that local people weren’t just consulted but were kept involved throughout the process to monitor the development of the design and the workings of each customer service centre”

Senior Officer Leading council’s community engagement strategy

It’s people’s capability and commitment that needs to be released. These are assets not costs…Managing people is a matter of….true strategic importance. It’s too important to be left solely to OD (organisation development)

Head of City Service 

A lot of the blocks to change that we identified at those workshops were about management culture and the way managers were used to manage. The idea of culture change and transforming the way the services were organised became a key part of the in-house bid.”

Newcastle Branch Secretary

In Newcastle they were just dealing with Back Office services putting together an in house bid against BT.  Future Shape is a far bigger challenge and it involves working with our public Sector partners and improving our ability to get better value from our private sector partners.

If consolidation is to yield positive results we need to ensure we ‘unlock the skills, expertise and experiences of our staff’.

Breaking news!

I have been invited to visit Newcastle 21 September to meet the Chief Executve and senior officers to listen to what they did and see what lessons we could learn.

‘A relentless drive for efficiency’

Third aim outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report (July 2009).

It is public money, so we must be transparent and accountable for every penny spent on public services. The impact of the global recession has already had a significant impact on Future Shape. The previous sentence reflects the vulnerability and complexity of decision making with regards to planning public services in the Future.



The mainstream political parties are having a ‘bun fight’ at the moment on the true financial realities of public services. No doubt their message for public sector workers, will be we must accept the pain.


I am reminded of something a wise trade union colleague said at our lobby of Barnet Council Cabinet (6 July 2009) when he said this of politicians…… 

“Get real they will say,……we live in difficult times. You must feel the pain. I always find it strange that the people who tell us to feel the pain never have to feel it themselves!”

How true. I hope members remember this come election time!

As for staff in these extraordinary times it is even more apparent that we all recognise this and understand that in house services need to be high quality and value for money. We are already seeing a growing attack from the media, our pensions our pay. Incredible, public sector pay awards have consistently fallen behind inflation, yet the way our pay is discussed, you would think public sector workers were turning up to work in Ferrari’s, supping champagne.


So it is understandable public sector workers are not popular, with 4 out of 10 adults having lost their jobs, unemployment figures continue to rise, it is understandable that public sector workers are going attract negative attention.


There are still opportunities for savings in the public sector, but it does not have to be staffing that feels the pain first. Across public services & central government, there has got to be much more ‘commercially savvy’ procurement practice. It is worrying to hear how much public money is wasted by poor procurement practice, inadequate contract monitoring.


When we go into partnership with the private sector we need to make sure we understand the rules, because they do!


For those trying to understand what Barnet Council is trying to do you need look no further than to look at what has happened to Social Care provision in the UK.

Social Care in the UK

Over the past 20 years we have seen public services go out and come back , but one service that hasn’t returned is Social Care. The NHS & Community Care ACT 1990 marked the beginning of the end for in house Social Care services. The driving force of change was to turn NHS & Councils from providers to commissioners of services. Nationally, the majority of home care services are provided by the private sector, very few councils still provide residential or day care services. In Barnet we have outsourced, residential & day care for older people, sheltered housing, home care, meals at home


Some of you may have seen the Panorama documentary on Home Care services which documented a horrendous story of abuse of services users. In light of the fact that these services are no longer provided in house we need to have much more robust monitoring. If councillors believe it is better to privatise these services rather than direct provision then we need to scrutinise the delivery.


Social care provision must be regulated & monitored for service quality and value for money and the processes to ensure this is done be transparent. If you or a relative are receiving services then why not check it out with you Council, I know I would if a relative of mine had to receive social care services.


Here are the questions I would be asking.


Magnificent Seven Questions

  1. Does the Council/NHS Trusts regularly monitor home care & residential providers?
  2. Do you check the staff lists working on your contracts & ensure staff are CRB checked?
  3. Do you check staff turnover?
  4. Do you check what training staff are receiving?
  5. Do you visit the work place to check their records are up to date?
  6. Do you check on quality of the service?
  7. Do you work with services users & their carers to enable them to feel able to report concerns, without the fear of losing the service?  

It is public money, we have the right to expect that all the above happens, but I expect that we could have Panorama reports from every council in the country. For many this experience only beomes real when someone close requires support and suddenly realise how important it is to feel confident to let a stranger play a key role for your family or friend. It is appalling to think that someone who has led an independent life could find themselves enduring horrendous abuse in the final years of their life.


The dogma ‘public bad, private good’ has dramatically changed social care provision, for the worse in my opinion. It is my view this has not led to the improvements the ‘dogma’ championed. Social Care provision should not been seen as a burdon on the state, it should be a statement of the sort of society we want to live in. When we gave up provision, we lost our knowledge & understanding of what providing social care is all about. The providers know we can’t easily bring services back in house and that puts Councils at a serious disadvantage. 

The challenge to councillors, commissioners, procurement officers and contract officers is enormous.

‘A one public sector approach’- The Borg?

Second aim outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report (July 2009)

Apologies to those of you who are not Sci Fi fans. The Borg are known to take over other species through forced assimilation. Those of you who have been on the Chief Executives Road Show will have seen one of the slides which refers to the Borg.

‘One public sector’ the second of three aims outlined in the Cabinet Future Shape report. This aim has its origins in what is called Total Place .

Total Place’, is “an ambitious and challenging programme that, in bringing together elements of central government and local agencies within a place, aims to achieve three things:

1. To create service transformations that can improve the experience of local residents and deliver better value

2. To deliver early efficiencies to validate the work

3. To develop a body of knowledge about how more effective cross agency working delivers the above”

In ‘plain english’ terms it means looking at total public sector spend across an authority. To see if money can be spent more effectively to achieve better outcomes.

Total Place reared its head in Sir Michael Bichard’s work on the Operational Efficiency Programme (February 2009) which looked at the scope for efficiency savings in the public sector.

The question is how much will the other public sector bodies ‘buy in’ to this approach to delivering better outcomes for Barnet residents. Will they voluntarily sign up to the ‘one public sector approach’ or will we need the Borg?

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