Barnet UNISON – Round up of the Council meetings this week

Monday 8 June Cabinet Committee

On Monday there was a fantastic turn out for the Cabinet Committee meeting. Over 300 residents largely residents or relatives of people using the Sheltered Housing Service turned up to protest then listen to the debate concerning their future.

Media were there in numbers, local press BBC London, LBC radio and a Panorama film crew!

I agree with the Deputy Chief Executive who in this week’s First team said “……public question time took up the first half hour of the meeting. Strong passions were firmly articulated.”

As Max Boyce used to say ….I was there! But I don’t think that it is fair to describe what is happening with this campaign as simply residents opposed to change. I have long memory and can remember Councillors being rushed into decisions about our residential and day care services for older people against UNISON advice. The same arguments about progress and no change is not an option were used to undermine UNISON’s report to the Council. Needless to say UNISON was right to urge caution, we are currently being taken to court by the Provider who took over our council services. Furthermore we have a ludicrous situation two tier standard, with some Barnet residents in the former council residential homes still living in what was described back in 1999 as unsuitable and other residents in the new homes, all on the same contract. How clever is that?

Back to Sheltered Housing, it is clear residents are scared and are not convinced that this cut will lead to a better service. A lot of work is needed to address these concerns.

Don’t take my word you can listen to the residents yourself


Tuesday 9 June Ad Hoc Scrutiny Committee

This is a cross party committee specifically to look at what happened to the Councils investment in Icelandic banks. The purpose of this meeting was to select a firm of consultants to carry out an investigation.

The consultants have to carry out a review guided by the Terms of Reference agreed at the Annual General Meeting to view click here

A robust discussion was had. There was cross party consensus for the need for transparency. They are working to a tight timescale as the finished report needs to make the council meeting on 14 July 2009 (one for your diaries!)

And the winning consultancy firm issssssssssss!


Thursday 11 June General Functions Committee

For those of you who don’t know. This is the staffing committee. If there is a restructure it has to go in front of councillors here. If your restructure goes there it does not mean the end of consultation. Councillors want to know early if there are going to be any redundancies, so a restructure may have to report back to this committee.

I always advise staff if their jobs are going to this committee they should attend to witness the discussion.

Last night our members working in Registrars came to the meeting to witness a discussion on their restructure. They were clearly disappointed as there was no discussion/questions about their restructure. However they were pleased to hear agreement for an extension to the consultation. After the meeting my colleague Maggi Myland and I gave a de-briefing to our members on how committee works and the consultation process, which they all felt was useful.

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 Video interviews

Barnet Council Sheltered Housing residents were clearly not convinced by the arguments put forward at the Cabinet Committeee last night.

To listen to residents click on the links below

Barnet resident1

Barnet resident2


Barnet Council residents 3


Barnet Council resident 4


Barnet Council resident 5


Barnet Council resident 6

People Power – Sheltered Housing?

“We’ll begin a massive redistribution of power in our country from the powerful to the powerless – from the political elite to the man and woman in the street.”

“They are furious and finally demanding big change. I’m making clear that big change and a new politics is exactly what people can expect from a new Conservative government.”

David Cameron (26 May 2009)

Sheltered Housing residents have spoken. Will the Council listen to the man and woman in Barnet streets?

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?

Feedback on our meeting with Councillors on Tuesday 2 June

At our meeting we told Councillors that our exclusion from the Future Shape Groups meant we were not able to take part in the consultation. Last September we identified key issues for our members e.g. Pay, annual leave and Pensions, but to date these issues were not viewed as a priority at this stage. We have asked that the Trade Unions need to be fully involved in a future discussions about the Future of Council Services. We were informed a Future Shape report had been agreed at Corporate Directors Group, and a copy would be shared with the Trade Unions once more data had been added from the consultants.  

As for the final Future Shape report for the 6 July Cabinet Committee we will be given the report once it has been signed off by the Lead Cabinet member.  

Speculation in the NLBP village on what maybe being recommended is rife and understandable. I want to draw your attention to the 15 June Cabinet Resources Committee.  Section 3.2 says

“The service provided by the in-house Legal Service is in high demand to deliver on the Council’s priorities. Moving to the Council’s ‘Future Shape’ will involve additional and extensive legal input.”

Full report click here  

It is understandable that if there is going to be major change you will need a good legal team. It is interesting but not unexpected to see other Councils are also already making plans

“Currently, the “Consortium Councils” are the London Boroughs of Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Havering, Hillingdon, Merton, Redbridge and Sutton.”

The Trade Unions need to examine the Tenderers’ Scores; it is interesting to see Essex County Council put in a tender.

“Which firm of solicitors were the successful bidders?”

Unfortunately this information is in the Exempt report, once it is approved at the committee the name of the firm will be made public.   

Back to Future Shape:

“Does this appointment of a panel of solicitors give an indication as to what we should expect in the Future Shape Cabinet Report 6 July?”  

I suppose we will have to wait for the report.


Dave Prentis, general secretary

It is crucial that members turn out and vote in the local and European elections this week. The BNP are peddling their politics of hate, and mobilising all their forces to take advantage of voter apathy, disillusionment and fear. 

Do not let the BNP gain ground through the recession by exploiting people’s fears over jobs or because of the row over MPs’ expenses.  

As public sector workers and service users we know that without the dedicated service of migrant workers many hospitals, schools and local government services would grind to a halt. We must work together to find a way out of the current financial crisis.  

Make your voice heard on 4 June – get out and vote. 

Take action to stop the BNP

Barnet’s Got Talent!

We may not have Susan Boyle working for Barnet but we do have talented staff. Whilst we wait for news on what Future Shape will mean for staff and public services I hope staff will be given the opportunity to contribute to any Future changes.  


Some Good News


Those of you who have had the time to look at the Future Shape website will have noticed the term ‘Quick Win’ on a number of slides. I believe the term ‘Quick Win’ has been acknowledged as an inappropriate term conveying a negative message.


Where is the good new news?

If and when services are packaged together they need to go through a robust process before any decisions are made.


Cemeteries and Crematorium services were put down as a ‘Quick win’ a Consultants report recommended the privatisation option. The Trade Unions produced a report which raised concerns about the process & recommendations in the report. I am pleased to report the service is going through the correct process. The Trade Unions and the staff are now part of the process. This is key.


Back to Future Shape, it is important that staff don’t panic if they see their service being packaged up for a possible privatisation model. There is still a great deal of work which would need to take place before any decisions about moving forward to a procurement including if an in house bid would be included.


From the little that is being made available the Seven Groups reflect the complexity of the problem facing Public Services across Barnet. It is important that decisions are not rushed which is why the Trade Unions are confused why there are different completion timescales for the Groups which are clearly interlinked.

To visualise the complexity we have constructed a diagram.

To view image click here






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