Friday, May 16, 2008

Clamping in NLBP !

On Friday 2 May at 15.56pm a First team bulletin was issued including.....two items, the first was a ‘burst water’ pipes story……..however the next item was a short report that Clamping would be operational. UNISON responded immediately, raising concern about the lateness of the information and the lack of consultation.

It has come to our attention that the briefing has not been followed ………… warnings for staff just a clamp and a £120 fine.
UNISON is not supporting staff parking illegally, what we are saying is that the Council should have more notice of the use of a clampers. They also need to demonstrate that they are monitoring those parking in NLBP without permits. It is no secret that we are squeezing more and more staff into NLBP.

UNISON has asked for a meeting with the manager responsible for the introduction of the Clampers, we will provide an update for members in due course.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

National Pay – Strike ballot agreed !

UNISON members working in local government in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given the green light for a ballot on industrial action after rejecting the pay offer from employers………..

The challenge is now on both for the membership and the General Secretaries of all the major Trade Unions. Members working across the public sector will be expecting joint trade union action if the ballot support industrial action. They will expect to attend joint trade union meetings is going to be a busy few months!

Future Shape of Barnet Council – One week on!

Online Forum with the Chief Executive
It is good to see staff responding to the first of what I hope will be many more online forums on the Future Shape of Barnet Council. UNISON agrees with the comments about ‘plain English’ too often the public are put off becoming involved in consultation by the type of language used in committee meetings and public documents. Whilst we await a ‘plain English’ version UNISON believe it is important staff understand what is at stake over the next 202 days until the Cabinet Committee 3 December 2008.

It is already clear from reading the comments raised on the online forum that the impact of privatisation is an issue not just for staff but for service delivery & value for money. In the past the Trade Unions were labelled as ‘dinosaurs’ because they objected to marketisation of public services. Well, we have had 30 years of continuous attacks on Public Services, it is clear that privatisation has not delivered the savings or improved quality the introduction of the private and voluntary sector heralded. As for staff it has been a disaster, terms and conditions quickly eroded, and little prospect for improvement.

Hard working loyal staff
In Barnet the last five years have been hard on staff as they have had to cope with year on years cuts, less staff , but increased workloads and at the same time see their pay fall behind the cost of living! It is incredible that despite all of this they have delivered a Four Star Service!

So I can understand the mixed feelings of frustration, anger, disbelief from staff that all their hard work could be rewarded by being privatised! I notice Lambeth Council who recently achieved 3 stars have just announced staff with gain an extra days annual leave this year.
Perhaps Barnet staff will get 2 days……………………..?

So what does this consultation mean for staff and services?

It is clear that all Council services are potentially at risk of being transferred out. I think it is understandable that staff are worried about the future in another organisation out of Council control. After all as some of those on the forums have pointed out, we don’t want another Fremantle debacle!

Why are they doing this?
Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth…………..
The Communities and Local Government Minister Hazel Blears said
“Local Authorities will see their role change to strategic planners and commissioners of services, while involving ‘partners’ and ‘stakeholders’ in “developing and delivering a shared vision for their area”

"local authorities will generally be better able to meet their best value duty by adopting a commissioning role ... making use of all available resources - without regard for whether services are provided in-house, externally or through various forms of partnership."
The message could not be clearer Government policies are pushing local authorities to stop providing services and take on a ‘commissioning’ role and at the same time limiting funding necessary to deliver services. In response to funding issues for an ever-growing London Borough our Council developed the ‘Barnet Bond’ (no relative of 007 James Bond !) as a means to fund the increasing pressure on our Borough’s infrastructure as the population continues to grow.

The Challenge
This government's plans for delivering local services introduce a whole range of new bodies and terms to the public-service landscape. The key features of the new landscape are:

Local Strategic Partnership - this brings together public bodies in the local area that provide public services, alongside the community and voluntary sector and local businesses, and is convened by the local authority;

Sustainable Community Strategy - the strategic long-term plan for an area drawn up by the local strategic partnership and formally agreed by a full local council meeting;

Comprehensive Area Assessment - a new performance management system, with 198 'indicators' covering not just local authorities, but all areas where they are working in partnership, which includes most other public services, and replacing comprehensive performance assessment;

Local Area Agreement - sets out 35 locally agreed performance targets that councils and partner organisations aim to meet; it is negotiated locally through the local strategic partnership and ratified by a full local council meeting before being agreed by central government.

Some of our members will be familiar with the above headings but most will not. But we all need to understand them and the impact they will have on services and whether the Council remains an employer for the majority of their staff.

What should we do next?
It seems as we have must address this period of consultation on two levels. Firstly we must engage in the consultation process and scrutinise proposals within the Council. Secondly we all need to address this issue with our local MP’s. Our branch will draft a letter for our members to use or amend and send to their own MP.

Barnet UNISON recognises that our members are facing major challenges and the need for us to build alliances in our community. National UNISON is at the forefront of defending public services not just for members but for the local community. This is why our branch AGM agreed to affiliate with London Citizens and help revive the Barnet Trades Union Council, membership includes most of the largest Trades Unions in the UK, UNISON, GMB, NUT, UCU, PCS, RMT, CWU, NUJ with more Unions looking to join.

Barnet Council is already visiting other Councils who have entered into partnerships; Barnet UNISON will make contact with UNISON branches in those Councils.

We will endeavour to keep a regular communication on progress through emails/website/newsletters/branch meetings. We are trying to maximise the means by which we communicate with our members. Converting newsletters into electronic format and sending links to our BLOG.

I am pleased to announce that we have a UNISON page on the Council’s intranet.
Please save this link as a favourite. Our eNEWS will direct you to updates and consultation documents.

Remember if you have any comments email them to

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

UNISON & GMB reps attending Cabinet meeting 6 May 2008

Local UNISON & GMB reps outside Barnet House before the Cabinet meeting.
Pat Ward Fremantle UNISON rep came along to listen to discussions about the possible future employment of Barnet Council staff. Pat has a lot to say on that subject!!!!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What future for Barnet Council staff ?

Consultation clock begins……..

The Cabinet report entitled ‘Future organisation for Barnet Council’. The report be found online at the following link….

The report was presented by the Chief Executive with support from the Leader of the Council.

The Committee were told the Council had poor prospects of any increases in funding from Government, and there was a real likelihood funding could decrease. ‘Salami slicing’ approach to these funding problems was unsustainable for the medium to long term.

The consultation will look to see if the Councils current structures are ‘fit for purpose’ i.e. the pace of change is increasing, the council needs to be able to respond quickly and effectively to these changes.

It was acknowledged in the meeting that ‘traditional privatisation model’ was not the answer either.

Barnet will have to learn from others, looking at examples within the UK and abroad.

Barnet will be particularly looking at Partnerships with both public/private/ third sectors. Such partnerships would be long term (generational) but with a flexibility to be able to react to changes.

Members of the Cabinet raised a number of questions and queries

1. One Councillor was keen to look at radical and different options at delivering services

2. Another councillor expressed a need for much tighter ‘governance arrangements’ and the ability to performance manage any future partnerships

3. How would this future impact on our relationship with the PCT?

4. Will this new organisation be able to adapt to emerging issues and trends?

5. We are one of the first Councils in the UK to address this issue

Chief Executive will review the options and report back to Cabinet on 3 December 2008

UNISON members
The consultation clock begins. The branch will be shortly carrying out a ballot of members views and endeavouring to keep our members informed. Tomorrow I attend a meeting with the Chief Executive……..