Category Archives: Public Services

DEFENDING THE BROMLEY LIBRARY SERVICE

Unite The Union members will begin all out indefinite strike action from Wednesday 28 March 2018.

This action takes place following the failure of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) who took over the library contract last year, to properly staff our libraries. This is despite all the promises from the Council. GLL are also refusing to pay staff the local government pay offer – despite initially agreeing to do so. That’s another promise broken – under GLL staff will be under poorer conditions than local government colleagues. It is also very suspicious that the Council and GLL are refusing to release a report which went to Council last year and which set out how GLL would make efficiency savings. This is despite freedom of information requests made by the union. Instead the Council are hiding behind so called “commercial confidentiality”.Workers have had enough! That is why Unite members voted by 100% for strike action. We are not wasting any more time – all out indefinite strike action begins on Wednesday 28 March. Join us on our first day of strike action from 8am at Bromley Central Library.

For further details contac:

Kathy  Smith                                                  Onay Kasab 

bromleyunite1@outlook.com                      onay.kasab@unitetheunion.org

07786170379                                                 07771818637

The Barnet Society Public Meeting, February 22nd 2018 – Report by Jenny Brown

The four political parties, plenty of questions from more than 120 High Barnet residents.

Housing:

Question from the Barnet Society Chair: What about empty residences in Barnet – approx 4,000 of them are “long term empty”?

Questions from the public showed concern about homelessness, high rents and unaffordable homes.

The Conservative comment from their woman representative, was that “the law needs to change. We have to house homeless people – it is statutory,” she said in relation to a question asking how it is right that we spend £25 million on providing emergency accommodation.

An audience member said the Conservatives had introduced “Right to Buy”

Liberal Democrat comment was they are the only party wanting to stop “Right to Buy.”

Amy from Labour refuted. She spoke about The new London Plan recently published by Sadiq Kahn, giving alternative ways to provide affordable housing.

  • Paul Edwards added that between 40% and 50% of social housing will be expected from developers because there will be the political will to negotiate this if Labour win.
  • Developers reap profit from being allowed to supply the housing market, where in Barnet £400,000 is considered affordable and some units sell for a million, showing scope for the developer to afford to build social housing on site. Rental provides housing revenue to maintain rather than sell the social homes.
  • In addition 800 Council homes would be built across Barnet for social rent. He said the Tories have caved into developers all over the borough

The Green Party:

  • Ways to use building apprenticeships under supervision to build self builds with the involvement of those who will be living in them.
  • Pre-fabs were discussed as viable and realistic.
  • Council to take over empty properties and rent them out. The rental is then paid to the property owner. The Council presumably fix the rental so it is a social rental rather than market rental.
  • The policy is “renovate not demolish”, with zero VAT on home renovation.

Robin Bishop, expressed concerns that the 32 London Boroughs have targets to build homes with density now abolished apart from in “conservation areas”. Robin and Nick from the Barnet Society showed concern that the new Labour London Plan would mean 3,300 new homes in High Barnet and Underhill by 2025.

Robin suggested to the meeting, that the next Council administration could draw up it’s own targets rather than following the new London Plan, in view of the 27,000 new homes across Barnet that the Conservative Council set as their own target and which is being met.

The Green belt and Ark secondary school were heated issues. Someone asked why a special school was not achieved. Councillor Longstaff said “We could not do anything because Barnet did not own the land saying the Dept for Education owned the land.”

Transport:

Paul Lemon, labour candidate for High Barnet, talked about improvements to transport if both the London Assembly and Barnet Council were Labour.

  • The cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians need to share our public roads
  • Electric charging points paid for by the Mayor will make a start towards alleviating air pollution. Integrated transport hubs/tram/light rail, suggested.
  • East to West transport links are poor.
  • The same number in High Barnet commute to work in Hertfordshire and beyond, as commute to work in central.
  • Cllr. Longstaff suggested Barnet Hospital build another layer of parking which could benefit those coming to Barnet. He said CPZ’s are always only after consultation.
  • Barnet currently makes between £5.5 M and £6 Million per year from parking charges and fines.
  • Trains from Finchley to High Barnet have been cut.
  • Lorries should be kept out and pay to come into our towns was popular and received applause.

The High Street.

In general the audience felt there was a lack of vision from the panel.

That we need to create reasons for people to come to this destination.

Walks in the woods, Barnet museum, Theatre space, community events around food, music and culture was suggested.

Spaces to sit with cover from wind and rain was suggested by Lib. Dems.

The Lib. Dems. spoke strongly in support of library staff and building libraries back.

Cllr. Longstaff said we are lucky because some boroughs they have closed theirs where as Barnet, he claimed, have kept ours going, increased stocks of books and built two new libraries!

Residents challenged on this as did the Lib. Dems.

Recreation, was raised – before QE girls became an Academy, the community could use the swimming pool, trampoline and other facilities. Recreation can bring people here and serve us.

Residents were concerned about the number of eating places, betting shops and charity shops.

Shops that sell craft and hobby things such as “Hobby Craft” could be approached and invited in.

Street cleaning was discussed. There was a strong mood in favour of bringing services “back in-house”. Paul Edwards said “We are committed to bringing services back in-house.”

Capita Contract was brought up. Cllr. Longstaff, standing in High Barnet for the Conservatives, stated that Council Tax would need to rise by 4% if services were brought back in- house.

Some thought the “litter police” should be catching more people.

On the whole, the event will hopefully lead to more ideas to maintain our High Streets – maybe a toy library/toy exchange with space to play chess/ board games, as a way of using an empty shop (instead of creating another charity shop). Strong support for markets. The teenage market had been successful but not sure if that can continue now that the land that Barnet market was held on, has been sold.

Barnet Market with all it’s historic links is being minimised to a band stand and bit of pavement at the back of the Spires. The meeting noted the losses to Barnet since the Tory administration. Great to have Public Meetings with every chair taken and over a dozen, standing at the back

Barnet Unison: Residents don’t blame our members working for Street Cleansing

Last week Barnet UNISON members working in Street Cleansing we called to a meeting and informed of a massive cut to overtime.The news came out of the blue, our members some who have been working for Barnet for decades were both angry and bewildered by this decision.Staff were told there was no longer a budget to cover the service and told that they shouldn’t rely on overtime payments. This did not go down well with the workforce who are the lowest paid in the Council and desperately rely on the overtime payments over the weekend.

This news follows quickly on from the recent 19% cut in the number of staff charged to keep the streets of Barnet clean just before Christmas last year.

In order to explain the cut and its impact on Barnet, Street Cleansing service for Saturday and Sundays which goes from Oakleigh Road depot.

Please note the figures below are for just one side of the borough. The other half of the service goes out from Harrow Depot (we won’t go why we have a depot outside Barnet in this post).

  • 8 hours Finchley Central
  • 8 hours North Finchley
  • 8 Hours East Finchley
  • 4 Hours East & New Barnet
  • 4 hours Friern Barnet/Colney Hatch
  • 4 Hours Whetstone
  • 4 Hours Greenhill/ Mays Lane
  • 8 Hours High Barnet
  • 8 Hours response team x 2 = 16 hours

This makes that 64 hours for this half of the borough.

The new service which started last weekend is a one 7.5 ton vehicle with one driver and one loader (16 hours) to cover all the above areas in Barnet.

This is a reduction of 48 hours per day.

Barnet UNISON has unsuccessfully attempted to try to restore the service for Barnet residents. We have sought clarification as to whether normal service will resume from 1 April 2018, we are still waiting. Our members were reporting increases in fly tipping before the workforce was cut, but still the Council implemented the cut. This massive cut to street cleansing at the weekends is going to have a dramatic impact on our borough.

Meanwhile we hear the Council have enough money to pay “eye watering” payments to Capita and seem to have very little control over agency/consultancy spend.

Barnet Supplier Payments – yet another reason why we need to start planning for change

http://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/barnet-supplier-payments-yet-another.html

But what do we know.

Day of Public Campaigning for ❤UNIONS 2018

Join Barnet Trades Union Council this Saturday, February the 17th at 11am outside the Post Office 751 High Rd, London N12 8LF North Finchley for two absolutely great campaigns for this years’ event. Facebook event here.

One is a with our comrades from the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) – North Finchley post office is is under threat and we need the word out to the public to save it.

The second is a a historic struggle we’ve been supporting since day one: trade union rights for McDonald’s workers. McDonald’s European HQ is in Finchley and we can to take this fight straight to the business.

Public meeting on the Franchise of North Finchley Crown Post Office

We have organised a public meeting for the Save North Finchley Crown Post Office campaign, we have had a few weeks of good campaigning, and there is a lot of local support from residents and the local Labour Party. Hopefully you can attend. Details are below and poster attached:

Date: Monday 19th February 2018

Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Venue: Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road, North Finchley, N12 9RU

Please share this with all your contacts who would be in support of this campaign, encouraging them to attend.

Cross-post from Mr Reasonable: Capita’s problems or a one off opportunity for Barnet

Last night I attended Barnet’s Audit committee. It was a catalogue of Capita failures. Failures to meet the promises made 5 years ago when Barnet decided to appoint this company who promised to deliver services better and cheaper. Last night I said that the council needed to do something now and that doing nothing was not an option. I mused on this further and chatted with people who understand Barnet Council and why the Capita contract has delivered so poorly. The more I talked with them the more I saw Capita’s failures in Barnet and their disastrous performance on the stock market as representing a one off window of opportunity for Barnet.

Yesterday I asked for Barnet councillors to start bringing key services such as finance and pensions back in house. Today I am asking for something more radical. We have a window of opportunity to think about how we design a local authority from scratch, a blank sheet of paper. Yes, the council clearly has to deliver a range of specific services but how they are delivered is up for grabs and what other services they provide is up for debate.

Prior to Capita taking over Barnet, there were established customs and practices, physical and organisational structures that restricted how change was implemented. Some aspects of the service were great; remember Barnet was rated a four star council. Other aspects were poor, often restricted by a lack of investment in good technology. We were told that Barnet could not afford to invest in technology and that is what Capita would deliver. Ironically, as soon as Capita were appointed Barnet found the money for investment and gave it to Capita. The services were outsourced but instead of coming up with a radical and bespoke organisational solution we simply transitioned to Capita’s established customs and practices, Capita’s physical and organisational structures. Is it any better? Well the evidence suggest it is no better at all and in many ways it is much worse. The recent Children’s Commissioner’s report criticised Barnet for its “Silo Structures” made worse by outsourcing. The report also said that Barnet was process heavy which slowed down decision making. In the review of the Capita joint venture, Re, the report noted, “Capita’s internal organisational structure (known as “the towers”) has been identified as a layer of complexity that potentially impacts on day to day service delivery”.

My attention was drawn recently to how the cost of the commissioning function in the council has grown since the contracts with Capita were signed. Barnet are having to throw more and more resources in to managing the contract with highly paid “strategy staff”. The commissioning budget has risen from £8 million to over £20 million in three years yet we still don’t seem to have enough staff monitoring the contracts.

So can we start again from scratch; design an organisational structure that reflects Barnet’s needs now but with the flexibility to adapt as the role of local authorities change and develop? We can develop a efficient structure that gives councillors and the public a clear joined up view of the council and how it is performing. That might mean some services are outsourced, typically those that are highly specialised and non-core to the running of the council. But they would be outsourced to market leading specialists rather than “we can do it all” suppliers like Capita.

I know some people will say we can’t afford it but it is important to distinguish between capital and revenue. Borrowing to invest in services that will save money makes plenty of sense. Indeed Barnet are making many capital investments to save or generate revenue such as the new leisure centres.

It is clear to me that the Capita contract is not performing anyway near to the level we were promised. There are lots of extras we are being charged for. But most importantly Capita and the council do not share common goals. With the problems Capita are experiencing now, that goal divergence is likely to get worse, not better, as pressure increases to improve profitability of its remaining contracts.

The die hard defenders of outsourcing will trot out all the old phrases but my view is they are living with an outdated and broken model. We need fresh thinking and innovative ideas.

If I was leading a party into the forthcoming local elections I would be selling the opportunity to change the way the council is run, to get the best advice for a new and efficient model. A model that suits us, not a remote, corporate organisation going through its own massive restructuring exercise.

That means preparing a masterplan for the council with a phased withdrawal from the Capita contract. Indeed, as one of my fellow bloggers mentioned, Capita might be pleased to seek an exit from the JV contract, especially as it is struggling to deliver the promised returns. Bringing finance back as quickly as possible is essential because without control of finance any other plan will struggle. There will be lots of specific questions like, do we need to bring a call centre back to Barnet? There are plenty of organisations that could help set up a call centre quickly in Barnet staffed by people who are connected with the area, who know what services Barnet provide and have a connection with the area. There are lots of specific questions, but what is essential is to have a vision of what a great council looks like.

We have a window of opportunity. I just hope we have some councillors who have the courage to innovate and deliver something new, efficient, a new council that meets our needs not those of the suppliers.

https://reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/capitas-problems-or-one-off-opportunity.html

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