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.

Agenda for Meeting on 8th of February 2018 7pm at Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, Finchley


Meeting of Barnet Alliance for Public Services



Attendance and apologies



Review minutes of previous meeting and matters arising from the minutes



Guest speaker from CWU



Plan for the coming year



Any other industrial reports



Any Other Business and Delegates Motions (please submit motions before 5th of February)



Meeting Ends

Some dates for 2018:

  • 10th February – Stand Up to Racism Trades Union conference
  • 10th February – Labour Party conference on Alternative Models of Ownership
  • 12th to 18th February – TUC #heartunions week
  • 8th March – BTUC Annual General Meeting
  • 10th March – Campaign Against Climate Change Trades Union Conference
  • 17th March – International March Against Racism
  • 28th April – Workers memorial day
  • 3rd May – Local Elections
  • 12th May – TUC Demonstration: New Deal for Working People
  • 14th July – Durham Miners’ Gala
  • 20th to 22nd – Tolpudle Martyrs Festival
  • November – TUC Young Workers’ Month

❤UNIONS 2018 is back! 12-18 February

Get ready for ♥UNIONS 2018

HeartUnions is back! We want as many of you to get involved as possible and celebrate the good work unions do in workplaces across the country. 

HeartUnions will be taking place from 12 to 18 February. This year we’re showcasing the good that unions do in campaigning for fairness and justice at work. Two campaigns we’ll be highlighting in particular are:

Young workers at McDonalds are standing up to insecure work and low pay, and pushing for respect and a voice at work through their union. Sign and share the petition to show your support to the growing voice of McDonald’s workers as they stand up for dignity in work.



Fair Pay For Public Servants
Public service unions have been winning the argument on a fair pay settlement, after eight years of real terms pay cuts. Now we need to keep up the pressure for real action and genuine new funding.

HeartUnions materials

We have a collection of HeartUnions resouces for you to download and use throughout the week. We also have pens, mugs, t-shirts and badges you can purchase from our online shop. Get your HeartUnions material.

If you want to order in bulk you can order from our online shop or speak to your union officer. If you need HeartUnions material in Welsh, please contact

Keep an eye out for our emails, We’ll be sending more information on resources, activities and actions so you’re fully prepared for HeartUnions week.

heartunions –

Daily Mirror officially backs the March for the NHS

Tens of thousands will march for our NHS next Saturday in an emergency demonstration called by The People’s Assembly & Health Campaigns Together. The demonstration will demand an end the winter crisis with a cash injection to restore the NHS budget and a commitment to increased funding each year.

Emergency Demonstration – NHS in Crisis: Fix it Now
Saturday 3 February, 12pm Gower Street London, March to Downing Street

Everyday from now until the demo they’ll be running stories on why the NHS demonstration is so important including interviews from the front line, details of the route and speakers, quotes from organisers, union representatives, celebs and more.

Why are you marching?
We’re asking for people to send in a short quote (under 100 words) about why they’re marching and what the NHS means to them – we’ll include a selection of quotes in the Mirror and use others on our website and on social media. Please also include a headshot of yourself in the email. Send these to:

How you can help:

Other exclusive stories and interviews will also be run in the Morning Star newspaper who have always backed our demonstrations, protests and been central to the anti-austerity movement. Keep an eye on their website and paper for details.

In case you missed it:

“Blood on their hands”: NHS protesters shut down road outside Parliament targeting May, Hunt and Branson

TUC summer term courses – at the College of Haringey Enfield and North East London (Conel)

We are now advertising for the TUC 10-day union reps and health and safety reps courses for the forthcoming summer term.

We would gladly welcome if this email could be forwarded to other union reps who may also be interested in attending.

TUC 10 day courses at Tottenham Centre (n15 4RU)

·         Union Reps Stage 1  –  10 Tuesdays from 1st May 2018

·         Next Steps – 10 Tuesdays from 1st May 2018

·         Health & Safety Stage 1 – 10 Wednesdays from 2nd May 2018

·         Certificate in Employment Law – 10 Thursdays from 3rd May 2018

(Half Term – w/c 28th May 2018)

We are currently offering two diploma

Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety – Classroom based – 18th April 2018 – 3rd April 2019 – at level 2 (these dates include summer break and other holidays check with us for further details). This course is still free.


Diploma in employment law  – blended learning one evening per week starting 19th April 2018. This course is at level 3. There is a course fee for this course amounting to £2088. In addition, the date may be subject to change.

Be-spoke courses

As you may also be aware we do run be-spoke courses for unions and union branches this could include dealing with redundancies, tackling discrimination at work, sickness absence policies, understanding pensions. We can also arrange for courses to be run at a venue to suit. Do get in touch if you or your union committee wish to run a specialist course.

You can either email trade union education or call us on 02084423075.

Diploma in OCC H&S 2018-1

Diploma in Employment1-1


Solidarity with Afrin – Take Action Now

Urgent call for the people of UK, politicians, trade unionists, campaign groups, democrats, intellectuals and all those who take sides with peace, freedom and justice to take immediate action to protest the bombing of Afrin.

On Saturday, 20th January, Turkish war planes launched air strikes on Afrin, one of the three Kurdish cantons in Northern Syria. A ground operation has now begun with the support of the Free Syrian Army.

The Turkish government announced that the operation, cynically dubbed “Olive Branch”, targets the Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and ISIS. In fact it is a war being waged on the people of Afrin and sabotages hopes for future peaceful co-existence between the Turks and the Kurds not just inside Turkey but also across the Middle East.

The Syrian government also denies being informed of the military operation targeting Afrin, despite a statement by the Turkish Government that “all parties involved were informed and the operation is being carried out with respect to Syria’s territorial integrity”.

A later statement said 108 targets belonging to Kurdish militants had been hit. The YPG said the strikes were being carried out indiscriminately, and have already killed 9 people, including 6 civilians, and wounded 13 (and rising).

The Turkish government is trying to justify this operation as being for the “protection of the border and security”. In fact, this is a wholly untrue justification of Turkey’s war on the Kurdish population. The real threat to the peoples of Turkey is not its Kurdish neighbours who fought against ISIS and other jihadist gangs in northern Syria and Rojava and built democratic regimes with other peoples of the region.

It is clear that these attacks are not aimed at protecting the security of Turkey because Turkey’s border security is not endangered. Afrin has been the calmest region in the whole Syrian civil war.

Turkey has been waging a war against the Kurdish population in Turkey and has launched these attacks to destroy the Kurdish democratic formations in Northern Syria, considering them as a “bad example”.

The responsibility of the killings lies with Turkey’s ruling AKP government, its leader Erdogan, and those imperialist powers who consent to the attacks. We will not be part of it.

Turkey was placed back on the European Union Human Rights watchlist in April 2017 and has consistently breached Human Rights both within and outside its own jurisdiction. We oppose the UK government’s involvement in arms deals with Turkey and call on our Government to put a stop to these sales.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT) calls on the people of the UK, including politicians, trade unionists, campaign groups, democrats, intellectuals and all those who take sides with peace, freedom and justice to take immediate action against these attacks.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)


Send a message of protest to the Turkish Government using the email addresses below.

You can also send a letter to your local MP. If you are unsure what to write, you use the letter below. Also you can also find your MP here:

Dear MP,

On Saturday, 20th January, Turkish war planes launched air strikes on Afrin, one of the three Kurdish cantons in Northern Syria. This was followed by ground attacks on Sunday with civilian casualties already being reported. We urgently need you, as a Member of Parliament, to take some action to put an end to this bloodshed.

This act of unprovoked warfare by the Turkish state threatens to destablise one of the calmest regions throughout the whole Syrian civil war. Afrin has been a crucial safe haven for people fleeing ISIS in the region, and it must stay that way!

It is clear that the Turkish government’s claim that this war is to protect Turkey’s border and security is simply untrue, and it will have devastating consequences for not just the Kurdish people who will pay with their lives but also the people of Turkey and of the broader region.

The responsibility of the killings lie with Turkey’s ruling AKP government, its leader Erdogan, and those powers who fail to oppose these attacks and take action to influence Turkey to cease its attacks on Afrin with immediate effect.

As a resident of your constituency, I am calling on you to:

raise this issue as a priority with the UK Government,
call for an end to all UK arms sales to Turkey,
publically condemn Turkey’s aggression on the Kurdish regions, and
take any other necessary action to end the bloodshed in Afrin.

Yours sincerely,



Your name..

Solidarity with People Facing the Emergency in Turkey

I only made it to the second half of the conference by Solidarity for the People of Turkey today, due to having attended SERTUC in the morning, but it was superb and very well attended. Highlights included:

  • Leading trade unionists from the DISK union federation and the GIDA-IS food workers’ union, talking about the extreme repression against workers’ in Turkey today, were strikes have been de facto banned and fewer than half of supposedly recognised trade union agreements as honoured as collective bargains.
  • Politicians from both the major Turkish opposition parties, talking about the government’s effective destruction of democracy since the failed coup of 2016, its passing of anti-democratic legislation by decree without recourse to parliament and its shocking attempt to resolve the Kurdish question in it’s favour by attacking the Kurdish town of Afrin over the border in Syria.
  • Solidarity from British trades unionists like Christine Blower of the NEU/NUT and Bakers’ union leader (and friend of Barnet TUC) Ian Hodson, as well as a message of solidarity from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has raised the issue of human and workers’ rights in Turkey throughout Europe and directly with the government itself.

Trades unionists’ in Britain were urged to raise the issues within their own structures and communities, and there will be a solidarity visit to Turkey on May Day.

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