26 April 2012

Drip, drip, drip

Barnet leaks are much more than a dripping tap, they are an absolutely unstoppable wall of water cascading out of N11. Red type is by Mr Mustard


From: Murphy, Bill
Sent: 13 April 2012 08:48
To: Housing Benefit - All Staff; Revenues Control Group; Revenue Services
Cc: Gregson, John; Burns, Robert; Singh, Monika
Subject: Feedback from Revenues & Benefits Transformation Board

Dear Colleagues,

We are now moving into a critical implementation phase in the Transformation Project.

As you know, in common with all local authorities we have substantial budget savings to achieve. In addition, we need to set ourselves up improve customer service as much as possible, succeed in the outsourced world next year and at the same time retain as much benefit within the council as possible.

The coming months will see a period of considerable change as we gear ourselves up to meet these challenges by making significant changes in our working practices and structures. This will include re-engineering our new benefits claims process, transferring some staff into the Contact Centre and restructuring the management of the service to clearly separate operations from support activities.

Following the presentations on the future structure last week we have already lodged a Q&A brief which addresses the points you have raised to date. Further briefs will be placed there as we move forward.

Other key documents, including the presentations I made last week, are also lodged there. These are internal documents and not intended for publication and I would like to remind staff of their obligations to keep internal documents confidential and they should not be circulated external to the council. Mr Mustard will tell you if any documents he publishes are internal and so you should not read them unless you work for the council.

The Revenues & Benefits Transformation Project Board met this week and considered a number of topics relating to the forward programme, including the transfers to the Contact Centre, the new claims pilot and a number of management workshops that will define the ways we will work under the future structure. Some of you have asked for a timeline of future events in the consultation process. Whilst the detail may change as events unfold, the current schedule is as follows:

Start of consultation period 4 April
Additional  presentation 17 April
Presentations to staff on Customer Services Organisation late April
Consultation 1:1s w/c 16 April
Confirmation to posts in new structure 25 April
Team Managers:
Consultation 1:1s and assessments 23 April to 4 May
Confirmation to posts in new structure 15 May
Consultation 1:1s and assessments 30 April - 22 May
Selection of staff for Contact Centre 23 - 25 May
Confirmation to posts in new structure 29 May
Transfers to Contact Centre 6 June
Formal end of consultation period 2 July
New structure launch early July

I am aware that, due to leave or other commitments, some of you may not have been able to make any of the presentations I made last week.
Therefore please note the additional session as indicated above - please come along to this if you did not attend any of the earlier sessions.

In the meantime, please continue to use the Questions box, the One Barnet email box and your line managers (until I make them redundant anyway) to raise questions and concerns and provide any other feedback regarding the changes. I will make sure that these are answered and the responses shared with everyone in the service.

Bill Murphy
Assistant Director, Customer Services

London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 2002
Mobile 07847188983 (in case you need to ring him to complain about customer services at all, anything at all; don't be shy, he is paid a packet to take your calls)

That timetable above looks a bit rushed to Mr Mustard and possibly pre-ordained. Here is what the government says should happen (emphasis in red by Mr Mustard)

Collective consultation process (from direct.gov.uk)

The consultation must be meaningful. It must be genuine and conducted with a view to reaching an agreement. It must cover:
  • ways to avoid redundancies
  • the reasons for redundancies
  • how to keep the number of dismissals to a minimum
  • how to limit the effects on those dismissed (e.g. by offering retraining)
There may be special circumstances where it is not reasonably practical for your employer to consult fully. In these circumstances your employer must do everything they can to ensure that the consultation is as full as possible. One Barnet is not such a reason.

Information during consultation

To enable reps to make constructive proposals your employer must provide them with enough written information in good time (how long before the 90 days started were the union given the information?- Mr Mustard's wild guess would be a day or two but it could have only been an hour or two - he doesn't know)  including:
  • reasons for the proposed redundancies
  • number of employees that are proposed to be made redundant
  • different types of employees that are proposed to be made redundant
  • number and types of employees
  • how any employees to be made redundant will be selected
  • time period over which any redundancies may be carried out
  • how any redundancy payments will be calculated

Consultation period and termination notices

A termination notice tells you when the last day of your employment will be, eg the day you will be made redundant. Termination notices cannot be issued until after the consultation has been completed, even if the consultation needs to go beyond the minimum period.

If the consultation is genuinely completed within the minimum period you may be issued with a termination notice. This cannot take effect until after the minimum consultation period ends unless you agree to leave early, for example by taking pay in lieu of notice.

A consultation must begin ‘in good time’ and take as long as is necessary. It should be conducted with a view to reaching agreement, but can end before agreement is reached. Your employer should give your reps a fair opportunity to comment on the proposals and suggest alternatives, to which your employer should give genuine consideration. The final decision rests with your employer.

There is no time limit to how long a consultation period may last but there is a minimum period between the start of the consultation and actual dismissals. The length of the minimum period depends on the number of redundancies that your employer is proposing, if they are proposing:
  • 20 - 99 redundancies, they must start the consultation at least 30 days before any dismissals take effect
  • 100 or more redundancies, the consultation must start at least 90 days before any dismissals take effect

Failure to consult

You or your rep might be able to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for a ‘protective award’ if your employer:
  • does not begin consultation early enough
  • ends the consultation early
  • doesn’t consult properly
An Employment Tribunal could make a ‘protective award’ of up to 90 days' pay for each affected employee. The amount will be decided by the Employment Tribunal, based on the extent of your employer’s failure and the circumstances.

It looks to Mr Mustard like staff will be made redundant before the end of the consultation period. If you happen to be reading this Mrs Sarah Brookman-Murphy could you spare the time from sorting out the staff car parking to assure Mr Mustard by email (mrmustard@zoho.com) that the staff are going to get the whole 90 days of consultation and not be hurried out of the door before then.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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