4 November 2011

GFC - 3 Nov 2011 - 8pm - Redundancy is fun.

The GFC or General Functions Committee was such a top secret meeting that councillors were not to be told any detail. Mr Mustard is surprised that any of the meeting was public at all. He did only get to see 26 minutes of it ( 3 minutes longer than the 7pm meeting he sat through ) and as the council moved into part 2 ( the exempt items which the public can't know about ) he decided that the pub quiz was more attractive than sitting around waiting for part 2 to finish so that he could return to the meeting to hear about the Member Development Programme and Member Role Profiles ( where "member" means "councillor" and isn't a euphemism ). Two members of the public did decide to hang around and go back into the meeting. If you are reading could you add a little report in the comment box please.

A request for governance to consider. When there are 2 items of substantive business to discuss and one doesn't have any secret bits please put that on the agenda first so that when you move into the secret part of the meeting the public can go home. Thank you Mr Lustig.

Anyway, back to the first part of the meeting which didn't seem to be any less secret than the first. It was entitled "People implications of the budget headlines for 2012/13" which in English means "How many people are we going to sack this year"?

The report was presented by Sarah Murphy-Brookman - the Head of Business Partnering & Change ( have you got any idea what she does? - nor Mr Mustard - apart from looking after a large stock of P45's ). The overpaid consultant Jacquie McGeachie was the top name on the report and as the Assistant Director of Human Resources you would think she would be the one to present the really bad news, but no.

Having been cautioned by the chair Cllr Scannell that the only questions allowed were about staffing, and not about budgets, although the 2 go hand in hand, Sarah presented her report. There was bad news for all agency workers. All of their posts would be advertised internally to be available for at risk employees to apply for. Now Mr Mustard presumes that must mean the S151 officer post will be available for any qualified accountants to apply for as it is well known that the £1,000 a day Deputy Chief Executive is supplied through an agency. Perhaps that was why Jacquie McGeachie didn't want to speak, she bills through an agency as well ( not that you would know that from the over £500 spending lists which by some magical accounting trick she does not appear on ).

Now it was a lady councillor, possibly Cllr Hutton ( from the public gallery Mr Mustard was looking past the backs of councillors at the chair - there are some he would like to see the back of but not this forthright lady ) who wanted to know the detail behind the table on page 18, you can download it here. which summarised the 92 employees at risk of redundancy. Sarah told the councillor that she knows who is at risk but won't tell the councillor any detail! Do officers think they are councillors? Officers, remember you work for councillors, not the other way around. If they want to know something you tell them. If it is secret you say very politely, "yes councillor I have that detail but as it relates to individuals who don't know they may be losing their jobs I will have to tell you in part 2 when the public have gone home."

Now Councillor Hutton ( it was she, Mr Mustard remembered about the photos on the council website; doesn't she remind you of Miss Marple? carry on with your questioning Cllr Hutton, you will find out who did it in the end  ) wasn't finished. She said that she was being asked to approve redundancy payments of £2million and how could she make a proper decision if she didn't have the detail. The payments would be £4million but someone has decided to only be half as generous this year.

What officers could and couldn't say about staff at risk was a football which was kicked around for a while. Pam Wharfe was able to say that the number of park-keepers would go down as instead of having their own park to play in they would be roving from now on. So that will be increased vandalism then in the future and the parkie's time wasted driving around Barnet.

Cllr Rams piped up. Mr Mustard inwardly groaned and then little Robert, bless him, said the most sensible thing that Mr Mustard has ever heard him say. Robert pointed out that most of the detail about who was at risk was in the 128 pages of the report ( which he must have at last glanced at). Perhaps time spent on the receiving end of a public meeting and the feeling of powerlessness in front of an Enfield councillor has made him realise how the public feel - well done Robert.

There were more pertinent questions about the school leaving age increase affecting the future number of staff required and the answer was the government were likely to reduce the council's role in this area. Hurrah. 

The drastic cut in the "Youth Offer" ( eh, oh, things for young people to do and keep them out of trouble ) was mentioned. Barnet are going to target the real problem families and there would be less universal provision. There is probably a programme to stop the young turning into bloggers - what do you think Mrs Angry?. 

No the voluntary sector aren't going to pick up the neglected pieces of the youth offer as their budgets are being slashed.

I have told a reader that I am going to stop mentioning Cllr Thomas because I have made the point that his claim that Mr Mustard cost the council taxpayer £40,000 in 6 months answering FOI requests is utter tosh. Now Mr Mustard has a problem because last night Cllr Thomas asked Sarah "Did the staff enjoy the process last year" i.e. was the worry of whether or not they would have a job in 3 months time a really fun experience, and Mr Mustard thinks people, especially the voters of Finchley Church End, need to know how much Cllr Thomas cares for the workforce.

The serious answer was that people left with dignity and those who remained were engaged with the council. That will be why it leaks like a sieve then?

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8.26pm came and a motion to exclude the public was the usual formality. Mr Mustard went off to the quiz and had some overdue fun.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Mr Mustard has had the following comment phoned through to him:

    "Last year some staff did not get three months' notice that they were definitely being made redundant. Although they did get at risk letters, these staff went into work on a Monday not knowing which of them had a job on the Friday.

    Some teachers literally found out on the Monday their last day of employment was the Thursday."

  2. sorry: did the staff enjoy the process????????? As someone with a relative who went through that process, I would like to point out to the very, very stupid Councillor Thomas that some members of staff who were made redundant last year are still without employment, and have families to support.
    My other comment is that it is amusing to see that member roles and devpt have suddenly appeared. Only last week Mrs Angry sent an FOI, addressed to Mr Lustig asking why councillors' performance appraisals (other than hers) have not been implemented as promised at the time of the shameful allowance hike. Lo and behold: this item is up for consideration. Just fancy that!


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