Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Two years on …… are Council services ‘quicker, better and cheaper’?

In October 2010 North Somerset Council embarked on a controversial £100m contract with private contractor Agilisys to run the Council's support services.

At the time Councillors claimed Agilisys would provide a better, more reliable service and improve customer satisfaction, all at lower cost. UNISON opposed the privatisation of support services and seriously questioned the Council's claims.

A year into the contract UNISON surveyed a cross section of members employed by Agilisys and the Council to obtain their views and experiences on how the contract was working.

Not a single member employed by the Council who was surveyed thought the contract had fulfilled the promise that services would be ‘quicker, better or cheaper’.

Of Agilisys and Liberata staff surveyed, almost half (46%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that services had improved since being outsourced, with only 21% saying they had got better.

Increased workload and pressure, low morale, office environment and poor communications were identified as particular issues of concern.

A detailed report of our survey findings was published on the branch blog  at:

UNISON then pressed the Council to commission an independent review of the performance of the contract during its first year. This is standard practice for most big council contracts elsewhere.

In December 2011 the Council finally agreed to carry out a review and engaged management consultants KPMG to carry it out. The KPMG report was presented to Council officers in April 2012. However the report was kept secret and not made public for eight months.

Following a request using the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) the Council eventually released a copy of KPMGs ‘Final Summary Report’ in November 2012. The Council has however refused to provide a more detailed report, claiming that none exists. This claim is being challenged, using the FoI. It is a criminal offence to hide the existence of requested information to prevent it being released.

However the summary KPMG report is itself illuminating and in our view damning.

It says that although performance reports indicate that the contract is performing at the level contractually agreed, this positive picture does not correspond with staff feedback about poor quality services in some areas. This suggests that poor performance is not being picked up as a result of inadequate contract management and as a result of using the wrong performance measures.

The report also reveals that over a year into the contract 16 of the 38 agreed performance indicators in the contract are not being reported on!

UNISON warned the Council back in 2010 that it was proposing to put insufficient resources into managing and monitoring the contract, but our warnings were ignored.

The KPMG report also reveals that savings from procurement are significantly lower than promised - £740,000 savings now predicted by the end of 2012/13, instead of the promised £2.4m. Indeed real savings from procurement at the end of this financial year will be just £360,000. All this makes it highly unlikely that the promised savings of £5m by 2014/15 will ever be achieved.

KPMG also reported that council directorates found Agilisys input into procurement reviews was ‘often not helpful’

KPMG also reported that staff expectations have not been met on the quality and delivery of the new FMS. And that Directorates are frustrated by the lack of effective engagement with them and their inability to influence the design of systems and developments to meet their specific service needs.

This finding comes as no surprise to UNISON. Contracts of this type are often inflexible in the way they are implemented.

Oddly the report tries to give some credit to Agilisys for helping to facilitate the delivery of savings in 2011/12 that had already been identified by the Council itself. Perhaps this is not surprising with so little in the report to commend the contract itself.

KPMG do say that in the first year investment in service developments have exceeded predictions, although front-loading investment is common in contracts of this type with the costs being recovered by the contractor in later years. It also says a significant number of new jobs have been created locally, although these claims need to be investigated further as the job creation benefits of this type of contract are notoriously difficult to validate. However any net increase in the numbers of jobs would be welcomed.

The KPMG report raises very serious questions about the credibility of the contract and the promises made. Although the Council has adopted a number of recommendations designed to improve the performance of the contract UNISON is worried that some targets may be reduced to make it easier for Agilisys to hit them. We are also concerned that additional payments made to Agilisys under the contract may not have been correctly calculated, something that is implicitly acknowledged by the KPMG report.

Finally it is very clear that KPMG regard confidence in the contract as low
The Council’s initial reluctance to carry out the review, and its subsequent reluctance to publish the review are an on-going cause of concern for UNISON. There are many questions that still need answering and we will be pursuing these over the coming months, not least why the Council continues to deny the existence of a more detailed report that we strongly believe does exist. Unless the Council is completely open and commits itself to a continuing and frequent process of independent reports there is a real fear that the Agilisys contract will become another expensive contract failure all too familiar in local government.

The Summary Report can be downloaded at:

Sunday, 25 November 2012

What Trade Unions have done for Us

Here's a great poster showing what trade unions have done for workers in the U.S.A. You can see more posters like this at:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Stop the Privatisation of our NHS - Lobby North Somerset PCT on 28th November

Next Wednesday could be an important day for the future of the NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucestershire. 38 Degrees members are getting together to meet the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust Cluster. This get-together will be a chance to lobby the NHS Cluster Group and hand in the local NHS petition to your Clinical Commissioning Group. Could you come along?

Meet at 9.30 am on Wednesday 28th November
Clevedon Hall
Victoria Road
BS21 7RQ

Please click here to join in or find out more:

This campaign is about local 38 Degrees members coming together to stop local NHS services being broken up and privatised.

The government’s changes to the NHS have put responsibility for spending NHS money, and deciding what your local health service looks like, in the hands of groups run by local doctors. These groups are called "Clinical Commissioning Groups" (CCGs).

The CCGs will be under pressure to cut services and hand contracts to private health companies. But if we work together we can persuade them to instead adopt policies which protect our local NHS.

Groups of local 38 Degrees members are well placed to influence their local CCG. CCGs are required by law to pay some attention to local patients. And many doctors involved were opposed to Lansley's changes. They are likely now to be keen to hear ways they can protect services for their patients and block or slow down privatisation.

If we get in early, while CCGs are still being set up, we can get them to write safeguards into their constitutions. These safeguards will help rein in privatisation and protect the NHS.

38 Degrees funded lawyers have prepared watertight wording for CCGs to write into their constitutions. If local 38 Degrees members persuade their CCG to adopt this wording, then we should be able to block or slow down privatisation.

38 Degrees members will be attending the meeting to outline concerns about the consultation process regarding the changes proposed in the NHS locally and some clauses in the draft CCG Constitution

Friday, 9 November 2012

WE ARE ONE NHS - Oppose the South West Pay Cartel - 1st December, Bristol

Join the protest on Saturday 1st December from 11am.

Assemble College Green for March through Bristol starting at 11.30am.

20 bosses from 20 Trusts (including Weston General Hospital, University Hospitals Bristol and North Bristol Trust) seem to think that NHS healthworkers in the South West are worth less than health workers in the rest of England – they’ve forked out £10,000 each in public funds to look at ways of driving down their pay and terms and conditions by ditching the national pay agreement.

Local pay will splinter the NHS, hit the quality of patient care and ease the way for privatisation


Sign and share the national petition to stop the South West Pay Cartel:

Joint NHS union protest for all who support a National Health Service.

For more information: 079 89 105 449

Download and distribute the flyer

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Local Government Pay - Our Pay Matters!

The joint trade unions (UNISON, UNITE and GMB) have now submitted the pay claim to the employers. It is an extensive document, which can be downloaded at:

The document outlines how poorly paid local government workers are in comparison to other public sector workers, and the private sector. After 3 years of a pay freeze local government workers have lost about 13% of their pay. Almost 20% of North Somerset Council staff earn an hourly rate which is below the living wage of £7.20 an hour. The lowest paid local government workers now earn only 10 pence above the minimum wage. Many local government workers, including North Somerset Council workers earning under £21,000 did not receive the £250 pay increase promised by George Osborne. Inflation has been high over the period of our pay freeze, although is falling currently.

The Local Government pay claim demands ‘a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the Living Wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point’.

Have a look at UNISON's video - All in it together - why your pay matters

Come to a meeting to find out more:

8th November at 12.30 at the Town Hall Old Council Chamber

22nd November at 12.30 at Castlewood G08, G09, G10