Wednesday 31 January 2018

Barnet Unison seek job security for council Capita staff and call for services to be brought in-house

From Barnet Unison LINK

 This morning Capita staff woke up to some scary headlines that the former FTSE 100 company was in serious trouble.

The next Carillion? Shares in outsourcing firm Capita plunged 40% after profit warning LINK.

Outsourcing giant Capita announced the suspension of its dividend as part of a transformation plan this morning – and shares duly plunged by more than 40 per cent LINK.

This news follows on from the recent collapse of Carillion only a couple of weeks ago. Already political commentators are making comparisons with Carillion and Capita.

In light of the much publicised stress and anxiety experienced by Carillion workers in the wake of the company’s downfall; Barnet UNISON has written to the Chief Executive seeking details of Barnet Council’s contingency plan in the event Capita may have to give up their contracts.

We know that whatever happens there is going to be a great deal of speculation and uncertainty for the staff and whilst UNISON has seen the email from Jon Lewis, Capita’s, new Chief Executive trying to stem anxieties of his 70,000 workforce, we know workers will be worried about their jobs.
Barnet UNISON is looking for a statement from the Council in the event that Capita are unable to continue to run the two Barnet contracts, that Council will initiate plans to transfer the staff back in-house.

Who can we trust?

Since the collapse of Carillion, more news has emerged as to how bad things really were for that company. Furthermore questions are being asked about the role of the external auditors KPMG more here LINK
It has happened before in Barnet…… 

In 2010 Barnet Homes had commissioned Connaught’s to provide Council Housing Repairs service. Connaught’s went into liquidation. Our members were told they had lost their jobs over a message on a speaker phone. Months earlier Barnet UNISON had held talks with Barnet Homes Chief Executive as it was becoming increasing clear Connaught’s were in serious trouble. There was further problems when it became clear that there was missing pension contributions which needed to be picked up by Barnet Council.

Read more HERE

Footnote: On 26 June 2017 Capita share price was 705.50 now six months later the share price closed today at 202.09 which represents a 72% drop in their share price over a six month period.

On Wednesday 31 January, 2018 the Capita share price opened up at 347 and closed at 182.50 which represents a 47.53% fall in share price.

John Burgess, Branch Secretary of Barnet  Unison said:
Once again the market shows that it is merciless when a company is in trouble. Carillion looks as if it is just the tip of the iceberg. The minute Carillion collapsed I immediately started to look more closely at Capita Share price. I noted that Capita share price had already dropped by around 66% in the last two years. Today seems to have shocked many experts. My concern is for the staff and the local services they provide for Barnet residents. I know from speaking to staff that they are worried and quite understandably cynical about any messages trying to play down what is happening to the company. After the debacle that our former Connaught members went through previously I want to ensure this time that Barnet UNISON does it utmost to try to allay members concerns about their future employment. My view is that this event is a watershed moment for Barnet Council. Please abandon your “love affair” with outsourcing and commence negotiations to return all services back to the Council.

Will voluntary groups at the Willesden Centre get a lifeline tonight?

Tonight's Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee has an item on the use of space by voluntary organisations at the Willesden Centre for Health and Care. I hope councillors will take the opportunity to try and get a positive outcome for organisations that contribute a great deal to provision but cannot afford market rents, such as Brent Advocacy Concerns LINK.

This letter  to Cllr Sheth, from Sheik Auladin, Interim Chief Operating Officer of the Brent Clinical Commissioning Group could enable the Committee to focus on some possible solutions and give voluntary organisations some reassurance regarding costs and space ahead of the end of March deadline.
Thank you for your letter dated 6 th November 2017 regarding the progress the CCG has made in respect of supporting voluntary sector organisations, working within the NHS estate in Brent and specifically at the Willesden Centre for Health and Care. 

The CCG has continued to work to identify tenants for the void space across the Brent sites in line with its commissioning intentions . As you will appreciate our priority has to be ensuring the statutory services we commission can access fit for purpose and appropriate accommodation; however, where voluntary services are already in occupation at such sites, or where voluntary organisat ions express an interest for space, we will proactively work to establish requirements and where possible accommodate. 

There has been a long standing need to provide the Burnley Practice - at the Willesden Centre for Health and Care - with an appropriately sized and located space within the building. The practice has been successful in securing NHS England funding to support its relocation within the building to space previously occupied by the Brent Association for Disabled People. The CCG is aware that some voluntary services previously operating under the auspices of BADP continue in occupation of part of this space, albeit they are not being charged. 

The CCG has met with each of these organisations over the past few weeks to explain the plans, establish their ongoing space requirements and reassure the services it will seek to secure an alternative arrangement for them within the building. As you acknowledge, charging market rent is the policy of NHS PS over which we have no jurisdiction; but we will draw on this relationship and try and ensure the organisations can meet rental costs through the same or favourable terms. 

Brent CCG is committed to supporting the valuable work of the voluntary sector in Brent. It is not possible to develop a formal policy for the use of NHS estate by the voluntary sector, due to the CCG having no direct property interest; however we do commit to the principles set out by Sarah Mansuralli previously, and will continue to support the occupation of void space by voluntary organisations where this space is not required for the delivery of statutory or directly commissioned services. 

Yours sincerely,
Sheik Auladin
Interim Chief Operating Officer
Brent Clinical Commissioning Group

Brent Council to hold Public Meeting on asbestos controversy - February 6th

From Brent Council

Public meeting for anyone who has any concerns about Paddington Old Cemetery, where you can hear first-hand from independent experts as well as the Council. Tuesday 6 February 2018 at 7pm at Kilburn Housing Co-operative, Kilburn Square, Victoria Road, Kilburn, NW6 6PT.

Duffy asks, 'Why didn't Brent Council interview key witnesses over transportation of asbestos contaminated waste?'

Councillor Duffy has responded to Brent Council's replies to his questions about the asbestos contamination at Paddington Cemetery with this email to Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive:

Thank you for letter you asked Mr Whyte to send on your behalf. I will study it and deal with the questions around the events of 24th June and 30th November and contamination in general in a second reply as I need to get more information. However this reply will focus on how the waste got to Paddington Cemetery, which is the most crucial issue. Firstly I am delighted you have said "I can confirm that the AAC report was initially restricted for its consideration by the Committee in December. it has been publicly available on the council’s website since the last Audit Advisory Committee on the 10th January. I believe your decision to lift the restriction is a good decision for democracy and will allow an open debate around the report

As you know, until you published it, I was bound by the council standing orders not to reveal what was in the report. This was most frustrating as the report is flawed and omits crucial evidence. Only in Brent would a report that does not interview witnesses be acceptable. The report not only fails to interview anybody who witnessed the transportation from Carpenter Park to Paddington Cemetery (as they may tell a different story), it relies completely on what Senior Brent council officers say is true and does not seek relevant documentation.

As you know my allegations have always been the same since November 2017:

(1) The council knowingly/deliberate transported contaminated waste from Carpenters Park, putting the workforce and the public at unnecessary risk.

The report points out there were two known incidences of contamination in Paddington Cemetery. 

The first one took place in 2011, where the council received supposedly top-soil from a waste contractor. A council officer called Mr A dealt directly with the contractor named as company XX. He did not seek additional quotations as the contractor XX (this is normal for Brent not to seek best value) had previously carried out work in Willesden New Cemetery. Instead, Mr A met the contractor on site and agreed a price and raised a work order from the contractor to supply" Clean Top soil." 

While Mr A was off sick a Senior manager Mr F (rightly) challenged the workmanship of company XX and informed Mr A on his return to work that the company should not be used again. Mr F is now retired. Mr A however said the clay/soil was, he understood, to have been tested and no contamination was found. Bizarrely the investigating officer did not ask the name of the company who tested it or ask see a copy of the test results.

The second incident took place in Carpenders Park in August 2015, The work was being carried out by different contractor YY to carry out levelling work in section 3d in Paddington cemetery. Mr A was alerted to contaminated soil again .Mr A believed it to be (guessed it to be) "Asbestos cement", which he described as low risk. He removed some of the "Asbestos Cement"  and double bagged it and disposed of it to landfill and obtained a waste transfer certificate and the  remaining waste still contaminated  with asbestos fibres was transported to Paddington Old cemetery without a test being carried out to assert the level of contamination still within the soil this confirms the council knowingly transferred  waste to Paddington Cemetery knowing it to be contaminated. This is all confirmed at the bottom of page 6 and top of page 7 of the AAC report.
I assume the waste was then taken to the West London Waste Authority (WLWA) Site on Abbey road NW10 as we are a member of that waste authority. WLWA are required to keep Waste Transfer notes for a minimum of 2 years. So it is very likely they will still have copies and that information would be a basic requirement to any investigation Date, Weight, description but this obvious avenue was yet again not pursued by the investigator.

However the most bizarre thing I have ever seen in a report and after nearly forty years experience, I am still not sure I believe what i read. It was the statement from the investigating officer saying "Although dealing with contaminated land falls within the remit of the ( the council's) environment monitoring team they stated they would NOT pursue a criminal investigation against the the contractor should evidence of an offence under the Environmental Protection Act come to light." This is the Environmental team telling the investigator and the committee, whatever he then finds, it does not matter because environmental officers will not pursue it.

As I say, I welcome your decision to remove the restriction on the ACC Report and i hope it get a full airing at the public meeting, however I believe the publishing of the AAC report makes an Independent public investigation carried out by a Health and Safety expert( to reassure the public) inevitable. I believe the idea that issues in the public interest can be dealt with by a restricted special committee where the council mark their own homework and give themselves an A+  has to be challenged 

I have only one question: Are you happy that the investigating officer did not seek relevant available documents and failed to interview key witness involved in the transportation of the asbestos contaminated waste to Paddington cemetery 

An early reply will be much appreciated. I will also get back to you on the other two points later in the week. Namely, 

(2) That the council knowingly instructed the workforce to work in the contaminated ground in full knowledge that it was contaminated with Asbestos 
(3)  That the council knowingly did not follow proper H+S regulations on the 24th of June and 30th of November.

Cllr Mili Patel breaks silence on The Village School academisation

Cllr Mili Patel
Cllr Mili Patel, Brent Cabinet member for Children and Young People, yesterday broke her silence regarding the proposed academisation, via a Multi-Academy Trust, of The Village School. The MAT would consist of The Village and Woodfield School, which is already an academy. The other Brent special school, Manor, is also an academy. The three schools are involved in a project to set up a free school together.

If academisation were to go ahead it would mean special education in Brent was outside local authority oversight.

In a statement to the Morning Star yesterday she said:
The Village School and Woodfield School have worked in partnership for some time.

The education policies of the Tory government - including a 2.7billion cut to the schools budget and barriers to schools partnering up in any way that doesn't involve them becoming academies - have led to the Village School governors considering joining the same multi-academy trust as Woodfield. This is something most of the governors themselves would tell you they never thought they would be considering.

As a Labour Council we do not want them to take this step and I have been working hard to demonstrate the advantages of staying within the Brent school of families [sic 'family of schools'] to its governors.

It is encouraging the governors have taken this important decision out to consultation which will give local people the chance to demonstrate the strength of feeling there is in Brent against these plans.

New Wembley Central and Alperton RA invite to Public Meeting February 28th

It is always welcome to see a new Residents' Association setting up in Brent as an antidote to apathy and a stimulus for participation and democratic representation.

This is what Wembley Central and Alperton Residents' Association say about themselves:


We are an independent, non-affiliated and non-political residents' association formed in 2017 to serve the residents of Wembley Central and Alperton. Our aim is simple, to work together, to create community cohesion and represent views of our residents to elected Brent Council officials. We have been formed by members of the Keep Wembley Tidy Action Group and One Tree Hill Residents Association. We believe that a strong organisation with clear residential support is needed now more than ever if we are to protect and enhance the things we like about our area. Membership is open to ALL residents of Wembley Central and Alperton wards and we welcome all sections of the community.

We will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday 28th February at 7pm, inviting our Councillors, Brent Council Officials and officials from local enforcement teams to debate issues and concerns we have for our area. The meeting will be held at Barham Primary School on Danethorpe Road, Wembley HA0 4RQ.

We will also be holding elections for a committee and looking for invitations to elect a Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and committee members. To find out how you can get involved, why not join us.

association phone:  07956 228740

Brent Council responds to Cllr Duffy's questions & announces public meeting on asbestos issue

Alleged possible asbestos dust a Paddington Cemetery

Cllr Duffy has received a reply from Brent Council to his questions LINK regarding the asbestos dump at Paddington Cemetery. His tenacity has succeeded in getting a fuller account than that given hitherto and getting more information put into the public domain. It is likely that he will have further questions to put to the Council.

Public Meeting on the asbestos contamination of Paddington Old Cemetery. Tuesday 6 February 2018 at 7pm at Kilburn Housing Co-operative, Kilburn Square, Victoria Road, Kilburn, NW6 6PT.


Dear Cllr Duffy,

The council’s Chief Executive has asked me to respond to your latest correspondence on this matter (received Monday 29th January). Your original email is provided below for reference (SEE LINK)

This response should also serve to answer the same (or very similar) questions raised in your email to Amar Dave, dated 24th January.

I will deal with each of your points in turn.

-       I agree that the Audit Advisory Committee (AAC) report and the Delta Simons report are separate reports. They consider two separate matters, both raised by yourself.

-       The purpose of the AAC report was to investigate your allegation that the asbestos contamination was a deliberate and illegal act. No evidence was found to support your allegation.

-       This report did examine the 2015 transfer of soil from other Brent cemeteries to Paddington. Soil (not asbestos) was imported for ground levelling purposes from three other council cemeteries using bulk lorries provided by Veolia and another contractor. The council did not knowingly load, transfer, or receive contaminated waste. Despite your suggestion, it has not been established that this soil was in any way contaminated by asbestos.

-       The Delta Simons report was a different report, with a different remit. It recorded the findings of the most recent ground survey of the site and quantified the level of contamination. It gave a comprehensive risk assessment based on those findings.

-       In response to your references to the wellbeing of the operatives, I can confirm that Veolia, their employers, have been attentive to their health and safety throughout this matter. You are aware that excavations ceased in May when asbestos was found. Other simple ground maintenance has also been minimised since May. Two burials in family graves have been undertaken by a specialist contractor, not Veolia, and the removal of some soil was undertaken only after a risk assessment had been done. This was previously provided to you for your information.

-       Your further and repeated reference to the council knowingly transferring asbestos to the cemetery must again be challenged. That is simply not supported by any evidence. 

I refer now to the two dates listed in your section titled ‘The Perfect Storm’. I can provide the following details.

24th June
It is not evident from the photographs what work, if any, is being undertaken. From May, when traces of asbestos were discovered at a depth of 6-7ft, Veolia exercised their duty of care and chose to cease burials and ground excavations until a ground survey was undertaken to establish the extent of any contamination. In the intervening period, only very occasional grass cutting is likely to have been undertaken by Veolia in order to maintain the amenity of this public site for visitors. This activity will normally require the use of protective equipment and will not be undertaken when members of the public are present. As you will appreciate, Veolia prioritise their duty of care to their staff and to other people. Such operations are usually undertaken by teams who might move from location to location and so the suggestion they were ‘bussed in’ is neither disputed nor unusual.

30th November
Some soil was removed from the site by a licensed waste carrier. This followed a full risk assessment. The area was cordoned off and the soil was covered prior to its transfer (your photograph gives some indication of that). You were previously provided with the risk assessment document and the waste transfer note.

I refer now to your section ‘No new evidence’ and your three questions. I will respond to each of these in turn.

1.      Could you confirm that the AAC report is a internal restricted report and the public will never be allowed to view or reference that report?

I can confirm that the AAC report was initially restricted for its consideration by the Committee in December. However, it has been publicly available on the council’s website since the last Audit Advisory Committee on the 10th January. LINK

2.      Can you confirm that you are aware the Delta Simons report states "The Client ( Brent Council) as landowner (and potentially as employer) has a duty to manage to ensure exposure is kept as low as reasonably practicable; further, the assessment has identified the potential for exposures to exceed a level at which has been considered in civil litigation as being a material contributor to a case of mesothelioma"?

The council accepts its obligation to undertake remediation of the site to ensure levels of potential exposure are kept to as low a level as possible. That will happen and the council has now commissioned specialist plans for that remediation. It is likely soil will be removed in bulk and replaced. This will be followed by a re-landscaping of The Mound. In terms of the exposure risk, this has now been confirmed as an ‘acceptable’ risk for walkers and casual visitors to the site and a ‘tolerable’ risk to those excavating the soil over a lifetime period. The report identified that ‘those working within the soils would be exposed to a greater degree of risk than those engaged in works that do not involve soil excavation; this may be considered part and parcel of the type and nature of work they are engaged in and remunerated for; any persons whose duties involve digging through soils or made ground will be exposed to contaminants including both ‘natural’ (e.g. arsenic) and anthropogenic inclusions. For comparative purposes, the concentrations, types and friability of the asbestos found are not uncommon from those encountered in many investigations of previously developed sites and the urban environment.’ Further discussions with Delta Simons last Friday confirmed that the contamination level across The Mound is 0.001%. Their view is that the risk is almost non-existent and is comparable to the risk encountered when walking down any street in Brent, or in a similar urban environment. They also made clear that the levels of contamination they measured during their survey means the soil can be considered ‘non-hazardous’ for disposal purposes. Their view on protective clothing is that it is not really necessary so long as basic hygiene precautions are undertaken by anyone working in the soil and that a simple damping down of the soil is sufficient in order to mitigate any risk when digging.

3.      Can you confirm that since new evidence has now been made known to you - in paragraphs  titled "Perfect Storm" and "Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)” above - you will commission an Independent Investigation into the manner in which the council handled issues following the delivery of the contaminated waste in August 2015.

I refer you to the responses given at 2 and 3 above, particularly Delta Simon’s confirmed view on the levels of contamination and the risk. I ask that you consider these facts and that you reflect on the final conclusion of their report which states - ‘It is considered unlikely from the assessment undertaken that the risk identified would be sufficient to drive regulatory action by Statutory Regulators in relation to land contamination, nor is it considered likely that the conditions and concentrations encountered are likely to be of interest to the Health and Safety Executive in relation to asbestos under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.’

A further investigation is not proposed. As has been made clear, the enquiries conducted by Brent’s Internal Audit were considered and discussed by the council’s Audit Advisory Committee on two separate recent occasions, namely, on 5 December 2017 and 10 January 2018. This Committee has an independent role and is chaired by an experienced non-councillor member of the Committee. The Committee also has another member independent of the Council, Eugene Sullivan, who was the previous Chief Executive of the Audit Commission.

To infer in any way that the investigation and furthermore the oversight of the matter is not    
independent is not accurate.

On 10 January 2018, the Committee concluded that, unless any new information came to light, there was no basis for any further investigation. It found that there is no available evidence or in fact any other information capable of forming the basis of any further enquiry or investigation. In other words, there is nothing that can be usefully investigated to reveal who is responsible for the soil contamination and what happened at the time that it was received at the cemetery. This audit process has therefore established no evidence of anyone delivering or receiving contaminated soil deliberately or in a fraudulent way in order to gain any advantage. In the circumstances, continuing to investigate this matter would be futile and, having initially considered litigation, have now concluded that there is no prospect of the council being able to take any legal action. Besides, the very small levels of contamination (0.001%) that are not uncommon in such soil would seem to counter any suggestion the contamination would have been very obvious to any party at the time in any case.

A public meeting is proposed for next Tuesday, 6th February. This will see the council present the facts and provide any further reassurance that may be needed.

Harrow School defeated for second time by protectors of open green space

Illustration: Harrow Hill Trust
Following their defeat over proposed public footpath changes LINK Harrow School yesterday received a second blow when London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has rejected plans for a new school sports facility which would have been built on protected green space.

Sadiq Khan made it clear he supports the expansion of Harrow School’s sporting facilities and would welcome the greater access offered to the local community – but that it should not come at the expense of protecting open, green spaces, particularly when alternative options are available.

The plans included construction of a 7,300 sq m sports block – of which 4,600 sq m would have built on designated Metropolitan Open Land, which is largely undeveloped.

The Mayor's new London Plan, which was published for consultation at the end of last year, affords the same protection to Metropolitan Open Land as that given to the Green Belt.

In rejecting the application, the Mayor invited Harrow School to work with his planning team to develop a new application for a sports hall on the footprint of its existing site.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
Since becoming Mayor I have been clear that protecting London’s precious green spaces is one of my top priorities.

I absolutely support the school’s ambitions to expand its sporting facilities, and their plans to open them up to the local community for the benefit of people of all ages are to be commended.

However, I’m clear that expansion of this kind must not encroach on open green space, which is one of the capital’s most important and cherished assets. Nor, in this case, is it necessary to do so, as other options are available.

I hope the school will rethink its plans and come up with a scheme which allows them to provide a new facility for their pupils and the community without harming the area’s precious green spaces.

Brent Greens ask Council for assurances on Paddington Cemetery asbestos dump

Brent Green Party in an open letter to Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive, has posed questions about the contaminated waste at Paddington Green Cemetery:

OPEN Letter to CEO London Borough of Brent, Councillor Butt,

Councillor Southwood cc Councillor Duffy

As Green Party Trade Union Liaison Officer for Brent and for the London Federation of Green Parties, and as a council tax paying resident of the London Borough of Brent, I am very concerned to hear from Councillor Duffy’s email, that there are contamination problems arising from the dumping and disposal of asbestos contaminated soil in Paddington Old Cemetery. 

As I am sure the CEO of Brent and the Brent Councillors dealing with this matter, are aware asbestos is relatively safe when undisturbed, but if it is caused to give off dust, which is harmful if inhaled, that dust can give rise to severe health problems which may not be apparent until years later.

I would therefore like assurances that the Council did not deliberately send asbestos contaminated waste to Paddington Old Cemetery, and that once Council became aware of the presence of such waste, it ensured that:

1.  all workers dealing with the waste were fully briefed as to its potentially hazardous nature and advised to inform their GPs of possible exposure.

2.  all workers dealing with the waste were fully equipped with appropriate protection

3.  measures were taken to ensure that the waste would affect members of the public visiting the Cemetery and the students and staff of the school which neighbours the Cemetery.

4.  the school and the NEU Health and Safety representative was notified of the presence of the waste and warned when it was likely to be disturbed.

Yours sincerely Peter Murry

Give your views on Cricklewood HGV Superhub today at the Crown 4pm-8.30pm

From Barnet Council
Wednesday 31 January 4pm to 8.30pm
Clayton Crown Hotel, Cricklewood, NW2 3ED

The Brent Cross Cricklewood development is Barnet Council’s most significant growth and regeneration programme.

There will be an opportunity to hear about the scheme in more detail and to view the plans for the replacement waste transfer station and the modernised rail freight facility.

It will be an open drop-in session between 4pm and 8.30pm with opportunities to hear a short presentation with more detail at 5pm and 7pm.

The invite is extended to interested residents who wish to hear more about what the scheme will bring and to discuss issues and concerns they may have with members of the delivery team.