Westminster Council fails its duty of care to its care home workers

Westminster Labour Councillors are deeply concerned by news that over 40% of staff at Westminster Council’s Westmead and Carlton Dene Residential Care Homes are being paid below the London Living Wage (LLW). After raising concerns internally about this shocking state of affairs Labour Councillors are now going public to demand action from Westminster Council to end this failure to properly look after those who look after elderly residents on its behalf.

Since Westminster Council outsourced management of its Residential Homes to Sanctuary Care, levels of pay for carers and other staff have dropped substantially (Westminster claims all of its directly employed staff are paid the LLW or above). Care Assistants, Domestic Assistants and Supervisors, receptionists and most of the chefs were all being paid substantially below the current London Living Wage (£9.75 per hour), some by almost as much as £2 per hour below the appropriate level. Despite the change of management these staff are still working on behalf of the council to look after elderly and vulnerable residents and it is Westminster Council who sets the terms of the contract.

Westminster Labour believes all council employees and contractors should receive the London Living Wage, but it is particularly shocking that instead of Westminster Council moving closer to the LLW in its residential homes the situation is actually getting worse.

Westminster Labour Leader Cllr Adam Hug said, “Westminster Council is failing in its duty of care to its care home workers. When other councils are moving to pay the Living Wage to everyone they are responsible for, whether outsourced or not, it is shameful that those caring for Westminster’s elderly are getting treated so shabbily. The Council must get round the table with Sanctuary Care and urgently sort out this contract so that all care home staff get paid at least the London Living Wage.”

*** Sign the petition calling for the London Living Wage to be paid to Westminster Care Home Staff***

Notes:

In 2015 the management of six residential homes in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea were transferred to the management of Sanctuary Care (part of the Sanctuary Housing Group- a registered social landlord). These were:  Carlton Dene (WCC Residential Care), Westmead (WCC Residential Care), Athlone House (Westminster NHS Nursing Care), Garside House (Westminster NHS Nursing Care), Butterworth Centre (Westminster NHS Nursing Care) and the Princess Louise Kensington (Kensington & Chelsea NHS Nursing Care).

Posted in Adult Care, Council Contractors, Council staff, London Living Wage, Older People, Residential Homes, Salaries, Sanctuary Housing, Social Care | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Tri-borough collapse traces back to Westminster Council mismanagement

Westminster Council’s long-term mismanagement of back-office systems for Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster were at the root of the break-up of tri-borough arrangements.

Councillors in Hammersmith & Fulham had little alternative but to look for other arrangements following grotesque failings in some of the back office tri-borough workings, for which Westminster was the lead borough. From the start of tri-borough, Westminster took charge of an attempt to run all three councils’ routine billing and staff hours, pay and pensions administration through one contract.

Westminster Council gave the contract to BT in January 2013 telling everyone that it would save £30m and other councils would be asking to join in. At that point Westminster expected the contract to commence across the three boroughs in November 2013 (for HR) and March 2014 (for finance) and go live soon after.

It didn’t. The contract actually went live in April 2015. The reason for the delay, and what happened after the contract did go live, are unfortunately covered by strict rules about commercial confidentiality. It is however in the public domain that Westminster Council’s Audit and Performance committee held eight extraordinary meetings over this one contract (all in private sessions). Links to the minutes:

3 November 2015: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g3899/Printed%20minutes%2003rd-Nov-2015%2019.00%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
10 December 2015: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g3935/Printed%20minutes%2010th-Dec-2015%2018.30%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
12 January 2016: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g4044/Printed%20minutes%2012th-Jan-2016%2018.30%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
11 February 2016: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g4045/Printed%20minutes%2011th-Feb-2016%2018.45%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
2 June 2016: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g4063/Printed%20minutes%2002nd-Jun-2016%2018.30%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
22 September 2016: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g4150/Printed%20minutes%2022nd-Sep-2016%2018.30%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
16 November 2016: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/g4162/Printed%20minutes%2016th-Nov-2016%2018.30%20Audit%20and%20Performance%20Committee.pdf?T=1
31 January 2017 (an unofficial meeting)

The Audit and Performance committee has never previously held a special meeting over a single contract. Problems with the contract were reported to Hammersmith & Fulham’s Finance policy and accountability committee, and audit committee, which also held a special meeting on 13 January 2016 (http://democracy.lbhf.gov.uk/documents/g4834/Printed%20minutes%2013th-Jan-2016%2019.00%20Audit%20Pensions%20and%20Standards%20Committee.pdf?T=1); agendas for Kensington & Chelsea’s Audit and Transparency committee also show Managed Services frequently being reported in private session.

The LBHF annual accounts notes the production of a “Managed Services Risk report” in June 2015, a “Managed Services Programme update” in September 2015, and four documents in January 2016: the “Managed Services Lessons Learned review”, “LBHF comments on the Lessons Learned review”, a “Managed Services Outstanding Audit Recommendations report” and a “Managed Services Gate Exit report”. Leader Stephen Cowan comments on the programme on page 114: https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/sites/default/files/section_attachments/statement_of_accounts_2015-16.pdf

These issues came after problems with the home to school transport contract for children with special needs, also organised by Westminster: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/26/dangers-to-disabled-children-of-low-cost-specialist-transport. No wonder Hammersmith & Fulham Council started exploring other solutions.

But the reaction of leading Westminster Conservatives to the problems can be judged from a private presentation to the Conservative group in January 2017, which was leaked. Councillors were told that the council would be “stabilising and optimising the Managed Services Programme”, which would “eliminate waste and inefficiency”. An update to a Scrutiny committee earlier this month blithely spoke of “concerns surrounding the delivery of the payroll and pensions recovery plan”.

Councillor David Boothroyd, Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for  Finance said:

“Westminster has been done in by its own hype. Starting off with sensible proposals to share back-office staff and integrate services with neighbouring councils, they let a grand vision take priority over the practical. It’s no good telling everyone you’ve instituted a revolution in local government if you forget to pay your suppliers and children can’t get to school on time. Westminster Council has indulged in this sort of grandiosity before; perhaps next time, someone will say “Let’s just keep it simple”.”

Posted in Council finances, Labour Councillors, LBHF, RBKC, Triborough, Westminster City Council, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Council refuses to answer questions about its damaging homelessness strategy

Labour Councillors trying to scrutinize Westminster Council’s controversial homelessness policies have been denied access to information about the legal advice the Council commissioned around the scheme that will formalise sending everyone except those with high care needs or kids doing major exams out of London and see many dumped into the private rented sector, ending the council’s duty to house them.

Not only will the council not share the legal opinion it has received due to fears of imminent legal challenge but it refuses even to share, in confidence, the questions it asked of its tax-payer funded lawyers. Such information used to be shared with Labour councillors but now it seems Westminster is no longer willing allow its councillors to know what is being done on behalf of local residents.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “we have been politely requesting this important information for months now and have been denied at every turn. What is the council asking its lawyers about the implications of its new homeless policies and why won’t it tell us? What has it got to hide?”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Homeless Families | Leave a comment

CityWest Homes plans major estate office closures

CityWest Homes-the organisation that runs Westminster Council’s 21,000 council and leasehold homes is planning massive cuts to its network of estate offices in local communities across the city.

Under plans set out to councillors this week it seems that CityWest Homes are looking to close almost all of its free-standing estate offices, leaving only the four area service centres remaining. This is part of a service redesign aimed to cut over £5million in costs and encourage more people to use online and phone services. CityWest have confirmed that they plan to close six estate offices at Church Street, St John’s Wood, Little Venice, Westbourne Park, Paddington Green and Charlwood Street.

Westminster Labour Councillors are opposed to these massive cuts to CityWest’s presence in local communities. While many residents may not use the office all the time it is important to know it is there when needed, and there remains a significant proportion of residents who either lack regular internet access or whose lack of confidence communicating in English makes phone or internet contact more difficult. CityWest Homes says that it wants to see staff spend more time out and about on our estates, yet basing them all out of centralised area service centres will see staff spending time further from the communities they are supposed to be managing. CityWest have talked about possibly holding drop in sessions or surgeries in areas hit by the cuts to estate offices. However this will not be enough to deal with the needs of vulnerable residents looking for face-to-face contact with their housing officers when they need it.

Westminster Labour will stand with local residents who want to fight to save their local estate offices that are valued by their local communities. If estate offices are ultimately closed, Westminster Labour are demanding that CityWest Homes and Westminster Council ensure that they are replaced by a permanent base for estate teams to work from in a nearby community building that is both accessible and has a staff member present to assist resident enquiries. Furthermore CityWest must commit to protecting the future of the residents halls whose operation may be hit by the cuts to estate offices.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “These drastic estate office closures are yet another sign of the retreat of council services from our local communities. Many of our estate offices are a valued part of the community and in particular older and more vulnerable residents would really feel their loss. CityWest Homes and Westminster’s Conservative Council need to think again.”

Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Tim Roca said “Shutting offices which had over 13,500 visits in a nine month period last year alone, before having a website fully functioning and ready is only one among a number of concerns we have with the closure and redundancies envisaged by these proposals. It is clear these cuts are being foisted on CityWest Homes by Westminster’s Conservative Council, and there needs to be much more time spent listening to what residents need rather than what the Council wants.”

Sign the petition on Estate office closures here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/estateoffices/

Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Council housing, Estate Office | 1 Comment

Berwick Street Market privatisation U-Turn welcomed by Labour

Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have welcomed Westminster City Council’s U-turn on plans to privatise Berwick Street Market following a year-long campaign from market traders who organised a 37,000-signatrure petition against the privatisation proposals.

With just days left before the new market contract was scheduled to start on 1st April, the Council has announced that its privatisation plans are in tatters and that it will continue to run the centuries-old market directly. Previously the Council had defended its decision to privatise Berwick Street Market by claiming that it “did not have the expertise to run a market”. Now the very same Council has decided to ‘take back control’ of its own market.

Over the weekend, Labour Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg wrote an angry email to Council Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, demanding answers to questions about the future of the market. He said:

“Please treat this as a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to deal with the applications from Berwick Street Market Street traders for permanent licences in a timely and efficient manner. Please can you explain why the applications have not been processed and why your staff refuse to answer calls and emails from traders?

I am also appalled at the callous disregard for the jobs and businesses at Berwick Street shown by the Council over the past year and more. Please can you explain why you have allowed the market to deteriorate to the situation where one business after another after another has left Berwick Street?

I am also shocked at the clear indifference displayed by members of the Conservative administration and the incompetence shown by some of your senior colleagues who appear to be totally unable or unwilling to manage the existing market to the benefit of traders, residents and visitors to Berwick Street. Please can you explain why you have allowed this appalling situation to continue.

The new market contract is supposed to start on 1 April and yet, two weeks beforehand, despite repeated requests for an update from traders and Councillors you are unable or unwilling to provide any information whatsoever.

What sort of organisation are you running? Is anyone at the Council taking responsibility for the lost jobs, lost businesses and trashing of the iconic Berwick Street Market brand?”

Following the Council’s U-turn announcement Councillor Dimoldenberg said:

“For the past 12 months, Berwick Street Traders’ lives have been made a misery by an incompetent and malicious Council that has put political dogma before common sense. Privatising the market never made any sense and Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have been proud to have stood side by side with market traders and local residents in fighting this madness. The campaign continues. We now want to know what new resources will be brought in to the Council to manage Berwick Street Market properly and what new investment will be put in to the market so that it has the necessary facilities to make it a success once again.”

Patrick Lilley of West End Labour said: “These pointless plans to privatise the market have led to enormous stress and anxiety for market traders and their families. On top of that, it’s all been a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Indeed, that’s why the West End Labour team is demanding that the Council tell us how much money they’ve spent on this whole process – all of this wasted money could have been spent on other things like easing cuts to youth centres.”

Pancho Lewis also of West End Labour added “We welcome the Council’s decision to backtrack on these privatisation plans. 300 year old Berwick Street market is a historic community asset which brings the whole community together. Frankly though, it’s come far too late and all of this could have been avoided if they’d listened to the community in the first place.”

Posted in Berwick Street market, Labour Councillors, Paul Dimoldenberg, Soho, West End, West End WArd Labour Action Team | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Churchill Labour Councillor meets with Wandsworth Councillors to discuss opposition to Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge

Churchill Labour Councillor Shamim Talukder has met with Labour representatives on the London Assembly and Wandsworth Council as well as local activists to discuss residents’ opposition to the proposed Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge.

Labour London Assembly Members Andrew Dismore and Leonie Cooper and Wandsworth Labour Councillors Fleur Anderson, Annamarie Critchard and Aydin Dikerdem attended the site visit.

Councillor Shamim Talukder showed them the proposed landing sites in Pimlico and the impact they will have on our community.

Councillor Talukder commented: “Churchill Labour Councillors have been opposed to the bridge at any location in Pimlico from day one and have been continuing to lobby Wandsworth to cancel this expensive white elephant. The money spent on this project could have been funding social housing which is urgently needed. The Mayor has made it clear that any bridge would need support on both sides of the river, it certainly does not have any support in Pimlico.”

London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said: “It was helpful to visit Pimlico and see the problems on the ground. It is very difficult to see any scheme to build a bridge here that would not cause significant disruption. I don’t know why the Conservatives in Wandsworth persist with this scheme, which has no support in Westminster, and waste £500,000 of scarce public money. I’m sure there are plenty of schemes in Wandsworth they could consider to improve public transport and connectivity there.”

Posted in Andrew Dismore, Churchill Ward, Labour Councillors, London Assembly, Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge, Pimlico, Wandsworth Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Churchill Labour Councillors take action on Coach Parking

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have been working with Council officers to ask for urgent action on Coach parking on Ebury Bridge Road and Pimlico Road.

Residents have been contacting Councillors with examples of Coaches parked on Pimlico Road as well as by the Chelsea Barracks site on Ebury Bridge Road.

Councillor Jason Williams said: “It’s clear the removal of the Coach parking facility in Nine Elms due to the redevelopment work there has had an effect on moving the issue to our streets while they wait for a slot at the Victoria Coach Station.”

Councillor Shamim Talukder said: “Our local streets are not designed to be used as a Coach parking lot and urgent action needs to be taken to resolve this issue.”

Council Officers, following lobbying by Councillors, are commissioning a feasibility study to look at how to reduce the extent of Victoria Coach Station coaches being driven around local roads, parking and engine idling.

Cllr Williams and Cllr Talukder has asked residents to continue to keep them informed on examples of coaches parked by emailing them
on jwilliams@westminster.gov.uk or stalukder@westminster.gov.uk

Posted in Churchill Ward, Coach Parking, Ebury Bridge Estate, Labour Councillors, Victoria, Victoria Coach Station | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment