UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is calling on the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to launch an immediate inquiry into the use of consultants at Barnet Council after public sector tax avoidance hit the headlines in the case of Ed Lester the Head of the Student Loans Company.
The union believes that the proper employment and procurement practices have not been followed exposing the Council to significant reputational and financial risks.
Eric Pickles has already had to step in and reprimand the council, after local residents and Barnet bloggers exposed the METPRO Audit scandal when METPRO a private security firm were awarded a contract at a cost of over a million pounds - without a tendering exercise, written contact or any proper invoicing - to ‘keep an eye’ on local bloggers.
Laura Butterfield, Regional Organiser at UNISON, said:
“We are really concerned that proper procedures have not been followed at Barnet Council. Over the last two years Barnet Council has employed a long list of consultants including the Deputy Chief Executive and Assistant Director of HR. Only an immediate inquiry can clarify the correct processes were followed. Given Danny Alexander’s intervention in the Ed Lester case last week how can we ensure that future cases are avoided unless all public sector employees are employed through the correct processes?”
UNISON’s key concerns
· The Council has failed to comply with its Contract Procurement Regulations (CPR) and Financial Regulations by employing consultants without any procurement/selection process being followed.– which exposes it to significant reputational and financial risks .
· The Council does not have accurate and complete centrally held contracts register and effective monitoring arrangements so are unable to confirm if this is an isolated incident.
· The Council does not have a complete, centrally held register of contractors showing who is employed, on what basis and at what cost.
We recommend that all spend over the stated threshold in the CPR be reviewed and matched to a central contracts register (in development) in a timely basis. This register needs to be drawn up in full and maintained.
Back in February 2011 the local UNISON branch submitted a report to all 63 Barnet Councillors on 10 February where they made the following recommendation
The Council undertakes as a matter of urgency a review of all payments to staff not employed directly by the Council.
Furthermore we recommend that the Council refer to the HMRC Guidelines in particular the advice to be found here that explains that “It's your responsibility to correctly determine the employment status of your workers - that is, whether they're employed by you or self-employed. This depends on the terms and conditions of your working relationship with each worker.
It's important to get your workers' employment status right because it affects the way tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) are calculated for them. And it determines whether or not you have to operate PAYE (Pay As You Earn) on their earnings.”
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For comment or more information please contact Laura Butterfield – 07718 520 850 / email@example.com