Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Who would you rather work for Barnet or Camden?

Do you care what sort of a local Authority you elect? I live in Barnet, but also have dealings with Hertsmere, Harrow and Camden through my business. I have friends who live in each area and friends who work for all of the organisations. I've not really given a lot of thought to what the relative experience is really like. Not until last night that is.

I saw a very good friend of mine last night. I haven't seen him since June. We had arranged to meet a couple of times, but he cancelled. I was extremely worried about him. He is a skilled tradesman. He was working for a company that did subcontracting for various organisations that ultimately are part of the Barnet group (the arms length organisation that runs most things housing for Barnet). His stress levels were going through the roof and he was on medication for mental health related issues, but being a proud man, he was still working and still turning up every day. I have to be honest, I was expecting the worst when I saw him, not that we ever have anything other than a good laugh, but it is awful to see a friend on the absolute edge of a precipice.

He bowled in fashionably late, as is his want. I immediately noticed a massive change. It was 100% obvious that his stress levels were completely back to normal. I made a comment on this. He laughed "Yeah, I've got a new job. I've been working for Camden Council for the last four months. I got sick of the other lot and jacked it in". I asked what it was like. He told me that he was enjoying work for the first time in years. You have to take an hour lunch break, unheard of previously, the work is ordered and the working day is seven or seven and a half hours a day, depending on day of the week. He said that when it's time to knock off you go home and don't worry about work until you clock back in at 7am the next day.

I then asked the obvious question. With this easier lifestyle does the work get done? The response may surprise a few of you "Yes, it gets done a bit slower in the first place, but it is always done properly, so there is virtually no going back to put things right, because you didn't have time to finish the job. It's made clear that you are there to do a good job for the tenants, it is completely different".

He then told me he'd been having lunch at the council canteen and Sir Keir Starmer came in for a bite and sat opposite him. He was quite surprised at the informality and friendliness of the whole place. He said "I'd forgotten what it is like to work for a firm you enjoy working for". My friend is my age and has had a life working in the construction industry. He's not some naive fool freshly out of school. We didn't meet to discuss his work, the subject only came up because he seemed so much less stressed than he's been for ages.  After discussing this for five minutes, we moved on.

Why do I mention this? Well simply because our taxes pay for the contractors and for the staff. Just take five minutes to think about it. Would you rather your money was spent on treating staff like they do in Camden, where they deliver quality work, tenants come first and ultimately it's cheaper because it is done properly first time and the staff are not constantly stressed out and looking over their shoulders and clock watching. Or would you prefer the Barnet Council model, where the cash goes to contractors, who get their lawyers to agree contracts, who ensure staff get the minimum and get in and out as quickly as possible, doing the minimum to meet the Service Level Agreement (SLA), and the craftsmen doing the job being constantly under pressure, clockwatching and getting called back to fix problems?

I believe that if I am employing people, be it at my studio business, or indirectly as a taxpayer to Barnet Council, who pay subcontractors, I want those staff to have decent, happy lives. I don't want to be a sweatshop style employer, using my economic power to push people to the brink, just so I have a few extra pennies in my pocket. Do you?

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