The Branch Resources Review is tasked with reviewing the branch funding regime, how resources are applied and how this might be improved to provide more effective allocation of funds and use of resources, and in particular the financial and resourcing issues branches face.
As the Review has progressed, through consultation it identified the need to develop systems which support branches in the complex tasks of managing their finances, and responding to external developments, such as guidance issued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Service (HMRC).
More recently the Review has been assessing the branch funding formula, its impact on branches and whether or not the current formula is fit for purpose in today’s climate of public service cuts, fragmentation and declining income.
The results of this consultation and analysis have now been published and are tabled for discussion at this year’s National Delegate Conference in Brighton in June.
Branch Resources Review FAQs
Who has the Branch Resources Review consulted?
Central to the Review has been the importance of consulting far and wide. This has included branches, regions and at recent conferences, as well as undertaking an in-depth analysis of the financial position of all branches across the union.
Who sits on the Branch Resources Review group?
The Branch Resources Review group is composed of NEC members – mainly from the Finance & Resource Management Committee (FMRC) – and representatives of the Regional Convenor group. But it also includes the chairs of the NEC’s Development and Organisation Committee (D&O) and Policy Development and Campaigns Committee (PDCC). It is chaired by Josie Bird, Chair of FRMC.
What developments has the Review overseen so far?
Since the Review was set up in 2011 by UNISON’s NEC – following a National Delegate Conference decision – it has overseen a number of important developments, including:
- streamlining the management of branch bank accounts;
- making further developments of the On Line Branch Accounting (OLBA) system to facilitate the rule changes agreed at conference and provide a much needed financial management tool;
- establishing a common annual branch budget scheme and introducing new systems to support this; and
- piloting a new type of branch budgeting known as Activity Based Budgeting (ABB).
Branch budgeting: the importance of planning ahead
One of the earlier recommendations which came out of the Review was the need for branches to prepare an annual budget and this was agreed at conference and embedded as a rule change. It acknowledges that the process of planning and budgeting has immense value as a finance management tool and helps branches to have a structured approach to recording and reviewing their income and expenditure. The process would be linked to the joint branch assessment and OLBA was further developed to facilitate and record branch budgets and reporting.
The key benefit of planning ahead is that you have control over income and expenditure by looking at activities and related costs which you have previously undertaken and why. Budgeting allows the branch to prioritise its objectives and therefore its activities both old and new, leading to improved allocation of funds and efficiency.
Many branches have already received training and support for budgeting and there will be updated guidance and support notes alongside OLBA in due course. Budgeting is a simple process and if your branch has already undertaken the exercise feel free to feedback any comments regarding your experience so that the system and user notes can be updated to be more user-friendly
If your branch has not yet set its budget do remember that it is a rule book requirement and that branches should have considered their 2016 budget when they undertook their Joint Branch Assessment last autumn. This will have given them the opportunity to review previous spending patterns with their Regional Organiser, estimate their likely income, and begin planning their projected expenditure for the year. It is still not too late to prepare branch budgets and you can seek help and guidance from either your region or Finance.
The initial trialling started in Scotland with over 30 branches testing what is referred to as Activity Based Budgeting. This is a slight variation on simple budgeting approach but again supports branches in planning ahead when devising their budgets. In this case the budget is established by mapping out the resources required in order for the branch to meet its specific objectives or goals once identified. In particular, this involves devising a budget based on the branch’s anticipated needs and evaluating planned expenditure over expected income and identifying the funding needs for each activity and collectively.
There will be more on Activity Based Budgeting and a report on the experiences of the pilot branches in the next issue.
OLBA: making life easier for branches
On Line Branch Accounting is a simple web-based system that enables branches to maintain records of its financial transactions, assets and liabilities, to set and manage budgets, and to produce reports for their branch committees and their members. Also OLBA enables each branch to submit their Annual Financial Return through a managed OLBA year end routine without the additional burden of a separate form filing exercise. In the second quarter of 2016 a new module will provide additional information on branch funding estimates and payments for the remainder of the year.
Most branches confirm it takes a lot of the hard work out of record keeping and branch Treasurers are reporting high levels of satisfaction with OLBA and the nationally established help and support team.
Any branch needing further assistance with OLBA or the AFR process should contact the national help and support team or if they require training to contact their regional office.