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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION)

 

Minutes of a Special Meeting held on 22nd July, 2014.

 

Present:  Councillor C.J. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J. Drysdale (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis, Mrs. A.J. Moore, Ms. R.F. Probert and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.

 

Also present: Councillors Mrs. P. Drake, P. King, N. Moore and M.R. Wilson.

 

 

278     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -

 

These were received from Councillors J.C. Bird, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and R.P. Thomas together with Messrs. B. Fisher, A. Raybould and G. Amos (Tenant Working Group).

 

 

279     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.    

 

 

280     REGIONALISING REGULATORY SERVICES PROJECT (DDS) -

 

The Chairman advised that the purpose of the Special Meeting was to consider a draft Cabinet report on the proposal to create a shared Regulatory Services function with Bridgend and Cardiff Councils. 

 

The Committee was asked to bear in mind the fact that members of staff potentially affected by the proposals had a direct personal interest in the issues to be considered.  As such, and following advice from the Monitoring Officer, it was inappropriate for staff to speak at the meeting.  The Scrutiny Committee also had no role in considering specific staff-related issues.  However, staff could attend the meeting to hear the debate and if they had any generic service issues, they had been able to contact their Trade Union representatives for such issues to be raised at the meeting.

 

Trade Unions had been offered the opportunity to make representations to the Committee on generic service issues.  These questions and responses from Council Officers were tabled at the meeting.

 

Members of the public (not employed or related to an employee of the Regulatory Services) who may have wished to address the Committee on the item had been requested to contact the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer by Friday, 18th July, 2014.  No such requests to speak had been received.

 

In terms of the matter before the Committee, the remit of the Committee was to consider the proposal in terms of its impact on the delivery of Regulatory Services in the Vale.  The Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources), as the lead committee, would consider the corporate implications of the proposal, including the Council’s budgetary situation. 

 

Any comments made at this meeting would be reported to the forthcoming meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and, subsequently, encapsulated in the report to Cabinet and Full Council.  This process was happening in each of the three Councils and the comments from Scrutiny Committees in each Council would be appended to the Cabinet report.

 

Staff engagement events were scheduled for later this month and throughout August.  The outputs from these would also be built into the Cabinet report.

 

It was proposed that Cabinet would receive the report in September, with the report then being forwarded to a meeting of the Full Council.

 

In July 2013, the Cabinets of Cardiff, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils received a report which proposed that a single shared service be created, comprising the Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Licensing functions of each Council under a single management structure.

 

Since July 2013, detailed work had been undertaken on developing the proposals for the shared Regulatory Service.  A report would be submitted to the Cabinet of each of the Local Authorities in September 2014, seeking approval to create the shared service.  A draft copy of the intended Cabinet report had been included as Appendix 1.

 

Funding had been secured from the Welsh Government’s Regional Collaboration Fund (RCF) to develop proposals for the project.  Part of the funding was used to support the development of the project.  W.S. Atkins Ltd (Atkins) were appointed to produce a Target Operating Model, supporting Business Case and Implementation Plan for the Regionalised Regulatory Service, a copy of which was attached at Appendix A to the report. 

 

As set out in Appendix 1, it was recommended that a formal collaboration be entered into between the three local authorities, with an integrated service operating under a single management structure (this was described as the 'Collaborate and Change’ option).  It was considered that this option provided the best opportunity to reduce costs and maintain a resilient service.  The business case for adopting this model was set out in Appendix A.  To ensure that the proposals met the changing circumstances in each Council since the work was completed, Committee were also requested to refer to Appendix B to the report which set out the most up to date analysis.

 

The Financial, Human Resources and Legal implications were contained in the draft Cabinet report, along with the proposed governance arrangements.

 

The report was being presented to Scrutiny Committees in each local authority prior to its consideration by Cabinet, in order to allow Cabinet to take any comments or recommendations into account when making its decision.  The comments and recommendations of each local authority’s scrutiny function would be collated into the final Cabinet report and presented in full to the Cabinet of each local authority.

 

With the permission of the Committee, the Leader, Councillor N. Moore addressed the Scrutiny Committee as follows:

 

·         The Council was facing the worst level of financial cuts that local government had ever had to face.

A report to Cabinet on 30th June, 2014 had indicated that the Council was, potentially, going to be required to find £32m savings in the next three years.  Of that figure, and notwithstanding savings already, identified, up to £22m was still likely to have to be identified.

 

·         Savings would have to be found within Regulatory Services next year totalling some £450,000.  This, in turn, had led to the need to consider whether the service could continue in its existing form.  Indeed, since the proposals had originally been formulated, further savings had been imposed upon each of the three local authorities and, consequently, some of the figures quoted in the documentation might have changed.

 

·         The Committee was reminded that this report represented 'pre-decision scrutiny’, as was occurring in each of the three authorities.

 

·         Consultation with staff and Trade Unions would continue.

 

·         There was a need for the service to be resilient and what was proposed was a reasonable alternative.  Should the proposals be agreed, the resilience of the service would be safeguarded.

 

·         Concerns had been expressed concerning the delay between the initial consultation and the release of the Atkins report.  The delay had been caused by a number of factors, not least the need to update the original proposals in the Atkins report and also the change of leadership in Cardiff Council, which had led to a need to review the proposals by that Council.

 

·         The report proposed that the Vale of Glamorgan Council be the host authority.

 

·         The report proposed the establishment of a Joint Committee and also proposed the management structure.  If the proposals were approved, consideration would also be given to the establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee.

 

·         He suggested that Appendix B of the Atkins Report probably best represented/summarised the current position.

 

·         Any comments made from this, or the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) would be reported to Cabinet to assist its decision-making.

 

·         Acknowledging that this was an emotive issue, the Leader, nevertheless, considered the proposals to be the only viable way forward in terms of maintaining service delivery.

 

The Director of Development Services, together with other officers, outlined the overall report and highlighted some of the Financial, Human Resources and Legal implications set out therein.

 

The Director of Development Services alluded to the 10 recommendations contained in the draft Cabinet report.  He referred to the project having been granted funding of £250,000 by the Welsh Government from the Regional Collaboration Fund on the basis of £250,000 per year for three years.  He referred to the progressing of various activities in accordance with the three local authorities’ decisions of July 2013 as set out in paragraph 6 of the draft Cabinet report.

 

The Atkins Report was contained in Appendix A to the draft Cabinet report and outlined proposals in four main areas:

 

·         The Business Case for developing a shared service (page 22)

·         A proposed Target Operating Model for the new service (page 57)

·         The proposed governance arrangements for the new service (page 65)

·         An implementation plan for progressing the work towards the shared service (page 95).

 

Appendix B to the draft Cabinet report constituted a supplement to the Atkins Report and reflected amendments made to the proposed Target Operating Model, which had been adapted to more appropriate suit the Councils’ positions, including an updated assessment of the costs, savings and Human Resources implications (including a revised structure chart) for the project.  A three-year Business Plan would be created to ensure a detailed operational and financial basis was established for the shared service.  This Plan would consider the potential for further savings to be generated as opportunities arose and as the Medium Term Financial strategies of the three Councils developed.

 

As set out on page 7 of the draft Cabinet report, various options had been considered and the preferred option identified was 'Collaborate and Change’.  The financial benefits of the preferred option were primarily associated with:

 

·         reduced headcount (resulting from harmonised working practices and consolidation of the management structure)

·         further reductions in employment costs (arising from a shift in the balance of tasks performed by professional officers vs. technical officers)

·         significant increases in income as a result of exploiting new sources of revenue and increasing the yield from existing sources.

 

The vision for the operating model involved there being three service areas complimented by a central administrative function as follows:

 

·         Neighbourhood Services - activities relating to domestic premises or that had an impact on local communities

·         Commercial Services - activities relating to business premises (generally where national standards applied)

·         Enterprise and Specialist Services - existing or potential income generating services and/or discrete specialism.

·         Administration - administration and support activities and services.

 

The proposed governance arrangements were contained in paragraphs 26 - 30 of the draft Cabinet report and included a Joint Committee model and a host (employing) authority.  Cabinet in July 2013 had approved the recommendation that, should the shadow Joint Committee recommend the governance model that required a host (employing) authority, that the Business Case subsequently be developed on the basis that the Vale of Glamorgan would be the host (employing) authority.  Further analysis by Atkins and the Project Team of the merits of each Council performing the role of host had subsequently been undertaken.  All Councils had expressed the willingness to undertake the role and had the resources required to manage the project.  Taking into account the various factors involved, the Vale of Glamorgan Council had been recommended as offering a balance of the required factors and, therefore, was the proposed host authority.

 

The Director of Development Services confirmed that individual Licensing Committees would continue to exist within a shared service. 

 

In terms of the financial implications, the Head of Finance alluded to paragraphs 46 - 72 of the draft Cabinet report.  He referred to a number of factors including:

 

·         The additional work necessary to achieve an additional £315,000 saving in 2013/14.

·         The specific operational savings to be realised for the Vale of Glamorgan Council (i.e. excluding implementation costs) of approximately £257,000 for 2015/16, £300,000 for 2016/17 and total accumulative ongoing savings of approximately £316,000.  This was subject to the assumptions built into the Business Case on costs and income generation.  He pointed out that it should be noted that further savings from the shared service were highly likely to be required in the coming years.  As far as implementation costs were concerned, the figure of £285,000 in 2015/16 would be met from existing reserves.

·         There would also be a 'one-off’ figure for the Vale of Glamorgan Council of approximately £180,000 in terms of employment protection (a protection for staff which the other two authorities did not have).

·         By its very nature, the project contained a number of assumptions and variables, which were set out in paragraph 71 of the draft Cabinet report.

 

The Head of Human Resources summarised the human resources and employment issues as set out in paragraphs 73 - 86 of the draft Cabinet report.  He referred to the proposals as representing a complex Managing Change Project.  As far as consultation with staff and Trade Unions was concerned, this process had already commenced in terms of pre-decision consultation.  The consultation process would continue through the report’s progression to Cabinet and Council and, in particular, would build in reference to comments and views received from staff and Trade Unions.  He confirmed that, should the Council become host authority, this would involve a 'TUPE-like’ transfer of staff.  It was envisaged that this would take place from November 2014 through to March 2015 and would need to be managed by Cardiff and Bridgend Councils (in terms of outgoing staff) and the Vale of Glamorgan Council (incoming staff).  The move to the new operating model would commence shortly after the transfer of staff.    

 

He alluded to three specific aspects of the change process, viz:

 

·         The numbers of staff in the existing, and revised, structures.  There were currently 204 FTE equivalent, a figure which would reduce to 178 FTE equivalent.

·         A change in the balance between professional and technical staff.

·         Changes regarding working arrangements.

 

He confirmed that every effort would be made to mitigate any redundancies.  The reduction of 26 FTE alluded to above would partly be offset by continuing the policy to date of managing vacancies.  The assimilation process for staff would need to be clear and transparent.  A significant amount of work would need to be undertaken in terms of developing Job Descriptions and Person Specifications, with the posts being required to go through the relevant Job Evaluation process.

 

The Operational Manager (Legal Services) summarised the legal implications as set out in paragraphs 88 - 94 of the draft Cabinet report.  The Joint Committee model provided that the Council would delegate its functions relating to Regulatory Services to the Joint Committee, subject to the caveat that the functions of a Licensing Authority had to be delivered within the respective Authority.  As such, and as alluded to earlier in the meeting, separate Licensing Committees would continue to exist.

 

Should the proposals be approved, it would be necessary for the three Councils to conclude a formal agreement.  The heads of that agreement were set out on page 22 of the report.

 

Information governance, management and security issues were covered in paragraphs 100 - 103 of the draft Cabinet report.

 

The Chairman invited Mr. P. Carter, UNISON Branch Secretary to speak and reminded Mr. Carter that the questions that had been received from the Trade Unions and staff had been circulated prior to the meeting.

 

Mr. Carter expressed the view that, although he acknowledged that their comments had been circulated prior to the meeting, the staff who were not members of Trade Unions had been "denied a voice".  (N.B. those comments had, in fact, been included in the information tabled).

 

The Trade Unions had been trying to obtain a copy of the Atkins Report for the past seven months and had tried to obtain a copy under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.  Attempts had been made to convene an emergency meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum to discuss the matter. 

 

Mr. Carter acknowledged that he had been offered an opportunity to view but not have, the report some time ago but had only been given a copy of the report a few days prior to the committee meeting. 

 

Mr. Carter referred to the number of questions that had been circulated prior to the meeting and said that there would have been many more questions if the Atkins report had been available earlier. 

 

Mr. Carter alluded to a number of matters, including:

 

·         There would be instances of voluntary retirement for the staff.  This would be a matter for the Trade Unions to be consulted upon.

·         The Atkins report included Job Descriptions for the senior posts, but did not include such information for other staff.

·         The proposals represented a reduction in front-line staff, who were responsible for protecting people

·         The proposals, if approved, would place a heavy burden on staff, who had not received a pay rise for many years.

·         The Trade Unions would like to have more time to consider the Atkins report. 

·         There were concerns with TUPE.

·         The Committee were requested to defer consideration of the report in order that the Trade Unions could undertake meaningful consultation.

·         He referred to the staff having submitted a collective grievance.

 

In response, the Leader stated that the Council were unable to release the Atkins report to the Trade Unions because, initially, the report was in draft.  When available, the Trade Unions were sent an 'in confidence’ copy of the final report on 11th July, which was prior to the Members of the Council having received a copy.

 

The Leader was aware of the request for an emergency meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum.  The request had been considered by the Change Forum and explanations given regarding why it was not appropriate to call an emergency meeting.

 

The Leader reminded the Committee that the non-Union staff comments had, indeed, been included in the information tabled.  He stressed that the consultation process was ongoing and would continue.  

 

He reminded Members that the current report was, in fact, a draft Cabinet report.  He did not accept that the service would be 'decimated’, but considered that it would be more resilient as a result of the proposed merger.  It was his understanding that the comments/questions tabled represented those of UNISON and not the Trade Unions collectively.  Finally, he felt that there should not have been a reference to any collected grievance having been lodged as this should have been regarded as a confidential matter.

 

In referring to comments from the UNISON Branch secretary, the Head of Human Resources stressed the need to distinguish between full-time equivalent, and headcount, figures.

 

The Head of Human Resources, in referring to TUPE issues, stated that the Council was determined to deal with the issue in the correct manner.

 

The Chairman invited questions from Members of the Committee. 

 

A Member expressed the view that 'to do nothing’ was not a viable option in view of the inevitable financial cuts facing the Council.  Furthermore, he considered:

 

·         it important that the Trade Unions were involved

·         it important that Job Descriptions were developed

·         that 'collaborate and change’ was, in overall terms, the best option.

 

Clarification was sought as to the significance of the use of NPV (Net Present Value).  The Head of Finance referred to NPV as being a Business Investment Modelling Tool which could be used in relation to projects such as this, whereby the amount invested today was compared to the present value of the future cash receipts generated from the investment in order to establish the financial viability of the project.

 

A Member, in referring to the Williams Report, enquired if collaboration was the correct approach and whether the Welsh Government had been consulted on the proposals. 

 

Members were reminded that the Welsh Government had yet to make a final decision on the Williams Report.  A White Paper had recently been issued for consultation.  Furthermore, even if the Williams Report was implemented, this was not likely until the year 2020.  The level of savings required could not wait until then.  It was necessary for the proposals to go ahead with, or without, a decision having been taken on the contents of the Williams Report.

 

Regarding consultation with the Welsh Government, the Committee was reminded that the Welsh Government had funded the development work through the Welsh Government’s Regional Collaboration Fund.  The Welsh Government was aware of how the Councils were utilising the funding.

 

A Member expressed the view that the three collaborative authorities all worked differently and asked what guarantee there was that the collaborative model would work to high standards in the transition period.

 

Acknowledging that there would be an element of 'upheaval’ during the change process, the Director of Development Services also credited the team involved in terms of the service being delivered in the face of already existing severe budgetary pressures.  The managing of vacancies would continue to be an important aspect of the change process.  He also alluded to the staff being very committed to the service.

 

As far as the TUPE process was concerned, the Head of Human Resources alluded to the work already undertaken and to advice having been sought regarding the best way of handling such a complex process. 

 

Discussions ensued as to the type of scrutiny to be put in place for the scrutiny of the Shared Service.  The view was expressed that the establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee, comprising representatives of the constituent Authorities, be established as soon as possible.

 

Reference was made to page 89 of the Atkins Report, which provided examples of different approaches to flexible and mobile working arrangements.  Members expressed the wish for more appropriate protocols and procedures governing such to be drawn up. 

 

Members acknowledged that the collaboration would involve a 'cultural change’ for the staff.  It was felt that, in addition to the risks of the Joint Services as identified at page 55 and 56 of the Atkins Report, the following be also added: 'Failure to achieve culture change and the need for a plan to mitigate against such a risk’.

 

Reference was made to the different ICT systems which would currently exist within the three local authorities.  The intention was that a common network infrastructure would be in place by 2015 to allow staff in various geographical locations to access central systems such as emails and calendars, and then, following a full tendering process, a fully integrated system would be implemented to replace any legacy systems, and would support the three new service areas and their central administration team in the future.

 

In referring to page 90 which concerned the provision of Information and Systems for the Shared Service, a Member advised that there were still 'non-digitalised’ people who used the service and urged that services be developed for people who were not familiar with the internet.

 

A request was made that the role of the Director to whom the Chief Officer of the Shared Service would report be set out within the governance arrangements.

 

Having considered the contents of the report, the comments of officers and the representations of the Trade Unions, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – That Cabinet be advised that it was the view of the Committee:

 

(1)       T H A T the proposal to create a Shared Regulatory Service between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils based on the 'Collaborative and Change’ Model be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T Council be requested to consider the establishment of a Joint Scrutiny Committee (i.e. of the constituent Authorities) to be responsible for scrutiny of the Shared Service and that, should the Shared Service be approved by all three constituent Authorities, Joint Scrutiny arrangements be commenced as soon as possible.

 

(3)       T H A T further work be undertaken on the Flexible and Mobile Working Arrangements that could apply to staff of the Joint Service and to drawing up appropriate protocols and procedures governing such (page 89 of the Atkins Report refers).

 

(4)       T H A T clarity be provided regarding the ways in which members of the public who do not have access to digitalised means of communication can interact with the Shared Service.

 

(5)       T H A T the role of the Director to whom the Chief Officer of the Shared Service would report be set out within the governance arrangements.

 

(6)       T H A T, in addition to the risks of the Joint Service identified at page 55 and 56 of the Atkins Report, the following be also added:

 

·         Failure to achieve culture change and the need for a plan to mitigate against such a risk.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-6)    To provide Cabinet with the views of this Committee for consideration when receiving the proposals to create the shared service.

 

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