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Agenda Item No.

 

JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th February, 2013.

 

Present:  Councillor G.H. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, F.T. Johnson, A.G. Powell and E. Williams.

 

Representatives of the Trades Unions: 

 

Mr. P. Carter, Ms. C. Chilcott, Mr. N. Hart, Ms. P. Harvey, Mr. R. Hughes, Ms. K. Matthews, Mr. G. Moseley (Unison); Mr. T. Cox and Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT) and Mr. N. Stokes (GMB).

 

 

(a)       Apologies for Absence -

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mrs. A.J. Preston; and from Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE).

 

 

(b)       Minutes and Matters Arising -

 

AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 12th November 2012 be accepted as an accurate record   

 

The following matters were referred to under “Matters Arising”:

 

·                     In referring to page 3 of the minutes “Consultation arrangements (schools)”, Mr. Carter in referring to the Penarth Learning Community advised that he had been told that there would be no job cuts but that he had not been informed of this officially.

 

·                     In referring to the caretakers and other such jobs associated with the Penarth Learning Community, Mr. Carter advised that a meeting was to be established soon.  He advised that staff were worried as they did know if they would have jobs. 

 

The Chairman advised that he thought that the meeting should be held prior to the matters being raised at the Joint Consultative Forum. 

 

·                     Mr. T. Cox, in referring to the Joint Education Service, advised that meetings were now in place and expressed the concerns of his members over local consultation. 

 

·                     Mr. N. Hart referred to concerns of the Trade Union representatives that they were not equal partners on the Joint Consultative Forum.  It was acknowledged that this had been raised at the previous meeting at which it had been decided that the Trades Unions write to the Head of Human Resources indicating their concerns and proposals for their resolution.  Mr. Hart stated that if the Trades Unions were not treated equally, then meetings of the Joint Consultative Forum were merely “window dressing”. 

 

Mr. Cox suggested that a meeting be held with the Head of Human Resources to discuss what could be done to give the Trade Union representatives voting right on the Joint Consultative Forum. 

 

The Chairman agreed there was a need to explore how the Committee interacted with the Cabinet and it was agreed that this process be commenced with a view to a report to the next meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum.

 

·                     Mr. Stokes, in referring to paragraph (g) of the minute advised that it had come to the Trades Unions’ attention that pressure was being placed on people working on the Job Evaluation Appeals to do their normal work in addition to the Appeals work i.e. no one was back-filling their job. 

 

The Head of Human Resources advised that no Appeals had taken place since December 2012 and that the Appeals would recommence in March 2013. 

 

The Head of Human Resources stressed that all participants in the Job Evaluation Appeals process had been volunteers and if any concerns were raised directly with him he would resolve any such concerns. 

 

·                     In referring to the Council’s Management of Attendance Policy, Mr. R. Hughes advised that there remained concerns about certain interpretations of the Policy.

 

The Operational Manager (Human Resources) advised that the Policy Information Group had met and the Trades Unions had been given an opportunity to raise these matters.  Two meetings had been held which had proved very useful.  A third meeting had also been held.  Consultation on the issue was continuing.

 

·                     With regard to paragraph (k) “Staff Survey 2011/12”, the Head of Human Resources confirmed that he had now written to the Trade Union representatives in relation to previous concerns about the staff survey.

 

 

(c)        Consultation of the Restructure of the School Improvement Service and Additional Learning Needs Section of the Learning and Skills Directorate (TU) –

 

The Trades Unions had been concerned that there was limited consultation regarding this restructuring exercise and required assurances that internal restructuring of this kind would not be undertaken in this way again and that a proper protocol be drawn up and agreed with the Trades Unions for consultation on restructuring and reorganisation. 

 

The Forum were advised that the Council always tried to advise Trades Unions in advance of such matters.  On this occasion, the Head of Service did not want this matter hanging over the staff over the Christmas period.  An assurance was given that there would be no job losses.

 

Mr. Cox stated it would be useful to develop a written protocol which set out how the Council would manage change.  He was advised that there was such a Policy, although it would be useful for this to be reviewed in the light of the Trades Unions’ concerns and training given to managers. 

 

 

(d)       Corporate Health and Safety Committee –

 

The minutes of the Corporate Health and Safety Committee held on 10th December 2012 were received.

 

 

(e)       Directorate Consultative Groups –

 

The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:

 

            Learning and Development: 12th November 2012

            Social Services: 22nd October 2012

            Social Services: 26th November 2012

            Social Services: 17th December 2012.

 

With regard to item (7) of the Learning and Development Directorate Consultative Group held on 12th November 2012, which advised that the Vale was forecast to receive £38,000 grant for SEN post 16 funding whereas other Authorities were receiving significantly more, the question was asked why the Vale was due to receive so little.

 

An assurance was given that an answer to the question would be provided.

 

 

(f)        Workforce Plan 2013 – 17 –

 

A new Workforce Plan had been approved by Cabinet on 17th December 2012.  The purpose of the Plan was to help the Council meet its workforce needs over the next four years in accordance with the vision and objectives set out in the draft Corporate Plan. 

 

The Head of Human Resources gave a presentation on the Workforce Plan to the Forum.  He indicated that the Plan had been developed in consultation and with the support of the Trades Unions.  Following the presentation, members were given an opportunity to ask questions.  Trade Union representatives referred to the anticipated decrease in corporate staff over the next four years but accepted that a clear set of actions had been devised to help reduce the effects of budget challenges over the next few years and mitigate any adverse affects for staff.  The Head of Human Resources stated that that was the reason why the workforce plan cycle was so important. 

 

 

(g)       Update on Senior Management Appointment –

 

The Forum was advised that the post of Head of Housing and Building Services had now been filled. 

 

The Trade Union representatives stated that they wished to meet with the successful applicant.

 

 

(h)       Update on Job Evaluation Appeals Process –

 

Work was continuing to complete all job evaluation appeals in accordance with the previously published targets.  As at the beginning of February, some 60% of all appeals had been completed including 100% of those from employees who were adversely affected and 37% of all other appeals.  The Council was therefore on target to complete all the appeals by the target date of 30th June 2013.

 

The results of the appeals to date indicate that some 14% of employees who had appealed had seen an increase in their grade and further 5% had seen an increase in their Job Evaluation score (but not grade).  Conversely some 5% had seen a decrease in score and a 1% decrease in grade.

 

Alongside the above, work had been continuing to support those employees who remained adversely affected.  A redeployment and support scheme had been launched in October 2012 in partnership with the Trades Unions.  Helen Scarrett had recently been appointed as the Employment Liaison Officer, to co-ordinate the scheme and to provide advice and support to all adversely affected employees.  Ms. Scarrett was available to meet with employees to discuss the type of support that may be appropriate.

 

 

(i)         Safer Recruitment Policy –

 

The Safer Recruitment Policy had been approved by Cabinet on 14th January 2013.  The Policy provided a more comprehensive and consistent approach to providing a consistent and robust process on checking the suitability of applicants who would have access to children and / or vulnerable people, building on the existing arrangements and taking account of the legislative changes.

 

The key elements of the Safer Recruitment Policy included:

 

-               provision of consistent recruitment safeguarding arrangements throughout the Council and schools

-               all categories of workers covered (employees, agency, volunteers and contractors)

-               creation of minimum standards in respect of number, content of references and additional safeguarding checks

-               mandatory receipt and assessment of CRB / DBS disclosures prior to taking up employment

-               defined “Risk Assessment” process for use in exceptional circumstances where it was essential for the post to be filled

-               CRB / DBS Code of Practice / Data Protection requirements in administering documentation

-               training and communication.

 

The Government had changed the eligibility criteria for CRB / DBS disclosure and the level of check that could be progressed on applicants.  Details of previous and new Regulated Activity definitions were set out within the Policy.  The new provisions had established a definition for adults based on the services the person (client) required along with a separate definition for children.  In both these categories, workers would require enhanced CRB / DBS with barring disclosures.

 

In most occasions, a worker would not commence in employment until all recruitment checks were completed.  However, the Corporate Safeguarding Steering Group (CSSG) recognised the continuing need for managers to be able to recruit front line and essential appointments.  The CSSG remained of the view that where checks were outstanding a business case could be clearly established to evidence that not to recruit would seriously inhibit service continuity, a procedure would be necessary to respond to such occurrences.  In such circumstances, the CSSG had developed a risk assessment process and supporting documentation which all recruiting managers would be required to complete to cover essential safeguarding measures.  Posts governed by the Care Council would be exempt from this process and all safeguarding checks would be required to be in place before a start date was confirmed. 

 

Where recruiting managers received details of criminal convictions within CRB / DBS disclosure, these could be compared against the DBS Disclosure Outcomes Matrix to determine if acceptable. Where a manager was unable to make the decision, the CRB / DBS disclosure would be elevated to the Directorate Safeguarding Officer and / or to the Corporate CRB / DBS Strategy Group (a standing group of officers from HR, Legal, Social Services, Learning and Skills).  This would allow the recruiting manager to obtain additional guidance and advice on the acceptability of the disclosure and suitability of the applicant for the post.

 

Throughout Social Services and within residential schools, a pilot scheme was ongoing to administer the receipt and checking of written and verbal references by means of an e-form.  The pilot provided an automated process to ensure the recruiting manager had access to all references to assist the selection process and provide a comprehensive audit trail.  If successful, the scheme would be rolled out across the Council as well as those schools that used the Council’s recruitment facility.

 

To ensure consistency of application, the CSSG had endorsed the Reference Matrix which identified the number and types of references required as determined by the role, responsibility and / or service. 

 

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 had brought about a number of changes, some of which were scheduled to be implemented in 2013/14.  These included:

 

-               amendments to the criminal records checking process including the introduction of a new system for the continuous updating and portability of criminal records

-               issuing the CRB certificate to the applicant only.

 

The CSSG would consider the above and provide a further report to the Cabinet when the details were made available from the Government.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

 

(j)         Feedback on Policy Development – 

           

HR Policies had been prioritised and were being formally reviewed on a rolling basis in light of any developments in employment legislation or good practice.  Policy reviews were conducted in consultation with Chief Officers, Personnel Officers, Trades Unions and Equalities.  The current position on HR Policy development as at 21st January 2013 was as follows:

 

            Cabinet approval

            Workforce Plan 2013-17

            Safer Recruitment Policy

 

            Consultation complete, prior to CMT / Cabinet

            Management of Contractors

            Occupational Health Policy

 

            Further issues to be clarified prior to proceeding

            Disciplinary Procedure

            Probationary Period Procedure

            Recruitment and Selection Policy

            Violence and Aggression at Work

 

            Employment Policy Formulation and Review Group (EPFRG)

            Management of Attendance

 

            Terms and Conditions Group

            Guidance to Code of Conduct *

            Grievance Procedure *

            Social Medial Policy *

            * to be referred to the EPFRG.

 

Human Resources was working closely with the Training Section during the consultation process to allow time for development of subsequent training programmes where relevant and to ensure that managers were effectively trained in the revised policies.

 

The revised policies would all be available in electronic format on the StaffNet where they could be easily accessed by managers and employees as well as being available for Chief Officers, Personnel Officers and the Trades Unions.  They were also communicated via a number of different channels in order to achieve wide coverage throughout the Council.

 

Feedback was also being requested on a regular basis from Chief Officers, Personnel Officers and Trades Unions on all new / reviewed policies to respond to any problems on their interpretation, ideas for improvements and recommendations on amendments.

 

At review, the summary of response was provided to Chief Officers, Personnel Officers and Trades Unions and the information used to inform the next policy review either in light of any developments in employment legislation, good employment practice or in light of difficulties in applying the policy.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

 

(k)        Farewell –

 

The Chairman advised that this would be the last meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum that Mr. S. Morris and Mr. T. Cox would be attending. 

 

It was agreed that the Forum’s best wishes be conveyed to each.

 

 

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