Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 17th February, 2014.
Present: Councillor G. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, F.T. Johnson, A.G Powell, Mrs. A. Preston and E. Williams.
Representatives of the Trade Unions:
Mr. P. Carter (Unison), Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT), Mr. G. Pappas (Unison), Mr. N. Hart (Unison), Mr. N. Stokes (GMB), Mr. G. Moseley (Unison), Mr. R.M. Hughes (Unison) and Ms. S. Nash (Unison).
(a) Apologies for Absence –
These were received from Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen and Mr. N. Patterson (Unite).
(b) Minutes and Matters Arising –
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 20th November, 2013 be accepted as an accurate record.
The following matters were referred under Matters Arising:
In referring to paragraph 3 on page 3 of the minutes, Mr. Moseley requested an update on the progress of the working group which was to be set up by the Head of Human Resources to focus on the three main issues as outlined within paragraph 25 of the Management of Absence position statement. The Head of Human Resources informed the Forum that the working group would be established imminently with a view to concluding the discussions and report by the end of April 2014.
(c) Declarations of Interest –
No declarations of interest were received.
(d) Minutes of Directorate Consultative Groups –
The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:
(i) Learning and Skills: 13th November, 2013
(ii) Social Services: 26th November, 2013
(iii) Social Services: 18th December, 2013
(iv) Visible Services and Housing: 4th December, 2013.
Mr. Carter informed the Forum that, with reference to the minutes of the Learning and Skills Directorate Consultative Group (13th November, 2013), the Trade Unions would continue to challenge the issue of Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) providing First Aid to children in schools. Mr. Carter confirmed that this issue would be put forward to the agenda for the next Learning and Skills Joint Consultative Forum meeting.
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the Directorate Consultative Group meetings be noted.
(d) Dates of Directorate Consultative Groups –
The Forum was advised that the Directorate Consultative Group meetings for Resources and Corporate and Customer Services scheduled for 18th February 2014 had been postponed due to lack of agenda items and would be rescheduled.
AGREED – T H A T the dates of the Directorate Consultative Groups as indicated below be noted:
Social Services – 14th January, 2014
Visible Services and Housing – 5th February, 2014
Resources and Corporate and Customer Services – 18th February, 2014
Learning and Skills – 19th February, 2014.
(f) Minutes of Corporate Health and Safety Committee – 9th December, 2013 –
The minutes of the aforementioned Committee were received by the Joint Consultative Forum and the Forum was advised by the Corporate Health and Safety Officer that all issues within the remit of the Committee were either ongoing or concluded.
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the Corporate Health and Safety Committee meeting held on 9th December, 2013 be noted.
(g) Williams Report –
The Head of Performance and Development informed the Forum that the Welsh Government had set up a commission which culminated in the production of the Williams Report which was released in January 2014. The Report included a large number of proposals, three of which related to the reduction of the number of Welsh Authorities from 22 to 10, 11 or 12 of which all three proposed a merger of the Vale of Glamorgan Council with Cardiff Council. The Forum were informed that the Report currently had no official status and that it was a set of recommendations until the Welsh Government made comment on it, therefore it would be premature to go through the Report at present.
A press release from the WLGA was circulated to the Forum, which proposed the establishment of a task force to look at the proposals contained within the Williams Report and explore an alternative set of proposals. The Forum were informed that the Welsh Government had yet to comment on the Williams Report, however it was anticipated that the political parties would be considering it at their spring conferences.
The Head of Performance and Development stated that collaborations were already taking place across Council boundaries, for example the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service, and that the Council also had a Memorandum of Understanding with Bridgend Council. The Forum was informed that the Council were now taking stock of existing and proposed collaborations. It was confirmed that the collaboration with Social Services and the Health Service in Cardiff and the Vale would continue regardless of the proposals contained within the Williams Report.
Mr. Carter informed the Forum that the Trade Unions felt it would be a waste of resources to continue to progress with current or proposed collaborations in light of the proposals contained within the Williams Report. Furthermore he asserted that the Council should undo any existing collaborations with neighbouring Councils such as CCTV and Regulatory Services, other than those with Cardiff Council.
A Member raised concerns with regard to the ongoing talks between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale in relation to providing a joint Regulatory Service and questioned the timing of these talks if potentially Bridgend County Borough Council could be out of the equation. The Member stated that although they appreciated that there was not a lot that could be discussed at this juncture it was important that the issues were resolved as soon as possible. The Head of Performance and Development informed the Forum that it could not be confirmed when Welsh Government would decide whether to accept the Williams Report’s recommendations. He said that the WLGA’s alternative report would most likely be produced quickly but could not anticipate what that report would propose.
Mr. Dimmick stated that it was clear to see why people might think that the proposals within the Williams Report were a â€œdone dealâ€ and the perception was that it would go ahead and the Council should have a clear date for a response on the Williams Report.
The Member clarified their concern in that once the Welsh Government had made their decision with regard to the Williams Report the opportunity for the Council to discuss it would have passed; therefore shouldn’t the Council discuss it now in order to at least be able to formulate an input into a decision. In response to this the Head of Performance and Development informed the Forum that this was what the Welsh Local Government Association task force would endeavour to do and that the Council would contribute to the task force’s work.
Members asserted that they could see the advantages of the merger for Cardiff and the disadvantages for the Vale of Glamorgan and that it could become a political debate in the run up to the 2016 Welsh Assembly elections. The Chairman stated that it was an issue that clearly affected everyone in the room, however it would be unwise to undo all the collaborative work as some of it was useful. Furthermore, it was prudent to be cautious about commencing any new collaborative works at this time and there was a need for the uncertainty to be resolved.
Mr. Carter stated that there was a collaboration with Bridgend Council for the provision of Youth Service and questioned this collaboration in the light of the proposals contained within the Williams Report. The Chairman stated that he understood that the Council were reviewing this collaboration opportunity, however this was not the same as undoing collaborations. The Chief Learning and Skills Officer confirmed that this reflected the situation with the Youth Service collaboration with the Bridgend Council.
A Member queried whether the Council was going to continue with the collaborative talks with Bridgend Council as they were costly, people’s jobs were involved and the Council required some reassurance with regard to the situation. The Chairman stated that the Council needed to know the political direction first as there was a great deal of uncertainty at present and was concerned that a lot of good work would be undone. The Head of Performance and Development informed the Forum that the joint audit service with Bridgend Council would continue and that there were no plans to undo that. Mr. Carter stated that the Council provided an audit service to Bridgend Council, and that staff had been subject to TUPE provisions over to the Vale of Glamorgan Council from Bridgend Council, therefore it was not a collaboration.
Mr. Hughes stated that clarification was required with regard to the ongoing collaborative work with Regulatory Services including the Atkins report that had been commissioned by the Council. The Head of Human Resources stated that there was clearly an unfortunate delay in progressing this collaboration at the current time. He indicated that he hoped progress would be made as soon as possible and once there was clarity about any implications arising out of the early considerations from the Williams Report.
Mr. Moseley queried whether the current collaborative arrangements should be reported individually to the Elected Members with a view to deciding whether these operations should continue. The Chairman asked the Head of Performance and Development whether there was a cohesive record of what was going on with different collaborations and was informed that periodical reports went to Cabinet which listed the different ongoing collaborations; however, there was no single approach covering all collaborations. The Council continued to take a view on each collaboration on it’s individual merits. He also stated that it was not possible to have a blanket approach to collaborations particularly those involving several authorities, in addition it was not possible to put a halt to all of the collaborations. Mr. Moseley asked who would be making the decisions with regard to collaborations and was advised by the Head of Performance and Development that it would be Cabinet Members, Directors and Chief Officers for all the relevant authorities involved.
Mr. Carter informed the Forum that there was a South East Wales Consultative Forum compendium that listed all of the consultation on collaboration currently ongoing and he could provide members of the Forum with the link to this if required.
Following discussion of the update from the Head of Performance and Development on the Williams Report, it was
AGREED – T H A T the comments from the Forum members and the Head of Performance and Development be noted.
(h) Workforce Plan Update 2013-17 –
The Joint Consultative Forum received an update report on the implementation of the Workforce Plan 2013-17. Paragraph 9 of the report detailed the progress with regard to the actions within the Council’s Workforce Plan 2013-17.
A preliminary â€œdesktopâ€ review of management / staffing structures across all service areas had been completed and a more detailed review of Corporate and Customer Services had been completed with a report given to Cabinet on 24th February 2014 and that a review of Development Services was almost complete with a report due to go to Cabinet in March 2014. The Forum was informed that preliminary discussions on terms and conditions had taken place with colleagues at the Council’s Change Forum and that these were continuing to progress. The Forum was also informed that the Council had successfully secured the services of a new agency contract provider from 13th January 2014 and that a review of redeployment practices for those at risk of redundancy had been undertaken and that they were committed to strengthening the redeployment processes. The Forum was informed that a programme of change management training had been launched in March 2013 which would now be cascaded to all managers as part of the annual training plan in order to help equip managers to manage change and service transformation.
The Head of Human Resources informed the Forum that the Workforce Plan was not just a document, but a process and that Human Resource Officers had attended Directorate CMTs to look at workforce planning implications arising from the 2014/15 service planning process. The actions from these meetings were to be fed back into the Corporate Workforce Plan.
Mr. Hart queried why Directors were carrying out restructures whilst a detailed view of the Directorates was in progress. He was advised that the reviews were being carried out as part of the 2014/15 Directorate budget saving process but that he was working closely with the individual Directorates to ensure that any outcomes were congruent with the wider review. He indicated that he was aware of the restructures taking place in various departments and although not personally involved in all of them he stressed that change was happening all the time and that services could not always wait for the Workforce Plan reviews to restructure.
Mr. Hart asked whether it was the aim of the Workforce Plan or was it part of a transition and was advised that Corporate and Customer Services had saving targets for 2014/15 and that the reviews would help to make these savings with the Workforce Plan supporting that. Mr. Hart also asked whether the Head of Human Resources was asserting that the restructures and the Workforce Plan were the same thing and was advised that the financial plan and the Workforce Plan are not the same thing. The Head of Human Resources reiterated his earlier points.
The Unions stated that they had asked for information pertaining to the redundancy procedure with specific regard to which categories individuals would fall into in order that individuals could try and calculate their respective redundancy package. The Forum was informed that the scheme for Early Retirement / Redundancy / Termination was available to Trade Unions and all staff members on the StaffNet. However Trade Unions felt that this information was insufficient for individuals to be able to calculate prospective redundancy payments and again requested that they be informed of which category individuals would fall into. The Head of Human Resources advised the Forum that this issue could be discussed at the next Change Forum to be held on 18th February 2014.
After discussion of the Corporate Workforce Plan 2013-17 it was
AGREED – T H A T the issue raised by the Trade Unions in relation to redundancy calculations would be discussed at the Change Forum meeting of 18th February 2014.
(i) New Agency Staff Contract –
The Forum was informed by the Operational Manager for Human Resources that the Council had a new Agency Contract which came into effect on 13th January 2014. The new contract would enable the monitoring of agency workers and ensure compliance with the Agency Worker Regulations.
Mr. Stokes informed the Forum that there were a few teething problems following the commencement of the agency contract, however he would reserve the right to come back to the Forum if these were not resolved satisfactorily.
Mr. Pappas raised the issue of Trade Union representatives representing the agency workers. The Operational Manager for Human Resources informed the Forum that they would not allow facilities to support agency workers via Trade Unions representatives as this was inappropriate given the Agency is the employer and the Council the host. However, it was accepted that it was up to the individual Trade Union representatives what they did in their own time. Mr. Pappas also asked what was happening with those staff currently employed via the Acorn Agency and was advised that they would be eligible to transfer to Randstad and that currently only two agencies had not signed up to the new contract.
Mr. Carter advised that he would like to thank the Director of Visible Services for his assistance and work in addressing the concerns previously raised by the Trade Unions in relation to the pay of some agency workers.
Following discussion by the Forum it was
AGREED – T H A T the new Agency Staff Contract be noted and that any issues with the new Agency Contract could be raised at the next meeting of the Forum.
(j) Feedback on Policy Development –
The Forum was advised of the current position on HR policy development as at 17th January 2014. A consultation on the Code of Conduct had been completed and was ready to go to CMT. The Terms and Conditions Group had completed discussions on the Adverse Weather Policy and the Procedure for the Regrading of Posts and therefore these were now ready to proceed.
Mr. Pappas asked whether the 20% rule would be added to the Management of Attendance Policy as part of the review and was advised that this would be the case. Mr. Dimmick stated that as the 20% was not currently in the policy it should not be applied.
Mr. Carter expressed concerns that the last two Policy meetings had been cancelled yet there were clearly policies to be discussed. He was advised that the Adverse Weather Policy had not been ready to go to the meeting and that the Regrading Procedure had been processed through the Terms and Conditions and the Single Status Joint Groups. In addition, Mr. Carter was advised that Human Resources would be taking policies appropriate to the Employment Policy Formulation Group, however this was an open agenda driven by both parties and that the Trade Unions could also add items to the agenda for this meeting.
Following discussion of this item it was
AGREED – T H A T the current position on the HR policy development be noted.
(k) Proposed Timetable of Meetings 2014/15 –
Following consideration of the proposed meeting dates for the 2014/15 municipal year it was
AGREED – T H A T the proposed meeting dates be agreed.
(l) Regulatory Services (Atkins Report) –
Mr. Hughes stated that the Trade Unions had asked for a copy of the Atkins Report, yet this had not been forthcoming and that since this request they had not heard anything and would like to know what the conclusions of the report were. The Head of Human Resources stated that he shared the Trade Unions’ concerns with regards to the uncertainty surrounding the Williams Review and informed the Forum that at present the Atkins Report was a draft report and therefore it was not appropriate to release it, and furthermore that it did not belong solely to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, it was a joint report with Cardiff and Bridgend Councils.
Mr. Hughes reiterated the concerns with regard to the amount of money that had been paid for the completion of the report and that staff had not heard anything back in relation to the report. The Chairman stated that he could understand the concerns with regard to the time lines and that draft reports can cause problems. A Member queried when a draft report will become a report and the Chairman advised that it was a complex process, a draft is made and then faults are identified that need to be resolved.
A discussion ensued during which the Unions noted their frustrations with regard to the amount of time involved in the completion of the Atkins Report and in turn release of the Report findings to the Trade Unions and staff. The Head of Human Resources informed the Forum that currently the report was based on assumptions that would need to be tested, for example, which Authority would be the host Authority. In addition they needed to ensure that it was correct before it was released and Members would also need to see the report. The Trade Unions asked whether they had a date for the release of the report and were informed that at present there was no release date but hopefully it would be as soon as possible. The Trade Unions also noted their frustration at having to put forward a Freedom of Information request in relation to the Atkins Report.
Following the discussion of the current position on the Atkins Report, it was
AGREED – T H A T the concerns raised by the Trade Unions be noted.
(m) Living Wage –
The Forum discussed the Living Wage with the Trade Unions stating that they were frustrated about the lack of implementation. The Chairman informed the Forum that the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) had sent a reference to Cabinet on 27th January 2014 which recommended that Cabinet be requested on behalf of the Council to seek a way of raising a campaign for the improvement of the Minimum Wage on a UK wide basis and lobby the UK / Welsh Governments to include in future Revenue Support Grant settlements - appropriate funding - to ensure that the minimum wage could be adopted. This report had been noted by Cabinet. Furthermore, the Chairman informed the Forum that since that meeting the Government had announced that there would be an increase in the minimum wage.
The Trade Unions stated that in light of the proposals contained within the Williams Report and that Cardiff Council had already implemented the Living Wage for staff, that the Vale of Glamorgan Council should implement the Living Wage in line with Cardiff Council. The Forum were informed by the Head of Human Resources that there were a variety of differences between the pay structures for Cardiff Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council, including a proposed change in hours from 37 to 36 hours per week and a difference in the pay structure itself. In addition the Forum was informed that Cardiff had not signed up to the full Charter but was paying the full rate for the Living Wage.
Mr. Hughes stated that it was the poorest staff that were being affected by the non-implementation of the Living Wage and that the Council would not have to sign up to the full Charter but could just implement the Living Wage. The Trade Unions made suggestions including the removal of Grades A and B with all staff starting at Grade C and also whether it was time to consider using some of the Council’s reserves.
The Forum was informed that a detailed report had gone to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) and that the cost of implementation of the Living Wage would be in excess of £1m, and in addition there would be further issues and concerns with implementing the Living Wage including job losses and that only 16 Councils across the UK had implemented the Living Wage. The Trade Unions queried the increase in the figures held within the report and were informed that the figures changed due to a number of variables, including salary changes, staffing changes, etc.
Following discussion of the Living Wage, it was
AGREED – T H A T the concerns of the Trade Unions be noted.
(n) TUPE Transfer –
The Trade Unions stated that there seemed to be different ideas about what constituted TUPE transfer situations across the Vale of Glamorgan Council and that they required some assurance with regard to what constituted a TUPE transfer. The Operational Manager for Human Resources informed the Forum that he was unable to provide that assurance as TUPE was a very complex issue and that the application of TUPE would depend on a number of factors with the final determination being that of the law. In terms of internal transfers, the Council’s view was that in the majority of cases TUPE would not apply as the employer had not changed and continued to be the Vale of Glamorgan Council. The Operational Manager also informed the Forum that the Council had committed to embrace the principles of TUPE, for example with regard to consultation with Unions and the staff, but accepted that there may inevitably be some changes to some policies and procedures for example the determination of disciplinary and grievance issues, etc. However there were some nuances that would need to be addressed and the Council would need to ensure that all parties were aware of these, however in Foundation and Voluntary Aided schools there would be different logistics / mechanisms to consider with regard to TUPE.
Mr. Carter asked the Operational Manager for Human Resources to confirm that the over-arching governance / legal responsibility for control of schools rested with the Vale of Glamorgan Council. In response to his query the Chairman advised that the Operational Manager for Human Resources had stated that it was a complex legal issue, with the Vale of Glamorgan Council having overall employer responsibilities for the schools, however the schools had a large amount of autonomy in accordance with Local Management of Schools requirements.
The Principal Personnel Officer suggested that the Trade Unions raised this issue at the Directorate Consultative Group for Learning and Skills to be held on 19th February, 2014.
After discussion of the TUPE transfer issue, it was
AGREED – T H A T the Trade Unions would raise this issue at the next meeting of the Directorate Consultative Group for Learning and Skills on 19th February, 2014.