Agenda Item No.
JOINT CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes of a meeting held on 20th October, 2014.
Present: Councillor G. Roberts (Chairman); Councillors K. Hatton, A.G. Powell, Mrs. A.J. Preston and E. Williams.
Representatives of the Trade Unions: Mr. N. Stokes (GMB), Mr. D. Dimmick (NASUWT), Mr. N. Patterson (UNITE), Mr. P. Carter (UNISON), Ms. C. Mason (UNISON), Mr. G. Moseley (UNISON), Mr. G. Pappas (UNISON) and Ms. G. Southby (UNISON).
(a) Apologies for Absence –
These were received from Councillors F.T. Johnson and Mrs. M. Kelly Owen, Mr. R. Hughes, Mr. C. Johnson and Mr. G. Beaudette.
(b) Minutes and Matters Arising –
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 7th July, 2014 be accepted as an accurate record.
In referring to the minute relating to the “New Agency Staff Contract”, Mr. Pappas advised that instances of inconsistencies in the application of the Contract had been identified. All but one of the inconsistencies had been resolved, the exception being an answer to the question “What is a substantially different role?”.
The Forum was advised that this question was currently being addressed.
Mr. Carter referred to that part of the Minutes entitled “Libraries Review Update” at which the Trade Union representatives had made strong representations regarding the cancelling of the booking of a meeting room which had been booked for Trade Union use.
The Trade Unions had expressed a view that an investigation should be undertaken to see if the person responsible for cancelling the room booking had exceeded their powers and, if so, what sanctions could be imposed.
Whilst acknowledging that an apology had been received, Mr. Carter expressed his understanding that a review of the incident was to be undertaken.
Mr. Carter reiterated that the meeting room had been booked for a legitimate Trade Union meeting and was to be held out of office hours.
The room booking had been cancelled two hours prior to the intended commencement time and it was considered fortunate that an alternative venue was found.
Mr. Carter expressed the view that, in the spirit of co-operation, the behaviour of the Officer in cancelling the room booking was unacceptable and wondered when the enquiry was to be undertaken.
In summing up, Mr. Carter stressed that the Trade Unions did not call for disciplinary action. However, a full investigation should take place and if during / after their investigation, it was deemed by the investigatory Officer that disciplinary action should be taken, then the policies and procedures should be followed.
The Director of Learning and Skills replied that a review had been undertaken which had resulted in an apology being given. A more formal investigation would now be undertaken.
The Head of Human Resources referred to the work of the Reference Group, and Ms. Southby spoke on the consultation forms that had been prepared for completion by the public.
Ms. Southby felt that the contents of the Consultation Forms were one sided, and only offered four options for the future of the Library Service.
The Director of Learning and Skills replied that legal advice had been sought on the contents of the consultation document and, furthermore, there was a range of methods by which members of the public could respond.
It was fair to say that not every option had been included on the Consultation Form. The status quo had not been included so as to avoid misleading people.
The Trade Union side felt that the approach being taken in the process was not as open as it could have been.
It was noted that these were issues that would be considered by the Reference Group.
Mr. Carter enquired if it had been established that the S106 monies would continue to benefit Wenvoe Library.
The Director of Learning and Skills informed that the most recent report to Cabinet had confirmed that that the S106 monies were to be applied for the benefit of Wenvoe Library.
The Director of Learning and Skills vacated the room to attend another meeting.
The Trade Union representatives asked that their displeasure be recorded together with their view that Officers should remain for the duration of the meeting.
Mr. Carter referred to the period of time given to the Trade Unions to consider and comment on documents in relation to the current Building and Cleaning Services review.
The Head of Human Resources indicated that efforts were always made to ensure proper engagement and consultation with staff.
It was agreed by all parties that a good relationship existed and it was stressed that a significant element of this was the granting of sufficient time to permit all parties to partake in meaningful consultations.
In the example cited above, Mr. Patterson stated that he was pleased that the consultation period had been extended. The Trade Unions were in a position to help the Council in that they were able to offer constructive comments.
Members of the Trade Unions side expressed a wish to discuss the Regulatory Services Collaboration whereupon the Chairman, Councillor G. Roberts, declared a personal and prejudicial interest in relation to this issue.
Councillor Roberts vacated the room whilst this matter was under consideration and, in his absence, Ms. G. Southby (Vice-Chairman) took the Chair.
Mr. Carter said that he had been informed of a group of staff employed by Cardiff Council who may be offered redundancy terms and that Vale of Glamorgan staff would be transferred to these posts. Mr. Carter enquired if this was true and that, if so, would the staff be transferred in accordance with TUPE regulations.
Specifically, Mr. Carter asked
- How many staff employed by Cardiff Council had been given an opportunity to take Early Retirement
- Will Vale of Glamorgan staff be given a similar opportunity?
Mr. Carter also indicated a concern about staff morale during the libraries review process.
The Head of Human Resources responded as follows:
- A decision regarding the merger required the agreement of the three constituent Authorities. Bridgend Council had agreed to the merger; Cardiff Council was due to consider the proposal tomorrow and the Vale of Glamorgan Council would consider the proposal on 12th November 2014.
- Staff transfers would occur under TUPE regulations.
- Cardiff Council’s offer of Voluntary Early Retirement had been made to all of its staff, not just those affected by a merger of the Regulatory Services.
Councillor G. Roberts, Chairman, entered the room and assumed the Chair.
(c) Minutes of the Directorate Consultative Groups –
The minutes of the following Directorate Consultative Groups were received:
• Learning and Skills – 25th June 2014
• Social Services – 23rd June 2014
• Social Services – 23rd September 2014
• Visible Services and Housing – 2nd July 2014
• Visible Services and Housing – 6th August 2014
• Visible Services and Housing – 3rd September 2014.
The Trade Union side stated that they wished to discuss the minutes of the Learning and Skills Consultative Group of 25th June, 2014 whereupon Councillor Hatton declared an interest in this item, in particular the proposed amalgamation of the Dinas Powys Infants and Murch Junior Schools in that he was an LA Governor on both school Governing Bodies. Councillor Hatton vacated the room whilst this item was under discussion.
Mr. Carter spoke of a meeting that he had attended in a school at which he was approached by the Headteacher and told that as there were no members of his Trade Union at the school, there was no need for him to be there.
Having checked his records, Mr. Carter discovered that there were in fact four members of his Trade Union at the school.
Mr. Carter stated that in future he would expect access to such meetings.
The Chairman noted that without prior notice, it was not possible to have a meaningful debate on this matter.
AGREED – T H A T the minutes of the Directorate Consultative Group meetings be noted.
(d) Dates of Directorate Consultative Groups –
AGREED – T H A T the dates of the Directorate Consultative Groups as indicated below be noted:
Learning and Skills – 8th October, 2014
Visible Services and Housing – 3rd September, 2014.
(e) Reshaping Services –
The Forum received a copy of a report entitled “Reshaping Services – A New Change Programme for the Council” which had been considered by the Cabinet on 11th August, 2014.
The report advised that Central Government’s austerity drive had created a period of unprecedented financial pressures in the public sector. The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s budget had already been squeezed for 2014/15, with further substantial savings necessary in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18. The latest draft Medium Term Financial Plan now estimated that this would equate to a reduction of over £10m in 2015/16 and £32m in total over the next three years. Failure to deliver the required level of savings would not be an option for the Council. According to many analysts, a period of “permanent austerity” was now likely for Councils for the foreseeable future. It was clear that the scale of the challenges to come would mean that “business as usual”, however well managed, would not be enough. Continued incremental cuts to budgets would simply lead to a steady decline in the quality and availability of public services, dissatisfaction amongst those who used the services and core staff morale.
The challenge was therefore to consider alternative delivery models for services across the Council. Only in this way could we hope to maintain a broad range of services to an acceptable standard.
However, given the Council’s traditionally low funding base (20th out of 22 Local Authorities in terms of funding per head of population) the Authority was well versed in working together to find savings and had a long established track record of achievement in this respect which should stand it in good stead in tackling future challenges.
A strategy encompassing the various models for service delivery and how it was proposed they be considered was set out at Appendix 1 to the report. The delivery of the strategy, which would be very challenging, would be done through the means of a comprehensive change programme involving the Council, its staff, our partners, service recipients and other stakeholders.
Cabinet had resolved
(1) T H A T it be agreed in principle to institute a “Reshaping Services” strategy and change programme.
(2) T H A T the report be referred to all Scrutiny Committees for consultation, with Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) being the lead Scrutiny Committee.
(3) T H A T the report be referred to the Vale Local Service Board, Community Liaison Committee and Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee for consultation.
(4) T H A T engagement with Trade Unions on this report be instituted.
(5) T H A T briefing sessions on the issues raised in the strategy be arranged for Cabinet, Corporate Management Team, senior managers, Scrutiny Committees and the Vale Local Service Board
(6) T H A T a further report be presented back to Cabinet in the Autumn proposing a more detailed way forward and apprising Cabinet of comments received as a result of initial engagement with stakeholders.
The Head of Human Resources advised the Forum that:
- This would be a five year process
- This would be maintained as a standing item on the Agenda of future meetings of the Forum
- Engagement with Trade Unions would be pursued.
AGREED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
(f) Williams Report Update –
The Head of Human Resources advised that the Williams Report was gathering increased pace in that the Welsh Government had recently published its White Paper.
The White Paper contained a provision which permitted the voluntary merger of Councils. Applications for such had to be submitted to the Welsh Government by the end of November 2014, and a business case in support of the merger to be submitted by June 2015.
Leyton Andrews AM had been appointed Deputy Minister with responsibility for the implementation of the proposals.
The question of mergers with other Local Authorities had recently considered by the Council who had resolved, inter alia:
(2) That the Council confirms its previous resolution to resist a forced merger with Cardiff City and County Council and believes that the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough is a sustainable council in its own right and urges Welsh Government to allow the Vale of Glamorgan Council to continue as a stand-alone council.
(3) That should this position not be agreed by Welsh Government or that indications from Welsh Government confirm that they will not give such an undertaking, delegated authority is given to the Managing Director in consultation with the Leader to enter into pre-emptive negotiations for a voluntary merger with other Councils that share the same values and cultures as we do here in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Cardiff Council had resolved to progress discussions about the potential development of an expression of interest in voluntary merger, including with the Vale of Glamorgan Council and other stakeholders.
Bridgend Council had written to all its staff advising that discussions regarding the potential merger with the Vale of Glamorgan Council would soon take place.
Mr. Carter, in noting that officers / Members would be involved in discussions which may affect their future, enquired if such officers / Members would have an interest.
Members agreed that clarification of this point would be required.
The Forum was advised that, notwithstanding the provisions of the Williams Report, it was still the Council’s intention to continue with the collaboration agenda.
AGREED – T H A T the update be noted.
(g) Management of Attendance Policy Update –
The Head of Human Resources provided a verbal update, advising that discussion had taken place with the Trade Unions as part of the work of the Change Forum.
A number of aspects were involved:
- Single status
- Terms and Conditions to be amended
- Increased flexibility of the Workforce Plan
- To increase the capacity of Policy and Procedure
- Definition of long term sick
- The Council’s method of “totting-up” sickness.
As at last week, all parties were close to achieving an understanding, with discussions being very constructive.
Mr. Carter, in referring to work place injuries, stated that there may be Health and Safety issues which were not the fault of the individual concerned.
Such injuries may not be the fault of the employee, and employees should not be penalised in such circumstances, although it was acknowledged that these injuries should be monitored.
It was agreed that this was a complex matter and the Trade Unions’ concerns were noted.
(h) Feedback on Policy Development –
Having NOTED the content of the report, Mr. Carter raised the issue of the Council’s Dress Code, particularly for staff working in C1V.
The issue essentially concerned the interpretation of the Code by a particular individual.
Mr. Carter was advised to follow the recognised channels. Should there be no satisfactory outcome, the matter could be brought back to the Joint Consultative Forum for consideration.