Council services by letter

Agenda and minutes

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Venue: Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services Officer  Tel: 020 8424 1323 E-mail:  manize.talukdar@harrow.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

46.

Attendance by Reserve Members

To note the attendance at this meeting of any duly appointed Reserve Members.

 

Reserve Members may attend meetings:-

 

(i)                 to take the place of an ordinary Member for whom they are a reserve;

(ii)               where the ordinary Member will be absent for the whole of the meeting; and

(iii)             the meeting notes at the start of the meeting at the item ‘Reserves’ that the Reserve Member is or will be attending as a reserve;

(iv)              if a Reserve Member whose intention to attend has been noted arrives after the commencement of the meeting, then that Reserve Member can only act as a Member from the start of the next item of business on the agenda after his/her arrival.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To note that no Reserve Members had been nominated to attend the meeting.

47.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non pecuniary interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:

 

(a)               all Members of the Forum;

(b)               all other Members present.

Minutes:

Agenda Items 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12:

 

Councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick declared a non-pecuniary interest in these items in that she was a member of the Unite trade union.  She would remain in the room whilst the matters were considered and voted upon.

 

Councillor Graham Henson declared a non-pecuniary interest in these items in that he was a member of the GMB and CWU trade unions, and had been a member of the Unison trade union.  He would remain in the room whilst the matters were considered and voted upon.

 

Councillor Kiran Ramchandani declared a non-pecuniary interest in these items in that she was a member of the GMB trade union.  She would remain in the room whilst the matters were considered and voted upon.

 

Councillor Sachin Shah declared a non-pecuniary interest in these items in that he was a member of the Unite trade union.  He would remain in the room whilst the matters were considered and voted upon.

48.

Appointment of Vice Chair

To appoint a Vice-Chair from the Union side for the 2017/18 Municipal Year.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That Gary Martin be appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Forum for the remainder of the 2017-18 Municipal Year.

49.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 112 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 8 February 2017 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting held on 8 February 2017 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.

50.

Deputations

To receive deputations (if any) under the provisions of Executive Procedure Rule 48 (Part 4D of the Constitution).

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To note that no deputations were received at this meeting under the provisions of Executive Procedure Rule 48 (Part 4D of the Constitution).

51.

Petitions

Minutes:

Under the provisions of Executive Procedure Rule 49 (Part 4D of the Constitution), the Forum received from a Unison member a petition concerning the recent recruitment of a manager.

 

The GMB regional officer queried whether the submission of items such as this and others on the agenda by Unison was an appropriate use of the Forum; in her view, they did not seem to be covered in the Forum’s terms of reference and this approach was unusual in other authorities in her experience.  The Chair explained that the inclusion of these items on the agenda reflected in part the difficulties in convening departmental joint committee meetings in recent weeks; she had offered a meeting of the Forum sub-group, but this had not been taken up by Unison.

RESOLVED ITEMS

52.

Annual Equality in Employment Monitoring Report for 1 April 2016 - 31 March 2017 pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Report of the Interim Head of Employee and Customer Relations.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Unison representative suggested that information on staff grievances analysed by protected characteristics and departments, should be included in these reports in future.  If this information was available at this stage, it should be circulated to Forum members. 

 

A Member referred to the importance of monitoring the incidence of mental illness among staff.  It was acknowledged that care would need to be taken about the information and the wording of categories of illnesses; the Time to Change accreditation process might provide a framework for this and appropriate questions could be included in the staff survey. 

 

The Forum recognised the issue of the under-representation of female staff at the higher levels of management and the need to continue monitoring this and taking action to address it, such as using encouragement statements in relevant job adverts.  It was noted that there was differential recruitment for different types of jobs, reflecting patterns of applications, say, as between technical services and social care.  Traditionally, women had been more interested in particular areas of work, but this was changing including the proportion of female applicants for senior management roles.

 

In response to a Member’s query, it was confirmed that the Council was also addressing the recruitment and retention of young people; the example was given of a recent initiative in this area by the Housing Department.

 

A Unison representative asked about whether there were differences between the recruitment processes and standards as between external and internal applicants.  It was explained that Pertemps handled the Council’s recruitment in line with approved Council policies.

 

It was agreed that :

 

a)            information on the number of grievances submitted by staff, analysed by protected characteristics and departments, be circulated to Forum members;

 

b)            consideration be given to introducing a question on staff mental health in the staff survey; 

 

c)                  consideration be given to the inclusion in job adverts of statements encouraging young people to apply and encouraging female applicants for senior roles.

53.

Non compliance of Statutory Responsibilities, Failure to engage in the Environment & Communities Directorate pdf icon PDF 9 MB

Report from the Harrow Unison LG Branch.

Minutes:

A Unison representative introduced the issues of concern to the union, in particular, the apparent establishment of management posts/grades at odds with the approved structure and the escalation of costs associated with the reorganisation, particularly the money spent on “consultants” as part of the exercise.  It was alleged that there was no “evidence base” to the management response to these concerns and that staff displaced by the reorganisation had been retained on unaltered grades and that some of those appointed had “failed” their interviews. 

 

The Divisional Director, Environment and Culture gave the background to the reorganisation, including consultation with staff representatives via the departmental joint committee in April 2017.  As a result of the reorganisation, no member of staff had been displaced or had suffered detriment.  The Council’s policy was to manage these restructurings so as to minimise compulsory redundancies, and the appropriate recruitment procedures had been followed. 

 

A Unison representative asked a number of questions as follows:

 

a)            Did the staff appointed to MG1 posts go through the same recruitment process, and was the same matrix apply to external candidates, as those staff who were displaced from posts? 

 

b)            What were the overall costs of the new structure compared to previous estimates?

 

c)            Since 17 February 2017, what have been the costs of the salaries of those staff who did not apply for jobs in the new structure and have continued to receive a salary?

 

d)            With respect to the Assistant Manager posts in the Environment and Community Services reorganisation, how do the 7 posts now filled compare to the 6 posts agreed in the restructuring and what is proposed for the two staff at that tier who did not apply for the new posts? 

 

e)            How had it been decided to recruit to one of the Civic Amenity manager roles and not two?

 

f)             How should Unison deal with the requirement under Paragraph 2.3 of the Code of Conduct for Employees to report “failure in service standards”?

 

g)            What had been the total cost of consultants working in relation to this reorganisation?

 

h)           How had the service progressed, given that there had been problems with the launch of the food waste service?

 

i)             How was it is the case that there were now two identical roles in the new structure with two different salaries? 

 

The Divisional Director, Environment and Culture gave the following responses:

 

a)            The detail of the recruitment processes would be obtained and shared with members of the Forum.

 

b)            The overall costs were some £200,000 more than the costs of the original structure; the structure had been agreed with the trade union and was designed to secure a service which would be fit for purpose for the next five years at least.

 

c)            The member of staff concerned had been subject to a medical condition and had only returned to work recently.

 

d)            There was a need to review the position and clarify the reasons for the Assistant Manager arrangements.

 

e)            As mentioned in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 53.

54.

Harrow Unison LG Branch Report On Unilateral Changes to Role Profiles & The Undermining of the Recognition Agreement pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Report from the Harrow Unison LG Branch.

Minutes:

A Unison representative argued that the Council’s approach to changes to the recruitment and selection process had breached the requirement of the Recognition Agreement to consult with the trade unions prior to introducing changes.  He was concerned that the union had not been given access to all the documents involved, and he disagreed with the explanation given in the written management response.  He argued that the recruitment arrangements were contractual and that the Council should have consulted formally before proceeding with them. 

 

The Interim Head of HR acknowledged that some of the terminology used by HR staff could have been more helpful in achieving a positive and clear communication of, and consultation on, the changes.  However, the fundamental position was that these were not matters on which the Council had any obligation to negotiate formally with the trade unions; the changes did not affect employment terms and conditions, and were simply intended to modernise recruitment practices in line with ACAS guidelines.  The recruitment and selection policy was not a contractual policy.  The arrangements were essentially “pre-contractual” in that they concerned applicants for posts prior to their employment in those jobs. 

 

The regional Officer for the GMB stated that the report on the agenda solely reflected Unison’s view of the alleged breach of the Recognition Agreement and the GMB did not concur with that view.

 

The Unison representative argued that the new job profiles would be used in service reorganisations and would therefore clearly affect existing staff; in this sense, they would be part of the employment contract as were traditional job descriptions.  The Interim Head of HR confirmed that the generic job profile statements would not be altered without consultation and he was content to halt the implementation of the changes pending discussions with the trade unions; the relevant documents would be shared with them.  He was interested to know whether the trade unions had any substantive objection or concern about the content of the proposed changes, as they simply reflected good practice in modern recruitment arrangements.

 

Another Unison representative stated that discussions did not constitute consultation.

 

A Member suggested that the Forum should have access to the full Recognition Agreement to be satisfied about the formal requirements with regard to negotiation and consultation.  A copy of the full Recognition Agreement between the Council and staff representatives would be circulated to all members of the Forum.  It was also agreed that further information on the job profiles and supporting documents be sent to all members of ECF to promote a better understanding of the implications of the changes, and that a discussion at the CJC to be arranged if necessary.

55.

Failure in the Housing Directorate Senior Management Team pdf icon PDF 366 KB

Report from the Harrow Unison LG Branch.

Minutes:

In speaking to their report, Unison representatives referred to an ACAS case from 2011 in which the Council had been found not to have followed agreed policies and procedures.  They argued that the matters covered in the report suggested that the Council was again failing in this respect and, in particular, that senior managers were being permitted to handle staff grievances in a dismissive and disrespectful way, infringing employees’ rights to a fair hearing.  The Interim Head of HR underlined that it was not appropriate for the Forum to discuss the individual cases which were the basis of the Unison report since these were still live and under investigation.  He reassured the union representatives that the Council would address any learning points arising and, in response to a suggestion from the Chair, he agreed to check relevant training for managers in handling such cases.