Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Steve Wood  020 8313 4316

Items
No. Item

69.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND NOTIFICATION OF SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following Departmental Representatives, Barry McIver, Jackie Goad, Stuart Henderson and Kirsty Wilkinson.

 

Apologies were received from Councillor Kate Lymer, and the Leader attended in her absence.

70.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

To record any declarations of interest from Members present.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

71.

MINUTES FROM THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF LOCAL JOINT CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE HELD ON 25th OCTOBER 2017 pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the LJCC meeting held on 25th October 2017 were agreed.

 

Gill Slater asked if going forward, the LJCC agenda could incorporate an item for a Matters Arising report. The Committee discussed the merits and demerits of Matters Arising reports generally, and it was noted that the LJCC historically had not required such reports. The majority of committee members felt that a Matters Arising report was not required for the LJCC.

 

It was suggested that the Council’s policy concerning Matters Arising reports should be clarified at a Full Council meeting.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting be agreed and signed as a correct record.   

72.

NOMINATION OF VICE CHAIRMAN

The Committee needs to appoint a Vice Chairman from the Staff Side.

Minutes:

Gill Slater, in her capacity as the representative from Unite, nominated herself for the position of LJCC Vice Chairman.

 

The nomination was seconded by Councillor Michael Turner and agreed by the Committee. 

 

RESOLVED that Gill Slater be appointed as Vice Chairman of the LJCC.

73.

UPDATE FROM DEPARTMENTAL REPRESENTATIVES

Minutes:

Nicola Musto and Adesina Suleiman attended on behalf of the Departmental Representatives.

 

Ms Musto updated the Committee concerning the work that she had been undertaking as Bromley’s ‘Well-Being Champion for Mental Health’. Ms Musto tabled a document on the evening for the attention of Committee members. The document was well-received by the Committee and gave an overview of the following mental health areas:

 

·  Definition of a Wellbeing Champion

·  Statistical data concerning mental health issues

·  Differences between physical and mental health

·  Causes of mental health difficulties

·  Signs of mental health issues

·  Support Mechanisms

·  How to discuss mental health issues

·  Ways of reducing stress

 

The Director of Human Resources (Charles Obazuaye) gave positive feedback on the document and reported that HR had been working closely with Ms Musto to provide support as required. Managers had been provided with guidance around the signs that a person developing mental health issues may exhibit, as well as guidance on how to deal with such issues. LBB had a legal and social responsibility to support staff in this regard. It was in the Council’s interest to support the work, as stress-related absenteeism would reflect on productivity. 

 

Ms Musto was asked if she had been provided with training, and she confirmed that she had been provided with training from MIND. She had recently met with Antoinette Thorn from HR, to discuss how the work could be developed and expanded. Councillor Carr suggested that the work be expanded in co-operation with relevant statutory partners. Ms Slater queried if LBB was involved in other national initiatives.

 

Councillor Carr expressed his thanks to Ms Musto for all of the hard work that she had undertaken in this area. The Chairman similarly expressed his appreciation and best wishes for the future development of the work. Councillor Fawthrop agreed that the momentum of the work should continue unabated.

 

RESOLVED that the mental health and well-being update from the Departmental Representatives is noted.

74.

RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH CONTRACTING LOCAL AUTHORITY FUNCTIONS TO LARGE OUTSOURCING COMPANIES

The Staff Side would like to ask the following question:

 

Unite has previously raised concerns regarding the impact of contracting out services on staff and on the Council itself in relation to the quality of service.  Following the collapse of Carillion, and the problems faced by wholly commissioned Northamptonshire County Council, will the Council pause and take stock of the very significant risks of contracting local authority functions to large outsourcing companies, the financial health of which cannot be relied upon.  How is such risk to be factored into the assessment of contracts?

Minutes:

The Director of Commissioning (Lesley Moore) attended to update the Committee on how LBB managed risks when contracting out services to large outsourcing companies. The Council spent around £200m on contracting with third party providers (around 40% of overall expenditure) and this had provided significant savings to the Council over the years, avoiding cuts in services.

 

As part of the risk management process, the contracts data-base was programmed with an alerting system that provided notifications when a financial check on the contractor was required. Additionally, considerable time was spent on the tendering and contracting process, and on reviewing the financial status of companies.  Councillor  Fawthrop urged caution so that due diligence was also applied to smaller contracts. He stated that in some government contracts, credit rating clauses were factored in. 

 

The Vice-Chairman agreed that LBB had improved its oversight of contract monitoring. However, she pointed out that ‘Carillion’ had been regarded as solvent and then had collapsed quickly. She asked if LBB had contingency plans in place if such an incident occurred with a large company that LBB may have outsourced a sizeable contract to. She stated that Amey was working to tight margins, and asked if the relevant contingency plans were in place.

 

Councillor Carr responded that he could only recall three contracts that had experienced significant problems since the outsourcing process began:

 

·  Bromley Connexions

·  Children’s Services

·  Legal Services

 

These contracts had all been brought back in house quickly when required. He was confident therefore, that such matters could be dealt with swiftly and effectively. He referred back to the original question which noted the Union’s concerns with the quality of service provided when services were outsourced. He stated that as these services would have been carried on by former Bromley staff, was not such a statement an insult on the quality of work undertaken by these staff?  On this basis he asked if the Vice Chairman would withdraw the statement.

 

The Vice-Chairman responded that she was not insulting staff in any way. She explained that there were other factors that would affect service levels such as reduced staff numbers, and the need to back-fill.

 

The Leader stated that the Council had no plans to reverse its commissioning strategy as this had proved effective and saved the Council a lot of money. He referred to a failed strike at a GLL controlled library and expressed the view that the reason for the strike was politically motivated. He stated that if any contracts failed after being outsourced, the service would be TUPED back in to the Council and the situation would be reviewed.  As part of the contracting process the Council always asked for a Performance Bond or a Parent Company Guarantee. The bond was then available to meet any additional costs that the Council may incur as a result of contract failure.

 

For the sake of clarity, the Director of HR explained what was meant by TUPE. It meant that when contracts were outsourced, the employees maintained their existing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 74.

75.

THE ANNUAL PAY AWARD

The Staff Side would like to ask the following question:

 

Council staff are set to be poorer again this year as the Council imposes another year of pay cuts for staff with a sub inflation pay award of 2%.  Nationally the pay offer of 2% has yet to be agreed. How do Members propose to honour commitments made to staff that that their annual pay award would be better than those agreed nationally and that, as the number of directly employed staff fell, LBB would pay staff better?

 

 

 

Minutes:

Ms Slater expressed her disappointment that the pay award of 2% was below the RPI which was 3.6% at the time of the meeting. The unions regarded this as a pay cut in real terms. It was noted that the national offer had not yet been accepted. Ms Slater stated that it was important the Council offered realistic pay increases in order to avoid problems with staff retention.

 

Councillor Carr referred to the statement that had been written by Unite in the question:

 

How do Members propose to honour commitments made to staff, that their annual pay award would be better than those agreed nationally and that as the number of directly employed staff fell, LBB would pay staff better?’

 

Councillor Carr asserted that this was a false statement in that the supposed promise to pay staff better than the nationally agreed terms had never been made. He asked Ms Slater what source could be provided to justify the statement. Ms Slater responded that in her view, assurances were implied in meetings. Councillor Carr requested that the statement be withdrawn on the basis that it was not correct. The Chairman asked Ms Slater if she was prepared to withdraw the statement.  Ms Slater responded that she was not in a position to withdraw the statement as it was not hers to withdraw.

 

The Chairman stated that the question was a mis-representation of the facts, and he agreed with Councillor Carr’s rebuttal. The Chairman reminded the Committee that in addition to the 2% pay award, lower paid staff had been offered extra payments in the April pay round, and that the Council also had a pot of £200k that was going to be used for merited pay awards.

 

The Director of Human Resources stated that the question and the argument were obtuse, and that raising the matter now was wrong. He took exception to the question. The Director stated that he had led the pay negotiations and at no time did the Council promise that they would pay more than the national agreement. However, it was the case that over the last four years, Bromley staff had been paid better than the national agreement. He expressed the view that the question had been raised as a ploy to undermine the moral of Bromley staff. He said that Bromley staff did not support Unite in this matter and that was why there had not been any industrial action. The days of large pay increases had passed.

 

Ms Slater expressed the view that the matter was not just about large pay awards, but that it was about pay awards reflecting increases in the cost of living and that public sector workers were being financially penalised by decisions to remain in the private sector. 

 

The Director informed the Committee that Bromley staff would receive their pay award in their April pay, which was not the case when pay awards were agreed via national terms and conditions, where it took longer to finalise and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 75.

76.

FINDINGS OF THE RECENT EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL CASE

The Staff Side would like to ask the following question:

 

What is the timeframe for the Council to publish the findings of the recent Employment Tribunal and its proposed response to the findings?

Minutes:

The Director of HR suggested that this matter may be sub judice as there was a remedy hearing outstanding. It was the case that at the main tribunal hearing, LBB had been successful in 41 out of the 43 issues raised against the Council. The remedy hearing was to discuss the outstanding matters.

 

The Director of HR stated that there was nothing exceptional about the case that it should be published by the Council and it was LBB’s practice not to report on tribunal hearings—in any case the findings of the case had already been published by the Tribunal Service and the information was freely available on the internet. The Director informed the Committee that no recommendations for the Council had been issued by the Tribunal. 

 

Ms Slater stated that the Council had been found wanting on two points during the course of the Tribunal hearing and on this basis the matter should be discussed at the LJCC. She expressed the view that the whole of the tribunal case revolved around the relationship between the Council and the union. Resultantly, there were still lessons that could be learnt, even from the rest of the hearing where the Council had not been found deficient.

 

The Director of HR responded that the tribunal hearing was not about LBB’s relationship with the unions, but it was an individual case. Such matters were not appropriate to be discussed at the LJCC. The Director offered to meet outside of the LJCC with Ms Slater if required.

 

Councillor Wilkins stated that she was a witness at the tribunal hearing. She felt that there were matters that had been discussed that were related to the LJCC, and that on that basis the matter should come back to the LJCC for further discussion. She asked if the date of the remedy hearing was known. 

 

Councillor Nicholas Bennett commented that he had also been called to give evidence at the tribunal case, and noted that the resulting report had been published. He said that there had been three areas of remedy noted, and that two of these had been in relation to an individual requesting time off. The third matter was related to attending a conference connected to trade union activity, which was in turn subject to an ECJ ruling. He felt that in all of these cases, there were no lessons to be learnt by the Council that would justify the matter coming back to the LJCC. Councillor Simon Fawthrop agreed that there was no justification for the matter to be discussed at a future LJCC meeting. He cited the following reasons for this:

 

·  The matter was sub-judice

·  It was a case relating to an individual

·  It was not a case related to the functioning of the LJCC

·  The details had already been published

 

Ms Slater was disappointed that the majority of Members felt that there were no lessons to be learned.  She felt that the LJCC was inextricably linked to the unions, which was a view that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 76.

77.

LEVELS OF ILL HEATH BROUGHT ABOUT BY STRESS AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES pdf icon PDF 131 KB

The Council aims to be a ‘Dream Organisation’ for staff, and the Council’s mental Health Champion has made presentations to HR and to managers. 

 

However, the reality faced by Bromley staff, is one of poor basic working conditions, aggressive HR processes (highlighted at the last LJCC) and high levels of work related stress. Will the Council undertake an audit of working conditions and staff wellbeing and supply information regarding the levels of ill health brought about by stress / mental health?

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor David Cartwright referred to the text of the question which read as follows:

 

‘…the reality faced by Bromley staff, is one of poor basic working conditions, aggressive HR processes and high levels of work related stress.’ 

 

Councillor Cartwright questioned the truth of this statement and felt that the statement should be refuted as it was not true. Councillor Wilkins reminded the Committee that what was being requested was for the Council to undertake an audit of staff working conditions and well-being. Councillor Cartwright responded that it would not be right to undertake an action based on a false premise.   

 

Mention was made of the appeal process for disciplinary hearings; many of the Members felt that having a three stage appeal process was too protracted. The Director of HR stated that poor working conditions were never an issue at appeal hearings.

 

The Leader mentioned problems that had occurred with the Amey contract. He said that failings had been identified and rectified. Similarly, the Director of HR stated that when required, Amey had been challenged by the Departmental Representatives and Members. It was not in the Council’s interests to have poor working conditions. With respect to any cases involving dismissal, Members were informed. It was also noted that LBB had not lost any dismissal cases at tribunal hearings.   

 

The Committee noted a document that had been tabled by the Director of HR. This detailed the number of employees categorised as suffering from ‘Stress, Depression, Anxiety and Mental Health’ issues over the last three years. The total number of LBB employees suffering from such issues during 2017/2018 was 46, with an average number of days off per person of 23.

 

The Director of HR stated that the absence figure was low, and it was also very important to note that many of these cases would not be related to stress and depression caused by the working environment at LBB. 

 

The Chairman expressed the view that the opinion presented by the Union was factually incorrect. Ms Slater re-affirmed her view that there had been poor working conditions experienced by staff as a result of Amey’s deficiencies. She commented that until recently, there had not been any cold water for one of the ladies’ toilets. The toilet referred to was still dirty.

 

Ms Slater expressed disappointment that a union representative was not allowed to attend Departmental Representative meetings. 

 

Ms Slater referred to the ACAS guidance (2015) on conducting workplace investigations that was part of the agenda pack. She stated that the way that LBB was conducting workplace investigations was not in line with the ACAS code of practice, particularly with respect to the role of the investigator. She said that the Bromley procedures dated from 1992 and that the procedures outlined that they should be jointly agreed by the LJCC; furthermore it indicated that there were amendments in 2016 which, she noted, were not brought to the LJCC. She requested that the Bromley procedures be revisited in line with best practice and the matter  ...  view the full minutes text for item 77.

78.

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The date of the next meeting has been confirmed as 18th July 2018

Minutes:

The Chairman expressed his thanks to both the Employer’s Side and the Staff Side, and especially to the Committee Clerk for his dedicated approach in dealing efficiently with all matters pertaining to the provision of effective  administrative support for the Committee.

 

The date of the next meeting was confirmed as 18th July 2018.

 

Original Text: