Venue: Bromley Civic Centre
Contact: Steve Wood 020 8313 4316
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND NOTIFICATION OF SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS
Apologies were received from Sara Wright, Cllr Thomas Turrell and Cllr Jessica Arnold. Cllr Pauline Tunnicliffe attended virtually.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To record any declarations of interest from Members present.
Councillor Simon Fawthrop declared an interest in that his wife worked for the authority and that he was a deferred member of the pension scheme.
The minutes of the meeting that was held on 12th October 2022 were agreed and signed as a correct record.
The Chairman asked the Director of HR if there had been any progress with negotiations with HMRC concerning the 45p per mile mileage allowance for staff. The Director responded and said that the Council were minded to increase the rate. However, it was the case that any difference would be taxable for the individual and for the employer which may mean that it would not be viable. Bromley Council, along with other councils, had made representations to HMRC and a response was awaited. The Director of HR agreed to update the Committee when a response from HMRC had been received.
The Chairman asked if there had been any follow up concerning the seminar that had been promised to provide advice for staff in financial difficulties. The Assistant Director for HR answered and explained that the Council was still endeavouring to source the correct provider. While this process was ongoing, the Council would be providing a pensions seminar where questions could be asked and 400 staff had indicated an interest in joining the seminar.
Thomas Carver said that the financial advice, (although welcome at any-time) would have been very useful to have been provided before Christmas. The Assistant Director for HR responded and said that the Council were sourcing a number of information items, webinars and fact sheets. The fact sheets would be disseminated the following week.
RESOLVED that the Matters Outstanding report be noted and that the Director of HR update the LJCC regarding the representations made to HMRC concerning the mileage allowance in due course.
The Staff Side have requested that the Pay Award for 2022/23 be discussed as a matter of urgency.
The Staff Side had requested that the matter of the Council's pay award for 2022/23 be discussed.
The Vice Chairman stated that the national position with respect to pay increases had been clarified and implemented. The Staff Side was hoping that the Council would acknowledge that the LBB pay award was insufficient and that it would be improved. They were also seeking for the implementation of the London Living Wage.
It was noted that the Council's pay award which had been implemented in April 2022 had been 2.25%. It was further noted that the recent national award was for £2229.00 to be paid as a flat rate for each employee in outer London. The Vice Chairman said that there had been speculation concerning a possible 1.79% top up to the Council's current level of pay. However, even if this was implemented, it would still be insufficient and may not be back dated.
The Vice Chairman stated that for BR3 grades, a 10.89% pay award would be required to align with the national agreement. She said these members of staff were now £1772.00 per annum worse off than if the national award had been applied. Even if the 1.79% was implemented this year (2022/23), then that would still leave them £1400.00 worse off. The Vice Chairman said that even for BR14 grades, there would still be a shortfall and they were £1000.00 worse off. She continued and said that staff sitting on spinal points 9--14 were below the London Living Wage by up to 89p per hour.
The Vice Chairman said that because Bromley’s pay awards were based on percentages rather than flat rates, it benefited those at senior and Director levels far more than the average member of staff. The Vice Chairman requested that LBB address the issue of financial deficit for staff and whilst not wishing to revisit in detail the financial challenges which were raised at the last LJCC regarding the cost of living / energy price crises, she highlighted that food inflation was now 14.3 percent. She said that these details had been passed on to the Human Resources Department. She requested that this matter be addressed and also in year as staff are currently facing the cost of living crisis. The Vice Chairman said that some members of staff were exiting the pension scheme because they could not afford to remain in.
The Chairman thanked the Vice Chairman for providing the statistical information and said that Bromley Council normally allocated pay rises by percentages as this would maintain differentials for seniority. He said that the Council recognised and acknowledged the current shortfall.
The Leader of the Council asked for it to be made clear that the Council did not recognise the London Living Wage. The Council had no desire for external rules to be imposed upon it, particularly if those rules meant forcing the Council to pay for something it was not able to afford.
The Leader said that there had been a recent meeting with ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
UPDATE ON THE ACCOMMODATION STRATEGY
An update on the Accommodation Strategy will be provided by the Director for Environment and Public Protection.
The Head of Corporate Programmes and Projects, together with the Director for Environment and Public Protection attended to update the LJCC regarding the Accommodation Strategy. It was explained that separate meetings had been arranged with the Trade Unions and with the Departmental Representatives with a view to providing advice and engagement. It was clarified that the new site for the location of the Council would be the Direct Line building in Bromley South. The purchase of the new site had to be finalised and then plans for the disposal of the existing site would need to be implemented. This was being dealt with by the Director of Housing, Planning and Regeneration together with the Assistant Director: Property.
It was hoped that the sale of the building would be finalised by the end of January 2023 and that vacant possession could be achieved around June 2023. Work would need to be undertaken to create a new Council Chamber, new meeting rooms and offices. The project would still go through the normal reports and committee scrutiny process. Different workstreams were being developed. The aim of the Council was to develop an agile, flexible workforce and to make better use of technology in an open plan environment. It was felt that the new location would be a good flagship location for the Council and had excellent transport links. It was anticipated that a video-drone would be used to go around the building and relay pictures back to staff. There would be a process of constant engagement and Directors had already met. Retained architects would deal with space planning and desk allocation; the details of which would be finalised in March. There would be different architects and contractors involved in the building work. It was estimated that in total there were 300 different workstreams.
The Director said it was a very exciting project which would provide a flagship building for the authority. The Chairman asked if there was a possibility that the purchase could fall through. The Director replied that he estimated that there was a 70% certainty that matters would progress satisfactorily. Emma Pearce headed the Project Board and was responsible for overseeing the vast programme of work that needed to be done. It was suggested that feedback should be provided to the Departmental Representatives’ meetings.
The Vice Chairman expressed some concern as to what would happen to staff who serviced existing sites.A brief discussion took place regarding the satellite sites which would be moving into the new building (Youth Offending Service and services currently based on the 3rd Floor of Central Library and 2nd floor of Walnuts Library).
The Director briefed the LJCC that as there would be space that the Council would not occupy, then there would be scope to develop rental income. The CCG had expressed an interest in renting space and Direct Line would retain the first floor. The Princess Royal University Hospital had expressed an interest in renting space for some of their administrative functions.
This item was listed on the agenda as it was agreed at the previous meeting that an update on the LCIV would be discussed at the December meeting of the LJCC.
Members noted a written update from Sarah Wright explaining that the current trade union representative on the LCIV Shareholder Committee was a representative of Unison. She expressed the view that the one member of Unison would have limited influence regarding the decisions of the Shareholder Committee.
A Member expressed the view that the Trade Union representative was not doing enough to express dissatisfaction with the performance of the CIV. The Vice Chairman responded and said it was not appropriate to assume what was and was not being said.
The Chairman asked how much membership of the LCIV was costing the Council and a Member responded and said that it was in the region of £120k per annum.
RESOLVED that the update on the LCIV be noted.
RESULTS OF THE STAFF SURVEY
A presentation will be given concerning the Results of the Staff Survey.
Matthew Hodges (Project and Practice Support Officer: Legal Services) gave a presentation to the Committee regarding the results of the Staff Survey. It was noted that 62.2% of staff had completed the survey. The presentation commenced with an update regarding Demographics, New Starters, Communication and Public Facing Roles. It was noted that 70% of staff were in a role which involved some form of public contact; staff were confident in their engagement with the public but many had encountered hostility. Resultantly, staff felt that they would benefit from de-escalation training and more robust working policies. They felt that the Council should provide clearer information to the public and that there should be more informed communication from Members and managers. Staff also felt that there was a need for safer meeting spaces and better equipment.
The survey showed that staff experience with the BT Helpdesk was positive and that Sharepoint usage was limited. Staff felt that more time was required to attend training sessions.
With respect to Safety, Support and Wellbeing, staff felt generally safe, but 13% reported not receiving the necessary equipment which consisted of mainly alarms and PPE. Start requested more robust lone working policies and increased security in the Civic Centre. They felt that there should be a greater investment in the office environment. About half the staff surveyed said that they were regularly unable to take breaks. A discussion took place amongst Members and officers as to why staff felt that they were unable to take breaks. It seemed to be the case that there was no one actually preventing staff from taking breaks, but some staff may have felt unable to do so because of pressures from workload. A Member asked how the Staff Survey was conducted and it was reported that it was done through Microsoft Forms.
It was reported that 56% of staff had caring responsibilities, but 12% of those with responsibilities were not able to work flexibly. In terms of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, the majority of staff felt that they were being fairly treated but over 1/3 had reported that no EDI conversations had taken place within their team meetings. Only 41% of staff knew who their Departmental Representatives were and only 18% knew who their Trade Union representatives were.
Some comparisons with the previous survey were undertaken and the data showed that 62% found it hard to connect with teams remotely in 2021, but this had fallen dramatically to 22% in 2022. In 2021, 56% of people had struggled with mental and physical health but this had improved and was now down to 30%. The number of people who had felt lonely or isolated in 2021 had now also decreased.
A summary was provided of the next steps that would be taken in communicating the results of the survey across the Council. The presentation ended with a summary of recommended actions based on the results of the survey which were as follows:
· Review and raise the profile of staff representatives, EDI ... view the full minutes text for item 29.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE SETTLEMENT
The Committee will be updated concerning the latest position regarding the Local Government Finance Settlement.
Members noted that the Local Government Finance Settlement had not been finalised.
MEETING START TIMES
The Committee will discuss the start times for meetings going forward.
A discussion took place regarding the start times for the LJCC meetings going forward. At the end of the discussion there was unanimous decision that the previous times should be re-adopted and that the main meeting would commence at 6:30 pm.
RESOLVED that going forward the main LJCC meeting would commence at 6.30pm
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The Committee will meet next on 19th April 2023.
The date of the next meeting is 19th April 2023.