Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Herefordshire UNISON (LAG 16)


  I understand you are collating evidence on the experience of new forms of political management and I would like to offer our views in respect of their effect on Industrial Relations.

  Our branch represents 2,600 employees, the majority of whom are employed by Herefordshire Council, a Council which was "born" out of Local Government re-organisation in March 1998. Herefordshire is an amalgamation, in whole or part of five previous Authorities and our industrial relations processes very much continued out of these and have evolved as both the personnel Dept and ourselves adapted to a new entity.

  Just over 12 months ago, Herefordshire embarked on a new governance structure (well in advance of the Local Government Act requirements) principally adopting a Cabinet system backed by a system or Review and Monitoring Committees.

  From an industrial relations perspective the experience has been one of distancing access—or certainly a perception of such—of employee concerns from the executive process.

  Whilst still having a Local Joint Staff Committee (JJC) as final arbiter, meeting with members on a quarterly basis there is certainly a feeling that any "clout" has been lost. Previously we reported direct to a Personnel Committee which was a properly constituted committee—often being chaired by a senior Councillor—and reports went direct to full Council.

  Now, without a Personnel Committee, our concerns seem to be lost as only part of another layer of non related Panels/Committees who in turn feed into Cabinet. With no direct access members and staff have been seriously dis-empowered, decisions and representations inevitably entering a longwinded reporting procedure where any immediacy is lost. None of our JCC members are Cabinet members despite a political ruling coalition of Lib/Lab/Ind. Currently as well as going through ward boundary review, the Authority is also consulting on three "options" for the future (ie Mayor/Leader/Status Quo) and early results show that there will be no change ie Leader of Council Cabinet as now with no "add ons".

  To sum up the feelings of distance and lack of direct Executive access—as before—are still paramount. Whether this is as a result of the actual nuts and bolts of the new structure or a consequence of it remains to be seen.

Eddie Clark

Branch Secretary

January 2001

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