Joint Staff Consultative Committee Minutes

Wednesday, 24th June, 2015
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley (Chairman), Councillor Fiona Hill and Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham.
In attendance:
Strategic Director of Customer Services
Corporate Human Resources Manager
Senior Human Resources and Contracts Manager
Committee and Member Services Officer.
Also Present:
UNISON: Debbie Ealand

STAFF CONSULTATION FORUM: Chris Carter, Christina Corr.
Item Description/Decision
Cllrs Judi Billing and Bernard Lovewell sent their apologies for absence, and advised that they were unable to arrange somebody to substitute for them. UNISON reps Dee Levett, Sharon Forde and David Carr all sent their apologies for absence.
It was agreed that the Minutes of the JSCC meeting held on 25 March 2015 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman, subject to the addition of Chris Carter who had also given his Apologies for Absence at the last Meeting.
No other business was put forward for discussion at this Meeting.
The Chairman welcomed all Members and officers to the meeting.

She asked the Committee if the following statement could be taken as read, and they agreed to this:

‘Members were reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the agenda, should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and they are required to notify the Chairman of the nature of any interest declared at the commencement of the relevant item on the agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest which requires they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, can speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.’
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) referred the JSCC to the Minutes of the meetings of the Staff Consultation Forum (SCF) held on 1 April, 6 May and the draft Minutes of 3 June 2015, for details of the meetings, actions taken and the items carried forward.

The CHRM provided a summary of the main updates from each meeting as follows:

1 April 2015
Under Item 2 - Matters Arising from Previous Minutes, the CHRM reminded the Committee that the Staff Consultation Forum was used for group consultation purposes and pointed to the item regarding the Shared Anti-Fraud Investigations Service transfer as an example.

The section on NHDC Update revealed that there will be bite-size training refresher courses held on payroll self-service, in particular annual leave and expenses. Staff should ensure that all carry forward leave was record on SAP and that the leave carried forward should be taken by the end of May.

The Senior HR and Contracts Manager (SHRCM) reminded those present of the discount scheme in place for employees wishing to use Careline Services. This started on 1 May 2015 and saves clients 5% off services for staff with relatives that live in the North Herts District area.

Under Office Accommodation Update, the Committee was informed that some SCF representatives are also on the Office Accommodation team. In addition each floor is represented by an employee Champion, who keeps their area updated on progress made and topics raised at Office Accommodation meetings. The Chairman questioned as to whether, during refurbishment of DCO, the wiring and plumbing in the building would be renewed. She was informed that to date, such details had not been determined as it was rather early in the planning process. The overall object was to modernise the offices and improve air flow to make it cooler in summer and warmer in winter by creating more open plan areas.

Item 6 - Employee Queries raised the subject of how to effectively book unpaid leave. A Member then commented that the question of home telephone rental/broadband seemed to be raised continually. The CHRM said a meeting was being organised with IT to review the Payment for It needs a meeting with IT to remedy this, as a review seems to be required.

6 May 2015
Under Item 2 - Smoking Update, the SCF were advised that the smoking bins outside the Council building were to be removed, as complaints had been received regarding smoke getting into the building on the Ground Floor and Floor 1., There has also been a fire in the cigarette bin and it was noted that smokers stand fairly close to the door of the bin store. The CHRM said communication was important and staff who smoke had been offered personal butt boxes. A Member advised that putting this information in MIS would be a good way to inform Members of the situation.

Item 4 dealt with Shared Parental Leave and the SHRCM advised that the new Policy came into force in April 2015. It is rather a complex process and a further review of the Policy will be carried out in April 2016.

Under Item 5, it was proposed and agreed that Green Issues would be removed from the SCF Agenda, as items were seldom mentioned and anything related to this could be raised under either Employee Enquiries or Any Other Business.

In Item 8 - Employee Queries, a question was raised regarding broadband expenses and it was advised that as this payment was set up by IT, so the question should be referred to them.

The possibility of changing the leave year was also raised under Item 8, but it was advised that this had been looked into previously and would not be implemented.

Lastly, several points were raised under Item 9 - Any Other Business. Cycle to Work was open from 1 to 31 May 2015 and staff could enter into a cycle hire agreement.

There were also many other schemes available through Salary Sacrifice, such as kiddisave vouchers, Wider Wallet and the Careline discount.

A Member advised that none of the offices appeared to be soundproof and enquired whether they would be soundproofed once the DCO building had been refurbished.

She was informed that this would not be done due to the need for air circulation, to ensure a comfortable temperature in the building.

On the matter of sound proofed offices, the Strategic Director of Customer Services (SDCS) advised that the offices needed to cope with confidential discussions and also be open plan. There was a need to reconcile both requirements.

Draft 3 June 2015
Under Item 4 - NHDC Update, the Chief Executive advised SCF that with the budget in July 2015, NHDC was expecting a few more years of austerity. As a result, the Council had started its Corporate Business Planning for 2016. He also stated that the construction phase of the new North Hertfordshire Museum and Hitchin Town Hall had been completed, but snagging works were still in progress.

Item 6 - SCF Membership raised the issue that Susanne Gow was at the end of her term as a representative member of the Staff Consultation Forum representing the 1st Floor, and so was Helen Rae as the 5th floor representative. Update - with nominations and a shuffle, Catherine Cole was nominated to take on the 1st floor, Joanna Softly the 4th Floor and Claire Morgan would now represent the 5th Floor, having moved from the fourth to the fifth floor.

Finally, under Item 7 - Any Other Business, regarding the suggestion that in the newly refurbished DCO there might be a pop-up coffee shop, one Member remarked that she had been to a seminar where this facility was available, and the delegates there had agreed that this had proved motivational to staff.

The matter of a member of staff getting a delayed 25-year Long Service award had been remedied.

It was agreed: That the information provided in the above sets of Minutes of the Staff Consultation Forum be noted.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) presented the Committee with the last quarterly update on the progress made to the People Strategy 2011-2015 Report, which also incorporated the Council’s Workforce Development Plan.

She informed the Committee that the HR team had now produced the HR Work Plan for 2015/2016 and the new Work Plan had been included in the report. They were now in the consultation phase of the People Strategy for 2015-2020.

The CHRM touched on several important issues which had arisen since the last Report had been presented, as follows:

• The HR restructure has been completed and the team are now working in their new roles;

• Project highlights touched on, were:

• Pay awards - there have been no pay claims made and no pension changes, so there is nothing to report:

• Apprentice Scheme - the Scheme is going very well, with 8 former apprentices in new roles at NHDC. The closing date for potential apprentices to apply for two advertised posts was towards the end of June. These will be the last to join until places become available from January 2016.

• The contract for the Employee Assistance programme has been renewed with the existing provider from 1 April 2015 with a reduced cost per head for the same service. A Member of JSCC asked how wide the scope of the programme was - did it cover divorce for example? She was told that it covered all sorts of things and staff would be able to talk to somebody in confidence. This was in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council, as joining with them gives NHDC a discount, and discharges the Council’s duty of care. There is a helpline for the Scheme and it is also web-based, so there is lots of information available to read. Good feedback has been received on the Scheme;

• The HR team have been busy over the last quarter;

• The first year-end period with the Council’s outsourced payroll went well;

• The Payroll Contract Management Audit report has been finalised, with the level of assurance outcome being Substantial;

• Payroll Self-Service refresher sessions for staff and managers were run in early June 2015;

• The annual Appraisal cycle started in April and reminders are being sent periodically. Internally accredited coaches and mentors could be one way of meeting the development needs of staff in the process.

Moving through the Appendices, the CHRM commented on the Key Performance Measures (Appraisal Completion and Turnover). She confirmed that the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) figures were included and that the current statistics were very good compared to the position some years ago. She predicted that turnover will increase.

Lastly, in response to a question, the CHRM advised that the entire HR team worked part-time.

It was agreed: That the progress against the HR People Strategy Work Plan for 2015/2016 and a number of HR projects and work streams be noted.


The People Strategy supports the achievement of the Authority’s key priorities.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) introduced the discussion paper and explained that Coaching and Mentoring was well established in the Council in addition to full training. Coaching is aimed at all levels of staff and coaching training is offered to all levels of Council employees. This has produced approximately 18 coaches across NHDC, accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, from Levels 3 to 7. Some are even registered with a regional training pool.

Coaching benefits individuals by developing their potential and is cost effective, being less expensive than booking Council staff on full courses, not all of which are in-house - some are external courses and include travel costs as well as the cost of the courses.

The CHRM went through the top reasons for using coaching as follows:

• Leadership development;
• Improvement in on-the-job performance;
• Building on good performance;
• Focussing on skills and capability improvement;
• Exploring career development requirements.

A Coaching Steering Group, chaired by the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance, has been formed to promote coaching and its benefits and overcome various barriers, which can inhibit its success. These barriers, some of which are: individual resistance, time pressure and lack of support at senior level are regularly addressed at Steering Group Meetings, which meet twice a year.

The CHRM listed the next steps as follows:

• To increase awareness of and access to coaching, including through the appraisal process;
• To collect testimonials from the recipients of coaching;
• To offer all apprentices and new starters access to a coach;
• To consider coaching and mentoring when looking at Learning and Development needs;
• To offer supervision to all accredited coaches;
• To provide managers with coaching skills.

Feedback has been received on the coaching and mentoring process, and it has been acknowledged that even more can be done.

Committee discussion raised possible problems, such as: a slight variation being made to the advice on the process given by the coach, sending the mentee “off track”. But it was discussed that coaching is not only about showing people how to do things it should also encourage people to work out their problems for themselves; The individual’s manager could also act in the role of a coach and provide advice and the mentee could study their text book for a wide range of factors. A Member commented that where appropriate, rather than a tutor, coaches could resemble “buddies”. The SDCS advised that it could be better in some cases to use external coaches. It is essential to retain talented officers. The UNISON representative enquired whether it was possible for any individual to apply to train as a coach, and was informed that coaching skills were suitable for staff of all levels. Coaching was part of each officer’s Learning and Development requirement.
After some discussion, the Committee decided that as we are in a vastly different social climate than some years ago, the topic on Social Media would be chosen for the next meeting of the JSCC on 30 September 2015.
Published on Thursday, 9th July, 2015