Joint Staff Consultative Committee Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 16th December, 2015
Time:
1.00pm
Place:
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley (Chairman), Councillor Judi Billing, Councillor Fiona Hill, Councillor Bernard Lovewell and Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham.
In attendance:
Strategic Director of Customer Services
Corporate Human Resources Manager
Senior HR and Contracts Manager
Committee and Member Services Officer.
Also Present:
Dee Levett, UNISON
Sharon Forde, UNISON
Christina Corr, Staff Consultation Forum
Item Description/Decision
PART I
19 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
No apologies for absence had been received.
20 MINUTES
It was agreed that the Minutes of the JSCC meeting held on 30 September 2015 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
21 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
No other business was put forward for discussion at this Meeting.
22 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Chairman welcomed all Members and officers to the Meeting.

She reminded the Committee that an audio recording would be taken of this Meeting and all JSCC Meetings in the future.

She asked the Committee if the following statement could be taken as read and the Members 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 were 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 required they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, could speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.”
23 STAFF CONSULTATION FORUM
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) referred the JSCC to the Minutes of the meetings of the Staff Consultation Forum (SCF) held on 7 October and 4 November for details of the meetings, matters discussed and actions taken. The Draft Minutes of 3 December was tabled at this Meeting.

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

7 October 2015
Under Item 2 - Personal Employee Conflict of Interests, the Senior Lawyer presented the report on the Personal Employee Conflict of Interests which included amendments to bring the policy in line with current Information Commissioners’ (ICOs) guidance, cross-referenced to other NHDC policies and procedures, updated reference from officers to employees and taking into account the draft guidance on the management of organizational conflicts and duties.

The Technical Support Officer attended the meeting to give a Property Services Update and confirmed that between August and October 2015 there had been no complaints or concerns reported. There had, however, been and issue with a surfeit of ladybirds which was currently being dealt with. She also confirmed that if any office cleaning required doing it should be particularly requested to her and she would inform the cleaning contractors.

In NHDC Update the CHRM advised the SCF meeting that the Chief Executive would be providing an article to the next issue of Team Talk in order to update NHDC staff. This concerned:

• Corporate Managers and Heads of Service working on Corporate Business Planning to forward to the Corporate Board with the view of considering savings proposals. Further updates were due in the future;
• Work was underway to review and update the Home-working Policy. The policy was launched in 2008 when working from home was first introduced. With technological advances and a well-developed Home-working culture, the updated Policy should be launched in Spring 2016. Various questions were asked to which the CHRM provided answers;
• The meeting were updated on a recent Regional Pay Briefing Seminar, held in September 2015. Work was being carried out on assessment of the way the new National Living Wage (NLW) increases would impact on local authorities’ national pay scales and on services provided by subcontractors. The NLW will rise to £7.20 per hour in 2016 and with further increases it was expected to be £9.00 by 2020. Public sector pay would be capped at 1% increases over the next four years.
• The contracted out rate of National Insurance (NI) contributions will no longer apply from April 2016.

Under Item 7 - People Strategy, the CHRM advised that she had presented the updated Strategy at JSCC on 30 September and had also addressed the SCF on the subject. This included detail on: recruitment and retention, turnover, absence, apprenticeships, pay and benefits etc. SCF members who had any questions were invited to contact her for a response outside of the meeting.

Employee Queries at Item 8 picked up on the Car Salary Sacrifice Scheme. The first application for a vehicle had not resulted in an order due to the minimum wage rules that apply to salary sacrifice schemes. There had been a suggestion that this be explained in more detail with scheme information. It would depend on the amount of salary sacrificed and a cheaper car/lower specification might have been possible. There was due to be a meeting with the scheme providers shortly to talk about the success of the scheme.

Finally, under Payroll, there was a query about the SAP system not being available for annual leave requests after the payroll cut-off date and before the pay run. HR was looking into the details.

4 November 2016
Under Item 3 - NHDC Update, the Strategic Director of Customer Services (SDCS) advised the SCF of the Council’s current financial position. He stated that work was under way to secure savings for 2016/2017 but the next critical point would be the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement in late November, when the Government will be setting out its spending plans. This was likely to be followed by announcements in December about how this would affect local Government. An element of reforms already announced was a proposed shift to the retention of business rates in the area they were generated and an end to the Government’s Revenue Support Grant.

It was confirmed that there were places still available at the forthcoming Children’s Christmas Party to be held on 11 December 2015. This was supported by UNISON and was open to all NHDC staff, free of charge.

Employee Queries - Item 5 raised the question of possible contamination in the NHDC recycling bins. The question was raised as to whether the 1st floor recycling bin was for mixed recycling, and this was confirmed.

Chris Carter had announced that he was leaving North Hertfordshire District Council and the SDCS and the SCF thanked him for his efforts during his time on the SCF wished him well in his new role at Welwyn Hatfield District Council.

Draft Minutes of 3 December 2015
Under Item 2 - Property Services Update, the SDCS confirmed that the SCF had communicated with Property Services regarding the high cost of sanitary products located in vending machines in the female toilets. This would be looked into and an update brought back to the Forum after meetings had been held with suppliers.

The NHDC Update concerned the Autumn Statement from the Chancellor, recently published. The LGA had put together a detailed analysis of the changes and the link through which to access this was provided. The Department for Communities and Local Government had already agreed to take a 30% reduction in funding over the next four years and the impact on funding for Local Authorities was likely to see similar, if not greater, reductions. This impact would become clear in mid-December.

Finally, under Employee Queries (Item 6) it was requested that when participating in events such as the one minute’s silence for the Paris victims, a brief statement also be given, explaining the reason for holding the event. The tannoy message should say when the silence will commence and when it has finished. There had recently been some confusion on this.

A SCF representative was required to replace Chris Carter and members of the Forum were requested to consider this and advise their nominations as soon as possible.
24 PEOPLE STRATEGY UPDATE
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) presented the Committee with an update of the progress made with the People Strategy 2015-2020 Report, which also incorporated the Council’s Workforce Development needs

She explained that the terms of reference for the JSCC were to be the corporate interface with employees on major Human Resources issues and to be the Strategic HR Forum for NHDC members. The Committee was advised that HR projects need support from the Council’s support services such as IT, Finance, Legal Services etc.

The CHRM touched on issues such as the structure pressures with which HR have to contend, such as cover for maternity leave. A recent rise turnover had resulted in increased recruitment activity, administered by the HR team. Email Hrhelp was useful in assisting staff to contact the most appropriate HR officer for assistance.

The HR team had continued to manage the long-term absence caseload, and by mid-August there were no cases at all. By mid-November there were just two cases. HR Business Partners were advising managers on a variety of ways in which to support a successful return to work.

The Committee were informed that HR were working with IT on Phase 2 of the online recruitment project to modify the ‘back end’ process for managers, once applications had been submitted for shortlisting, and review the reporting facility for HR. The objective was for managers to be able to access applications in order to shortlist them and to develop and improve the reporting and shortlisting processes.

The new recruitment process, replacing the vacancy control process, was now in use.

The appraisal process was under review and work was progressing. The progress and methods had been discussed at a recent meeting of the Senior Managers’ Team and it was hoped that the new process would be ready to use for the Spring/Summer 2016 appraisal period, with the training and support having taken place.

8 November 2015 had been National Stress Awareness Day and NHDC had held a drop-in event, followed by two staff Well Being workshops on 26 November. This was intended to support staff in maintaining their general well being, in particular through significant organisational change. It was reported that this had been well attended. The Chairman enquired about the form taken by the National Stress Awareness Day and whether mental health had also been covered.

An Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Level 5 course was due to be held early in 2016 and the Learning and Development team were developing opportunities for staff at all levels.

It was reported that the Winter 2015 seasonal flu vaccination programme had once more proved popular, with approximately 100 staff receiving a vaccination. 70 staff attended the lunch-time clinics supported by a nurse from Superdrug and another 30 chose to take the voucher which could be redeemed at a Superdrug pharmacy. NHDC had borne the cost of the vaccinations which had a number of benefits: for those with long-term health conditions; for those who have caring responsibilities for young or elderly relatives; and to protect staff generally from the flu virus.

The Committee was then informed that the report on the Annual Payroll Audit was currently being finalised.

The CHRM stressed that the figures for short term absence in October 2015 were the lowest since covalent records began. This Financial Year (April to November 2015) had amounted to 0.68 days/person for long-term absence and 1.66 days/person for short-term absence.

It was agreed: That the progress against the HR People Strategy Work Plan for 2015/2020 and the HR projects and work streams be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION:
The People Strategy supports the achievement of the Authority’s key priorities.
25 LOCAL GOVERNMENT PAY AND PENSIONS
National Pay Bargaining 2016/2017

The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) informed the Committee that the Unions had asked for the local authority to pay their lowest paid workers the Living Wage, with the rest of the staff receiving £1 an hour more. The Government then announced that there would be a new compulsory Living Wage from April 2016 of £7.20 for workers of 25 years and over, with a target of arriving at £9 per hour by 2020. Both part-time and full-time workers would be eligible for this. It was stated in the same Budget that public sector pay rises were to be capped for the next four years at 1%. There would be another update on this at the next JSCC Meeting in March 2016.

The Strategic Director of Customer Services (SDCS) informed the Committee that North Hertfordshire District Council has a small number of staff on the lowest pay grade to which this would apply, but it was likely that some of the Council’s contractors could be affected and they would need to absorb the cost, possibly by raising their charges.

Pensions

There are to be changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme and these are to be published shortly. The changes should go through by October 2016. A cap for exit payments is to be set at £95,000 and will relate to voluntary and compulsory redundancies. The SDCS was asked whether this would affect existing staff and was informed that it would apply to all staff. It was thought that this would result in fewer long-term staff being likely to volunteer for redundancies or early retirement.

Simplification of the tax and National Insurance treatment of termination payments

The consultation period of a reform of these closed in October 2015. Several suggestions were made for reforms including alignment of the tax and NICs treatment of termination payments and removal of some or all of the exemptions was being considered. It was thought that the current £30,000 threshold was unaffordable, with a proposal of an exemption of £6,000 after two years of service and an additional £1,000 for each year after that. This was also likely to have a cap. However, the consultation responses had not as yet been published. The query of whether the tax threshold being likely to rise was asked and the CHRM responded that it was more likely to go down.

The NHDC staff would be reminded about NI contributions rising before the 1.4% increase, which will begin in April 2016.

It was stressed that there would be a Pay and Pensions Update at the JSCC Meeting on 30 March 2016.
26 DISCUSSION PAPER ON THE INVESTORS IN PEOPLE AWARD
The CHRM gave a brief history of the Investors in People (IiP) Award, which set the standard for better people management. She explained that this accreditation was internationally recognized and held by 14,000 organisations worldwide. She advised that the IiP Award was underpinned by rigorous assessment and defined the leadership, support and people management required for sustainable results. Many employers invested in career development and training which, besides providing the staff with further skills, also made the Council look efficient.

North Hertfordshire District Council had been working with the organization for 16 years, and the next full assessment was to be held in June 2017. An interim review had been held during the week commencing 7 December 2015.

The assessment criteria were continually changing and it was possible to work for basic, bronze, silver and gold levels in the Award. NHDC had been advised to go for the gold level, although a platinum level had recently been added to the Awards.

The CHRM opened the subject to Committee discussion, and Cllr Lovewell stated that his last employment had been involved in IiP and for each level there had been a payment. However, he was of the opinion that the Award made no difference to the organization. He asked if there was any benefit to achieving the Award. Cllr Billing declared that it would be interesting to hear what the staff thought of IiP as an Award and a process of accreditation. Another Member of the Committee advised that, throughout the 26 years she had worked at NHDC she had never been involved in the IiP accreditation process. She was informed that it was the assessors who chose which staff and management candidates to interview.

The SDCS enquired whether staff felt supported and able to access the appropriate training for them. He advised that other awards had been discounted due to the cost, while IiP went across all levels in the whole organisation. The Award and the questions were changing all the time. Holding the Award signified to potential employees that it was worth working for the Council. Cllr Hill remarked that organisations tended to deal with others that held the same accreditations and considered they were at the same level.

The Committee was informed that Senior Management identified and suggested action plans to deal with any problems and another Member of the Committee declared that the great success of the recent Stress Awareness Day showed that there was a problem for some staff and issues in the workplace.

The Chairman stated that it was reassuring to an “outsider” that the Council looked after its staff and monitored its health.

The Union representative enquired what the value was of progressing to a higher level of IiP Award, and this matter was discussed.

There was a short discussion on whether to enlist the assistance of SCF in taking part in the assessment and asking them to report back to JSCC with their opinions, although staff could not be identified for confidentiality reasons.

In conclusion, Cllr Lovewell stated that this would be a management decision, and it was hoped that the right one would be made.
27 SUGGESTED DISCUSSION TOPICS
After discussion, it was decided that the following topics would be discussed during the JSCC Meetings in March and June 2016.

March

Austerity in Local Government and Employee Morale

June

Freedom of Information and Transparency Regulations.

The Chairman wished all Members of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee a very Merry Christmas and reminded those present that the next Meeting would be held at 3pm on 30 March 2016.
Published on Friday, 12th February, 2016
2.14p.m