Joint Staff Consultative Committee Minutes

Wednesday, 6th July, 2016
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley (Chairman), Councillor John Bishop (substitute), Councillor Fiona Hill and Councillor Bernard Lovewell.
In attendance:
Corporate Human Resources Manager
Committee and Member Services Officer
Also Present:
Dee Levett, UNISON
David Carr, UNISON
Christina Corr, SCF
Claire Morgan, SCF
Item Description/Decision
Cllrs Judi Billing, Ian Albert and Lynda Needham had sent their apologies for absence. Cllr Fiona Hill had sent apologies for not being able to be present at the start of the Meeting - she stated that she would arrive a little late.

The Strategic Director of Customer Services and the Senior HR and Contracts Manager also sent apologies for their absence.
It was agreed that the Minutes of the JSCC meeting held on 30 March 2016 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
No other business was put forward for discussion at this Meeting.
The Chairman welcomed all Members and officers to the Meeting, and reminded them that an audio recording would be taken of this Meeting. However, to ensure that the recording was fully audible, each Member of the Committee was requested to switch on the microphone situated in front of him or her every time they wished to speak and switch it off after they had spoken.

She then 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."
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) referred the JSCC to the Minutes of the meetings of the Staff Consultation Forum (SCF) held on 4 May and the Draft Minutes of 1 June 2016, for details of the meetings, matters discussed and actions taken.

The CHRM provided a summary of the main updates from each meeting. There had been no SCF Meeting in April as the last SCF Meeting had been on 30 March and the next two SCF Meetings were reported on as follows:

4 May 2016
Under Item 1 - Property Services Update, Debbie Hiscock (DH responded to questions from SCF regarding the loss of water at DCO offices and the snack vending machines in the 5th floor canteen area.

For Item 2 - the Museum Uniform Policy, Ros Allwood and David Hodges attended and informed SCF that staff at the NHDC Museum may be required to wear a staff uniform as previously notified. The consultation on the Uniform Policy was currently in progress. The Chairman declared that in her opinion, both Museum and Reception staff should wear a NHDC uniform. A Unison representative said that he believed that the uniform should be flexible, i.e. formal for events and casual for behind-the-scenes everyday work.

Item 5 - NHDC Update brought the SCF’s attention to the Home Working Policy, to which revisions were being made.

In addition, the CHRM briefly updated SCF that Unison had now agreed the pay offer put forward, with a 1% pay increase having been agreed for 2016 and another 1% for 2017. The formal pay increase would be backdated to 1 April 2016. The CHRM reminded the Committee that there would be an Information Note on the JSCC Agenda, which would contain more in-depth information on Local Government Pay and Pensions.

The subject of Splash Parks was brought up and SCF informed that the fountains at the Baldock and Letchworth splash parks had been switched on and new splash parks were also to be opened in Hitchin and Royston in the summer of 2016.

The Chief Executive informed SCF that work was to commence later in May on the improvements to the North Herts Leisure Centre, to include a new learner/teaching pool, a café, dance studio, offices, a ground-sprung sports hall floor, refurbishment of the wet changing areas and increased parking facilities. This was to be funded by NHDC and Stevenage Leisure Ltd who operate the facility on behalf of the Council.

The Chief Executive advised SCF that the Local Plan would be presented to Council in July 2016, with the expectation of 14,400 new homes.

Item 8 - Employee Queries raised the question of Text Alerts regarding IT disruption etc. being sent to office-based staff as well as home workers. The CHRM advised that it was up to individual workers to sign up for these, as staff could be offsite, in which case prior notification of IT problems could be very useful.

In response to a query, the CHRM advised that the Staff Survey would be available on the Intranet, and individuals could not be identified where there are fewer than 10 officers responding in a service area.

To the question of annual leave being allocated from January to December or from an officer’s start date, the CHRM replied that this was not something that the Council could agree to. Discussion brought up the point that leave should be planned well ahead to ensure that heavy workloads at certain times did not affect an employee’s leave. Reminders were sent out to staff by HR each year to book leave in advance.

Draft 1 June 2016
The CHRM went through Item 1 - Property Services Update, covering fault reporting, cleaning office space, the smell in ladies’ toilets (2nd floor) and faults requiring repair in ladies toilets. She informed the Committee that there had been a positive response from the reasonably-priced restocking of the 5th floor vending machine and sales were going well. It was commented that more queries were likely to be raised over the coming months.

Under Item 3 - NHDC Update the CHRM advised that the results of the Staff Survey were currently being shared with NHDC staff. On being asked about the response rate, she revealed that it had been 7% lower than the last survey, although the overall results were higher, with Staff Satisfaction up 8% from 2014.

There had finally been a Pay Agreement. Pay would increase in June salaries by 1% for most staff for 2016 backdated to April. As it is a two-year agreement, there would also be a 1% increase in April 2017. Some staff on pay grades 1, 2 and 3 will have an increase that is higher than 1%, due to the National Living Wage which is £7.20 but is set to increase to more than £9 by 2020. Ordinarily the Living Wage applies to staff over the age of 24 years, but Local Government employers do not apply age restrictions and employees will receive a pay increase regardless of age. It is thought that after the pay increase there might be a period of stability.

Lastly, under Item 6 - Employee Enquiries, it was stated that hot desks were not being left clear for other staff to use and the CHRM declared that this has links with the new office accommodation project, for which there must be a clear desk standard. Once Council staff moves into Town Lodge where space will be tight, desks must be cleared. A reminder will be put out that hot desks must be left clear when they are finished with. These desks should be clearly labelled so staff can see where they can work. Moving from desk sharing to clear desks would be part of the culture change aspect of the Office Accommodation project.

There were no questions for the Corporate Human Resources Manager, so the Chairman thanked her for her presentation.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) presented the Committee with an update of the progress made in the last quarter with the People Strategy 2015-2020 Report, which covered the Council’s Workforce Development needs. She advised that the HR Work Plan for 2016/2017 had been completed.

She then went through the issues and emphasized the demands on the HR Team. A lot of recruitment work had been done lately and this was seen as an indication that things were picking up in the recruitment market.

Long term absence figures had been excellent in 2015/2016 and it had been a good year for Council staff.

She mentioned that an electronic short list method was being trialed to assist the recruitment process.

The CHRM touched on para.8.3, but reminded the Committee that there was an Information Note on Apprenticeships already on the Meeting’s Agenda, which would be dealt with shortly.

Para 8.8 was also mentioned, although it was pointed out that there was also an Equal Pay Review item on the Agenda.

Successful Well Being Workshops had been held in 2015 and further courses were planned for later this summer (2016), carrying the ‘Facing Challenge’ label to give a context to the Council’s development activities. A further workshop was in the process of being developed for late 2016 focused on skills of Managing Change and Transition. With reference to Learning and Development, it was confirmed that the popular management courses offered to staff, recently the Institute of Management and Learning Level 5, had been completed and candidates would shortly receive their certificates. Essential learning, both through training sessions and the Learning Management System, had been reviewed to ensure that effective use was being made of time and resources, including changes to the induction process.

According to the Staff Survey, overall staff satisfaction had risen to 86% although there were still some areas which required improvement and the results would be fed into the Action Plan attached to the report in the Agenda.

The CHRM pointed out an error in the format of the Turnover table on p. 17 - the bottom line had been added to the table on Absence Rates 2015/2016.

She reiterated that HR were busy with recruitment and were expecting recruitment rates to rise, despite the low pay increases and pay restraint.

A Member enquired whether figures were available from other Local Government Authorities and was informed that they were available and NHDC does examine these and keep them in mind. The Council’s figures were not very far away from those studied.

In response to a Member’s query regarding Short Term Absence Rates, the CHRM advised that she had seen a local authority league table and NHDC was in 3rd or 4th place.

It was agreed: That the progress made in the last quarter, December 2015 to March 2016 on a number of HR projects and work streams as part of the new People Strategy for the period 2015-2020, be noted.

The People Strategy supports the achievement of the Authority’s key objectives.
National Pay Bargaining 2016/2017

The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) informed the Committee that a 1% pay increase had been awarded over the next two years, with higher increases for the lowest paid staff, to exceed the National Living Wage.


The new single-tier state pension, resulting in the abolition of contracted-out rates of National Insurance (NI), had come into effect from 5 April 2016, with employees NI contributions increasing by 1.4%.

Exit Payment Cap

Exit Payment Regulations 2016 that proposed a cap of £95,000 for exit payments were due shortly and these included payments related to voluntary and compulsory redundancies or other voluntary exits. Other consultations included looking at how pensions and redundancy figures related to exit from employment.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) introduced the Information Note on Apprenticeships by stating that the proposal in the Enterprise Bill stating that an Apprenticeship training levy would be introduced shortly and that apprentices were to be employed in the public sector and this would be set targets to increase apprenticeships. This was being closely followed with the training levy being introduced in April 2017. More guidance was expected in June, October and December 2016.

Government Target

The Government had set a target of 3 million new apprentices by 2020. A new Apprenticeship Delivery Board was to work with the National Apprenticeship Service and was expected to try and stimulate interest in apprenticeships and oversee its growth. It was planned that this also be established by April 2017.

The Training Levy

Apprentices aged 16-18 years currently have 100% funding for intermediate and advanced apprenticeships and those aged 19-23 years are 50% funded. For those aged 24 and over there is no guarantee but may be up to 50%. Further guidance was expected to be issued during June 2016.

Apprentices working for NHDC had provided a lot of feedback based on when they had started. Seven to eight apprentices per year had been working for the Council since 2012 and it was considered that there was a need for longer apprenticeships, including Higher Apprenticeships up to Level 7 (Masters Degree level). However, as these apprentices will work for more than the current one year, this would limit taking on new people to meet the Government targets which are based on the number of apprentices starting each year.

There is a further allowance to be set against the levy payment, based on the anticipated staffing establishment in 2016/2017, payable through PAYE and collected alongside income tax and National Insurance.

A Member enquired when apprentices would start to work at the Council and was informed that the first apprentices began working for NHDC in 2012. Some had been retained and others had left to go elsewhere, taking with them an apprentice qualification. Departments/Services which had used apprentices had been: Human Resources, Customer Services Centre and Property Services, among others. The apprentices themselves had provided good feedback, as had the Services for which they worked. They had also caused the age profile in the Council to be altered.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager (CHRM) introduced this Information Note and stated that there are currently no significant inequalities. The Equal Pay Review is carried out every 2 to 3 yeas and is closely monitored. The report is published in the Members Information Service (MIS) which is available for everybody to read. In areas such as gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, minority groups etc. pay differentials have been narrowed and it is hoped that this trend will continue.

There are a higher number of female workers than male in Local Government and NHDC is the same, with 65.5% of staff being women. This was typical of a Shire District. The CHRM confirmed that the trend is still that women tend to be the main child carer and this leads to the demand for part-time work coming from females. It should also be noted that not everybody wanted career progression into managerial roles.

The next Equal Pay Review is due in 2019 and examination of the report will show if any changes are found.

The CHRM commented that all staff are able to enter (or alter) their own personal details onto the SAP Payroll self-service system. The report was shared with the Union and staff services and was about to be published generally for all staff to see.

A Member commented that not all people with disabilities consider themselves disabled, for instance, and the CHRM agreed that information can only be taken from that recorded by staff themselves - it is down to personal judgment. She declared that the more data is provided by staff, the more accurate a picture can be provided of staff equalities.
The CHRM introduced the Discussion Paper and ran through the salient points, stressing the reasons for recent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests and the time they took to deal with, which was recorded and fed back,

Transparency Regulations and the organisational information, locations, contacts and governance, together with all financial information required. The Council’s priorities and progress with these were also covered. She emphasized that this was not just a Human Resources issue and touched on the Pay Policy Statement with its new regulations and/or guidance in its scope, complying with Section 38 of the Localism Act 2011, the guidance issued under Section 40 of the Act and the Supplementary Guidance from February 2013, together with the Local Government Transparency Codes 2014 and 2014 and 2015. The Council’s current policy and matters required by the Act and the Transparency Codes relating to staff pay, particularly that of senior staff and the lowest paid employees, were outlined in the statement and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 was also covered.

The CHRM covered the Annual Publication of Equalities Data, which required public bodies to publish relevant information demonstrating their compliance with the Equality Duty and set specific and measurable equality objectives. This information was published on the internet on the NHDC website. Lastly, she went through the Subject Access Requests (SAR) which is made by, or on behalf of, an individual for the information to be provided under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). A SAR must be made in writing and the maximum fee charged for this is £10. It requires a prompt response within 40 days of its receipt. She explained the exact process taken.

During Committee discussion, a Member enquired whether any of this is influenced by the European Union (EU) and was informed that the EU does influence a significant amount of Employment Law, so this could fundamentally be possible. It was commented that it was not always taken as read that NHDC should carry out these procedures and the requirements were regularly checked to ensure that the information did need to be produced.
After some debate, the discussion topic chosen for the next JSCC Meeting on 28 September 2016 was:

Wellbeing and Resilience
Facing the Challenge - Learning and Development to promote wellbeing and resilience.
Published on Wednesday, 20th July, 2016