Agenda item

Workforce Change and Consultation


A report by the Chief Executive sought authority for him to consult with the Trade Unions and workforce on a range of issues to enable the Council to meet its budget deficit for 2013/14. 


The Chief Executive introduced his report informing that the Council was facing a considerable financial challenge to reduce its net budget.  The current position was that the Council was facing a budget deficit of £100m or so over the next three years and a projected deficit of £39M for 2013/14.  The Chief Executive told the Cabinet that this would necessitate significant changes to the manner in which the Council conducted its business. 


The Council had completed its first stage of consultation with the community and the responses and findings were included in a report elsewhere on the agenda.  The Chief Executive reported that officer options for budget savings would be published shortly.  These had the potential to change service delivery which would potentially impact on staff.  This, therefore, required consultation at the earliest possible opportunity.


All options for addressing the Council’s budget deficit were being considered.


It was noted that the Council had a legal obligation to consult with the workforce on business and service changes that may affect the workforce.  The requirements for consultation were laid out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA).  The Council welcomed consultation with the Trade Unions and staff to consider all proposals to meet the financial challenge.


The Cabinet noted that the issues requiring consultation were as follows:


(1)  There was a proposal to reduce the running costs for the Council through its management costs.  The Chief Executive had brought a proposal to strengthen the strategic leadership for the Council as part of the Improvement Programme to the Cabinet meeting on 18 September 2012 (Minute No. 83 refers).  At that stage it was agreed that further restructuring would follow to fund the new roles of Strategic Director and also to reduce the overall management cost for the Council. To deliver this agreement, the Council would consider options to reduce the number of managers across the Council.  This option would require consultation with all managers and the Trade Unions.


(2)  The Council currently employed its workforce on national and local conditions of service.  The local conditions of service were subject to a local agreement through a collective agreement with recognised Trade Unions (JNC Recognition Agreement with Trade Unions).  Consultation with recognised Trade Unions and staff were required to consider options to reduce the cost of the workforce and so reduce the potential numbers of job losses.


(3)   Options needed to be considered with the aim of reducing the costs to the Council and the local tax payer of the Council's enhanced discretionary severance scheme.  The aim would be to seek ways to reduce the costs, which would in turn protect more jobs and services, whilst keeping an enhanced scheme to reduce the potential impact on the lowest paid.


(4)  In the event that the scheme was modified any staff leaving after a new scheme came into effect had to leave on the new terms, regardless of when the dismissal process began.  In order to manage expectations, it was recommended that the current voluntary redundancy scheme be suspended immediately.


(5)   The Council had a requirement to implement the final stages of job -evaluation, under the (national joint agreement with date).  Further consultation would enable the Council to explore options concerning the arrangements to implement job evaluation for those staff on grade principal officer (earning over £27,849 and above).  This would enable the Council to implement a legally fair, affordable and sustainable pay policy at this level.


(6)  In seeking to set the budget for 2013/14, the Council had consulted with the community and explored a range of areas.  In response to the first stage of consultation, reported to the Cabinet, the Chief Executive would publish a range of officer options for the budget savings 2013/14.  Those options would be considered by Members through a series of Overview and Scrutiny Committees and with the public through specific targeted consultation.  Whilst no decisions were made on the future of services, any options that were being considered that potentially impacted on staff required consultation at the earliest possible stage. Consultation with staff did not pre-empt community consultation or the Council's decision-making process, but was required if options were being considered that affected the workforce.


Joe Taylor, Unison Wirral Branch Secretary was in attendance at the meeting and was invited to address the Cabinet.  He informed that Unison members were enraged by the Council’s proposals and over its decision to employ a number of external consultants at a cost of £4m per annum. 


Mr Taylor went on to raise a number of concerns about the proposed job losses and compulsory redundancies.  He also referred to employees’ current terms and conditions, the proposed loss of weekend working enhancements and the proposal to introduce four days unpaid leave and the effect this would have on pensions.  He made reference to the agreement Unison had with the Council on job evaluation and the three years pay protection. 


Mr Taylor also expressed Unison’s disappointment over the proposal to suspend the Council’s enhanced voluntary severance scheme. He requested that this be not allowed to happen. He raised concerns over the shortness of the proposed 28 day consultation exercise and the threat of redundancy.  He requested that “at risk” notices be not sent to staff members at the present time and, instead, requested that the Council embark upon a proper meaningful consultation exercise without the threat of redundancy.


Councillor Phil Davies told the Cabinet that the Council was in the situation it was because of the coalition Government’s significant cuts in respect of local government; and that he disagreed with the Government’s austerity policy.  The Government was earmarking local authorities in deprived areas in the North West of England.  He considered that the responsibility lay with the Government nationally. 


Councillor Phil Davies informed that the Council had a legal responsibility to “balance its books” and set the budget.  The Council would mitigate the impact of the cuts as much as possible and make as good a job as possible of this.  The Council had to save £103m over the next three years and that was one third of the Council’s budget.  No decisions on how to to meet the budget challenge were being made at this meeting.  The report was only asking for the consultation exercise to begin.  Councillor Phil Davies informed that he was willing to meet with Mr Taylor and other Trade Union officials to discuss alternative ways to make the necessary savings. 


Councillor Phil Davies also reported that the Council had taken the decision to pay ‘the living wage’, thereby helping to lift lower paid workers out of poverty and helping them havea socially acceptable minimum standard of living.




(1)  the Chief Executive be authorised to open formal consultation with trade unions and staff under TULRCA and as a matter of good practice on:


(a)  changes to the council’s enhanced discretionary severance scheme policy under the Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006;


(b)  changes to the local conditions of service;


(c)  the terms upon which to implement the final stages of Job Evaluation, under the 1997 National joint agreement; and


(d)  the potential impact on staff of the officer budget options including redundancy.


(2)  the Chief Executive be authorised to immediately suspend applications to the Council’s existing employee enhanced Voluntary Severance Scheme.


(3)  the Chief Executive be authorised to recommend to the Employment and Appointments Committee that this report be considered and the Chief Executive be authorised to open consultation as outlined in Recommendation (1) and that recommendation (2) above be implemented; and


(4)  the Chief Executive be instructed to report back on the progress of the consultation at the special budget Cabinet meeting scheduled for 20 December 2012.

Supporting documents: