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Agenda item

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Employees' Side Report and Management Response: Special Needs Transport (SNT) Full Business Case

Report from Unison.

Minutes:

The Forum considered a request from Unison that an independent investigation be undertaken into the business case produced on Special Needs Transport.  In addition it requested a professional work study assessment of the routes identified for reduction.  An employee representative in speaking to the proposal outlined key concerns as follows:

 

·                  the process and consultation undertaken had been utilised across all staff and not approached on a case by case basis;

 

·                  the impacts of the proposals potentially contributed to future concerns around single status agreements and further reductions in contractual hours being implemented;

 

·                  the impact of the use of the proposed 20% reduction clause, contained within contracts of employees, was inappropriate and correspondence issued around this continued to be ambiguous;

 

·                  a potential deskilling of employees could result due to a reduced requirement no longer including possession of PCV Licences;

 

·                  lack of confidence in the work force study officers who undertook roles in terms of the full and accurate measurement of all processes relating to driving and special needs transport;

 

·                  the use of agency staff for undertaking SNT driving was considered to be high and had not been fully evaluated in the context of appropriate utilisation of full time staff, leading to a potential further reduction in hours worked by full-time staff as an outcome.

 

In responding to the points raised and questions from Members, officers noted that:

 

·                     benchmarking of the service with other local authorities showed it to be the 4th highest spend on SNT provision within the London boroughs;

 

·                     the service was regarded as staffing heavy and the HR and legal advice sought around contractual obligations were clear that the imposition of the 20% reduction clause was appropriate and would assist in working towards standardised contracts;

 

·                     the Council was facing a time of economic turbulence and needed to seize opportunities to be more competitive;

 

·                     in terms of the work force study assessment these skills were contained within professional areas of the authority and an external examination would lead to a greater cost outcome;

 

·                     wherever possible the Council sought to minimise the use of temporary agency staffing.  However, route planning did not always allow for full time officers to complete and still remain within identified service standards;

 

·                     in terms of the agency staff use figures these were available and would be circulated however, it was noted such use was changeable on a day-by-day basis, where the Council continually sought to minimise this type of use;

 

·                     a full Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals had been undertaken;

 

·                     Phase 2 of the SNT Structure Review would see a focus on the Management Team for the delivery of the service;

·                     the matter before the Forum that evening was the consideration of implementation of an existing clause within staffing contracts;

 

·                     that there were no single status impacts arising from the proposals.

 

In considering the issues before them Members expressed their concerns that the report submitted was not in line with their expectations in terms of decision making.  A Member suggested that an independent review as proposed might provide a fuller response to inform potential outcomes of the proposals.

 

A Member spoke of the financial challenges facing the Council and the need to resolve the matters raised within a reasonable timeframe, whilst ensuring the veracity of the processes.

 

The Divisional Director of Human Resources and Development noted that the item had come to the Forum as there was disagreement with the outcome of the consultation process.  However, prior to this meeting no concerns had been raised with regard to agency staff use or Single Status.  He suggested that in view of the new points now raised and to inform future recommendations concerning service provision there needed to be clear evidence supplied by the employee representatives, together with further information from the Directorate around agency staff use and route planning.

 

Resolved to RECOMMEND:  (to Portfolio Holder Performance, Customer Services and Corporate Services)  That:

 

(1)               costs in relation to the utilisation of temporary agency staff for SNT provision be circulated to all members of the Forum within 14 days of this meeting;

 

(2)               a further report be provided by management into the proposals for STN provision, to include the issues outlined above and subject to the provision of appropriate evidence by the employee representatives of the issues raised, to allow the Portfolio Holder to take a full and final decision.

Supporting documents: