To receive and consider the report of the Director (Policy and Governance).
The Chair, Councillor John Walker, welcomed Chris Sinnott, Director (Policy & Governance) and Councillor Peter Wilson, Deputy Leader and Executive Member (Resources), to the meeting.
Rebecca Aziz-Brook, Transformation Programme Co-Ordinator, presented the report which provided contextual information with regards to the overall Directorate summary, the budget position and the key performance summary and key project update for 2019/20. The data within the report reflected the position in quarter two.
The directorate budget was currently underspending by just under £82k, creating a 1.7% variance against the original cash budget. The biggest underspend was in staffing due to an underspend of £50k as a result of sharing the Chief Executive post with South Ribble and an underspend of £40k from Shared Financial Services as a result of the vacant posts following the senior management restructure and review of the service. With regards to key performance information, overall of the 40 indicators 31 (78%) were performing on or above target, 3 (8%) were performing worse than target but within the threshold and 6 (14%) were performing below target.
It was noted that the Policy and Governance directorate will be responsible for some high-profile projects as part of next year’s corporate strategy delivery including renovation works at Astley Hall, the refresh of the Council’s website, delivering Shared Services, and delivery of sustainable public services and the green agenda, and Councillor Wilson praised officers leading on those projects.
Members queried where Shared Services was up to. It was noted that appointments to shared posts were made before Christmas which would go live from 1 April but were currently working in shadow form. Also from 1 April, staff would be transferred between South Ribble and Chorley, with the Finance, Transformation and Partnerships teams being employed by Chorley, and Communications and Visitor Economy, Democratic and Legal Services being employed by South Ribble.
In general, the employing Council would be the base for that team, however some site-dependent roles (e.g. Democratic Services) would transfer to South Ribble as their employer but would not move physically. Members were concerned that communication with officers would change and it was noted that this was likely; although staff from each team would be available at both sites, appointments might replace drop-in meetings.
Officers were currently concentrating on seating arrangements and ensuring access to systems, but a larger piece of work was underway to align terms and conditions and it was noted that a full reviews of services and likely restructures would take place after 1 April. In response to Members’ queries regarding the TUPE protection period, it was noted that no protection period is needed until there is significant business reason to change terms and conditions and only one intended measure was being implemented at this stage; a change in date for salary payments.
With regards to involvement of the unions, Members noted that officers had been meeting on a monthly basis with South Ribble’s Unison branch and that Chorley’s Unison branch had recently agreed to re-engage with the process. Pay scales were one of the things needed to be aligned as, although both Councils used the same spinal column points, they operated different grade structures. It was noted that pay was protected up to limit of £5,000 under the current policy in both Councils, with 12 months full protection and part-protection after that. In response to Members’ follow-up queries, it was noted that the intention was to align terms and conditions, not make anyone financially worse off.
Members were concerned about the effect on staff morale and urged officers to ensure clear communication regarding harmonisation was carried out in an open and structured way. It was noted that the previous delays to Shared Services had resulted in staff resignations, so officers were driving changes through now the vision and strategy were clear.
With regards to other aspects of the Directorate’s performance, Members queried the revenue figures for the Lancastrian Suite and it was noted that these reflected the cancellations of pre-Christmas events due to the general election. Members queried sickness absence performance figures and noted that there had been a reduction in long term sickness but not for short-term absences. It was advised that return to work interviews were key to making improvements in order to identify and address issues, particularly for mental health illnesses.
Decision – That the report be noted.