agenda for these minutes
17 April 2009
Mr Franceschini (Chairman), Mrs Andrews, Mr Bowman, Ms Flemington, Mr Ryles
and Mr Spackman
Councillors Greenslade, Hart, Haywood, Owen and Smith
Mr Jones, representing Director of Personnel Performance
AGREED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 16 January 20098 be signed as a correct record.
PP/91 Future of the Atkinson Unit
The Staff Side expressed serious concern at the very recent notice from the Home Office that the Youth Justice Bureau contract would not be renewed in July this year and the possible closure therefore of the Atkinson secure unit, which specifically protected young persons id and provided a valuable role for the welfare and support of vulnerable young persons in the south west and beyond, in addition to serious concern of around 100 potential redundancies.
The closest unit, if Atkinson closed, was in South Gloucester, a considerable distance from other areas in the south west and closer to the urban areas of the industrial Midlands. There could only be 3 welfare beds in the south west based on the South Gloucester unit, with vast distances which would place a severe capacity limitation on catering for vulnerable children's needs throughout the whole South West given its peripheral position and accessibility and so at odds with the Children s Act requiring young people to be placed close to their families.
As it was, the Atkinson unit and the others in England and Wales, had always had to take in young vulnerable people from other places as well, because of the lack of provision
nationally. It was anticipated demand would only increase as more specialist units across the country closed.
It was also understood that the Department of Health recognised the need for care beds for children and was willing to fund redevelopment of the Atkinson unit, clearly only if it remained open.
The Youth Justice Bureau (YJB) was also willing to taper off their dedicated beds after the current contract expired in order to enable the transfer to a more "care oriented" unit being run in future.
Even if the Atkinson Unit did not have contracted beds with the YJB, beds may be spot purchased for clients in need on an ad hoc basis.
At present the Atkinson Unit is understood to be full and it could be that at present there is more demand for this sort of facility than there has been for quite some time. The severe economic downturn may also result in higher demand for this type of accommodation.
The Staff Side requested the costing aspects and criteria for running the Atkinson Unit should be re-examined on the basis of other factors anticipating a suitable role for welfare support of vulnerable children across the region with special reference to Plymouth, Torbay and Cornwall in addition to those of Devon itself and this was already underway.
The Management Side reported that the authority had not sought these changes but had only been informed by the Home Office over the last month that the YJB contract would not be renewed in July 2009. The valuable provision this unit provided for Devon, the south west and beyond was recognised. Devon was taking this matter very seriously and actively following up a whole range of options with detailed costings which still needed to be tested and had contacted other SW authorities and the DCSF. The Executive Director of Children Young People s Services was also working closely with the County Solicitor to ascertain whether any legal issues needed to be taken into account as part of the costings.
However despite best efforts the authority had not been able to obtain an extension to the Home Office deadline for the withdrawal of the contract, but did not have to decide immediately on whether to take up a financial incentive available for the first year only.
The Staff Side added further that unison members were distressed at the sudden withdrawal of the contract and lack of information currently available given the short timescale and requested communication to all staff as soon as possible, as well as all staff be treated as a priority and placed on the at risk register for priority redeployment.
The Director of Personnel Performance was happy to agree to this request provided the caveat was added that no decision about the unit had been made at this stage, the authority was still ascertaining all the factors to come to an informed decision and all efforts would be made to find a solution. Communication with staff had been more limited at this stage than the authority would have wished, given the lack of detail the authority had itself, but staff could be updated with what details were currently available.
AGREED that the Director of Personnel Performance (in consultation with the Staff Side):-
(a) inform all staff concerned that the withdrawal of the YJB contract for the Atkinson Unit was not a position the authority had wished to have been placed in and that all efforts were being made to find a solution as soon as possible, with no option recommended until all the facts were available;
(b) treat all staff as priority and placed on the at risk register for priority redeployment, without prejudicing any decision on whether the unit remains open or closes;
(c) consider further communication links with staff.
PP/92 Residential Homes Prospect for the Future
The Staff Side reported that as the transfer of homes to Shaw Healthcare was no longer proceeding they would welcome the opportunity to be involved, as would staff themselves, in discussing new proposals for Devon s residential homes. Staff Side s concerns however included a recent report which indicated a reduction in posts in which they had not been involved and that Devon s staff might be priced out of the market from being paid a fair wage for the professional job they did, as opposed to inadequate services which were sometimes provided to the elderly, an example of which was the BBC s Panorama programme last week.
The Management Side confirmed it was still the policy of the authority to externalise its residential homes, but that a fresh approach would be considered and rather than look for a similar model as proposed by the previous Shaw Healthcare scheme, the authority was keen to use its experience from this previous exercise, including improved consultation. The Vice-Chairman gave an assurance that finding new provision would be approached differently than before and he wished staff to be fully involved, whilst recognising the realities that Devon received 30m less grant that other shires and the prospect of any other future substantial government money was unlikely and there was a large expansion in the number of older people to care for, with a 34% increase in the number of over 85 year olds which Devon needed to plan for. .There could also be a more flexible package of provision, rather than a sole provider and any staff ideas would be welcomed, members had been unaware of any recent proposed job cuts and wished to be kept informed.
AGREED that a briefing paper be prepared covering the above issues for all members of the Personnel Partnership.
PP/93 Local Government Reorganisation
The Staff Side asked for an update, including details on the operation of the Shared Services Board, Community Boards and working with districts to prepare as much as possible now, notwithstanding the Boundary Committee were not now announcing their recommendation until July, with the earliest response to this from the Secretary of State expected from September 2009 onwards.
The Vice-Chairman confirmed the current timescales and the preliminary work being undertaken with district colleagues and applauded the strong local government family in Devon which was a significant help during this delayed process.
PP/94 Job Evaluation (JE) Issues
The Staff Side reported that the school JE process would now carry on into this September school term. Although the majority of non school staff posts had been completed, there were still a number outstanding. There would be trade union support where possible and Staff Side cooperation to see the JE process completed.
The Director of Personnel Performance reported that the bottleneck of outstanding JE payments to staff had now been resolved and there was now no need to extend the contracts of the payroll team involved with this. It was anticipated that most of the non school staff posts would be completed by the end of June where there was no special reason for delay. The Director for Learning Schools had had a very positive response from schools and a newsletter was being prepared to go to schools shortly,
Notwithstanding the large amount of work now completed, there was still a significant amount remaining, together with further quality assurance after the appeal, the need to maintain equality checking and future changes from Local Government Review. The Director of Personnel Performance stressed the importance of taking into account national terms and conditions, equal pay and single status.
AGREED that the Staff Side have sight of the draft newsletter being prepared for schools and the final copy be also sent to the Personnel Partnership.
PP/95 Green Travel - Impact on Staff
The Staff Side raised in particular the proposed county hall car park changes from 1 July 2009 and that both Unison and the GMB did not want these to be implemented until all measures were in place. A response to the issues raised by the green travel group was also awaited. Staff Side also referred to the issue of dedicated park and ride services for staff who worked part-time, where the proposed plans would operate during peak times only.
The Vice-Chairman stated that it was still the authority s ambition to have all the proposed measures in place at the same time and if there were still particular issues these could be considered. Further park ride provision above what had already been proposed had further funding implications. The local member, who was meeting local residents on 7 May and the Personnel Partnership would both welcome a briefing note on the latest position of the county hall car park and response awaited by the green travel group.
The Staff Side also wished to see the task and finish group considering flexible ways of working reconvened as part of the wider green travel policy.
(a) that the Chief Executive send a briefing update on the county hall car park and the response awaited by the green travel group to the Personnel Partnership and the local member;
(b) that any use of the authority s mini-buses for park ride be referred to the green travel group for consideration.
PP/96 Dates of Future Meetings
22 July, 28 October 2009 and 20 January 2010 (Budget),
All dates on Wednesdays, to commence at 10.30am (Management briefing at 10am).
Since this was the last meeting of the existing council, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman paid tribute to the co-operation of the Employers and Staff Sides and to the value of this Partnership.
The meeting started at 10.30am and finished at 12 noon.
The Minutes of this Committee are published on the County Council's Website at:-