Shared Services

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 June 2008

Conference notes:

1.that current government policies envisage a major expansion of collaboration and shared services to both ‘join-up’ delivery and to meet the requirements of harsh efficiency savings, affecting all parts of the UK and this especially impacts on members in local government..

2.that Government policy is pushing an agenda of shared services as part of the drive for “joined up service delivery”

We support the efficient delivery of public services by a motivated and properly rewarded workforce providing value for money for local communities. UNISON supports improving service delivery and delivering value for money and recognises shared services between local councils and other public sector bodies may meet these objectives.

UNISON supports initiatives to genuinely improve service delivery and value for money that provide real benefits for service users and the workforce. We recognise that, joining up services, collaboration between local authorities and with other public bodies, collaborative working and shared services between local councils and other public bodies, making economies of scale may have a legitimate role to play in delivering these objectives if done in the right way.

The Government’s comprehensive spending review 2007 increases the financial pressure on local councils with the settlement for local councils resulting in major cuts over the next 3 years and the requirement to produce 3% year on year efficiency savings.

This financial context gives further impetus to the Government’s shared services agenda as authorities look for economies of scale and this may see an increase in shared services being proposed as a basis to meet cuts and the year-on-year efficiency savings targets.

However shared service initiatives are often used as a Trojan horse for privatisation and increasing marketisation of public services. Shared services are increasingly being proposed with the private sector partners and used as a cover for cuts and privatisation and increased marketisation of services, instead of properly funding the delivery of public services.

The implications for UNISON members in terms of potential redundancies and transfer are obvious.

Their complexity requires a step-change in UNISON’s response at branch, regional and national level. Many of the practical issues are similar to those faced by branches experiencing Local Government Reorganisation into ‘county unitaries’. This includes workers on different national terms and conditions working side by side.

Therefore Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Work in conjunction with regions and branches to develop a comprehensive campaigning strategy to tackle shared services. This should:

a)Be based on engaging with branches, regions and the devolved administrations;

b)Include liaison with other Service Groups to address cross-branch and cross-Service Group involvement;

c)Emphasise trade union and workforce involvement in councils’ strategies for delivering efficiency savings, improvement planning and procurement from the earliest stages;

d)Highlight the potential benefits of co-operation between public sector bodies as an alternative to outsourcing;

e)Look at using the new freedoms contained in UNISON’s structures review.

2)Work with branches and regions to research; monitor, analyse, and publicise the development of shared services and their impact on UNISON members and service delivery. This should utilise the experience of branches and regions involved with local government reorganisation and integrated care services and the Bargaining Information System;

3)Produce branch guidance on campaigning, organising and bargaining around shared services. Draw on the existing experience of Local Government Reorganisation and include an LGR dimension to any guidance;

4)Continue to promote the value of joint working between public sector bodies;

5)Run a national branch seminar to synthesise existing experience and draw out effective responses to shared services;

6)Campaign for improved workforce protection, through legislation and other appropriate mechanisms, in light of this and other new types of outsourcing;

7)Issue advice and guidance to branches and regions on the use of workforce secondment models, where these may be in the best interests of members as an alternative when staff transfers are proposed;

8)Ensure that if services are privatised, that Branch, Regional and National officials involved in negotiating with private sector employers should work together to ensure that the bargaining objectives of UNISON are met;

9)Ensure that UNISON’s campaign to stop privatisation is not undermined by the need to maintain working relationships with private sector providers and that UNISON’s priority remains to stop the transfer of services out of Local Government employment.