The Two Tier Workforce and Review of Best Value

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 June 2008

Conference notes the statutory guidance on ‘Safe, Strong and Prosperous Communities’ which replaces existing guidance from 2003 on ‘Best Value’. The sections which deal with workforce issues – including the ‘Best Value Code of Practice on Workforce Matters’ on the two tier workforce – are also withdrawn and replaced.

The Best Value Code followed the PPP Protocol in Scotland and led to codes in devolved administrations and elsewhere in the public sector. It was groundbreaking but time has revealed some shortcomings. It does not apply to all types of outsourcing; it becomes void where no TUPE’d staff remain on a contract; some local authorities have attempted to avoid applying it; and there has not been proper monitoring. New types of outsourcing like shared services also introduce new complexities.

Conference also believes that the new ‘light touch’, commissioning-based approach to Best Value will lead to further marketisation and services responding to market pressures not public needs. This is exacerbated by the requirements for major efficiency savings and the accelerating influence of the private sector in public services. In England the Tory-led Local Government Association and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have established a high-level working group on commissioning to increase co-operation.

Conference further notes that new, complex forms of outsourcing such as shared services and the increased commissioning of services via Local Strategic Partnerships will require new, robust arrangements to protect the outsourced workforce.

The devolved nations have resisted privatisation with more success than England, however in the recent period of direct rule Northern Ireland saw a major intrusion of the private sector into public services, and the harsh financial settlement is pushing the Welsh Local Government Association into the arms of the CBI, despite an agreement at Welsh Assembly level ruling out privatisation schemes in the NHS.

This extension of private sector influence makes the protection of the outsourced workforce an even more significant issue. Therefore conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Campaign against all forms of privatisation of public services, campaign for services to be brought back into public control and to promote adequately funded directly delivered services

2)Ensure the code is not watered down, and campaign for improvements such that the new Code:

a)is relevant to new models such as shared service arrangements;

b)is extended to cover ALMOs, LSVT, academies and all bodies delivering publicly funded services and provides protection for transferred staff

c)has a simple legal mechanism for more robust monitoring and enforcement procedures;

d)ensures proper monitoring of its application by government with trade union involvement ;

e)continues to require no less favourable conditions than directly employed staff, even if all TUPE’d staff have left the contract;

3)Launch the new Code with guidance and support for branches and regions;

4)Produce new guidance and training packages for branches including the use of the Public Sector Equality Duties as a tool to campaign against privatisation

5)Provide Branch Officials with appropriate information about negotiations between National UNISON representatives and private sector providers in a similar way to that of the provision of information is currently provided to branches about the progress in bargaining groups that remain in Local Government employment;

6)Work with specific branches and regions to identify and publicise specific organising projects using the Code to recruit and organise contracted out staff;

7)Monitor the application of the code and the agreements it covers using UNISON’s Bargaining Information System;

8)Campaign for other similar codes in the devolved national and other sectors to be levelled up to the same standard;

9)Issue branch guidance on influencing the procurement process;

10)Give support and guidance to branches on using the Public Sector Equality Duties to oppose privatisation.