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Agenda item

Planning and Economic Development Restructure Proposals

Report of Officers.

 

Minutes:

As for the previous item, Report PER/17/13 outlined the proposals for the restructure of the Planning and Economic Development department and set out the implications for staff within the service.

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services presented the report.  She advised that the primary business case for change was the Council’s difficulties in recruiting and retaining planning professionals combined with changes in legislation that placed further performance demands on the planning service and had substantial financial implications.  She said that the new structure was aimed at providing further career opportunities for staff, particularly at the senior professional levels, and that the Head of Planning and Economic Development had also been very active in taking on apprentices so there would be a complete career structure from entry level apprenticeships to principal officers.  She added that the proposals affected some senior roles. 

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services advised that the proposals were also designed to secure efficiencies from new ways of working wherever possible.  In particular, the implementation of the new Exacom software would automate certain processes and diminish the need for these to be carried out manually as at present.

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services reported that initial consultation with staff had started on 18 September with the formal consultation process due to begin after the Executive meeting on 18 October.  She further advised that the Council would carry out a minimum of 30 days’ formal consultation and allow for the appeals process in due course in accordance with its Management of Change Policy.

 

Initial feedback from staff was presented verbally to the meeting.  The Head of HR and Customer Services advised that the feedback was anonymised for reasons of confidentiality.  The main points were as follows:

 

1.     A number of Officers had enquired about how the new senior and principal roles would be filled ie. whether they would be ring-fenced and, if so, to whom, or whether they would be subject to external advertising.  The answer given was as follows:

 

Posts that could potentially be considered as suitable alternative employment for anyone whose role was redundant under the proposals would be ring-fenced to those people and would only be open to wider competition if they were not filled through the management of change process.

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services advised that ring-fencing and recruitment processes had not yet been finalised pending the agreement of the new job descriptions and evaluation for the grade which was fundamental to any decision about the  appropriate method of selection.  The Management of Change Policy would be applied and this might include open competition where new posts were more senior than the jobs that were being deleted.

2.     Two UNISON representatives had been involved in consultation meetings to date and both had made arguments for staff affected being given first consideration for all roles available before they were externally advertised, including roles that were at a higher grade than the substantive post being deleted.  Other points raised by UNISON representatives included a comment that formal consultation should not commence until the agreed job descriptions were available and that all members of staff should be given sight of the consultation document or this report.  The answer to be given was as follows:

 

Staff affected would be given sight of the business case and the recommendations affecting themselves personally but not the details concerning other members of staff who were affected.  UNISON would be given a formal letter of consultation that set out the required information referred to in report paragraph 6.3.  Draft job descriptions were due to be evaluated with a view to formal consultation commencing as soon as possible after the Executive decision on 18 October.  Informal consultation meetings would continue to be held at the request of staff affected before that date and there would be at least 30 days of formal consultation. 

 

3.     UNISON representatives had also asked that consideration be given to any requests for voluntary severance.  The Head of HR and Customer Services advised that one member of staff had indicated willingness to accept redundancy and it was proposed that this be pursued via a settlement agreement.

 

4.     The Head of HR and Customer Services reported that one member of staff affected had stated that they did not accept that their job was actually redundant.  Legal advice was being sought on  this case and any further developments would be reported to the next meeting of the Personnel Committee along with the outcomes of the wider management of change process.

 

Responding to a Member’s question as to whether the restructure was affecting staff’s work, the Head of Planning and Economic Development replied that this was not generally the case and that the process was being very well managed by Chief Officers and the HR department. 

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services advised that the restructure would involve a certain amount of one-off costs which it was estimated would be recovered within a reasonable period of time.  She referred Members to the legal definition of redundancy which encompassed situations where the requirements for employees to carry out work of a particular kind had ceased or diminished or were expected to cease or diminish.  She added that all steps would be taken to mitigate against compulsory redundancies as set out in the policy.

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services suggested an additional recommendation to the report concerning delegation of authority for determining the final details of the formal consultation letter to UNISON and this was agreed.  She said that the outcomes of formal consultation with staff affected and progress on implementation of the change management process would be reported to the next scheduled meeting of the Committee in December 2017 and she anticipated that the process would be completed by the end of January 2018 at the earliest. 

 

The Head of Planning and Economic Development reported that taking on apprentices via the new ‘processing hub’ would help the Council to ‘grow its own’ planning professionals.  She said that a major advantage of the new structure would be reducing the reliance on using agency staff which would in future be confined to work on large sites delivery.  She added that she was optimistic that the new structure would satisfy the Council’s planning needs for the next five years.

 

The Head of HR and Customer Services referred the Committee to the Memorandum of Cooperation from the East of England Local Government Association which formed part of report Appendix D and which Members were recommended to approve that the Council become a signatory to (report recommendation 1.5 refers).  She pointed out that the recommendation referred to approval of the Memorandum subject to removal of clause 10.  Members agreed that they would like to have clause 10 removed.

 

The Corporate Director clarified that the estimated costs of the restructure proposals would be offset in part by the anticipated increase in planning fees.  Members were referred to table 3 in report paragraph 5.3 which set out the overspends in the staff budget for the last three years and further emphasised the need to break the dependency on agency staff.

 

The Chairman thanked Officers on behalf of the Committee for their work on the proposed restructure which he said had clearly been very well thought out.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1.       the existing and proposed structures for Planning and Economic Development, as set out in report Appendices A and B respectively, be noted;

 

2.       the detailed costs for the proposed staffing changes, as set out in Appendix C, be noted;

 

3.       the proposals for the restructuring of Planning and Economic Development be approved in principle, subject to the outcome of formal consultation with staff and the financial implications being agreed by the Executive;

 

4.       the report on skills shortages from EELGA (the East of England Local Government Association), attached at Appendix  D, be noted;

 

5.       Hertsmere Borough Council become a signatory to the Memorandum of Cooperation in Appendix D, subject to the removal of clause 10 relating to secondments in the private sector;

 

6.       the requirements of the Council’s Management of Change Policy, attached at Appendix E, be noted; and

 

7.       authority be delegated to the Head of HR and Customer Services, in consultation with the Chairman of the Personnel Committee, the Portfolio Holder with responsibility for human resources matters and the Chief Executive, to agree the detail of the formal consultation letter to UNISON.

 

(Action:  Head of Planning and Economic Development/Head of HR and Customer Services)