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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Local Government in Scotland Act Briefing 61
Communications

 

 

 

Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, consultation on the guidance for Best Value, Community Planning and Power to Advance Well Being.

Introduction

The Local Government in Scotland Act was passed in January 2003. The Act:

  1. Provides a duty to secure Best Value.
  2. Introduces a statutory basis for Community Planning.
  3. Gives a Power to advance Well-Being.

However the detail for these three provisions is to be determined in guidance from the Scottish Executive which is currently under consultation.

UNISON gave an initial response to the Executive's consultation on the working drafts of the guidance in November 2002

We are now preparing our responses to the final consultation for the deadline in June 2003.

Duty to secure Best Value

UNISON's previous response on Best Value supported the provisions for high standards, effective management systems, openness and transparency. However, we called for more emphasis on quality, effective service delivery, fair employment and equality.

The latest draft on Best Value has taken on board many of UNISON's comments particularly on equality issues in the 8 "characteristics" it sets out on the Best Value Regime. Nevertheless UNISON wants to see more explicit references to fair employment in the commitment and leadership characteristics of Best Value.

On responsiveness and consultation UNISON welcomes the obligation for local authorities to respond to needs of employees along with other stakeholders. We would also like to see references to trade unions as key stakeholders in this section. Sound governance and management of resources definitions includes positive statements on addressing staff morale and skills. UNISON welcomes this but wants to see more definite statements on training and development for all staff. This section should also refer to good employment practice. We want to see equality in the procurement process mentioned in this section, not just in the Equal Opportunities arrangements section, as we believe that cost should not be the only driver.

Whilst UNISON welcomes the use of review and options appraisal, we want to see trade unions included in the list of organisations local authorities should work with to achieve service goals. In the competitiveness, trading and the discharge of authority functions UNISON wants the authority to be responsive to trade unions, as well as other stakeholders.

We welcome the inclusion of sustainable development as a characteristic of best value, and the emphasis placed on the views of communities and local partners, and to quality of life indicators.

UNISON believes Equal Opportunities arrangements are crucial to the Best Value process. We would have preferred a duty to actively promote rather than just encourage equal opportunities. However, we support the commitment to equal opportunities in employment and training, and the requirement for a programme of equal pay audits, comparability studies and equal pay reviews, something UNISON had called for in our previous submissions.

It is essential that Best Value means Accountability and UNISON welcomes the detail set out on this characteristic, particularly the need to provide information in an accessible manner.

Power to Advance Well Being

UNISON had initial concerns that the mooted "power of general competence" was being diluted into the power to advance "well being". However we welcome the removal of restrictions on local authorities, whilst we have some concerns that the meaning of "well being" can be altered by Ministers without reference to the Parliament. Our request that the availability of suitable and high quality jobs be included in the economic indicators of "well being" was accepted, and UNISON supports the content of the economic, social and environmental factors for "well being". We welcome the guidance's discretion for local authorities to act upon the power as appropriate, and to look upon it as a "power of first resort" albeit kept in check by existing Scottish, UK and EU legislation.

The guidelines emphasise how the three parts of the Act should interrelate, and local authorities are encouraged to use the power of well being to secure Best Value and encourage Community Planning. The guidance lists positive examples of how the power might be used, UNISON would wish to add the promotion of equality not just reducing inequality.

We support the broad spending power given to local authorities. As the Act also ends councils' Section 94 borrowing restrictions this should increase the scope of local authorities to improve the lives of their constituents. We welcome flexibility in the power that it can be used for the benefit of the whole or any part of the local authority area, for all or some of the persons within it. At the same time we accept the limits to the power that prevent local authorities duplicating functions carried out by other bodies without consent, and the prevention of levying taxes or charges, other than council tax and reasonable charges for services.

In our previous response we agreed that Ministers should be able to take action to amend, repeal or disapply any enactment that prevents or hinders use of the power through secondary rather than primary legislation, to ensure the Act is implemented in the spirit that was intended.

We also agree that it should be Scottish Ministers - given they are democratically elected and accountable to Parliament - who intervene when powers and obligations provided in the Act are abused or ignored. However we would like local authorities to have the right to be consulted and represented prior to such intervention.

Community Planning

The Community Planning Guidance is in two parts, the first on how the legislative provisions should be implemented, and the second providing a series of advice notes with examples in practice. In our previous submission we welcomed the duty on local authorities to facilitate the community planning process. We are very clear that it is councils as democratic and accountable bodies who initiate, facilitate and lead.

It is good that public sector partners in Community Planning have to comply with Best Value. UNISON believes, in the interest of good practice and equity, that all partners in Community Planning should observe Best Value.

We welcome the Executive's inclusion of our point on trade unions as democratic representative agencies in the list of stakeholders who should be consulted on the Community Planning process. It is good that local authorities also have to engage with individuals who are "hard to reach", addressing key issues on social exclusion. UNISON supports the flexibility and common sense approach encouraged by the process, in the means of engagement, adding value to existing initiatives and in supporting effective community engagement. We support the emphasis on mainstreaming Community Planning so it is integral to the planning and service delivery of the local authority and other partners. It is good to see references to the on-going training and development for staff, board and elected members within each partner organisation.

UNISON supports the mainstreaming of equal opportunities into the Community Planning process. We think the guidance should go further in requiring all bodies and agencies participating to pay regard to the equalities objectives. It is a positive requirement that progress on equality has to be included in the obligatory report on Community Planning.

UNISON has expressed concerns on any significant increase in the role and powers of the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. We are concerned about openness and transparency, and advocated the establishment of an independent Quality Commission for this purpose, to oversee effective and quality service provision, not just address financial issues.

The Act has provisions to allow Ministers order-making powers to establish a Community Planning partnership as a corporate body. UNISON has consistently opposed this, believing incorporation moves away from the local community spirit intended for partnerships, giving too much influence to the private sector. We need more information and time for debate and consultation on the consequences of incorporation.

Action for Branches

  • Discuss the Local Government Act Guidance
  • Check your Local Authority's position on the Guidance.
  • Give your views and examples of Community Planning to the Local Government Service Group / the P&I Team by 23 May for inclusion in UNISON's final response to the Scottish Executive.

Further Information:

Scottish Executive consultation on the Guidance for the Local Government Act

Best Value:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/localgov/dutybv.pdf

Community Planning:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/localgov/cpguidance.pdf

Power of Well Being:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/localgov/pawbguidance.pdf

UNISONScotland response to Working Drafts Guidance

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/guidance.html

 

Contacts list:

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

Joe Di Paola j.dipaola@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
UNISON Scotland
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141 221 8953

www.unison-scotland.org.uk

March 2003

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Further Information

Scottish Executive consultation on the Guidance for the Local Government Act

Best Value:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/
consultations/localgov/dutybv.pdf

Community Planning:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/
consultations/localgov/cpguidance.pdf

Power of Well Being:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/
consultations/localgov/
pawbguidance.pdf

UNISONScotland response to Working Drafts Guidance
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
response/guidance.html

Contacts list:

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

Joe Di Paola j.dipaola@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572