The Local Government Bill Outline of ProposalsScottish
The UNISON Scotland Response
UNISON gives its support for the concepts of power of well-being,
Community Planning and Best Value, which are contained in the consultative
UNISON acknowledges that partnership working with the voluntary
sector has been a feature of local government and we recognise the
provision of services by such partnership arrangements where it
is identified as being the most appropriate method.
UNISON recognises its responsibility to the taxpayer in the delivery
of high quality services and seeks to play a full partnership role.
In achieving this aim UNISON proposes the establishment by statute
of a consultative forum to oversee continous improvement through
UNISON requires that the legislation include a fair employment
agenda to ensure that the workforce is treated fairly and is not
subject to exploitation.
UNISON believes that quality of service delivery are more likely
to be achieved by a directly employed workforce who are properly
trained, highly motivated and properly rewarded, based on the principles
of the model employer.
UNISON believes that the proposals are disappointing in that they
have not included radical recommendations as contained in the report
of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament
(McIntosh Report). Neither do the proposal take the opportunity
to deal with the issue of political restrictions on local government
staff standing to serve as elected councillors
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 100,000
members working for local authorities and voluntary organisations
in Scotland. UNISON members are providers and users of local authority
services, participants in the democratic process and are part of
the electorate. UNISON welcomes the opportunity to comment on the
Scottish Executive's consultative paper on the proposals for the
Local Government Bill. UNISON looks forward to making more informed
comments when the Bill and details of the ministerial guidelines
UNISON is committed to the provision of high quality public services,
which are accessible and responsive to those who need them. UNISON
believes that services are best delivered by a directly employed,
well-trained, highly motivated staff who are adequately rewarded.
There is a willingness and a desire amongst UNISON's members to
re-invigorate local government and voluntary services in Scotland.
UNISON views this as a missed opportunity to include the recommendations
from the report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish
Parliament (The McIntosh Report).
UNISON is concerned that the proposals do not contain any statement
on trade union participation or include any reference to a Fair
Employment clause. There should be a balance in the emphasis on
a qualitative approach as opposed to value for money. UNISON further
believes that the innovations set out in the consultation paper
will not work unless there is adequate funding provided to local
authorities and voluntary organisations. Each of these topics will
be addressed within this submission.
1. Content of the Bill
UNISON supports legislation on the introduction of a power of well
being, community planning and best value allowing local authorities
greater freedom to provide the best possible services which it feels
is appropriate for its constituents.
UNISON believes that the legislation must contain definitions of
"the power of well-being" and "Best Value".
UNISON is disappointed that the paper does not
- Introduce radical recommendations as contained in the report
of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament
(McIntosh Report) in particular reform of the first past
the post electoral system.
- Adequately address the relationship between central and local
- Take the opportunity to deal with the issue of political restrictions
on local government staff standing to serve as elected councillors
- Contain a Fair Employment clause or a statement regarding trade
UNISON acknowledges that in a constantly changing environment,
there is a need for continuous assessment of the quality of delivery
of services and partnership working with communities and agencies.
UNISON is convinced that local authority in-house provision will
result in the most effective and efficient delivery of services
also, it will provide the best method of ensuring transparent, accountable
and democratic control over service delivery. All local authorities
should enhance and build on in-house expertise, endorse the philosophy
of the model employer, thereby ensuring that employees have stability
in employment, the required training and effective performance management
3. Power of Well-being
UNISON believes that the power of well-being should not be a substitute
for "power of general competence" and the proposal
should have followed the recommendation in the McIntosh Report.
However, UNISON welcomes the general power of well-being removing
restrictions to allow local authorities to promote and improve the
well-being of their area. However, UNISON recognises that local
authorities will continue to have existing legislative constraints
placed upon them.
UNISON is of the view that the proposal to give Ministers the power
to alter the meaning of well-being is wrong. The meaning should
only be amended by primary legislation, as this will preserve democratic
UNISON notes that the proposals do not include a review of tax
raising powers or other financial matters. The funding of local
authorities is fundamental to the delivery of services. UNISON questions
the ability of local authorities to introduce innovative thinking
when the funding arrangements are not addressed. Local authorities
require to be responsible for raising much more of their own expenditure
and are in desperate need of a period of financial stability.
UNISON believes that financial motive must not impinge on effective
service delivery. UNISON is concerned that the focus may concentrate
of the financial aspects and that insufficient emphasis will be
given to quality of service. For this reason UNISON supports the
establishment of an independent Quality Commission. This will provide
a new impetus for the legislation.
UNISON seeks detailed information on the proposed enhanced role,
duty and power to be invested in the Accounts Commission and Audit
Scotland. UNISON opposes any significant increase in the role and
powers of the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. UNISON is
of the view that this will re-emphasis the primacy of financial
benchmarking rather than quality benchmarking.
4. Community Planning
UNISON welcomes the duty placed on local authorities to facilitate
the community planning process by engaging the local community and
UNISON believes that a list of key partners (See paragraphs 5.12
& 6.1) should be listed and include trade unions within the
UNISON is concerned that the power and duty contained in the legislation
may be greatly undervalued given other initiatives such as Joint
Future with the implementation dates well in advance of the Local
Government Bill becoming legislation.
UNISON believes that all local government employees should have
the ability to stand for public office. We believe this is an opportunity
to correct the issue of political restrictions on local government
5. Best Value
UNISON questions the statement in paragraph 6.1 of the report regarding
the success of Best Value. In our experience the operation of Best
Value has resulted in a mixture of good and bad practice.
UNISON seeks clarification that the proposals do not include the
previous commitment by the Scottish Executive Ministers to apply
Best Value to all public services funded from the Scottish budget.
Also there is no commitment to establishing either a Quality Commission
or equivalent to scrutinise and promote best practice.
UNISON believes that the emphasis should be based on quality and
effectiveness of service delivery within Best Value. There is a
requirement for a degree of flexibility to reflect the environment
within which the provider is operating and allow local authorities
to set their individual service standards. However, there is a need
to give guidance to rationalise some service standards.
UNISON believes that real investment in training and development
of staff is the key to improved public services, leading to enhanced
performance. High quality services and training go hand in hand,
therefore all employees must have greater access to training and
development, in particular Scottish Vocational Qualifications.
UNISON believes that employees have the right to participate in
decision making which critically affects their working lives. Therefore
the legislation should include a section which-
"That each local authority or provider establishes a consultative
"Best Value" Forum comprising of an equal number of representatives
from the local authority or provider and trade unions. The purpose
of the Forum is to oversee all aspects of Best Value ensuring the
continuous enhancement of the quality of delivery of services whilst
ensuring value for money.
The Trade Union Side shall have access to all relevant information
and will be consulted on all matters regarding the performance of
The Best Value Forum will consider matters including ~ employment
levels, training and development, equality issues, hours of work,
work and job content, technological change and any other matters
which are determined by the Forum to be relevant."
UNISON supports the proposal that Part II of the 1988 Act will
be amended to allow workforce matters to be considered in the contractual
UNISON believes that there must be a Fair Employment clause included
in the legislation ~
"Each employee of a service provider who is engaged, shall
be employed by the provider on terms and conditions of service,
which are, when considered as a whole, no less favourable to an
employee contracted to the national agreement on pay and conditions
of service of the Scottish Joint Council for local government employees.
For the purpose of this clause, the phrase terms and conditions
of service shall include, but shall not be limited to, all provisions
relating to salary, benefits, entitlements, hours of work, holiday
entitlement and pension rights."
UNISON welcomes both the repeal of CCT legislation and the removal
of the requirement for 2% efficiency savings.
UNISON seeks clarification of paragraph 6.17 - Unison presumes
that this will not prevent local authorities from designing, commissioning
and maintaining Capital works.
6. Power of Intervention
UNISON agrees with the approach which establishes minimum national
standards and targets for general best value performance in some
services below which a local authority or provider must not fall.
UNISON seeks clarification on the extent of the powers of intervention
given to Ministers and is of the view that the powers of intervention
should be contained in the legislation.
UNISON believes that the power of intervention should only be used
as a last resort and promotes the introduction of an early warning
framework where local authorities may be under-performing. In
cases where a particular service is under-performing it is imperative
that the existing workforce is given the opportunity to put things
UNISON welcomes the commitment contained within the proposals of
the need to ensure equality of access to services for all and believes
that quality issues should lie at the heart of legislation. UNISON
would wish to see quantifiable measures outlined to ensure a commitment
8. Miscellaneous provisions
UNISON supports the amendment to section 94 controls on local authority
capital expenditure to replace the current arrangements with a `more
UNISON supports the abolishment of all Capital restraints for local
authorities as these are currently used to obscure the public sector
case for new Capital projects.
The abolition of section 94 constraints would provide a level playing
field and go some way towards ending `the only game in town'
argument that is promoted currently in favour of PPP in local authorities.
UNISON Scotland is of the view that alternatives to the current,
very restrictive capital consent regime are necessary and that s94
should be abolished. We are aware of the work done by CIPFA on a
Prudential Code for local authority capital expenditure. We think
that their approach has some merit, with decisions on the best way
to finance capital projects being made locally and with ultimate
control resting with democratically accountable councillors.
UNISON considers the consultation paper to be a disappointment
in that it was an opportunity to address a radical and positive
agenda for local government as outlined in the McIntosh Report.
The basic rights of trade unions and their membership to participate
in matters affecting their working life have not been addressed.
There is no Fair Employment clause included in the proposals. The
qualitative aspects of delivery of service play a secondary role
to that of value for money.
Finally we consider the paper to be short on detail and regret
that there are no details on ministerial guidance.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835