Draft Guidance on the Duty to Secure Best Value
UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive
Draft Secondary Guidance on: The Duty on Accountable Officers
to ensure arrangements are in place to secure Best Value.
- Best Value for Public Sector Organisations (PSOs) is about
quality, effective service delivery, fair employment, sustainability
- There should be reference to the Scottish Executive's PPP
Staffing Protocol in the Best Value guidance, and an acknowledgement
that PSOs should work together with trade unions to achieve
the characteristics of Best Value to enhance service provision.
- The consumer approach to public services should be replaced
by a focus on citizenship and quality services for all.
- Contractors providing services for PSOs should be obliged
to meet these Best Value requirements.
- We welcome the commitment for PSOs to carry out equal pay
audits, this is key to ending gender pay discrimination.
- Reporting and accountability should be achieved through openness,
democratic structures and transparency.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond
to the Scottish Executive's Draft Secondary Guidance on the Duty
on Accountable Officers to ensure arrangements are in place to
secure Best Value. UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
150,000 members working in the public sector. Our members are
employed in the NHS in Scotland, local government, Scottish Enterprise,
various Scottish Non Departmental Public Bodies and Executive
Agencies, and in Further and Higher Education.
UNISON has already participated in the consultations
and discussions on the development and implementation of Best
Value in Scottish local government. In these discussions we have
continually stated that UNISON is committed to the provision of
high quality public services, which are accessible and responsive
to local communities. UNISON is clear that public services should
be provided on an open and transparent basis, and be democratically
accountable to the communities they serve. We firmly believe that
services are best delivered by a directly employed, well trained
and highly motivated workforce that is valued and appropriately
rewarded. Our members are keen to revitalise and modernise public
services. We are clear that modernisation can and should be achieved
with the full involvement of staff and trade unions who have the
knowledge and expertise of frontline service delivery.
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response
to the Draft Secondary Guidance for securing Best Value, issued
by the Scottish Executive.
UNISON supports the provisions in the Draft Guidance
for high standards, effective management systems, openness and
sustainability. We welcome the provision for the cross cutting
themes of equal opportunities, sustainable development and joint
working. However, we would like to see more emphasis on quality,
effective service delivery, fair employment, in particular the
elimination of the two-tiered workforce and equality, including
the promotion of equal opportunities.
We believe that there should be reference to
the Scottish Executive's PPP Staffing Protocol: Public Private
Partnerships in Scotland - Protocol Guidance Concerning Employment
Issues which was agreed with the STUC in 2002. The protocol
is an important agreement setting out good employment standards
that are applicable to the public sector as a whole. It covers
all public service organisations, so this clearly is relevant
to the same organisations as this Draft Guidance on securing Best
Value, and can be developed upon in the Best Value regime. The
First Minister has given a clear commitment to ending the two
tier workforce as a matter of principle and this should be reflected
in the guidance.
We disagree with the statement listed in point
2 in the introduction, that;
"Best Value principles are intended
to inform and reinforce organisations' efforts towards achieving
continuous improvement in the performance of their functions.
It is the outcome of these efforts that matters, and not the detail
of the processes."
Firstly, the goal of best value should not be
merely to achieve "continuous improvement" - an old
slogan taken from the 1980's Japanese Management Best Seller Airport
books. A management style went out of fashion after their economic
Secondly, it would appear that the Executive's
BV principles are confused. In BV, it is not the only the outcomes
that matter, which was the old principle of CCT, but both the
processes and the outcomes which matter. We understand that the
Executive does not want to be too prescriptive in the details
of the processes, however there must be a balance. Processes should
not be eliminated in the Executive's main principles of BV. We
would remind the Executive of the White Paper Partnership for
Care, which promoted health and developed the themes
- patients and national standards as key drivers for change
- frontline staff as leaders of the change process.
And lastly, we believe that the drive for "continuous
improvement" has led to incessant reviews, making it impossible
to get on with the job. It also leads to an offensive/defensive
relationship, rather than a true partnership approach.
Whilst there is reference to training and development,
this is more as a means to achieving some other goal. UNISON would
like to see training and development included in the Best Value
provision as a goal in itself, as a key driver to motivating,
valuing and encouraging employees.
Commitment and Leadership
In point 2.d) of this first chapter UNISON would
want to see "the need to have regard to quality employment"
included as one of the Best Value principles. It is our view that
ensuring quality employment is key to achieving Best Value, and
that if a public sector organisation is not providing decent and
fair employment to its staff then it cannot secure Best Value.
UNISON would like to see trade unions specifically
mentioned as a key stakeholder, to ensure that Best Value means
that public sector organisations will be working with unions as
representatives of employees.
We very much welcome point 7's emphasis on involving
staff in developing the organisation's approach to Best Value
at all levels, and believe real and effective partnership with
trade unions is the best way to progress this.
Responsiveness and Consultation
UNISON welcomes the characteristic of responsiveness
and consultation. However we do have difficulty with the notion
of public sector organisations (PSOs) as meeting the demands of
consumers. The customer service culture is a limited vision for
public services, lacking the capacity and flexibility to meet
the wide range of community needs. We were pleased to note Scotland's
Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm's recent comments stressing that
the health service in Scotland treats patients not consumers,
and the importance of ensuring high standards in every hospital.
UNISON agrees with the Health Minister that the emphasis should
be on quality for all, rather than individualism and a choice
that creates divisions between people due to the area they live
in, wealth or some other reason.
UNISON is clear that we have to move away from
the concept of PSOs as consumer commodities. Instead we view them
as democratically accountable bodies delivering a service to citizens.
The draft guidance does mention PSOs have to be responsive to
citizens, although it also states they have to respond to the
needs of customers. UNISON believes to respond to both citizens
and customers can cause contradictions: customers simply purchase
a product, whereas citizens participate in a more involved and
committed two way process of receiving a service provided by the
state / society to meet their needs.
The issue of democratic accountability is a defining
difference between public and private services. However, the growth
of agencies and non-departmental public bodies has to some extent
blurred many of our democratic structures. The application of
Best Value to all PSOs is an opportunity to remedy this and to
revitalise the ability of these organisations to consult and respond
to stakeholders and citizens. UNISON believes that effective responsiveness
and consultation means effective structures for participation,
to scrutinise, for reporting and transparent communication. We
would like to see more emphasis in this characteristic on getting
users, citizens and staff (through their representative trade
unions) to participate in consultations and the operations of
Sound Governance at a Strategic and Operational
UNISON supports the general themes of sound governance
within a framework for planning and budgeting linked to available
resources to achieve the organisation's goals. It is important
that PSOs take into account the Scottish Executive's priorities
and policy statements and are supported by the Executive to do
so. However, staff governance has been omitted. We believe that
staff governance must be included along with planning and budgeting
at a strategic and operational level.
In point A.3 we believe that where delivery is
through others these "contractors" should automatically
be obliged to meet the same Best Value standards as the PSO, and
that this should be explicitly stated in this guidance and in
UNISON is clear that there are a wide range of factors that determine
performance of PSOs. This draft guidance does to some extent take
this into account, in its reference in point A.4 to financial,
human and operational resources. However, there is little explanation
on factors for determining performance in section B and more references
to PSO's as customer rather than citizen-orientated bodies. There
is no indication as to how this is going to be achieved. Again,
while we understand the basic principles behind promoting a more
permissive document, as opposed to prescriptive, there is a balance
to be achieved. We believe that there should be further explanation
of how this will be achieved. UNISON Scotland would like to see
the Nolan Principles included in this section to emphasise the
importance of the public service ethos.
Equally there is no mention of the promotion of staff governance,
rather we find the emphasis is still on financial governance.
UNISON Scotland fully supports the creation of staff governance
in all public service organisations such as the NHS, which would
be similar to HE/FE board guidance. Staff accountability would
provide a level playing field and democratic and partnership approach
to delivering services.
UNISON believes performance assessment should
be based on:
- Inputs - the resources used to produce a service, which include
cost and efficiency.
- Outputs - measure of the goods and services delivered
- Outcomes - indicating the impact or benefit of services
- Process - measuring the manner in which the outcomes are achieved.
As we indicated in our response on Best Value
in Local Government, performance targets need to incorporate a
wide range of factors which determine the performance of a PSO,
including the actual processes themselves, the funding access,
the service environment and relationships between users and the
wider community. It is also important that performance management
does not mean creating a blame culture. Rather it is about agreeing
a supportive and positive way forward to address problems and
challenges as they arise.
In point B.6 UNISON recognises that PSOs can
learn from commercial organisations, but the private sector experience
is a limited vision on which to base public service delivery.
We are clear that those delivering the services have the expertise,
knowledge and experience of what works and what doesn't. PSO workers
are a vital resource and source for ideas to reform, improve and
modernise service provision.
We welcome the commitment to systematic reporting
on performance, given that it is presented in an accessible and
transparent format, and that all factors which determine performance,
including employment practices, are taken into account to produce
a fair picture. However, we believe there has been a serious omission
in the document, which fails to recognise different structures
in the public services, such as in Health and Universities.
Sound Management of Resources
UNISON welcomes the characteristic of sound management
of resources within the Best Value framework, to include employees,
property, ICT and financial resources. UNISON supports the statements
on employees as a "key strategic resource" (point 3)
to be "valued and that their skills and knowledge are used
effectively and to the full" (point 5). To achieve Best Value
PSOs should also have to offer appropriate development and training
opportunities to their staff. As noted above in our general comments,
training and development should be viewed as a "good"
in itself to creating more productive, motivated, valued and happy
employees, as well as adding value to the PSO and its service
This section should refer to fair employment
practice, including an end to two-tiered employment practices,
and the observance of good practices and the promotion of equal
opportunities in employment operations.
UNISON welcomes the provisions for procurement,
including equal opportunities, health and safety and sustainable
development, as well as quality. We believe that it is important
that characteristics of Best Value arrangements are applied by
PSOs to all procurement and contracting work carried out.
However, in point 12 we are alarmed at the intention
to only apply the "minimum possible burden" on suppliers
consistent with the achievement of best value through effective
competition. This is also a contradiction to point 9. The cost
of setting up new structures must be taken into consideration.
To achieve Best Value all elements of the PSO have to be committed,
including any contractors. Therefore, UNISON would want to see
the same standards applied to contractors as are applied to the
PSO to achieve real Best Value.
Use of Review and Options Appraisal
If we are to see the continual improvement and
development of public services that is required to achieve Best
Value it is essential that services are subject to regular review
processes which are effective and aimed at improving services.
UNISON wants to see specific references to employees
and trade unions included as key stakeholders in the review process.
Frontline staff have the expertise and experience in their field,
and PSOs should be utilising their ideas on what works and how
services can be improved.
UNISON supports the inclusion of equality issues,
social impact and sustainability factors in the review process.
We are very clear that cost should not be the only motivators
for review or change, quality is key. The First Minister himself
said when addressing the STUC 2002,
"The creation of a two tier workforce undermines our intention
to create excellence and quality within Scotland's public services,
and we will take steps to tackle it".
A Contribution to Sustainable Development
UNISON welcomes the importance given to sustainable
development as a characteristic of Best Value. It is essential
that social, economic and environmental impacts of actions are
accounted for, in both the short and longer term. It is good that
the guidance clarifies for Accountable Officers the need to apply
sustainable development factors to the PSOs objectives, its strategies
and plans, its review and monitoring procedures, procurement and
management of resources. However, the document is still too vague
as to what this means and the mechanisms to achieve this. The
key word that is used in every point in this section is "contribute".
So while there are many number of points made in this section,
none of them really say anything substantial. This word/phrase
is similar and about as useful as the other well known vague phrase,
"as far as is reasonably practical".
Equal Opportunities Arrangements
Equality and diversity is crucial to the best
value process, and UNISON welcomes the importance given to equal
opportunities arrangements in the Best Value characteristics.
We would have preferred to see a duty to "actively promote"
rather than merely encourage equal opportunities. However, it
is good to see the statements on mainstreaming equalities, the
recognition of the different needs of people, and the commitments
to incorporate equal opportunities at all levels. It is essential
that training and awareness in equal opportunities provisions
is provided for all PSO personnel at a corporate and service level
to ensure service development and delivery is of the highest quality
and responds to the needs of specific groups
UNISON very much welcomes the commitment in point
4 to carry out equal pay audits and equal pay reviews. All employers
should be conducting equal pay audits to ensure that gender discrimination
in pay systems, job description, job design and work segregation
is being addressed. It is good to see the obligation on PSOs to
do so, and UNISON believes that references in the document to
working with trade unions on this issue would mean that PSOs access
useful support and assistance to conduct equal pay audits.
UNISON supports the culture of joint working
at both formal and informal levels. We believe that the document
should refer to joint working with trade unions, referring to
the positive examples of partnership working between the Scottish
Executive and STUC: the Memorandum of Understanding and the PPP
Staffing Protocol already mentioned above. Trade unions, as democratic
and accountable representatives of workers, have an important
role to play in improving service delivery and adding value to
the work and role of PSOs.
In point 2 we believe that trade unions should
be included as stakeholders or "partner organisations".
There should also be an additional point setting out that the
partnership should work to improve service delivery.
UNISON has some concerns in point 3 on joint
funding and joint management of activities, and would like further
clarification and consultation on this point. Our position is
that there should be transparency and accountability in decision
making within PSOs. We would support greater democracy in PSOs
and roles for worker representatives in the management structures
of PSOs, but would like to see more detail on what is intended
by this point.
Given the emphasis on equality and sustainable
development within the Best Value arrangements, we feel that it
goes without saying that these policies have to be pursued in
joint working. This would include public sector networks and cross
boundary working with different organisations within the public
services (details which can be found in UNISON Scotland's manifesto
for Scotland's public services, Revitalise our Public Services).
UNISON is clear that PSOs have to be accountable,
open, transparent and fair in their service provision, structures
and reporting processes. Information presented for public consumption
should be made available in accessible and understandable formats,
taking into account equality provisions. The guidance needs to
recognise that accountability in public services outwith local
government is achieved through different structures.