UNISONScotland www
This is our archive website that is no longer being updated.
For the new website please go to
Click here
Home News About us Join Us Contacts Help Resources Learning Links UNISON UK

Local Government In Scotland Bill

Working Drafts & Statutory Guidance

UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation on the Local Government in Scotland Bill, Working Drafts of Statutory Guidance.

November 2002


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing 150,000 members working in the public sector. More than 100,000 of our members work for local authorities and voluntary organisations in Scotland. Our members are providers and users of local authority services, participants in the democratic process, and are part of the electorate.

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Statutory Guidance for the Local Government in Scotland Bill. As we have stated in previous submissions, UNISON is committed to the provision of high quality public services, which are accessible and responsive to local communities. We firmly believe that services are best delivered by a directly employed, well trained and highly motivated workforce that is valued and adequately rewarded. Our members are keen to re-invigorate and modernise local government and voluntary services, however we are clear that this can and should be achieved with the full involvement of staff and trade unions as those with the knowledge and expertise of frontline service delivery.

This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the consultation document on the Statutory Guidelines for the Local Government in Scotland Bill.

The Duty to Secure Best Value

General Comments

UNISON Scotland welcomes the proposals setting out the Best Value regime. We support the provisions for high standards, effective management systems and openness and transparency. However within the draft guidance we would wish to see more emphasis on quality and effectiveness of service delivery, good employment practice, and equality.

We welcome the position on options appraisal, that a "fair and open approach" is adopted "to the identification of options for service delivery". We trust that the public sector is allowed to compete on equal terms with the private sector and others, under the auspices of Best Value.

We are pleased to see the inclusion of a commitment to promote and encourage sustainable development.


In the point on reviews we would wish to see rigorous and regular review of all activities to ensure quality, as well as competitiveness and consistency which is mentioned in the guidance. Indeed UNISON has advocated the establishment of a Quality Commission to scrutinise and promote Best Value.

Training and Development

We believe that real investment in training and development of staff is the key to improved public services, leading to enhanced performance. As we stated in our submission to the outline proposals of the Local Government Bill, high quality services and training go hand in hand. It is essential that training and development for all employees is included in the guidance on Best Value.


UNISON Scotland would wish to see more emphasis on equalities within the guidelines, rather than merely the provision on "the need to meet the equal opportunity requirements". We acknowledge the comments made in support of this in the Local Government Committee Stage 1 Report and the Minister's response regarding equality as a reserved matter. However, we believe that including Best Value guidelines for Public Sector Organisations to "actively promote equality" or "develop the equality agenda" would not impinge on reserved issues.

Equal Pay Reviews

UNISON Scotland believes there should be explicit references in this guidance on the duty of Public Sector Organisations (PSOs) to carry out equal pay reviews. We are aware that the issue of PSOs carrying out equal pay reviews was raised as an amendment at Stage 2 of the Local Government in Scotland Bill. The Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services gave assurances that this would be included in the guidelines rather than in the main body of the Bill. In light of the Minister's comments we feel that this should be included in this guidance. The Minister stated to the Local Government Committee that COSLA and the Equal Opportunities Commission would be involved in devising guidance on equal pay reviews. We trust that trade unions would also be included and consulted at all stages in developing and operating equal pay policies.

Joint Working

We welcome the proposals on "effective joint working between the authority and its partners", however again we would prefer this point to be more specific and robust, with the role of trade unions clearly defined.

As we have stated in previous comment on the Local Government Bill, we believe that employees have the right to participate in decision making which critically affects their working lives. Therefore we would see the value of guidance providing for each local authority or provider to establish 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 and openness.

Fair Employment

UNISON Scotland called for a fair employment clause to be included in the primary legislation. We also believe that it would be appropriate to include this in these Best Value guidelines.

Given the recent work following on from the Scottish Executive - STUC Memorandum of Understanding on the staffing protocol: Public Private Partnerships in Scotland - Protocol and Guidance Concerning Employment Issues, we believe there should be a reference to this new protocol, incorporating its provisions into the Best Value guidance.

Community Planning Guidance

UNISON welcomes the duty placed on local authorities to facilitate the community planning process by engaging the local community and voluntary organisations.

Role of trade unions

As we said in our initial submission on the Local Government Bill, we believe that trade unions should be included as crucial partners within the community planning process, and should be referred to the guidance in the section on Key Messages (2nd bullet point, page 8)

Trade unions should also be mentioned in the section on "who and what is the guidance for" (point 4, page 10) in a recognition that trade union members are at the front end of service delivery.

We welcome the commitment to the collaborative approach (4.1 page 11), and again trust that partnership working includes trade unions as critical to ensuring employees in the public, private and voluntary sector are consulted and fully involved in the process.

We welcome the inclusion of trade unions in Section 1 paragraph 3.2.1 - Engaging Community Bodies. However we would wish to see a recognition that trade unions are representative and democratic organisations in a way that business groups are not.


We welcome the section on mainstreaming equal opportunities into the Community Planning process. However, we believe the importance of the equality agenda as an integral part of the Community Planning process should be emphasised more in the guideline document. For example reference should be made to the Scottish Executive's Mainstreaming Equality initiative in the document (perhaps in the section on cross-cutting strategies, point 3 on page 10)

Again in the Community Planning section UNISON believes there should be more emphasis on equality issues and a duty to develop and promote the equality agenda (Section 1, 3.1, page 13).

As noted in more detail below, we very much welcome the requirements for local authorities to include a progress report on activities to meet equality requirements and to promote the equality agenda, within the Community Planning reports.

Role of Local Authorities

We strongly support the duty on local authorities to "initiate and facilitate" the Community Planning process set out in Section 1 point 3 (page 13). UNISON believes that it is crucial that the local authority is the lead player and given the enabling role, due to its legitimate democratic and accountable status.

Role of other Public Bodies

UNISON agrees that it is important to specify the extent of the involvement expected of other public bodies. The section Engaging Other Public Bodies (3.2.2, page 15) sets out that other public bodies should give "appropriate involvement" to Community Planning, and recognises the factors which will inevitably limit to varying degrees the ability of public bodies to engage in the Community Planning Process, such as resources, personnel, and geography etc.

Mainstreaming Community Planning

Whilst we agree that Community Planning should be integral to the various planning and service delivery functions of all aspects of the local authority, we wonder if more guidance and best practice examples on the processes of mainstreaming need to be set out in these guidelines.

Reporting on Community Planning

UNISON supports the requirements for local authorities to produce reports on Community Planning at least on an annual basis. We believe there should be reference to accessibility of reports, with encouragement for reports to be placed on local authority web sites, publicised in local media, and promoted with the community.

We particularly welcome the requirement of Community Planning reports to include an indication on progress on equality issues and promoting equality. This is a most progressive step, and should encourage local authorities to be innovative, creative and forward thinking in progressing the equality agenda.


UNISON Scotland has real concerns on the proposals to allow Community Planning partnerships to become incorporated. We feel that we need much more information on these proposals, and time for debate and consultation on the consequences of incorporation. Our initial response is that incorporation would move away from the local community spirit intended for Community Planning partnerships, and would give too much influence to the private sector, taking the lead role away from local authorities.

Community Planning Partnerships

We believe that the section on Community Planning Partnerships needs to be expanded to include a more extensive definition of "partnership", and we feel the statements made on partnership in the guidance do not meet our union's interpretation of partnership.

UNISON believes there should be some recognition in the guidelines of what makes a partnership to include:

  • Shared aims, goals and values.
  • Recognising each other's aims and values.
  • Transparency and openness
  • Mutual gains and joint commitment to the venture.

We are also concerned at the point on the importance of the role of the private sector, and remain unconvinced as to why the role of the private sector has to be highlighted in this manner.

Monitoring Progress and Performance

We welcome the requirements for partnerships to agree priorities, indicators and targets in order to monitor performance effectively. However, we believe that key indicators should be equality, fair employment and training, and that there should be minimum standards in the areas of equality, employment standards, and training and development.

Building Capacity

UNISON supports the provisions for capacity building within public bodies, community bodies and communities themselves. There should also be reference for the need for capacity building in voluntary and private sector, where such bodies are partners in the process. We very much welcome the recommendations for an integrated programme of capacity building, to enhance skills, and support career development.

Guidance on the Power to Advance Well-Being

UNISON welcomes the guidance relating to the power of well-being. In our initial submission on the Local Government Bill we expressed concerns that this should not replace the "power of general competence". However, we welcome the general power of well being which removes restrictions on local authorities enabling them to promote and improve the well being of their area.

In our initial submission on the Local Government Bill UNISON expressed concerns that the meaning of "well-being" can be altered by Ministers without reference to the Scottish Parliament and the democratic process. We believe that the meaning should only be altered through primary legislation to preserve democratic scrutiny.

Definition of Well-Being

Despite our reservations on allowing guidelines rather than primary legislation to determine the definition of well-being, we accept the definition of well being as set out in the guidelines (paragraphs 1.6 - 1.8). We would add to the key economic factors which contribute to promotion or improvement of well being (paragraph 1.7) the availability of suitable and high quality jobs, not just the availability of jobs as is set out in the current draft.

UNISON agrees that sustainable development should be included as a factor contributing to well being, and that this is consistent with Best Value guidance.

Power to Advance Well-Being

In our previous submission we expressed our opposition to any significant increase in the role and powers of the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. We note that the guidelines in their present form are incomplete and reference to Audit Scotland is to be added. UNISON is alarmed that this is to be added following this consultation process, limiting the opportunity for consultation or discussion on Audit Scotland's role.

UNISON is concerned with openness and transparency, and we suggest the establishment of an independent Quality Commission for this purpose. Financial motive must not impinge on effective service delivery, rather the emphasis should be given to the quality of service. We believe that an independent Quality Commission could ensure that this is the case.

UNISON welcomes the examples of powers which can be used under the power to advance well-being as set out in paragraph 2.8. In paragraph 2.9 we note the statement that the power to advance well-being contains "no restriction or limitation to the amount of money a local authority can spend". UNISON fully endorses this position, indeed we want to see the ending of the "Section 94" restriction on local government borrowing for capital investment. We welcome the Stage 2 Amendments from the Executive which repeal Section 94 restrictions.

Who should benefit

UNISON welcomes the flexibility given within the guidelines, and we agree that the guidelines should allow for the power of well being to be used in a creative, innovative and positive manner.

As stated above, UNISON is concerned that the Act makes provision for the Scottish Ministers to extend the meaning of well-being by order (2.17). We believe that the process of altering definitions should be through primary legislation to allow for appropriate scrutiny procedures.


We accept the limiting provisions as set out as being those which explicitly prohibit or prevent local authorities from doing an action or deed.

Repeals, Potential Repeals and Modification of Enactment

We agree with the guidelines that to a certain extent until the new power of well-being is enacted it is impossible to gauge how it will be exercised. With this in mind we welcome the flexibility allowed within the guidelines.

UNISON Scotland agrees that Scottish Ministers should be able to take action to amend, repeal or revoke or disapply any enactment that prevents or hinders use of the power through secondary rather than primary legislation. We believe that on balance it is important to have flexibility to allow ministers to amend the regulations, to implement the Act in the spirit in which it was intended. For example, it would be possible for Ministers to take action in the event of local authorities being challenged through judicial view by private companies challenging "commercial activities".

Power of Intervention

We agree that it should be the Scottish Ministers who intervene when the powers and obligations provided in the Act are abused or ignored. Scottish Ministers are democratically elected and accountable to the Scottish Parliament and we believe it is appropriate that they should be the ones that do step in if powers are abused. However we suggest that proper procedures for Ministerial intervention are established. Such procedures should include consultation and negotiation with the local authority prior to the Scottish Ministers taking intervening action. UNISON Scotland believes that unelected bodies, such as Audit Scotland, should not have the powers to act alone on any intervention when powers and obligations are abused or ignored. Non Departmental Public Bodies should be required to advise Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament in the first instance, in consultation with the Public Service Organisation, with Scottish Ministers taking any action that is required.

For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk