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.
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
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
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within the draft guidance we would wish to see more emphasis on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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835