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Local Government In Scotland Act 2003

Guidance on Best Value, Community Planning and the Power to Advance Well Being

UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation on the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, Guidance.

June 2003

Executive Summary

Best Value

  • UNISON believes Best Value should be about quality, effective service delivery, fair employment and equality.
  • We want to see reference to the Scottish Executive's PPP Staffing Protocol in the Best Value guidance, along with greater recognition of the importance of training and development for all staff.
  • All organisations involved in Community Planning should be subject to Best Value.
  • Targets and performance management in Best Value should incorporate a wide range of factors which determine the performance of public services, including funding, access, the service environment and relationships between users and the wider community.
  • The consumer approach to public services should be replaced by a citizenship focus.

Power to Advance Well-Being

  • The definition of "well-being" should include factors such as availability of suitable high quality jobs, lifelong learning, public health, decent housing, equal opportunities and accessibility.
  • Greater detail is required on the procedures for Ministerial intervention when the powers are ignored or abused, including more negotiation and consultation with local authorities.

Community Planning

  • Local authorities are the lead players in Community Planning given their democratic and accountable basis. They should initiate, facilitate and lead on Community Planning.
  • Trade unions have an important role to play in Community Planning, in terms of training and development, fair employment, and lifelong learning.
  • Capacity building and training and development is essential for communities and stakeholders in the Community Planning process.
  • UNISON is concerned at provisions to encourage incorporation of Community Planning Partnerships. This moves Community Planning away from the community ownership towards privatisation models.



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 consultation document on the draft guidance on Best Value, Community Planning and the Power to Advance Well Being in the Local Government in Scotland Act.


The Duty to Secure Best Value

General Comments

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. We welcome the inclusion of many of these comments in this latest draft on Best Value, particularly the emphasis on encouraging equal opportunities. There are some further points which we believe could tighten up the provisions for securing Best Value. UNISON believes there should be reference to the Scottish Executive's PPP Staffing Protocol: Public Private Partnerships in Scotland - Protocol and Guidance Concerning Employment Issues which was agreed with the STUC in 2002. The protocol is an important agreement setting out good employment standards which are applicable to local authorities, and can be developed upon in the Best Value regime. Investment in training and development for all staff is the key to improved public services. Whilst training for staff is included in the individual characteristics for Best Value, UNISON wants to ensure that public service organisations are clear on the value of training and development for ensuring Best Value in public service delivery.

Application of Best Value

We welcome the application of Best Value to all Scottish Councils, the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority, fire and police authorities and bodies audited under s106(1) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. However, we would wish to see the Best Value regime extended to cover all Public Service Organisations, and all bodies involved in delivering public services and all partners involved in the Community Planning process. In the interests of good practice, equity and fairness all organisations whether public, private or voluntary, who participate in Community Planning partnerships should be obliged to observe the Best Value standards.

Cross-cutting Themes

The cross-cutting themes of joint working, equal opportunities and sustainable development, are particularly welcome. UNISON is clear that all partners - staff, trade unions, employers and users of services - should be involved in the Best Value process. We would also want to see joint working to incorporate fair working. We have emphasised throughout our responses the importance of equal opportunities in the way services are delivered and in how staff are treated, and are pleased to see this identified as a cross cutting theme. Sustainability is important in the sense of respecting the environment around us and in the development of durable and flexible services.

Commitment and Leadership

UNISON welcomes the references to accountability, ownership and transparency in the Commitment and Leadership characteristics of Best Value. We would also wish to see the principles of equality and fair employment added as key factors on which commitment and leadership is to be based.

In point 6.c "fair employment" should be added to ensure that a fair employment agenda is included in the equation with cost and quality.

We recognise the need for employees to comply with a local code of conduct (point 13) but, in return we want a commitment employees to be treated fairly.

Responsiveness and Consultation

The obligation for local authorities to respond to the needs of employees as well as other stakeholders is most welcome, along with the commitment to ongoing dialogue with partners. We would like to see specific references to trade unions as stakeholders in local government in this section too.

Sound Governance and Management of Resources

UNISON welcomes the partnership approach and shared vision which is to be translated into services for the community. However we have a number of concerns on the "performance" measurement approach to be adopted. It is right that public services are subject to scrutiny, given that they are operated on a democratic basis. UNISON had originally supported the idea of a Quality Commission to scrutinise and promote Best Value to ensure that quality and as well as competitiveness could be achieved. However public services need the extra investment, support and fair remuneration for staff if the scrutiny process is to be equitable. Service improvement has to be linked not only to the availability of resources, but also the wider social and economic needs of the community.

Performance targets should be based on:

  • Inputs: the resources used to produce a service, which include cost and efficiency.
  • Outputs: a 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.

Performance targets need to incorporate a wide range of factors which determine the performance of public services, including funding, access, the service environment and relationships between users and the wider community.

In section B, point 2 UNISON is concerned at the term "customer centred… service". UNISON wants to see the emphasis on consumerism replaced by citizenship. We believe the customer service culture is a limited vision for public services, lacking the capacity and flexibility to meet the wide range of community needs.

In point 5 whilst we recognise that local councils can learn from commercial organisations, but the private sector experience is a limited vision on which to base public service delivery.

In section C it is welcome to see statements on ensuring appropriate staff have the necessary skills. However, UNISON wishes to see this developed into firmer commitments on training and development for all staff. In point 6 there should be references to equality factors in procurement processes. We recognise that equality is emphasised later in the Equal Opportunities section, but it should be here too, so as cost is not the only driver.

This section should also refer to good employment practice, particularly in point 7. The reference to organisational capacity is welcome. UNISON is clear that to pursue Best Value successfully capacity and innovation issues need to be addressed. It is good to see positive commitments to addressing staff morale and motivation in point 8, but again morale and motivation is linked to the provision of effective training and development for staff.

Use of Review and Options Appraisal

As with scrutiny of services, UNISON accepts that public services should be reviewed with the purpose of making changes to improve service delivery. We do want to see specific references to employees and their trade unions included as stakeholders in the review process. Frontline staff are the experts in service delivery, we need to harness their ideas on what is working and how services can be improved. UNISON supports the inclusion of equality issues, social impact and sustainability factors in the review process, and are clear that cost should not be the only motivator for review or change.

Competitiveness, Trading and the Discharge of Authority Functions.

UNISON wants local authorities to be responsive to trade unions and employees as well as the other stakeholders referred to in the consultation document.

Sustainable Development

We welcome the importance given to sustainable development, quality of life indicators, and the integrated approach to improving economic, social and environmental well being.

Equal Opportunities Arrangements

Equality and diversity is crucial to the best value process, and we welcome the importance given to equal opportunities arrangements in the draft guidance. We would have preferred to see a duty to "actively promote" rather than just encouragement of 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 important that training in equal opportunities is provided for all staff 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 to carry out equal pay reviews. We believe that all employers should be conducting equal pay reviews to ensure that gender discrimination in pay systems, job description and design is being addressed.


Accountability and transparency of information is essential to Best Value. As noted above, it is important that appropriate targets and measurements are set according to circumstances and the resources available. Accountability also needs to report progress within the context that the public service organisation is operating, and should not resort to a blame culture. Accountability within Best Value should be about quality, effectiveness of service delivery and fair employment, not just focussing on cost. It is welcome that information is to be accessible to relevant communities.

The Power to Advance Well-Being

General Comments

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. We note that the guidance on the power to advance well-being can only be guidance, and that experience will throw up new examples of advancing well-being. It may therefore be useful to update this guidance to take into account new developments and best practice as it progresses.

Chapter 1 - Meaning of Well-Being

UNISON welcomes the emphasis on the interrelations between Best Value, Community Planning and the Power of Well Being. UNISON shares the Scottish Executive's drive for the continuous improvement in public services so services are effective and meet the needs of communities. As noted above, we are concerned at the references to consumers and customers in the context of public services. A citizenship ethos can more effectively deliver services which are responsive and flexible to meet the needs of all communities.

We welcome the examples of economic, social and environmental factors which contribute to the promotion or improvement of well-being. It is important that issues such as the availability of suitable and high quality jobs, lifelong learning, public health, decent and safe housing, equality of opportunities and equality of access are included in these factors. The links between sustainability and well-being are also important to consider.

Chapter 2 - Power to advance well-being - how does it work?

It is good to see the guidance encouraging local authorities to look upon the power as a "power of first resort", albeit kept in check by existing Scottish, UK and EU legislation. This broadens the scope of the Local Government Act, empowering local authorities to be innovative in their activities.

Whilst we understand that the guidance only gives examples of how the power may be used, we would wish to add to the list the "promotion of equality" not just "reducing inequality" to encourage the power to be used in a creative, innovative and positive manner.

UNISON welcomes the broad spending power given to local authorities, along with the flexibility in that the power 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. This is an important clarification, which will allow local authorities to exercise the power to address specific geographical areas which may need additional support, and activities related to particular groups such as women, minority ethnic communities, older people etc.

Chapter 3 Safeguards

UNISON accepts the explanations on the limits to the power that prevent local authorities duplicating functions carried out by other bodies without consent, and the prevention on levying taxes or charges, other than council tax and reasonable charges for services.

Chapter 4 Repeals, potential repeals and modification of enactments

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 the use of the power through secondary rather than primary legislation to ensure the Act is implemented in the spirit that was intended.

Chapter 5 Power of intervention

UNISON agrees that it should be Scottish Ministers - given that they are democratically elected and accountable to Parliament - who intervene when powers and obligations provided in the Act are abused or ignored. However, we previously suggested that procedures for Ministerial intervention should be established. The procedures should include consultation and negotiation with local authorities prior to Ministerial intervention, not just as a response to intervention. Given the significant impact of the power of intervention on local authorities and the services delivered, we feel there should be more consultation on this issue, and greater detail in this guidance on the process of intervention.


Community Planning Guidance

1 The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003

We welcome the acknowledgement that Community Planning is an evolving process. Whilst the statutory basis is important, cultures, behaviours and attitudes will need to develop to achieve effective community partnership working. Community Planning fits in with UNISON's concept of Public Service Networks, where public service providers collaborate to pool resources and work to a common action plan. Key to Public Service Networks is the involvement of users, community representatives and trade unions.

2 Duty to initiate and facilitate the Community Planning Process

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, and we would like to see this clearly set out in the Community Planning Guidance.

The open and inclusive spirit intended for Community Planning is well captured in the guidance. The onus on local authorities to include all relevant public, private, voluntary and community bodies is welcome, and emphasises the leading role local authorities should take, given their democratic and accountable status.

3 Duty to Participate in the Community Planning Process

As we noted above in our comments on Best Value, we believe it makes sense for all partners in the Community Planning partnership to be subject to Best Value. This ensures that all partners are operating under the same standards, and with the same aims and objectives.

5 Engaging Community Bodies

The engagement with communities envisaged in the Community Planning process is going to take considerable time to develop effectively, which is recognised to some extent in the guidance. UNISON welcomes the obligation on local authorities to engage with the "hard to reach" sectors of the community as a step towards addressing social exclusion. This engagement process will require additional innovation and time to be successful.

The inclusion of trade unions as Community Planning partners is most welcome, given they are representative and democratic agencies and have useful expertise and knowledge on training, partnership working, fair employment and lifelong learning issues which can be utilised in Community Planning. The involvement of the voluntary sector is also important given the role it plays in providing public services, and in reaching out to some of the traditionally "excluded" communities.

The commitments to observe equal opportunity requirements and to encouraging equal opportunities are positive steps for Community Planning, and will be essential given the interrelations of Community Planning and Best Value.

UNISON welcomes the importance given to community learning and development in supporting the engagement of communities in the Community Planning process. However, more emphasis should be given to capacity building for the Community Planning process. The first draft of the Community Planning guidance included detail on building capacity within public bodies, community bodies and communities themselves. This seems to have lost some of the focus in this later draft. However UNISON is clear that there is a need for capacity building in the private and voluntary sectors where bodies are partners in Community Planning, along with an integrated programme of capacity building to enhance skills and support career development in the public sector.

7 Mainstreaming Community Planning

The recognition that mainstreaming Community Planing requires ongoing training and development for staff, board and elected members, is welcome.

8 Leading on Community Planning

Whilst we recognise the logic of appropriate organisations leading on particular Community Planning themes, there should be safeguards to ensure initiatives are accountable, open and transparent. The local authority as the democratic and accountable body should retain an overview of all Community Planning themes to ensure that initiatives are operating effectively, openly and efficiently.

10 Mainstreaming Equal Opportunities

UNISON welcomes the mainstreaming of equal opportunities into the Community Planning process. The guidance should go further in requiring all bodies and agencies participating to pay regard to the equalities objectives.

11 Reporting on Community Planning

We welcome the accountability that reporting on Community Planning gives. Given that local authorities are already going to be reporting on their progress through the Best Value regime, the reporting process suggested in the guidance with Community Planning partners working with Audit Scotland to develop a menu of key indicators to support effective performance management and benchmarking seems appropriate. However, we do still have concerns over the significant increase in the role and powers of Audit Scotland, as we believe reporting should focus on effective and quality service provision, not just cost. The key indicators should include minimum standards in the areas of equality, employment, and training and development. As with the Best Value assessments, reports should be provided in accessible formats. The inclusion of equal opportunities progress in the reports is welcomed.

  1. Ensuring it Works Effectively

As noted in the previous point UNISON has expressed concerns on any significant increase in the role and powers of the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. As we have stated in previous submissions we believe an independent Quality Commission should oversee effective and quality service provision, not just address financial issues.

13 Establishment of Corporate Body

UNISON is concerned at the inclusion of provisions for the establishment of Corporate Body to co-ordinate Community Planning. We believe that incorporation moves Community Planning away from the local community spirit intended in the legislation towards a privatisation agenda. Corporation gives too much influence to the private sector and takes the lead role for Community Planning away from the local authority, contradicting the provisions for Community Planning as set out in the Act and in this guidance. UNISON believes that we need more information and time for debate and consultation on the consequences of incorporation, and we are alarmed at the provisions being made in this guidance and later in the advice notes.

Community Planning Advice Notes

General Comments

UNISON welcomes the detail and examples given in the Community Planning advice notes. However, give the substantial amount of information and length of the notes we wonder if Community Planning partnerships will have the time, resources and personnel to read and absorb this document. The bullet points and examples highlighted in the text may be more useful and allow partners to dip in to parts of the advice as required. It is also clear that the advice notes will need updating regularly, as new examples are developed and as Executive priorities are refocused. The new Executive's Partnership Agreement already dates some of the material on the national framework and priorities.

  1. Partnership Models and Structures
  2. As mentioned above UNISON is concerned that Community Planning Partnerships may apply for corporate status. We do not think that the list of benefits attributed to incorporated partnerships is exclusive to corporate bodies.

  3. Involving the Private Sector
  4. UNISON is concerned that the involvement of the private sector is seen as an "important ingredient towards the success of the Community Planning process". We feel this is too strong a statement, and undervalues the role of the many other stakeholders in the process. Whilst the private sector can play a part, it is not going to be pivotal to the Community Planning process, whereas the role of local authorities in leading and facilitating the process is essential.

    We are surprised at the list of strengths attributed to the private sector. Undoubtedly some private sector companies will possess such qualities, however the list is by no means exclusive to the private sector. It could be argued that attributes such as perspective on the future and view of the local economy are possessed equally by public sector organisations.

    The points on maximising private sector participation in Community Planning are at best patronising, and suggest the public and voluntary sectors should be pandering to business. There is no detail in the guidance or notes on ensuring meetings are scheduled at times that suit people with caring responsibilities, nor on using translators for minority ethnic communities, or on telling the voluntary sector what is expected of them. It seems quite out of place to make the private sector a special case, and a contradiction of the partnership approach. UNISON understood Community Planning Partnerships should take ownership of such issues themselves, and that all partners are to be involved in the process.

  5. Effective Partnership Working

UNISON welcomes the advice note on effective partnership working and the focus on openness and engagement. UNISON is involved in partnership working in a number of areas including partnership with the NHS in Scotland and at Scottish Power. Factors we have found important in ensuring successful partnership working are as follows:

  • Joint commitment to the success of the enterprise
  • All parties recognise each others' legitimate interests
  • Commitment to employment security
  • Quality of working life
  • Transparency and sharing of information between partners
  • Mutual gains for all partners.

These factors can be applied to Community Planning partnerships, and UNISON would in particular like to see the points on quality, transparency, mutual gains, and recognition of each others' interests added to the good practice outline.

UNISON notes the comments on creating a common joint vehicle to deliver different initiatives. We recognise the importance of streamlining service delivery and the links between health, social services, voluntary and local government functions. However, in any joint delivery it is important to ensure that staffing issues such as pay and conditions are addressed, to avoid anomalies, to protect from potential equal pay claims and to create a fair system for all workers.

  1. Effective Community Engagement

UNISON agrees with the principles of effective engagement with Communities. Capacity building and community learning and development is key to supporting the engagement of communities, and we are pleased to see this acknowledged in the advice notes. The role trade union education and training can play in community learning is crucial.

8 Information Sharing

We welcome the importance placed on information sharing for the success of Community Planning. The advice note on information sharing is useful to help Community Planning partners overcome reservations they may have.

  1. Performance Monitoring and Management

UNISON supports the consensual methods for agreeing targets and measuring progress on outcomes. The examples given in the advice notes suggest a supportive and positive way of monitoring progress which involve all partners. As noted above, UNISON believes performance monitoring should take into account funding available, access, the service environment and relationships with users and the wider community.


For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

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

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