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.
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
Local authorities are the lead players in
Community Planning given their democratic and accountable
basis. They should initiate, facilitate and lead on Community
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
UNISON is concerned at provisions to encourage
incorporation of Community Planning Partnerships. This moves
Community Planning away from the community ownership towards
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
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
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
Outcomes: indicating the impact or benefit
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
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
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
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
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
UNISON wants local authorities to be responsive
to trade unions and employees as well as the other stakeholders
referred to in the consultation document.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Partnership Models and Structures
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.
Involving the Private Sector
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.
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
Joint commitment to the success of the enterprise
All parties recognise each others' legitimate
Commitment to employment security
Quality of working life
Transparency and sharing of information between
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.
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.
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.