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The Local Government Bill Outline of ProposalsScottish Executive Consultation
The UNISON Scotland Response
February 2002

Executive Summary

UNISON gives its support for the concepts of power of well-being, Community Planning and Best Value, which are contained in the consultative paper.

UNISON acknowledges that partnership working with the voluntary sector has been a feature of local government and we recognise the provision of services by such partnership arrangements where it is identified as being the most appropriate method.

UNISON recognises its responsibility to the taxpayer in the delivery of high quality services and seeks to play a full partnership role. In achieving this aim UNISON proposes the establishment by statute of a consultative forum to oversee continous improvement through Best Value.

UNISON requires that the legislation include a fair employment agenda to ensure that the workforce is treated fairly and is not subject to exploitation.

UNISON believes that quality of service delivery are more likely to be achieved by a directly employed workforce who are properly trained, highly motivated and properly rewarded, based on the principles of the model employer.

UNISON believes that the proposals are disappointing in that they have not included radical recommendations as contained in the report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (McIntosh Report). Neither do the proposal take the opportunity to deal with the issue of political restrictions on local government staff standing to serve as elected councillors


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 100,000 members working for local authorities and voluntary organisations in Scotland. UNISON members are providers and users of local authority services, participants in the democratic process and are part of the electorate. UNISON welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Scottish Executive's consultative paper on the proposals for the Local Government Bill. UNISON looks forward to making more informed comments when the Bill and details of the ministerial guidelines are available.

UNISON is committed to the provision of high quality public services, which are accessible and responsive to those who need them. UNISON believes that services are best delivered by a directly employed, well-trained, highly motivated staff who are adequately rewarded. There is a willingness and a desire amongst UNISON's members to re-invigorate local government and voluntary services in Scotland. UNISON views this as a missed opportunity to include the recommendations from the report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (The McIntosh Report).

UNISON is concerned that the proposals do not contain any statement on trade union participation or include any reference to a Fair Employment clause. There should be a balance in the emphasis on a qualitative approach as opposed to value for money. UNISON further believes that the innovations set out in the consultation paper will not work unless there is adequate funding provided to local authorities and voluntary organisations. Each of these topics will be addressed within this submission.


1. Content of the Bill

UNISON supports legislation on the introduction of a power of well being, community planning and best value allowing local authorities greater freedom to provide the best possible services which it feels is appropriate for its constituents.

UNISON believes that the legislation must contain definitions of "the power of well-being" and "Best Value".

 UNISON is disappointed that the paper does not

  • Introduce radical recommendations as contained in the report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (McIntosh Report) in particular reform of the first past the post electoral system.
  • Adequately address the relationship between central and local government
  • Take the opportunity to deal with the issue of political restrictions on local government staff standing to serve as elected councillors
  • Contain a Fair Employment clause or a statement regarding trade union participation.

2. Background

UNISON acknowledges that in a constantly changing environment, there is a need for continuous assessment of the quality of delivery of services and partnership working with communities and agencies.

UNISON is convinced that local authority in-house provision will result in the most effective and efficient delivery of services also, it will provide the best method of ensuring transparent, accountable and democratic control over service delivery. All local authorities should enhance and build on in-house expertise, endorse the philosophy of the model employer, thereby ensuring that employees have stability in employment, the required training and effective performance management

3. Power of Well-being

UNISON believes that the power of well-being should not be a substitute for "power of general competence" and the proposal should have followed the recommendation in the McIntosh Report. However, UNISON welcomes the general power of well-being removing restrictions to allow local authorities to promote and improve the well-being of their area. However, UNISON recognises that local authorities will continue to have existing legislative constraints placed upon them.

UNISON is of the view that the proposal to give Ministers the power to alter the meaning of well-being is wrong. The meaning should only be amended by primary legislation, as this will preserve democratic scrutiny

UNISON notes that the proposals do not include a review of tax raising powers or other financial matters. The funding of local authorities is fundamental to the delivery of services. UNISON questions the ability of local authorities to introduce innovative thinking when the funding arrangements are not addressed. Local authorities require to be responsible for raising much more of their own expenditure and are in desperate need of a period of financial stability.

UNISON believes that financial motive must not impinge on effective service delivery. UNISON is concerned that the focus may concentrate of the financial aspects and that insufficient emphasis will be given to quality of service. For this reason UNISON supports the establishment of an independent Quality Commission. This will provide a new impetus for the legislation.

UNISON seeks detailed information on the proposed enhanced role, duty and power to be invested in the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. UNISON opposes any significant increase in the role and powers of the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland. UNISON is of the view that this will re-emphasis the primacy of financial benchmarking rather than quality benchmarking.

4. Community Planning

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

UNISON believes that a list of key partners (See paragraphs 5.12 & 6.1) should be listed and include trade unions within the list.

UNISON is concerned that the power and duty contained in the legislation may be greatly undervalued given other initiatives such as Joint Future with the implementation dates well in advance of the Local Government Bill becoming legislation.

UNISON believes that all local government employees should have the ability to stand for public office. We believe this is an opportunity to correct the issue of political restrictions on local government staff.

5. Best Value

UNISON questions the statement in paragraph 6.1 of the report regarding the success of Best Value. In our experience the operation of Best Value has resulted in a mixture of good and bad practice.

UNISON seeks clarification that the proposals do not include the previous commitment by the Scottish Executive Ministers to apply Best Value to all public services funded from the Scottish budget. Also there is no commitment to establishing either a Quality Commission or equivalent to scrutinise and promote best practice.

UNISON believes that the emphasis should be based on quality and effectiveness of service delivery within Best Value. There is a requirement for a degree of flexibility to reflect the environment within which the provider is operating and allow local authorities to set their individual service standards. However, there is a need to give guidance to rationalise some service standards.

UNISON believes that real investment in training and development of staff is the key to improved public services, leading to enhanced performance. High quality services and training go hand in hand, therefore all employees must have greater access to training and development, in particular Scottish Vocational Qualifications.

UNISON believes that employees have the right to participate in decision making which critically affects their working lives. Therefore the legislation should include a section which-

"That each local authority or provider establishes 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 for money.

The Trade Union Side shall have access to all relevant information and will be consulted on all matters regarding the performance of services.

The Best Value Forum will consider matters including ~ employment levels, training and development, equality issues, hours of work, work and job content, technological change and any other matters which are determined by the Forum to be relevant."

UNISON supports the proposal that Part II of the 1988 Act will be amended to allow workforce matters to be considered in the contractual negotiations.

UNISON believes that there must be a Fair Employment clause included in the legislation ~

"Each employee of a service provider who is engaged, shall be employed by the provider on terms and conditions of service, which are, when considered as a whole, no less favourable to an employee contracted to the national agreement on pay and conditions of service of the Scottish Joint Council for local government employees.

For the purpose of this clause, the phrase terms and conditions of service shall include, but shall not be limited to, all provisions relating to salary, benefits, entitlements, hours of work, holiday entitlement and pension rights."

UNISON welcomes both the repeal of CCT legislation and the removal of the requirement for 2% efficiency savings.

UNISON seeks clarification of paragraph 6.17 - Unison presumes that this will not prevent local authorities from designing, commissioning and maintaining Capital works.

6. Power of Intervention

UNISON agrees with the approach which establishes minimum national standards and targets for general best value performance in some services below which a local authority or provider must not fall.

UNISON seeks clarification on the extent of the powers of intervention given to Ministers and is of the view that the powers of intervention should be contained in the legislation.

UNISON believes that the power of intervention should only be used as a last resort and promotes the introduction of an early warning framework where local authorities may be under-performing. In cases where a particular service is under-performing it is imperative that the existing workforce is given the opportunity to put things right.

7. Equalities

UNISON welcomes the commitment contained within the proposals of the need to ensure equality of access to services for all and believes that quality issues should lie at the heart of legislation. UNISON would wish to see quantifiable measures outlined to ensure a commitment to equality.

8. Miscellaneous provisions

UNISON supports the amendment to section 94 controls on local authority capital expenditure to replace the current arrangements with a `more flexible system'

UNISON supports the abolishment of all Capital restraints for local authorities as these are currently used to obscure the public sector case for new Capital projects.

The abolition of section 94 constraints would provide a level playing field and go some way towards ending `the only game in town' argument that is promoted currently in favour of PPP in local authorities.

UNISON Scotland is of the view that alternatives to the current, very restrictive capital consent regime are necessary and that s94 should be abolished. We are aware of the work done by CIPFA on a Prudential Code for local authority capital expenditure. We think that their approach has some merit, with decisions on the best way to finance capital projects being made locally and with ultimate control resting with democratically accountable councillors.

9. Conclusion

UNISON considers the consultation paper to be a disappointment in that it was an opportunity to address a radical and positive agenda for local government as outlined in the McIntosh Report. The basic rights of trade unions and their membership to participate in matters affecting their working life have not been addressed. There is no Fair Employment clause included in the proposals. The qualitative aspects of delivery of service play a secondary role to that of value for money.

Finally we consider the paper to be short on detail and regret that there are no details on ministerial guidance.

For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835
e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk