Formal Response Re Council Re-organisation Phase 4

Dear Mr. Petrie

Re: Council Reorganisation Phase 4

UNISON is opposed to the proposals contained in the above consultation paper. A
further net deletion of 128 posts will mean a further wave of redundancies for our
members. In turn, this will create further unemployment in the borough and bring
hardship to local residents. Once again, we ask the Council to reject the cuts agenda
of central government. These cuts are not necessary, nor are they fair. UNISON
believes the national deficit can be tackled by a policy of fairer taxation, introduction
of a Robin Hood Tax and reinvestment in our public services.UNISON remains concerned about the cost of consultants. Indeed we understand that the Transformation Team is managed by at least 3 consultants paid around at least £500 a day. Surely the Council’s reorganisation should be managed by Council employed staff rather than such substantial additional costs being incurred. The arrangement has been on-going for at least 3 years now.

Adult Social Care:

Sheltered Housing and Disability
All posts in the Service are grant funded from the Supporting People budget. This
will be reduced from 1st April 2011 but UNISON has not been informed of the size of
the grant reduction so we do not know how management decided the level of posts
to be cut.

The proposals will cut the number of manager’s posts from 27 to 15 and the number
of Domestics from 14 to 7. According to senior management there will be sufficient
manager’s jobs in the new structure for existing staff as there will be 15 manager’s
posts for 14 blocks. Eight posts will be for managers and 7 for ‘floating’ managers.
In Waltham Forest

Half the Domestics are facing redundancy and the remaining domestic staff will all
have 19 hour contracts in the new structure. They will be expected to cover two
blocks.

In order to provide the service with half the number of staff management are
proposing that the managers will cover two blocks each and the floating managers
will cover as required. Managers will be expected to carry out rounds at both blocks.
The service has been operating with a high level of vacancies for a long time and
managers have raised their concerned about their workload numerous times. They
believe this will increase as they will be expected to provide a full service to two
blocks, rather than just covering emergencies at the second as they currently do.
Management will re-issue a job description, which new staff have been working to.
This contains ’floating support/cover’. This will be a change to the Managers way of
working. It is not clear how the posts in the new structure will be recruited to as many
Managers will not wish to become ‘floaters’.

There may be issues of travel for staff under the new structure as they may be
required to cover blocks outside their geographical areas and this will impact on their
working time.

The Transformation proposals include a plan to use a floating manager post to
provide support to people in the community. Management have not produced a clear
job role or job description for this and there is a potential overlap with other council
services such as Home Care and Social Work teams.

At the Transformation meeting on 11th February the Union proposed that such a post
would be better used providing cover for staff.

The Union is concerned that the service is not promoted to the community as widely
as it could be and senior management may use a floating manager post as an
Activities Coordinator for the blocks. No firm proposal or job description for this has
been shared with the Union.

Members in the service have questioned why two senior managers are still needed
when the frontline staff numbers have been halved. Yet again the lowest paid staff,
Domestics on scale 1c, are bearing the brunt of the cuts.

The Union understand that tenants are being consulted on the proposals and we
have concerns that they will be receiving a lower level of service in terms of support
from the managers and the cleanliness of the blocks.

Strategic Commissioning:
During our discussions around these proposals UNISON discovered that the work
created by previous cuts to Corporate Procurement had still not been satisfactorily
sorted out. On 26th November 2011 UNISON wrote to councillors on the Scrutiny
Committee highlighting how the loss of SAP staff from Central Procurement would
mean work going out to departments. The posts and staff were cut prior to the issue

about the work being resolved and now we see the work being forced into the
departmental teams. The departmental managers were only recently informed
although Directors were requested to nominate officers in early December – two
Directorates have failed to nominate officers as yet, so the necessary training has
not yet been given to nominees and the existing PG staff are having to pick up the
work. It appears that the UNISON concerns for the Council’s chaotic procurement
processes continue to be valid. What we said to Councillors in November bears
repeating:

“The risks to the Council include:
• Orders not reaching suppliers in good time
• Delays in receiving goods/services
• Inability to match and pay invoices promptly due to discrepancies
• Increased stress on remaining staff due to excessive workload
• Damaged reputation in the business community

Management are obviously reluctant to admit a significant error of judgement and
retain some staff as they will not then make the predicted savings, however this puts
the operational capability of the Council at risk.”

These cuts were also sold to Councillors as savings for the Council, but the cost of
providing the SAP support is just being pushed into other departmental budgets.
UNISON believes that the model for breaking up the Central Procurement SAP
functions is fundamentally flawed and will come back to give the Council difficulties
that could have been avoided.

The transfer of functions has been so chaotic that the new job descriptions relevant
to this important work have still not been presented to the trade unions as I write. It is our view that the late arrival of job descriptions should mean an extension to the
consultation process. It is not fair to expect staff to take part in a consultation when
the jobs in the new structure have not been properly presented for consultation.
Furthermore, UNISON was surprised to learn that the direct payments officer posts
are being TUPE transferred to an organization called Disability Action. There has
been no trade union involvement in the process to date apart from a mention of a
plan to transfer at the departmental JCC. We do not yet know the transfer
arrangements, how this organization were chosen and why they were chosen,
whether they provided a broadly comparable pension for transferring employees etc.
UNISON expects this Council to enter into TUPE arrangements with openness and
honesty. In this example we have not even had a formal meeting yet.

Children and Young People Services
It is this department that feels the impact of this Phase the greatest. The Phase 4
proposals are largely about deleting those posts that are grant funded. UNISON
believes that the make-up and future distribution of the Early Intervention Grant
should be known before any of these cuts are made.

The loss of so many staff and so much in the way of knowledge and skills will be
keenly felt by the children, young people and the families of this borough.

UNISON is also concerned that these cuts are being made without formal
consultation with service users and the wider community.

Aiming High for Disabled Children
With the advent of the government’s cuts program and the cessation of this grant
funded initiative it is very disheartening to all those who work with children with
disabilities to see the proposals in Phase 4. We have not yet had our formal
consultation meeting regarding this particular area so it is difficult to comment
further. Suffice to say that children with disabilities will be less well served by the
Council in the future and skilled workers will be losing their jobs.

Early Support and Early Years Inclusion Workers
This specialist service is being closed down completely. The work they do is about
ensuring that young children with disabilities are included positively in mainstream
nursery provision on the borough. This team works with staff in private and voluntary
settings so that those settings are equipped and able to provide a quality service to
children with additional needs. The work is vital early intervention work designed to
maximize each child’s potential and to help prepare them for the mainstream
education system in line with the social inclusion agenda. It is UNISON’s view that
the loss of this team will weaken the effectiveness of this work. The proposals state
that the work be transferred to the providers themselves or be commissioned.
UNISON believes that there will be a negative effect as a result because the focus
on inclusion will be watered down as workers with other priorities will be asked to
carry out the work required.

The service will be weakened and undermined by these cuts, which UNISON
believes could potentially be averted if monies available for Early Years inclusion
work from the School Forum Funding (about £200,000 last year) could be used to
fund this team which costs about £64,000 a year in staff salaries. If the Council does
close down this team then once again specialist skilled staff will be lost and those
who benefit from that expertise will lose out.

UNISON also believes that this is an area that could potentially be funded by the
Early Intervention Grant.

At the time of writing we are due to have our formal consultation on this area this
coming Friday.

First Response
UNISON’S concerns in this area centre on the issue of child protection. These grant
funded posts are all at risk because of the withdrawal of government grant funding.
However all six posts carry out vital work in the early identification of children who
are at risk in our community. Adolescent Support Workers work to try and prevent
adolescents being received into care. The loss of these posts could impact
negatively on the Council finances if it were to result in more expensive care
packages being required.

The Young Carers’ social worker post is relatively new and is being developed to
prevent the children of young parents being received into care. Again this is highly
skilled and valuable preventative work. The deletion of this post could result in
financial loss for the Council should it lead to an increase in children requiring
Council care.

Finally, the two posts in Children’s Centres that specialise in ensuring that children in
the centres are correctly assessed and any “risk” issues are quickly identified and
worked on. The loss of this work will mean that the specialist focus within Children’s
Centres will be weakened.

All the cuts in First Response increase the safeguarding risks for children in Waltham
Forest. There is also the question of the risk incurred by Council in terms of greater
financial liabilities being incurred because the early intervention work is no longer
being carried out, which may result in more local children requiring care, and risk
associated with the highly charged issues around child protection.

At the time of writing the formal consultation on this area is due to take place on this
coming Friday.

Safeguarding Children Board
This is a potential cut in the administration time available to the Board. The
proposals are unclear as to what might happen in the future. At this point UNISON
has not had formal consultation on this particular area but we note that the proposals
appear to suggest that the work might be carried out in future on a shared basis with
another authority.

The quality of administrative work is vital in ensuring that the Council meets its
obligations towards safeguarding children. Without this work being done effectively
there is the risk that the Council will miss important deadlines within child protection.
This post deals with the Child Death Overview Panel and is vital in ensuring that the
multi-disciplinary approach is well co-ordinated and serviced. The post also has
responsibility for coordinating the multi-agency training programs that are essential
to maintaining an effective multi agency approach to Safeguarding Children.

At the time of writing the formal consultation on this area is due to take place on this
coming Friday.

Youth Support Services
This service is being completely devastated. 51 Youth worker and Connexions
Personal Advisor posts are being lost as the service is cut back to leave just the
management team and 13 Opportunities and Development Worker posts. Added to
the previous Phase’s cuts to Careers, Education Welfare and Behaviour Support it is
clear that there will be a dramatic reduction in the amount of youth support work
carried out in Waltham Forest and it will only be the most vulnerable that will receive
any service at all. The future ramifications of these cuts are impossible to predict
accurately but it is certain that there will be future negative outcomes as support for
young people is massively reduced. Universal support for young people disappears
completely which could potentially mean a sharp rise in young people who cannot
find a positive role for themselves in our community. UNISON perceives this as a
real threat to the future of our borough.

UNISON has also found that the “one stop” youth bus programme from December,
2007-to-March, 2010 has cost YSS a total of nearly £300,000 in local tax money.
This figure can be broken down to the following cost areas:-

Three buses costing £73,813; to refit them cost £76,200, and to service them over
three years £12,330 to March, 2010. The cost of staffing: “working drivers” £75,000
and the use of agency drivers £46.08 per four hour shift.

The number of young people using the “one stop” programme (excluding Worth
Unlimited) over the three year period was under 500 can this be value for money?
This is an extravagance that could have prevented some of the jobs and service
being lost.

UNISON also wants to point out that the management posts in this service remain
unaffected in terms of job losses.

The formal consultation on this particular area has not happened as I write.
The proposals speak of an equalities impact assessment and a detailed action plan.
Neither of these has been forthcoming as yet.

Youth Offending Team
The cuts in Youth Support could lead to there being an increase in Youth Offending.
These could further be exacerbated by the proposed cuts to our Youth Offending
Team. There is a proposed reduction of 50% from 24 employees to 12 working in
Youth Offending. There is the possibility of some extra funding to compensate for the
loss of the grant funding in this area, but details are sketchy.

There are grave concerns about the current workload and health and safety
implications this proposal will raise.

UNISON also has not yet had the formal consultation on this particular area.
UNISON also wants to point out that the management posts in this service remain
unaffected in terms of job losses.

The proposals speak of an equalities impact assessment and a detailed action plan.
Neither of these has been forthcoming as yet.

Education for Communities: Extended Services
Again, these proposals are based on the loss of Government grant funding and
impact on a wide range of services provided to support children and families. At the
time of writing UNISON has not had a formal consultation focusing on this area but
we note that the outcomes of some of the grants were still not finalized when the
proposals were formulated. It is worth asking what has happened to the Sure Start
funding that is now incorporated into the Early Intervention Grant. The Common
Assessment Framework and Think Family grants have had no formal government
announcement at the time the proposals were formulated and we are not sure of the
outcome as I write.

Like so many of the Councils Children and Young Peoples Services the government
is saying that the services will be re-provided for out of the Dedicated Schools
Budgets. UNISON believes that the reality will be rather different with schools facing
difficult choices on where to focus their spending. The Dedicated Schools Grant s
unlikely to be increased by government in order to provide services lost through
these Council cuts. UNISON has certainly not seen any encouraging evidence of
schools buying into services formerly provided by the Council.

Education for Communities: Commissioning
This service will be under pressure following these proposals for similar reasons as
those outlined in the Adult Social Care Strategic Commissioning section above. The
introduction of category management in procurement appears to be happening in an
ad-hoc, unplanned way leaving the trade unions feeling very concerned about the
future of this Council’s procurement.

Education for Communities: Education Plus

This service provides high quality personalized support to children and young people
who are not attending school for emotional and/or mental health reasons. The
service is integrated with health and is funded from the Dedicated Schools Grant.
Again, it is a service to children and young people and it is very worrying that
services such as this are being so dramatically cut.

CLaSS:
All posts in CLaSS are externally funded and funding is secure until August 2011.
Management have been given an indicative budget for the following academic year
but this will not be confirmed until the end of March and yet management have
decided on cuts to administrative and IT posts.

However some of the proposals are affected by the future closure of Friday Hill
House and Chestnuts and the move to the new facilities at Queens Road.
This puts many of our members at risk of redundancy although management are still
making minor changes to the proposed structure at this stage. It is not clear whether
there will be 8, 8.5 or 9 FTE Customer Services Assistants or whether additional
administrative support will go into central services.

The work of the curriculum administration team is to be divided between MIS,
Finance and Central Service Teams. Members are concerned that the workload will
not be manageable with the number of staff proposed, the recent use of temporary
staff in addition to the current numbers confirm this. It still remains unclear how
substantial areas of their workload is to be distributed in the new structure.

To date the job descriptions for the new posts have not been available so it has been
difficult to track the movement of the work of posts being deleted and this has not
reassured our members who already have concerns about the workload.

The Cluster admin team are a frontline group which, among their many duties, enrol
and support learners and lecturers with any queries or problems with regard to
course information and availability. There will be a reduction of possibly 4.1 FTE
Cluster Admin staff (final numbers of Customer Services Assistants have still not
been decided).

The Customer Services Assistants will have a generic job description but there are
some amongst this group currently with key holding responsibilities which need to be
reflected in the new J.D.

Management’s reasoning for this reduction is the loss of one cluster, Friday Hill.
Although CLaSS will use local schools, which need staffing, for the evening
provisions in Chingford. Also to accommodate for the loss of Chestnuts and Friday
Hill there will be an expansion in evening and weekend classes as it seeks to
maximise the use of the reduced space it will have at Queens Road. This will
necessitate remaining cluster staff working more evenings and weekends and make
cover difficult with a diminished number of these frontline staff, this can only mean
additional hours or TOIL.

This group were told that they will not have information about their working hours
when they apply for the Customer Services Assistant posts and these will be worked
out subsequently.

Management’s proposal to reduce the IT Systems Technician’s 2 FTE posts by 1
FTE is unrealistic. The remaining Technician will be required to cover a number of
sites, which open day, evening and also cope with the proposed increase to the
weekend schedule. Obviously this will not be practical thus leaving a substantial
period of CLaSS provision of service unsupported. This is a concern raised by many
areas of the organisation, dependent upon ICT in the completion their duties.
The Technicians are vital to ensure that all teaching commitments are met and
UNISON believes that the 50% reduction in posts will impact on learner numbers if
IT support is delayed and classes are cancelled as a result of this.

Environment and Regeneration

Housing assessment and Options:
The cuts to Housing appear untenable when you consider the increasing pressure
that is likely to be put on the Housing Service over the next few years. Rising
homelessness could well be exacerbated by local people losing their jobs, facing life
on benefits, not being able to keep up rent and/or mortgage repayments and
eventually finding themselves homeless.

Add to this scenario the expected influx of people from other London boroughs when
the Housing Benefit cap is implemented and you begin to see the making of a real
crisis for housing in Waltham Forest. Cuts to our Housing Services will inevitably
mean a reduced service at the very time that demand will increase. The posts
outlined for deletion in these proposals are all important posts that provide support to
families and households that are facing a housing crisis. The loss of these posts will
increase the stress on the remaining workforce who are working under considerable
stress at the moment because housing need far exceeds the resources available.
The Council has shown that it recognizes the imminent crisis as we have seen the
portfolio holder discussing the issues surrounding the impact of the Housing Benefit
cap in the national media. Cutting Housing Services to this extent will not be helpful.

Finance

Revenues and Benefits
We note the uncertainty as expressed in the Consultation document and again we
see cuts being made in an area that will come under increasing demand and
pressure as a result of Government policy.

The loss of posts will have a detrimental effect on the service as it currently stands,
though we note the intention expressed in these proposals to carry out further
reviews and investigate the possibility of shared services. The details are not
available at present so we can only comment on what is in front of us now.
Some of the posts are concerned with collection so could impact negatively if the
collection rate is negatively affected by these proposals, though we note the intention
to create two new posts, but overall there is still a cut to the number of staff working
in this area.

The proposals also remove the Revenues and Benefits staff from WFD, which
UNISON believes will result in growing pressure on the staff employed at Juniper
House. There should be a review of the risk assessments for Juniper House. This
proposal represents a reversal of the previous Council thinking and will make the
service less accessible to vulnerable customers as the local WFD shop services
close down. It is also a prelude to the complete closure of the WFD shops in
Chingford, Leytonstone and Leyton that are part of the Phase 5 proposals.

Notice of Termination for Reason of Redundancy

UNISON is in the process of registering a dispute over this proposal and the
redundancies that are being felt across the Council workforce.

Needless to say UNISON and our members are appalled by the Council’s intention
to reduce the notice period for many staff, apart from the highest paid staff at PO9
and above who will retain the current notice period.

It is our view that this is a short sighted approach as it will further limit the time
available to identify redeployment possibilities for staff who face potential
redundancy. It might even result in the Council making redundancy payments to
employees who may have been retained given more time.

It is also our view that the proposed changes will be more difficult to administrate as
staff will have varying lengths of notice rather than all staff sharing the current 12
weeks termination notice period arrangement.

UNISON believes that the Council should reject this proposal as it is unfair and may
not save the sums of money anticipated.

UNISON believes that this proposal has been presented, not so much for
consultation but more as a statement of intent. The proposal includes the following
wording:

“The Council hopes that the Unions will consent to this change. In the event that the
Unions do not consent and the change is implemented without consent, then the
Council will take such steps as necessary to implement the change (which may be a
dismissal and re-engagement process).”

This demonstrates that the Council is not prepared to consult properly on this matter.
The wording above is included in the Council’s initial proposal so right from the start
of consultation the Council are basically saying that they will sack all the staff and reengage unless the trade unions accept this change which is a matter of detriment to
many of our members. UNISON is not prepared to consent in these circumstances
and is currently registering a formal dispute with the Joint Secretaries.

Voluntary Severance
UNISON is opposed to the use of compromise agreements for voluntary severance
and we believe that such an approach is a waste of time and money in the
circumstances of voluntary severance. They are designed to be used where there is
a dispute between employer and employee in order to resolve the dispute on a no
blame basis.

For some reason, management in Waltham Forest are insisting that staff who have
agreed to leave under voluntary severance have to sign this over the top agreement
with all its waiving of legal rights and confidentiality clauses. It also costs the Council
£350 for each and every one so it is spending money that it does not need to spend.
For our members it is a matter of some bewilderment to be instructed to sign a
compromise agreement when they are leaving under voluntary severance.

Conclusion:
UNISON opposes the cuts proposed and calls on the Council to reject the proposals
as unacceptable due to the negative impact that will be caused to the borough’s
children and young people.

UNISON also believes that the Council’s current position of meeting the demands of
central government will eventually have to be reconsidered. It is alarming to think
that many of these services will be lost to our community permanently as central
government continues its assault on public sector jobs and services. Even if the
Council does meet the current targets we do not see there being an end to the cuts
while the current government remains in power. The government is more likely to
come back for more and more in the way of spending cuts.

Yours faithfully

Dave Knight, Branch Secretary

(originally published 8.6.11)

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