Formal Response Re Council Re-organisation Phase 5

Dear Mr Petrie

Re: Council Reorganisation Phase 5

UNISON continues to be opposed to the cuts and we are rather perplexed at the zeal with which the cuts are being pursued. The Council is demonstrating little in the way of reluctance and management have emphasised that they believe Waltham Forest is leading on the cuts programme. It almost feels as if we are in a race to see who makes the most cuts quickest.

Once again we are seeing vital front line services being axed and a trend towards employing more consultants as a response to the cuts in senior management. UNISON believes that the overall savings projected will be eaten away by the hidden costs that we believe will arise from these proposals.

Adult Social care NELFT

Ferguson Centre
UNISON met with members at the Ferguson centre to consult them on the proposals in phase 5. A list of questions were drawn up following the meeting and forwarded to their management for a response. Management have informed UNISON that they are still consulting service users and councillors on 4 different options for restructuring the day services and the report will not be going to Cabinet until 11th May 2011.

UNISON cannot properly consult with our members until there is a proposal for us to consult staff on. At the moment the proposed structure is not clear. UNISON therefore feel that the staff consultation should start again when the proposal is finalised.

Finance

Cashiers
The proposal in phase 5 for cashiers is to delete 2.4 FTE cashier posts in the cashier team and 1 FTE scale 4-6 finance officer post in the reconciliation team and to create 2.4
FTE sc. 5  Finance officer posts. This is a reduction of 1 FTE front line post.

This group of staff have been undergoing restructuring in one form or another for many years. This particular group of staff were last moved and restructured when the cash office at Church Hill was closed restricting options for service users to the Town Hall. The latest restructure will remove even more services from the front line.

The staffs have put in an alternative proposal outlining the top heavy management structure and a proposal for further savings which has been rejected. This is yet a further attack on our diminishing public facing staff.

Residents First

WFD Shops
The proposal to close the WFD shops in Leyton, Leytonstone and Chingford will make accessibility to our services more difficult, particularly for the more vulnerable Waltham Forest residents. The shops provide a local and accessible service to all Council services and their loss will be keenly felt by service users. Service users have not been involved in any consultation regarding the closures.

UNISON members are concerned that the projected savings of £244,000 will not be achieved as it does not take into account the costs of the buildings. We understand that some of the premises are leased and will still require funds to maintain. Management have said the buildings will be put to alternative use, but UNISON has no evidence of this and is concerned that the shops will remain empty and will be a further blight on the borough’s high streets.

Corporate

Senior Management Structure
Unison have noted that at the same time that the Council is consulting on proposals contained in phase 5 of the Council Reorganisation it has already sought to externalise substantial areas of work that the existing Arts and Events Team have been responsible for in the form of festival and events to mark the Olympic year.  In particular the post of Head of Arts and Events would have anticipated a high level of involvement in organising and facilitating events associated with the Olympic Games but they are included in the tender document. As this consultation process began, that part of the post’s duties were bundled up as a package and put out to tender.

As late as 7th December 2012 the Culture and Leisure Management Team were advised that “2011 budget-sport and arts are protected and moving towards the Olympics” (taken from staff meeting minutes) providing the stability and resources to meet the challenges associated with delivery of an expanded programme of events in 2012.  This indicates a clear understanding that the Arts and Events Service were to continue to be responsible for the boroughs Olympic cultural programme.

UNISON believes that there are substantial and other hidden costs involved with this ill conceived rush to externalise Arts and Events responsibilities. The projected savings in respect the Head of Arts and Events are hard to justify when there is a projected spend in the Council’s own tender documents indicating that, the estimated value for the events work will range from £800,000 to £1.5 million. Therefore the estimated value of this event management contract is £100,000 to £150,000”.

It is also hard to justify when a previous set of consultants contracted to consult the public on the current arts and events service concluded that, “In terms of engagement, residents are interested in localised and family, community events.  The festivals are a strong part of what Waltham Forest does well and these can provide excellent opportunities to let people try new activities.”

UNISON is concerned that the “immediate review” indicated in consultation papers means that other staff employed in this area will be under threat once the contract for their work is implemented. We do not know whether the tender included possible TUPE arrangements or not.

Unison wish the raise the particular concern that the post of Arts Events and Halls is proposed for deletion and there appears to be no opportunity for the Officer in post to be considered for assimilation/ redeployment in to the proposed post of Initiatives and Events Manager.

We are aware that there is an existing post within Greenspace titled “Initiatives Manager” and it would appear that it is favoured simply to transfer the significant responsibilities of the Head of Arts Events and Halls to that post where the Halls Service is proposed to report to Facilities Management.

Indeed in advance of the conclusion of the consultation period the Council has proceeded to tender out the management and delivery of an expanded Olympic Cultural events programme and the officer to whom bids are sent is the Initiatives Manager located in Environment Directorate.

Yours sincerely

Dave Knight, Branch Secretary

(originally posted 8.6.11)

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