Response for Cabinet

To All Waltham Forest Councillors

Dear Councillor

UNISON Response to Council Reorganisation Phase 3 – letter following Martin Esom’s letter of 3rd February 2011.

The local branch of UNISON believes that the cuts being proposed are so severe in
their impact on the local community, particularly our young people that the Council
should not set a budget on the basis of the figures as they stand at present. We would
suggest that the Council go back to central government highlighting the problems in
implementing the budget proposed.

Alternatively, the Council could set an alternative needs led budget. In either case
simply adhering to the government’s demands is going to dramatically reduce
services and cost hundreds of the Council’s employees their jobs. The proposals will
mean that many young people will not get the support currently available and many
local people, who currently work for the Council, will face real hardships in the
coming months.

The management report a reduction in agency staff, which is positive, but they do not
tell us how many directly employed interim managers we have working on individual
contracts and how much they cost. It is also noticeable that they do not challenge the
figures quoted by UNISON i.e. the £20 million that is spent on Comensura.

We disagree with the Chief Executive’s view that the removal of the ICT Review
from this Phase neutralises the impact on posts graded at PO8 and above. The net
effect of this by our calculation is that the total number of PO8 and above posts to be
deleted will be 10 and the total created will be 13. There is still an increase in senior
management positions of PO8 and above in this phase.

We also disputed the figures relating to the senior management reductions at the time
of Phase 2. The Council’s structure charts did not tally with the listings. We also
raised the issue of equality impact at the time with 3 senior black managers losing
their jobs. Since then the 3 senior appointments have been made with one black
manager being appointments with 2 white. We believe that this means that the senior
management at Waltham Forest is now less diverse in terms of black and ethnic
minority representation than it previously was.

Changes to Timetable
UNISON is still concerned about this. UNISON representatives and the Council’s
affected employees entered into the consultation with the formally proposed
timetable. Management have changed that timetable to deprive the affected members
of potential earnings and did so unilaterally and without formal written notifications
going to the staff affected. The impact of this is that none of us trust the formal
proposals anymore. The Council and its senior officers cannot be trusted when it
sends formal notification regarding the timetables of planned redundancies. It also
means that the Council’s formal notification to the Secretary of State is incorrect,
unless it has been amended. UNISON has not seen any evidence of an amendment to
the Secretary of State.

UNISON also believes that not all grant funding has ceased as of 31st March 2011 and
many posts in this reorganisation could potentially continue by use of the Early
Intervention Grant. However, management and the Council do not appear to be
prepared to carry out any damage limitation by planning the use of that grant to
reduce the huge impact on services.

We note the Council’s response to our request for extension due to the Christmas
holidays. Employees and UNISON members recognise the lack of acknowledgement
to the reality of staff taking leave during that holiday period as demonstrated in the
Chief Executive’s letter.

Managing Change Procedures
The appeals issue is noted but it is still the trade union view that for an appeal to meet
the basic tenets of natural justice, then it should really be independent. It will be
interesting to see how many appeals are heard independently as a result of the
amendment to the wording in Managing Change Procedures.

UNISON hopes the future panels will reflect the diversity of the Council workforce
better than has been the case to date.

Continuing Use of Consultants and Interim Managers
UNISON remains unaware of the Comensura pay rates and the payments made to
individual interim managers. Anecdotally UNISON understands that some of our
interim managers are receiving substantial payments, well in excess of what they
would earn if they carried out the same duties as proper Council employees.
We are also concerned about consultants such as BMG coming in to carry out surveys
that could be carried out by existing staff. Why not have a consultation team within
the Council that could carry out such work on behalf of the Council at less expense
than hiring private companies to do such work.

UNISON notes the comments made but maintains its concern for how the changes
and personalisation will actually impact on our older and more vulnerable residents.

Whilst appreciating the complexities of Local Government finances many of our
members working in this directorate are confused by the conflicting statements from
government and the Council.

UNISON believes that many councillors are committed to improving the health,
safety and education of the young people of Waltham Forest, but that commitment
does not come through in these proposals nor in the attitude towards trying to make
the early Intervention grant work for the young people of Waltham Forest.

UNISON understands that some authorities are delaying some of the most drastic
decisions in order to try and work out how the new grant system might be deployed
and also to wait for proposals regarding the all age Careers Service. Indeed, in relation
to the Careers Service, our local MP, Stella Creasy has pushed for and won what
appear to be helpful statements from government. John Hayes’ recent announcements
in Parliament suggest that government are issuing guidance to local authorities
advising them to delay severe cuts in Careers while the detail of the new service is
developed. It is surprising to UNISON that the Council is choosing to ignore that and
proceed with cuts now.

In Waltham Forest, there is also the issue of testing the feasibility of some support
services to schools. UNISON believes that this work should be completed before the
cuts are proposed, but that has not been the case.

In relation to the proposed retention of management posts in parts of this directorate,
our members believe that they are being retained in order to try and recruit volunteers
to cover work of professional staff and the Chief Executive’s letter could fit with such
a view of the future for Children and Young People Services. Obviously, UNISON
has massive concerns about such an approach but it does appear to be a strategy of
government to push this idea of voluntary run services. UNISON argues that to base
such important work on volunteers will lead to problems over issues like
accountability, sae working practices and reliability.

The Chief Executive’s comments in relation to specific issues raised in Children and
Young People Services are noted.

Issues of community safety, trading standards enforcement. Licensing, economic
development and much more are seriously impacted by the proposals. UNISON
believes that this work is essential if the borough is to have an improved environment.
The Olmypics is on the borough’s doorstep and has been heralded as providing work
and improvements for Waltham Forest.

The cuts as they stand appear to risk allowing undesitrable activities to go unchecked.
The sale of counterfeit goods is one example. Although, on the face of it this activity
may not sound too serious, it may be that the proceeds resulting may go to und more
serious criminal activities. It ois also potentially damaging to the local community
when laws and rules can be louted because there is little or no enforcement.

(originally posted 9.2.11)

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