UNISON is taking the unusual step of publishing its response, to the recently ended CFA Shared Management Proposal.  The decision to do this is a direct response to Cambridgeshire County Council ( and Peterborough City Council), to keep this consultation 'private' to the individuals effected.  UNISON does not believe that this is how an open, transparent and democratic Council should behave.  Keeping this 'secret' from the remainder of the workforce and the tax paying public of the County, may well lead some to believe that there is something to hide, or a hidden agenda.Gillian

Further questions arose when UNISON were informed that the CEO of Peterborough City and Cambridgeshire County Councils; Gillian Beasley, was unaware that all other previous consultations were 'open', and published on the Council's intranet.  Despite Gillian writing the introductions and hopefully contributing to the development of the new structures.  UNISON finds this as extraordinary.  The full UNISON response can be found next.

UNISON Response to CFA Shared Management Proposals. May 2017

UNISON cannot express strongly enough their disagreement with the decision not to publish this restructure consultation document more widely to the staff and members of Cambridgeshire County Council.

This is at odds with the usual CCC redundancy/restructure consultation process, which is to publish all consultation documents on the intranet and invite responses from any individuals or teams within the consultation period. The usual process is fully open, honest and transparent; the same cannot be said for the consultation process for the ‘Shared Management Proposals’ consultation.

If there was to be a proposal from CCC to change the consultation process, UNISON and the other recognised trade unions would have been expected to be consulted on the changes to the process. Without a change to the process having been agreed, we would expect the status quo to prevail i.e. for the consultation to be published in Camweb as per the usual process.

UNISON and the other trade unions were not notified at the consultation launch meeting on 3rd April that the consultation process would be anything other than the usual consultation process. In fact, UNISON were only made aware that there were no plans to publish this consultation document on the 11th April, having asked why the consultation paper was not available on the intranet.

A fuller discussion between the trade unions and HR took place at the CJP meeting on 19th April. At this meeting the trade union secretaries lodged a formal request that the consultation document be published on Camweb. The justification given at this meeting for not publishing this consultation document can be summarised as follows:

  • Peterborough City Council do not publish redundancy/restructure Consultations on their intranet (whereas Cambridgeshire do).
  • Gillian Beasley, Chief Exec, was concerned for the feelings of those being placed at risk, and felt the details of the proposals in relation to their roles should not be more widely shared across the organisation. Gillian was also not aware that all previous consultations were published in Cambridgeshire to the wider organisation.
  • That consulting with those affected was the only legal requirement of the employer.

In response to the first bullet point, UNISON believes that the consultation document (being a joint CCC / PCC consultation) therefore should have been published on both Council’s intranet sites.

In response to the second bullet point, UNISON asks whether the feelings of the Service Directors are more valid than the feelings of the hundreds of other CCC staff who have been placed at risk of redundancy over the past few years, for whom the details of changes to their roles have been published? UNISON do not believe this justification would be popular with the wider workforce, some of who have been subject to three or more restructures / at risk of redundancy notices in recent years.

Secondly, UNISON asks whether it is true that Gillian Beasley was unaware of consultation papers being published more widely in CCC, considering that several large scale consultation shave been published in her name (CCR1, CCR2, Children’s Change Programme).  

In terms of the employer meeting their legal requirement to consult with those affected, that might be true. However UNISON does not believe that the employer should only seek to meet the legal minimum requirements for consultation. UNISON believes that publishing consultation papers more widely within the organisation is a fairer and more transparent process.

On 24th April and 25th April UNISON chased for a response to their formal request to publish this consultation paper. A response was not actually received until the 2nd May, however this was just a recognition of the differing practices in CCC / PCC and an invitation to trade unions to talk further about it at an unrelated meeting on the 3rd May. At this meeting on the 3rd May UNISON again made clear their opposition to this consultation document not having been published. The following additional points/questions were raised by UNISON at that meeting:

  • The proposal presents a radical change in the management structures of Children’s and Adults services. It is the first time that shared Director posts for CCC/PCC have been proposed. It opens the way for further joint working between CCC and PCC. Therefore this consultation more than any other would be worthy of comment from many other employees of CCC (including for example the direct reports of the current CFA Service Directors and other Service Directors outside of CFA).
  • Whilst the main argument against publishing the document was to protect the feelings of those being placed at risk, could it not also be argued that if the colleagues of those placed at risk are aware of the situation, they would be better placed to provide support to individuals who were facing uncertainty.
  • Do other County Councillors, who are not part of the Committees to which the Business Case was presented, have any opportunity to comment on the proposals?

UNISON are disappointed that their request for the consultation to be published more widely within the initial consultation period was declined.

In terms of the proposal being consulted on, UNISON questions whether it provides a more ‘top heavy’ management structure? CFA currently has 6 directors (reduced to 5 as part of the Children’s’ Change consultation) plus 1 Executive Director, the new structure provides for the equivalent of 2.5 Service Directors, 4.5 Assistant Directors and 0.5 Executive Director so 7.5 senior management posts as opposed to 7 in the old structure. In addition the new Service Director posts are at a higher grade than the existing Service Director grades with the Assistant Director grades equal to the existing Service Director grades. Is this increase in management costs justified in the current financial climate?

The proposal for Children’s Services is to appoint to the shared CCC/PCC Service Director from December 2017. This will extend the period for which the higher costs of an interim Director in Cambridgeshire will be incurred. This is almost a year longer than UNISON was originally informed that the arrangement would last for, at an exorbitant daily rate.    

The proposal is to make permanent the arrangement to share an Executive Director and in addition to share Service Director level posts across CCC and PCC. UNISON asks how is it proposed to ensure that a fair allocation of senior management time is dedicated to the communities of Cambridgeshire and the staff and members of Cambridgeshire County Council?

The consultation paper talks about increasing the leadership capacity for transformation, however later on describes the Assistant Directors as being responsible for operational delivery (as opposed to strategy). There appears to be a decrease in the leadership capacity if these Assistant Director roles are indeed operational in nature.

The paper talks about a reduction in Heads of Service from 36 to 26 in Cambridgeshire. Will this be the subject of further consultation(s)?

Robert Turner

Branch Secretary UNISON Cambridgeshire County Branch