Agenda item

Call-In of Cabinet Decision: The Future of East Kent HR (EKHR)

Minutes:

Councillor Bayford introduced the item and made the following comments:

 

  • Panel Members called in the 29 April Cabinet decision on this issue, as there was a feeling among Members that there was not enough discussion about the alternative proposals;
  • However, from further discussions with senior officers particularly Ms Madeline Homer, CEx and Ms Estelle Culligan, Director of Law and Democracy, there was now an understanding that the decision which Cabinet was asked to take, was part of a wider decision, together with Canterbury and Dover, to disband the EK HR service and take back the services in-house;
  •  These decisions were in accordance with the Collaboration Agreement which governs the EKHR service and mean that, essentially, once one Council takes the decision, the others must follow;
  • Beyond that, how the services are organised internally, is a matter for the Chief Executive, as Head of Paid Service;
  • It was reported that Canterbury City Council took the decision to disband the service on 19 April and Dover District Council had recently taken the decision on 17 May;
  • Therefore, in reality, Thanet District Council could not change that decision;
  • However, it was useful for the Panel to understand more about the background and the reasons for the decision.

 

Ms Culligan set out additional background and said the following:

  • At the Strategic board meeting in Autumn, each council expressed a desire for a service which was aligned more to their respective internal needs;
  • East Kent HR was governed by a collaborative agreement;
  • EKHR service was managed by East Kent Services;
  • Dover District Council was the host to EKHR, as part of the delivery arrangement;
  • The collaborative agreement sets out what would happen if a particular service was disbanded. Each council would take back its staff on the same conditions;
  • As to how these employees would be deployed in-house was for the CEx to determine as Head of Paid Services.

 

Councillor Ashbee spoke under Council Procedure 20.1.

 

Members made comments and asked questions as follows:

 

  • Will there be a policy framework for the General Purposes Committee that would be in the Committee’s terms of reference?
  • How long would this process take to bring in the HR service in-house?
  • Will the budget to be used be part of the EKHR Reserves?
  • Were there any potential jobs at risks for the staff affected by these changes?
  • The council may end up paying more for the staff whose lifestyle may be impacted as a result of relocating to come and work in Thanet (at the Council Offices because some of the employees may be Dover locals;
  • The part of the councillor involvement in HR matters in the report is weak. At what point do Members get involved in staff matters?
  • Will the GPC be making employment policy?

 

Ms Homer and Ms Culligan responded as follows:



  • The appropriate committee to deal with staff matters was the GPC;
  • Nothing yet had been done to set that out the GPC role in relation to in-house HR service;
  • Nearer the time to move the service in-house, discussions would be had for the new structure and terms of reference. The General Purposes committee would be involved in that process;
  • The Strategic Board expressed that each council had different priorities and were moving in different directions;
  • The role of the GPC was in policy direction;
  • The setting up of staff structure was the responsibility of the Head of Paid Services;
  • The transfer of HR service in-house was planned for September 2021;
  • Discussions had been conducted with staff and the Union;
  • TDC had made a commitment to take back in-house its staff from EKHR;
  • It should be noted that tat this point in time any future plans have not yet been considered;
  • All staff would be considered as TUPE staff and will therefore be moved in-house on TUPE conditions;
  • Staff would be given first, second and third preferences of where they would like to be redeployed. This was all set out in the staff consultation document;
  • TDC adopted Flexible Working Policy for its staff, which has seen staff choosing to work either in the office (office based), at home (home based) or a combination of home and office working;
  • Whilst GPC would set out future staff policy, the CEx would be responsible for implementing it.

 

Thereafter the Panel agreed to take no further action.

Supporting documents: