Agenda item

Shared Services (Agenda Item 11)

Report of the Chief Executive.


The Chief Executive presented the report, explaining that the Council was now at the vanguard of change for local government.  The report sought authority to take the initiative by appointing an Interim Corporate Management Team, led by an Interim Joint Chief Executive.   The process was moving faster than originally anticipated due to key vacancies across both senior management teams.


He said that neither South Norfolk nor Breckland District Councils were looking to pre-empt any decision to be made in terms of the Business Case.   This would be considered at Council on 24 June 2010.  Instead, they were reacting to the senior vacancies by requesting a joint interim Management Structure to be created in order to take the process forward.   Essentially the request was to avoid becoming mired in possible short term appointments and recruitment processes. 


The report also recommended the establishment of key Director roles, again on an interim basis, which would align with the proposed new portfolios.  He drew Members’ attention to paragraphs 4.3 and 4.4 of the report, which explained the proposed portfolios and recruitment process.   He requested that Members consider an amendment to the end of paragraph 4.4, as follows:


Para 4.4    Delete all after “31st December 2010” and insert


“The interim Joint Director posts would be open to permanent Directors, interim Directors and those who have held an interim Director role since December 2009 (i.e. when the Agreement in principle to explore shared services was reached), congruent with their current roles and responsibilities in line with the above Panel arrangements.  Should a post remain unfilled the recruitment process would be open to internal/external applicants concurrently.”


South Norfolk District Council had considered the Shared Services report at their Council meeting earlier that week.   They had proposed some amendments and, in order for the two Councils to maintain a consistent approach to this project, the Chief Executive presented these to Council, as follows:


Amendment to Recommendation (c)


The internal recruitment of interim Joint Directors with the exception of the joint interim Director of Transformation (see Resolution (h)), with external recruitment only being undertaken where a role would not be filled by the process set out in para 4.4 of the report.


Amendment to Recommendation (g)


To establish a joint Member Interview Panel with delegated authority to recruit all interim Joint Chief and Deputy Chief officers.  The Panel to consist of the Leaders, Deputy Leaders and the Leader of the Opposition of each Authority, and the relevant portfolio holder, supported by both the interim Joint Head of Paid Service and the interim Joint Deputy Chief Executive, where these appointments have been made.


Amendment to Recommendation (h)


An immediate open contest to appoint a joint interim Director of Transformation for a fixed term of up to 18 months only, subject to the approval of the Business Plan.


(The Chief Executive said that, at this stage, there was no expectation that the process would go beyond 18 months.  However, if it did, there would be the opportunity to re-visit this decision if appropriate, or desired.)


Amendment to Recommendation (i)


The total salary costs of the Joint Corporate Management Team would be shared equally across both Authorities, with the exception of the proposed interim Head of Paid Service, which would be the subject of a separate contract between Breckland and South Norfolk District Councils.


The Chief Executive reiterated that none of the proposals, or amendments, would affect the Business Plan which would be presented to Council on 24 June (and to the South Norfolk District Council at about the same time).   He also explained that in the event that the shared services project did not go ahead, then, at that point, all interim arrangements would be unwound and postholders would return to their substantive posts. 


Members expressed concern at being asked to consider wordy and complex amendments from the floor, rather than having had an opportunity to read and digest them in advance of the meeting.  The Chief Executive acknowledged that this was a fair point, and apologised to Members.  He explained that the proposed amendments were the direct result of the Council meeting held in South Norfolk earlier that week, together with the unexpected pace at which the process was moving forward.  This was a dynamic situation, with one amendment literally having been agreed immediately prior to this meeting.  In view of the fact that the Business Plan was due to be placed before Council in June, he believed that the interim arrangements really did need to be considered now.   


The Leader also spoke in defence of the circumstances on this occasion, both in terms of the unexpected speed of events and also the fact that the Staff Appointments Panel had only met two days previously.


At the request of the Chairman, and in order to ensure clarity, the meeting was adjourned for half an hour (11.25 – 11.55 a.m.).  The proposed amendments were typed up and circulated to Members, who then had the opportunity to read them before a vote was taken. 


The Leader of the Labour Group stated his support for the concept of shared service provision, but asked for an assurance from the Leader and Chief Executive that existing staff would be fully consulted and briefed throughout the process.   There was understandably some uncertainty about the future, which could affect staff morale.


The Leader acknowledged that whilst the prospects were exciting there were uncertainties for many staff.  However, he gave that commitment to staff (both at Breckland and South Norfolk), who were valued, adding that the need to maintain performance was underpinned by a need to be sensitive to staff morale.


The Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission said that there had been a meeting of the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee to discuss Shared Services on 18 May.   The meeting – and discussions around it – had been very useful, not least in establishing good relationships.   He encouraged all Members to attend future joint meetings, to help understand some of the concerns and issues being raised, as well as to air their views and inform the process.


The Chairman of the Audit Committee raised a concern about the Governance arrangements and the seeming lack of paperwork and clarity. 


The Chief Executive said that the latest version of the Business Case had been received the day before and would be circulated to Members for consideration.  


The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission then reminded Members that dates for all the joint meetings, as well as agendas and papers were available on the website.   He reiterated his invitation for all Members to attend and participate in these meetings. 


In response to questions, the Chief Executive confirmed that, under the Constitution, the Chief Executive carried the responsibility of the Head of Paid Service.   Under the proposed plan for Shared Services, and given that he would be leaving post on 24 June 2010, it seemed inappropriate to have two Chief Executives.   If adopted, the new Joint Head of Paid Services would hold that post on an interim basis until formal appointments were made.


He acknowledged that if Council accepted this recommendation, there would be an effective overlap for the short period until he formally left post on 24 June.


In drawing the discussion to a close, the Chief Executive stressed that the report was not designed to pre-empt or circumvent wider discussion, or to affect the Business Case itself, but to allow suitable interim recruitment and ensure that the project could be taken forward under aligned portfolios.


RESOLVED that the recommendations as set out on page 28 of the Agenda, incorporating the amendments as detailed above, be agreed and adopted. 


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