Corby council leader concerned about lack of 'meaningful engagement' with unions in unitary planning

Cllr Tom Beattie says he is hearing that unions representing local government staff want to be more involved in the reorganisation process.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:01 pm
Corby Council's leader Tom Beattie told fellow councillors what he had been hearing last night.

The leader of Corby Council has voiced concerns that the trade unions are not being ‘meaningfully engaged’ in the unitary reorganisation discussions.

There will be big changes and most likely some redundancies for the 5,000 staff who work within the five councils that will merge to form the new North Northants unitary authority in April next year.

At a meeting of the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee meeting last night (February 10) Cllr Tom Beattie, who leads the Labour-run Corby Council, said he had heard that some trade unions were unhappy with how things are going.

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He said: “I have been hearing some worrying responses about what the trade unions feel is a lack of meaningful engagement. They don’t want it to be a tick box exercise. We want the trade unions to feel that their voice is being heard.”

There will need to be negotiations with the unions about a number of issues, such as terms and conditions. As it stands the different councils all give different benefits to their staff, which will need to be bought in line before the new council is created.

Northamptonshire County Council’s chief executive Theresa Grant, who is also lead officer for the unitary reorganisation, said she considered the issue to be in part down to the union’s lack of feedback to their own members.

She told Cllr Beattie: “That feedback made itself back to me. I think we need to make sure the representatives that are attending the meetings are feeding back to their own members as well. I feel there is a bit of a disjoint there.”

Leader of Kettering Council Cllr Russell Roberts said: “We have always totally committed to talking with the staff and the public and the unions. We have always been genuine and we need to ensure the message is getting through.”

1,500 staff are employed by Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough councils – with some staff shared across authorities – and 3,464 are employed at Northamptonshire County Council.

The new North Northants unitary will provide all the services currently delivered by the boroughs and county authority under one roof.

There are just 86 days until the shadow authority is elected in May. This shadow council will exist alongside the existing councils and set the budget for the new unitary for when it is created in 2021.

Last night it was said a blueprint for the new shadow authority would be ready in June. A team of staff under the Future Northants banner are currently working out the details of what needs to happen. They have just finished the ‘discovery’ phase, in which all relevant information and data was gathered and now have been into the ‘design’ phase.

There is still much detail to be made public. It is unknown where the north Northants shadow authority will hold its meetings, as each of the current four district and borough councils in the North have their own council chambers and offices.

However at yesterday’s meeting it was decided at what times the shadow authority will meet.

Cllr Beattie said potential candidates who will go to the ballot box in May needed to know when the full council and committee meetings would be held. He then proposed an amendment to the suggestion put forward by the governance working group and recommended the meetings take place at 7pm instead of 2pm and 6pm.

The amendment was supported by a number of councillors and voted through.

The unitary legislation is expected to be ratified by the House of Lords this afternoon (Feb 11). It was debated in the House of Commons yesterday, however only Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer turned up to the event, with Kettering’s MP Philip Hollobone, Corby MP Tom Pursglove and Wellingborough MP Peter Bone absent.

All seven MPs that represent Northamptonshire had supported the unitary reorganisation which was ordered by the Government in the wake of the financial collapse of Northamptonshire County Council in 2018.