Headlines: May 16th, 2002

Engaging staff from the outset of the change process through to delivery is critical for success. This is a key finding from the review of the Best Value regime headed by local government minister Nick Raynsford. Council managers are urged to engage staff at all levels. There should be consultation with key stakeholders, including staff and trade unions, at an early stage before the options for improving services are more narrowly defined. Driving forward change from the top without engaging staff will not succeed.

Nick Raynsford recognizes that sometimes within local government, staff and their representatives are seen as obstacles to change rather than a positive source of ideas and energy. This leads to a reluctance on the part of both management and trade unions to engage fully with each other. Managers may fear that staff and unions will automatically obstruct changes; and trade unions are reluctant to take part in discussions which they do not believe are part of a genuine decision-making process. It is vital to convince both sides of the benefits of early and effective engagement in a process which will help shape the outcomes.

Other recommendations from the review include taking a broader and more innovative view when challenging the way things are done now, not allowing cost savings to drive out quality, and more joint working and partnerships with other public bodies and the voluntary sector.

It was announced in March this year that a Code of Conduct would be introduced to protect the rights of workers employed by private companies to deliver public services. The Code will protect new recruits working on local authority contracts alongside transferred staff. Contractors will have to offer employment to new staff on fair and reasonable terms and conditions which are broadly comparable to those of transferred employees. Pension rights will also be safeguarded.