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					                          Norton Radstock Town Council

    Minutes of an Extraordinary meeting of the Council held in the Council
   Chamber at The Hollies, High Street, Midsomer Norton on Wednesday, 7th
                   February 2007, commencing at 7:00 pm.


Present:      Councillor C. J. Cray (Chair of Council)

              Councillors: R. Appleyard, C. J. Dando, J. Gay, M. Livsey, Mrs J.
                           Moorshead and Mrs. B. Perry;

Also Present: Mr. L. A. E. Morris (Town Clerk)
              Mrs. E. Turner (South West Provincial Employers Organisation)

Apologies:    Councillors: A. Hall, Mrs. P. Gay, P. Jovcic-Sas, Mrs. E.
              McLaren and D. Smith.

160.   Declarations of Interest

       Councillors C. J. Dando and J. Gay declared a personal interest as relatives of
       a member of staff.

161.   Purpose of Meeting

       The Town Clerk introduced Mrs. Emily Turner of South West Provincial
       Employers Organisation.

       The Council noted that the primary purpose of the meeting was to consider the
       report on the Staff Review from South West Provincial Employers and also
       several items that had become attached to the process since its
       commencement.

162.   Confidential Business

       Resolved:      That due to the confidential nature of the business to be
                      discussed, being staffing matters, the public and Press be
                      excluded from the meeting.

163.   Staff Review

       The Council considered a report on the above submitted by South West
       Provincial Employers and also a response submitted by the Town Clerk.

       Mrs. Turner advised that the submitted report represented the first stage of the
       review and explained the full process. Only a few significant changes were
       considered necessary to the Council’s staffing structure requiring changes to
       the reporting arrangements for some posts. Some posts would then be deleted
       from the Council’s staff establishment. All Job Descriptions had been updated.
       An amended version of the Town Clerk’s Job Description that included some
items that it had been recently noticed had been accidentally excluded was
circulated at the meeting. There was a need for further clarification of some
roles. She hoped that the Job Evaluation exercise could be completed by the
end of March 2007. This was considered desirable by the Chair of the
Personnel Committee as it was hoped that the exercise could be completed
before the Local Council Elections in May.

The Council debated the issue of to whom the caretaking and cleaning staff
should report. A recent and, as yet, undetermined application for Flexible
Working by one of the staff concerned was taken into consideration. Mrs.
Turner did not believe that this application was likely to cause significant
problems in respect of the review and also drew attention to the strong rights
enjoyed by women in the position of the officer concerned advising that such
applications needed to be dealt with carefully and in accordance with the
relevant Regulations in order to prevent an expensive appeal to an
Employment Tribunal. Job sharing was often used in such circumstances. It
was suggested by a Member that the application for Flexible Working might
yield savings that could open up an opportunity to provide extra administrative
cover and also some support for matters such as project working.

In respect of the undetermined application for Flexible Working concern was
expressed at the request for less evening working. This was considered likely
to cause some difficulty. However, it was considered by one Member that any
new post created (as discussed above) could cover some evening meetings. A
short discussion then ensued on the need for evening meetings where it was
stressed that such were considered necessary in order to allow better public
access and allow working people to voluntarily work as Councillors for and on
behalf of the local community.

Various criticisms were raised about administrative matters relating to
meetings. It was considered that fewer reports were needed and that minutes
should be circulated to Councillors much earlier. It was also challenged why
there was a need for the Town Clerk to have administrative support at
meetings. There was also criticism regarding the way in which the Town Clerk
undertook his role and the delays in delivering larger projects, including the
Staff Review. It was further suggested that the time spent at evening meetings
by the Town Clerk should be “bought out” in order to remove uneasiness
arising from his claimed right to “time off in lieu”. Mrs. Turner believed that
such a move would be undesirable. Some Members expressed their concern at
the manner in which the discussion was proceeding and believed that this was
not relevant to the matter at hand.

The Council considered the submitted Job Descriptions and made a number of
comments in relation to these. However, it was pointed out that considerable
effort had already gone into the preparation of these and that they had been
agreed with the staff as part of the review process. There was concern from
one Member that the Council should not become directly involved in such
management issues, as this undermined the management role of the Town
Clerk. Others, however, stressed that the Town Clerk was subservient to the
wishes of the Council and, in this regard, considered that the submitted Staff
Structure should show the Council above the Town Clerk. There was also a
strong view expressed that the role of the Office Manager should not include
being deputy to the Town Clerk, only that the Office Manager should be able
to deal with most issues in the absence of the Town Clerk. It was considered
that this needed clarification.

The matter of adequacy of resources was raised by one Member, noting that
the issue had been raised in the response of the Town Clerk to the submitted
report. The Council was of the general opinion that resources were adequate to
undertake the work of the Council at the present time. A view was expressed,
however, that the Council was overstaffed and that staffing costs needed to be
kept under close review. Another Member suggested that problems arose
because the Council did not delegate enough. The Chair of Council was of the
opinion that the Council’s delegation structure needed to be reviewed and that
Councillors should not be so deeply involved in day to day management
issues. He also believed that all staff should first report to the Office Manager
to remove problems relating to the application of policies on Discipline and
Grievance. However, another Member advised that changing structures needed
care as this could change gradings when job evaluation was undertaken.

Resolved:

       1.      That the submitted report on the Staff Review submitted by
               South West Provincial Employers be received;

       2.      That the Staff Structure submitted with the above report be
               agreed but that the Council be shown above the Town Clerk;

       3.      That Recommendation 6.1 of the report be agreed and that the
               posts of Head Caretaker and assistant Caretaker/Cleaner be
               deleted from the establishment;

       4.      That Recommendation 6.2 in the report be agreed;

       5.      That Recommendation 6.3 in the report be agreed;

       6.      That Recommendation 6.5 in the report be agreed;

       7.      That the Town Clerk be authorised to make any necessary
               adjustments to Job Descriptions (particularly deleting
               unnecessary small, detailed items that are unnecessary) and
               agree any matters necessary with South West Provincial
               Employers necessary to allow the staff review and job
               evaluation to proceed.

Note: Due to typing error the report did not contain a Recommendation 6.4.
164.   Employment Training

       Mrs. Turner advised the Council generally on matters relating to job
       evaluation, and matters relating to discipline and grievances and circulated
       handouts to assist Members.

       In response to questions Mrs. Turner advised:

              (a)    In respect of the Council’s Job Evaluation it was proposed to
                     use the Greater London Provincial Council’s scheme of job
                     evaluation as this was considered to be most accurate for the
                     purpose. This was similar to, but not the same as the “Green
                     Book” scheme;

              (b)    In respect of disciplinary proceedings all those involved should
                     be properly trained;

              (c)    CCTV and other recordings could be used as evidence in
                     disciplinary proceedings;

              (d)    Grievance proceedings were similar to Disciplinary
                     proceedings. It was important to follow procedures carefully.
                     Proper investigation of complaints was good practice;

              (e)    If a complaint was against one Member of the Council not all
                     Members would have access to any investigation report. This
                     would only be given to the Panel, the complainant and the
                     Member complained against;

              (f)    With Job Evaluation there was a risk of salaries going down as
                     well as up. Staff needed to be aware of this and a protection
                     policy would need to be in place. There was a lot of
                     complicated case law relating to this;

              (g)    The present “Single Status” changes at Bath and N. E.
                     Somerset Council were not relevant to the Town Council’s
                     review or position. The Town Council was an employer in its
                     own right;

              (h)    The Council did not have to implement any of the
                     recommendations in the report on the Staff Review if it did not
                     wish to do so. Undertaking the review was not a commitment to
                     implementation.

              Resolved:      That Mrs. Turner be thanked for her informative
                             training session and also for her attendance.

                             Mrs Turner left the meting at this point.
165.   Town Clerk – National Agreement on Salaries and Conditions of Service

       The Town Clerk advised that implementation of the above 2004 National
       agreement was tied to the Staff Review. This included updating the Town
       Clerk’s Contract of Employment. Much of the work relating to this had been
       done. Job Evaluation profiles were included in the National; Agreement but
       the Council had wished external verification of the implementation of the
       profiles. This would be done by S. W. Provincial Employers as part of the
       Staff Review. Until then no further work could be undertaken on this matter.
       However, should there be any salary increase would need to be back dated to
       1st April 2005.

              Resolved:      That the report be noted.

166.   Office Manager – Change of Working Hours

       The Council received a report from the Town Clerk relating to the above
       advising that the matter was in hand. A meeting to discuss the application for
       “Flexible Working” had been arranged. A report on the outcome would be
       made to the next meeting of the Personnel Committee. The importance of
       dealing with this matter within the timescales set down in the relevant
       regulations was stressed.

       Some Members were strongly of the opinion that this application should be
       rejected. The Town Clerk advised that good business reasons would be needed
       to reject the application. These were set out in the report. The Government’s
       stance on such matters and the “Work-Life Balance” also needed to be taken
       into consideration. This was also set out in the report.

       Some Members believed that the Town Clerk should be allowed to proceed
       with this matter without further interference in accordance with the
       Regulations and report on any implications and opportunities arising to the
       next meeting of the Personnel Committee. Some possibilities had already been
       discussed at the meeting of Council on 5th February 2007. However, the Chair
       of the Personnel Committee considered that the process of appointing the
       Office Manager had been an exacting one that had involved Members and had
       taken some time. She had no objection to a change of working hours as
       proposed, in principle, but was concerned at the general impact.
       The Chair of the Finance and General Purposes Committee referred to the
       discussion at the meeting of the Council held on 5th February 2007 regarding
       the opportunity that might arise to appoint a further member of staff. He
       expressed concern at the potential underlying costs of such a move. He also
       believed that the work of the Finance Officer needed to be reviewed. The
       Town Clerk advised that there was sufficient office accommodation and
       equipment to accommodate one further member of staff. Other costs that could
       arise would relate to Employer’s National insurance contributions and,
       possibly, employers pension fund contributions.
       One Member expressed concern that although the Council functioned it was,
       in his opinion, in chaos because of the complexities caused by staffing issues.
       Because of this he considered that the submitted application could not be
       approved as it would add further to those complexities. Others, however, drew
       attention to the legal entitlements that were enjoyed by employees and the
       need to be more flexible with working practices. It was claimed that job share
       and other arrangements could be more productive and that the Town Clerk
       was best placed to determine the most appropriate course of action. Others,
       however, believed that Member input into this decision was important and that
       the Personnel Committee should make the final decision.

       Resolved:

              1.     That the Town Clerk enters into negotiations with the post
                     holder to determine the feasibility of the request made for
                     “Flexible Working”;

              2.     That if the Town Clerk considers the request for “Flexible
                     Working” to be feasible then he considers how the job then be
                     undertaken, what tasks can be disaggregated from the post and
                     what further opportunities might arise as a result of the
                     financial savings made, possibly an additional part time
                     member of staff to be considered during the next stage of the
                     Staff Review;

              3.     That a report on the above be made to the next meeting of the
                     Personnel Committee.

167.   Policy on Time Off in Lieu

       The Town Clerk advised that this contentious matter had been deferred
       previously to be considered alongside the Staff Review. He submitted a report
       on the situation to date. The Trades Unions had unanimously rejected the
       previously proposed policy considering it far too restrictive. A copy of the
       previously proposed policy was attached to the report.

       One Member raised the issue of the recording of hours accrued and taken, the
       potential for abuse of the present arrangements (with a suggestion that staff
       should sign in and out of work) and the need for greater transparency. There
       was also objection to staff working at home and concern about the
       implications of transferring daytime working hours with attendance at evening
       meetings. The Town Clerk advised that full records were kept, there were
       proper safeguards in place to prevent abuse and regular reports were made to
       the Personnel Committee as to hours worked and taken. He was the only
       member of staff who worked from home and then only occasionally. Most
       evening meetings attended were meetings arranged for or on behalf of the
       Town Council or at which his attendance was required by the Council.
Some concern was expressed regarding the Council’s apparently increasing
desire to undertake the role of the Town Clerk. The role of the Council was to
agree policy and the job of the Town Clerk to implement agreed policy,
manage the Council’s staff and apply such safeguards as he saw fit.

Attention was drawn to the fact that most “time off in lieu” accumulated due
to attendance at evening meetings. The main concerns expressed revolved
around the Town Clerk. There was concern at the amount of hours
accumulated and taken by the Town Clerk. It was considered that senior
officers, such as the Town Clerk, should be paid to undertake the whole job
and accept that working hours in addition to their contractual hours was part of
the job.

It was considered that any policy adopted on time off in lieu should apply to
all staff, including the Town Clerk, notwithstanding his arguments regarding
contractual entitlements.

The Chair of the Finance and General Purposes Committee considered that
although much had changed in recent years in employment terms the Council
and its employment practices had not, in his opinion. He believed that there
was a problem caused by a lack of flexibility on the part of some employees.
He did not believe that staff should have the right to accumulate any time off
in lieu and that all working hours should be part of contracted hours,
especially for senior staff. He believed that if time off in lieu was permitted
that it should either be taken off in the week in which it was accumulated or
lost. He also believed that Councillors should be advised of all staff absences.

The Chair of the Personnel Committee advised that the issue of time off in lieu
had been a matter of great concern to her now for some time and informed the
Council of issues that she had with the Town Clerk over the matter during her
time as Chair of Council. This had led her to refuse to sign off applications for
leave and time off in lieu that was being booked, particularly towards the end
of her time as Chair. She had particular concerns about the Town Clerk and his
taking of time off in lieu and strongly believed that time the Town Clerk spent
at evening meetings should be a part of contracted hours. She believed that
was the position of most Clerks. She also claimed that the Chief Executive and
Directors of Bath and N. E. Somerset Council did not take time off in time lieu
and, consequently, neither should the Town Clerk. However, one Member did
not believe that direct comparisons could be made of the Town Clerk and
senior Bath and N. E. Somerset Council employees who were paid
significantly more.

Councillor Dando believed that discussion of this matter was straying into
dangerous waters. It had to be recognised that there were different types of
time off in lieu. There were entitlements to time off under the European
Working Time Directive; there were contractual rights to consider and also the
fact that there was no recompense for overtime for some workers. Proper
processes had to be followed before contracts could be amended. A policy
could not be imposed simply because a minority of Members had a concern
about the contractual rights of an individual member of staff. The views of
trades unions had to be taken into account. He could not see that there was any
reason to change arrangements that had been in place for many years and
appeared to have worked quite satisfactorily. He also considered that the
culture of working long hours should be strongly discouraged as it was in
many ways destructive for the people involved and their families. One
Member suggested that the Town Clerk could opt out of the provisions of the
European Working Time Directive.

The Chair of the Finance and General Purposes Committee was of the opinion
that the views of the trades unions were no longer as important as they had
been and did not have to be taken account of. Employers had significantly
more powers now than previously and could change contracts of employment
if they so wished. This was currently happening at Bath and N. E. Somerset
Council. However, his understanding of the current dispute at B&NES
Council was disputed by other Members and others considered that the views
of the trades unions remained relevant and important.

Councillor Dando drew attention to his concerns regarding the attitude of
some Members of the Council regarding this matter and the treatment of the
Town Clerk in particular during the discussion. He was of the view that the
Council was at risk of acting unlawfully and that an Employment Tribunal
case could be a consequence and that could prove very expensive. All that
appeared to be necessary was to negotiate a reasonable time limit for the
taking of any time off in lieu to stop any significant accumulation.

The Chair of the Personnel Committee was of the opinion that this matter
should be concluded at this meeting if at all possible and proposed an
extension of time of ten minutes past 10:00 p.m. in accordance with Standing
Orders. However, the proposal was not seconded.

       Resolved:       That further consideration of this matter be deferred
                       until after the Staff Review.



                   The meeting finished at 9:57 p.m.



                Signed:………………………………



                Dated:………………………………..

				
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