Colin Wright reports from the Society of Directors of Personnel Scotland (SODOPS) annual conference, held at The Turnberry Hotel near Glasgow from 8-10 November
Lincolnshire County Council transferred more than 1,000 IT and finance staff to an outside agency and made savings of £5m over 18 months.
Delegates at the annual Scottish personnel directors’ conference last week heard a lively presentation on whether Scottish local authorities should implement innovative new ways of delivering services by introducing outside private agencies to carry out support services in the future.
In the session, sponsored by Personnel Today, Gail Shadlock, personnel manager for Lincolnshire County Council,
explained, “The council were looking for best value and to upgrade their IT and finance departments but didn’t have the money or the will to do it from within the council. We invited tenders for support services and eventually accepted one from the Hyder group which produced savings of £5m on an annual £30m budget over a period of 18 months.”
She added, “It has provided us with a new IT system which we would never have been able to afford and is constructing a new business centre which, again, would not have been built without this deal.”
The council transferred 1,088 staff to Hyder and there is some joint working between the council and the company. There have been some job losses but the unions were involved from the beginning and Shadlock said there have been no problems to date over the transfer.
Mike Fuller, MSF professional officer, who took part in the debate, said new approaches to the delivery of services are needed in local authorities.
Jones tells HR to take centre stage
Jackie Jones enters the second year of her presidency of the Society of Directors of Personnel Scotland acutely aware that the last has been "one of the most challenging you could imagine".
Her members currently have a selective, indefinite strike by Unison members on their hands. They have also been trying to cope with the recent flood and fuel crises which have exacerbated an already difficult situation with local authorities who are undergoing major changes in the way they operate.
Jones explained, "Since last year we have had the single status agreements signed off, major job evaluations are under way and the challenge for the coming year is to implement these two major issues. It is clear that the pace of change is increasing and that the whole way in which councils will operate in the future is undergoing a fundamental change."
She hopes HR will "be at the centre of all organisations. HR professionals should be the
leaders and part of the decision-making and creative process which institutes and implements change.
"They know how to add value, how to get more from the organisation and should be there to be
a part of the process of developing and expanding the organisation."
We asked conference delegates: "What can HR professionals do to help with the current crisis in Scotland’s local government caused by strike action?"
Gerry McInerney, director of personnel, West Dunbartonshire Council
"We are looking for continuing dialogue and it is important that we don’t escalate the situation and harm the existing industrial relations during this period by trying to cover our services which have been lost through strike action with moves which might inflame the strikers.
There are also dangers now for future bargaining as the workforce has been fragmented by the acceptance by the TGWU and the GMB of the deal and its rejection by Unison."
Peter Hay, director of personnel, Aberdeenshire Council
"We have always had a very good working relationship with the unions in our area but it is always a test of relations if they can continue through difficult times and this is clearly a very difficult time. We want to maintain these relations because we have a lot of work we are going to be doing together in the future including partners in change and development of the way services are delivered so we are looking at ways of maintaining relations throughout this time."