Changes to the way staff at Lancashire County Council are managed have come under fire.
In a heated council debate yesterday, Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of the council’s Labour group, blasted a move to delegate decisions relating to the policies, procedures and recruitment of staff to the Director of Human Resources and Payroll.
That position is held by a member of staff at One Connect, a partnership set up between the authority and telecommunications giant BT.
Coun Mein, addressing the leader of Lancashire County Council Coun Geoff Driver, said she was ‘very concerned’ the move would mean decisions were taken out of the hands of elected councillors.
She said: “What you have done is handed over our own staff’s terms and conditions to someone else.”
Coun Driver defended the move, saying it was in fact more transparent to delegate decisions to a non-political post.
One Connect is a partnership between BT and the council set up in May 2011 - with an aim of saving £100m over 10 years.
BT owns 60 per cent of One Connect, while Lancashire County Council owns 40 per cent.
The authority has so far transferred HR services, pension administration, customer service and welfare rights services over to the company.
Coun Mein said: “Where previously elected members have had an oversight monitoring of Lancashire County Council staff employment policy and procedure, that monitoring ability has been handed over now to the director of HR, who is a One Connect member of staff.
“It saddens me that we don’t believe it’s our responsibility that we should have oversight on what’s happening with our staff.
“It shows there is a lack of transparency about what we are asking our staff to do.
“There has been a total lack of consultation with the unions. I don’t think that is how a local authority should be behaving.”
The decision went before the authority’s employment committee before being given the go-ahead by full council.
Coun Driver said a recent move to cut council tax by two per cent showed they had a ‘well managed authority’.
He said: “Of course there has been consultation with the unions.
“We have an example in terms of the budget of a proper, well-managed authority.
“Over three years we have spent £250m less on administration and bureaucracy.
“This is the way - we delegate things to the managers and they can deliver it in the right way.
“What Coun Mein is asking for is an overview. She doesn’t want an overview, she wants hands on.
“What the Labour group therefore wants (is) a mechanism where they say people can come to us and get it sorted out. It’s not democratic and it’s certainly not transparent.”
Coun Mein rejected the claim, saying the previous arrangement had ‘worked well’ for a number of years.
The council’s employment committee will continue to rule on decisions relating to the council’s pay and grading structure, collective disputes, and senior council officers.