Important – Support Services Proposals
Unison and GMB reps met senior managers on Thursday afternoon to discuss the proposals which will go to Policy and Resources Committee on 3rd December.
The central proposal is that a number of services would be provided across a partnership called ORBIS, which would consist of BHCC and East Sussex and Surrey County Council. So ORBIS would be responsible for the provision of their services across the three councils.
These services are
Human Resources and Organisational Development
Legal Services (a slightly different proposal involving West Sussex as well as East Sussex and Surrey).
These are “support services” providing services to the rest of the council.
In addition it is also proposed that the Revenues and Benefits Service would be part of the arrangement. although this is not a “support service” and is not a service which is provided by the other two councils (being county councils).
This is essentially what is known as a “shared services” arrangement, and these can take many forms, sometimes they involve the private sector, but this one is being presented as “a compelling alternative to outsourcing options”.
Union reps asked a number of questions of management, and whilst we got some answers, there is clearly much that they still haven’t worked out. The main points to come out were –
ORBIS is not being set up as a legal entity – it cannot employ staff. All current staff would remain with their current employer on their current contract of employment,
the picture regarding what would happen as vacancies arise is less clear
ORBIS would be run by a management board drawn from the three councils and there would be elected member involvement from the three councils too. It is not clear what would happen if the “partners” were to have a serious falling-out about something.
We were obviously concerned with issues around where staff might be expected to work but no details was forthcoming on this.
It is important to be clear that, however ORBIS starts out, there are no guarantees about how it would develop (forever being “a long time” as the Interim Director of Finance and Resources put it!).
Also, this does not mean that the threat posed by budget cuts is going to go away – we still have this to deal with.
Unison will work with our Regional Officers and our colleagues in the other UNISON branches and as ever our priority will be to defend members’ jobs and conditions.
Brighton & Hove UNISON