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Human Contract

Human ContractThere are some appalling liberties being taken with procedure at Fylde Council these days. Items are going straight to the Politburo under spurious claims that they can't wait when proper alternatives routes are available. The Commissar is taking power to himself at every opportunity. The latest instance is to transfer Fylde's 'Human Resource Service' to Blackpool Council. He has taken this as an 'Individual Member Decision'.

It is not a proper decision made by the Full Council, nor even in this instance a decision taken by the Politburo Cabinet. It's not even a decision made by the Portfolio Holder for that service.

It can't be made by the Portfolio Holder because the cost is so high that it's outside their spending limit. If the Council or the Cabinet don't take it, it has to be taken by the Leader himself.

In the words of the Draft Decision Notice "Final approval [is] to be given on the 12th December 2007. In the opinion of the Chief Executive, the decision is an urgent one as defined in the overview and scrutiny procedure rule 8 and will therefore not be subject to call-in."

So they're even preventing other Councillors from having the decision examined through the Call-in process.

It's interesting to note that the Scrutiny Committee Chairman (who would usually deal with a Call-in) has been recently promoted into that post by the Commissar. Of course, it's none other than our Meteoric friend Councillor Karen Buckley. So how likely is she to object to the plan to exclude her from being able to examine the decision made by her mentor?

In simple terms, the reason given for the urgency is that they cocked up the timing of preparing the scheme. They want to make the change and transfer the existing staff so it has budget effect from next April at the latest, but they didn't start the job soon enough, or at least they hadn't got the work done in time to meet the statutory timetable for publishing their decisions before they are taken. It's another administrative cock up, not unlike the accounting fiasco earlier in the year.

But if you're the Commissar, the expedient is simple. You just by-pass the system using exceptional special urgent powers.

This is an abuse of such power.

Using extra-ordinary powers to cover up administrative incompetence is one of the hallmarks of a corrupt Dictator running a Banana Republic.

You can see for yourself the tortuous and slippery administrative process that has had to be used. Have a look at the draft decision notice on Fylde Council's website.

So what's going on? And why is this important, (and so expensive)?

Well, this decision (timed to come into effect on 12 December 2007 when everyone else is getting ready for Christmas) is to enter into a binding contract with Blackpool Council (it's actually known as a 'Service Level Agreement') to provide a defined level of Human Resource Services for Fylde.

The Contract will come into force on New Year's Day (1 Jan 2008) and last for around six years, until 31 August 2014.

Either party can end the contract by giving 12 months notice in writing to expire on or after 1 Jan 2010, so we're locked in for at least two years unless there is some contractual failure.

On present employee levels, it will cost Fylde 199,000 a year. (Yes, that was almost two hundred thousand pounds a year)

60% of this is a fixed cost. So 119,000 a year is payable to Blackpool irrespective of how many employees (sorry, Human Resources) Fylde has. (Remember also there is a plan to transfer 200 of Fylde's staff to Wyre Council's payroll next autumn)

The other 40% is payable per head of employees (Human Resources) and, according to the contract, it's based on 555 people (Human Resources), for which the charge in 2008 will equate to 143.42p per employee.

Quite where the 555 people comes from we're not sure. When the Commissar talks to Wyre about taking his staff on, he tells them he has about 350 staff.

We suspect Blackpool has been a bit crafty here, and got him to count part-timers as individuals instead of aggregating them to full time equivalent posts which is the normal way of expressing staff numbers.

This way of course, Blackpool gets more money if Fylde increases its proportion of part timers - as has been the trend in recent years.

The cost of the service will increase in line with the national Retail Price Index as at March 31st of each financial year. At today's rate, the RPI is 4.3%. This means that the Commissar has locked us in to a contract that will increase in cost by 25% over its term.

Assuming Blackpool can spare the HR Professionals, Fylde can also buy in extra services (outside the ones that are specified in the contract). These might be subject to specific quotations but, as Blackpool say, "As a guide, consultancy services are charged at 250 per day."

Oh, and Blackpool is allowed to subcontract part of the services at its discretion, so we imagine if Blackpool can find someone to provide the services more cheaply, (which ought not to prove too difficult) it could subcontract the job to someone else, and pocket the difference for the next six years.

At present rates and values, the contract is worth around 1.2 million over its term.

It represents the classic sort of financial incompetence we have come to expect from this administration - no understanding of basic civic housekeeping, and grossly inflated overhead costs so there is nothing left to provide proper public services with.

The Commissar will probably argue this is a good deal for Fylde taxpayers.

We guess he will tell you that if it was fully staffed, the cost of Fylde employing its own staff would be even higher than 200,000 a year.

All this shows is how profligate he is with our money. He has no idea how to control a budget and how to focus expenditure on things that are important to local people. We believe he has delusions of grandeur. He's really wants to be an MP and he's using Fylde as a vehicle to display his civic manhood and to establish a CV for the next national election. It's all about image and perception for him.

In the 1970s and 80s, when Fylde Council was run by people who understood what Local Government was for, and people who took a pride in their civic housekeeping ability, the Council employed more staff than it does today. After disbanding its 'work study' department to save overheads, it ran its Personnel service (as Human Resources used to be called) for several years using one officer and one clerical assistant. When that Personnel Officer retired, he was not replaced, and the Personnel function was devolved to where it should be - to the managers responsible for running their departments. The Personnel overheads for statistical monitoring were collated as a part-time job for one clerical assistant, and the recharge to other departments for this service was less than 20,000 a year.

Even when a new Chief Executive decided he wanted a replacement full time Personnel Adviser, the staffing was just one officer with shared clerical support.

As at today, we understand there are five staff (well, actually four at the moment because the senior has left, probably prompting the change).

So it may well be that with the overheads they attract (which quite possibly might be more than 100% of their actual cost), a staff of five could cost more than 200,000 a year.

(The former post of Head of Personnel was being paid a salary of 35,000 a year several years ago, and that's without the car user allowances and so on, that would increase their cost even before the overheads from other departments are applied)

Cutting Human Resources back to two staff would leave something like 175,000 a year extra for service delivery.

That's equivalent to an awful lot of Christmas Lights, or replacement playground equipment or whatever. And it's an every-year saving.

The Commissar and his minions will probably answer this by saying there's a lot of legislation that keeps coming out about employment, and its a statutory need, and we can't afford to fall foul of the law in such matters, so we need the best advice possible.

There is a host of such spurious arguments listed in the attempt to justify the ludicrous overhead expenditure on 'HR' this contract commits Fylde to.

It's all poppycock

The existing managers are bound by much more legislation on driving and road traffic, but they don't have a five man team to advise them on not breaking traffic laws do they? No. They employ managers who are responsible for ensuring their drivers have a current valid driving licence, are insured, that the vehicle has an MOT, is roadworthy, and the drivers know what they are, and are not, supposed to do. That's part of what managers are for.

In short, it is part of the manager's responsibility to ensure he complies with the traffic laws.

Why on earth should the job of employing someone be any more difficult and require a specialist team?

But anyway, it's too late now. The decision has been made by the Commissar himself, and the commitment entered into.

Pretty soon the're will be no-one left at Fylde. Even we're losing track of the staff he has already transferred to other Councils and recontracted via Service Level Agreements and the like. Public Relations, Health & Safety, Revenues and Benefits, and now Human Resources have all gone to Blackpool. Preston is providing the senior Financial services for Fylde, and next Autumn, he plans for another 200 staff including bin men, gardeners, street sweepers to transfer onto Wyre's payroll. He's also looking at the sport and leisure staff, and the support services they need being transferred to Wyre.

We wonder if his partners in the Wyre Joint Working Scheme (for which read 'staff takeover') are happy with this? Are the Fylde staff that transfer to Wyre going to remain with their personnel officer in Blackpool? Are Wyre about to dispense with their own 'Human Resources' staff and contract with Blackpool as well?

Or is our Commissar simply going to carry on paying the 119,000 a year fixed cost to Blackpool, even when his staff has gone down from 350 to 150 next autumn.

Is there any wonder Fylde never seems to have any money?

Dated:  20 December 2007


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