Memorandum by Bristol City UNISON Branch
1. I would like to bring to the attention
of the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee an issue that has affected
a number of our members that work for two community-led regeneration
partnerships in Bristol, but has national implications.
2. UNISON supports the government's policies
to address the problems of deprived areas through regeneration
programmes and its neighbourhood renewal strategy.
3. In the past, regeneration programmes
have been run directly by council staff, or be secondees from
council, health authorities, police and other agencies. One of
the lessons from past programmes is to encourage community ownership
of regeneration programmes so that the solutions meet local needs
and are long term. Consequently, community partnerships, such
as Community at Heart New Deal for Communities (NDC) partnership
(Barton Hill) and Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership
in Bristol, wish to directly employ the regeneration staff that
work in their respective areas.
4. UNISON is not against this trend, however
it is concerned that the employment conditions (particularly pension
arrangements) of people working for regeneration initiatives should
be comparable whether they work for the council, the police, as
secondees from different agencies or directly for the community.
5. This is an issue of both fairness and
equity, and of recruitment and retention of the good quality staff
necessary to successfully deliver complex regeneration initiatives
in often challenging environments. There is an increasingly competitive
market for regeneration staff, many of whom will be from local
government, central government, the health service, probation
etc. The shortage of staff with the right skills and experience
has been well documented in the regeneration press and elsewhere.
6. The provision of comparable, transferable
pension arrangements would support the Government's policy of
encouraging the movement of staff between sectorslocal
government, health, police, civil service and community sectorsto
gain new skills and experience to inform regeneration practice
and policy for the benefit of the individual, employers and the
sector as a whole. The Government's "A New Commitment to
Neighbourhood Renewal", says "the Government is committed
to ensuring a step change in the level of skills and knowledge
of everyone involved in neighbourhood renewal . . . to equip public
sector professionals with the skills they need to play a more
effective part in neighbourhood renewal".
7. These principles have been endorsed in
the Cabinet Office's "Staff Transfer in the Public Sector:
Statement of Practice" (January 2000), HM Treasury's Note
"Staff Transfer from Central Government: A Fair Deal for
Staff Pensions" (June 1999) and DETR Circular 10/99 (paragraphs
91-93, Dec 1999) that staff who undertake "government"
work should receive a fair deal as regards their pension arrangements,
that the public sector is a good employer and that people employed
in the public sector, directly or indirectly, are its biggest
8. The issue that has been raised is how
these principles can be implemented in practice. Most issues around
conditions of employment (eg pay, holidays, working hours) can
be resolved through local negotiations. Which is not to say there
are not problems around fixed term contracts, training, low levels
of staffing to meet both the requirements of funders and the expectations
of the community for change and improvement leading to stress,
long hours, over-worked staff and burn-out.
9. However, the issue of pension arrangements
has caused problems, as our experience illustrates.
10. Community at Heart NDC partnership (Barton
Hill) and Hartcliffe and Withywood Community Partnership are responsible
for managing regeneration programmes in different parts of Bristol,
with Bristol City Council acting as the accountable body. Both
partnerships applied to join the Avon Pension Fund so they could
offer their staff the opportunity to be members of the local government
11. The Avon Pension Fund agreed in principle
that both partnerships could join and have admitted body status.
However, this was on condition that as both partnerships have
fixed term funding that Bristol City Council, as the accountable
body, would act as guarantor for any outstanding pension liabilities,
if there are any (along with all the other liabilities and assets
that may remain at the end of the regeneration funding).
12. The normal employer's contributions
during the lifetime of the regeneration funding would be grant
eligible and could be claimed back. However the concern is over
any liabilities that may (or may not) arise at the end of the
funding such as any residual early retirement, ill-health and
death grant costs.
13. UNISON supported the requests of the
two community partnerships.
14. However, Bristol City Council's view
was that such potential liabilities were unquantifiable and therefore
it felt unable to agree to support the two community partnerships
application for admitted body status and to act as guarantor.
15. Inconclusive discussions and correspondence
have taken place with civil servants of the then DTLR around this
16. What this has highlighted is a number
of gaps in government policy and practice.
17. Firstly, whether this is a national
responsibility or a local one.
18. Secondly, that these employment issues
are not picked up in the agreements that set up these community
partnerships. There is usually a pressure to meet funding deadlines
and to get the money spent so these agreements are often produced
in a rush. As such significant issues get missed out and have
to be addressed, usually unsatisfactorily, after the event.
19. These agreements are usually drawn up
between regeneration policy and finance staff in the local authority
(or government office/RDA) and members of the community, and do
not involve people with personnel and employment experience. When
they are drawn up there are usually no staff employed by the community
partnership to be taken into account or to be consulted with,
and as a consequence the trade unions are not consulted either.
20. Thirdly, if there are no employees in
post when these partnerships are set up TUPE regulations, which
would normally ensure these issues are considered, do not apply.
21. In conclusion the lessons we have learnt
and the recommendations we would ask the Sub-committee to consider
A. That the principles of comparable conditions
of employment for staff working on regeneration programmes, regardless
of employer or sector, should be endorsed on the grounds of: (a)
recruitment and retention of good quality staff needed to successful
deliver regeneration; (b) fairness and equity; and (c) encouraging
the movement of staff between different sectors.
B. That the government takes comes forward
with concrete proposals to resolve the problem of pension arrangements
for staff working for community-led partnerships managing government-funded
regeneration programmes. Possible solutions include:
a. Staff of such community partnerships to
be able to join a civil service pension scheme thus transferring
any residual liability to central government.
b. Community partnerships to be able to join
the local government pension scheme with admitted body status,
but with central government acting as guarantor and accepting
any residual liabilities at the end of the funding. This approach
has been taken with the Bristol Development Corporation and the
Bristol Education Action Zone.
c. That pension arrangements are included
in the funding agreement between the government and the accountable
body (usually the local authority). This would make it an obligation
on the accountable body to act as guarantor for any pension arrangements
and that any residual liabilities were eligible costs.
C. That trade unions are consulted in the
setting up of community-led partnerships that will be delivering
government regeneration programmes and that trade unions are actively
encouraged to be involved in regeneration initiatives, as many
of their members will live in deprived areas.
D. That the points raised in this submission
need to be addressed in the implementation of the Government's
plans, set out in the recently published "The Role of the
Voluntary and Community Sector in Service Delivery: A cross-cutting
Should the Sub-Committee wish to discuss any
of the points raised then we are happy to attend as witnesses
and give oral evidence.