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DISAGGREGATING STRATHCLYDE SERVICES 'DEMANDING TASK'

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Strathclyde RC's chief executive Neil McIntosh emphasised today that the task of breaking up Strathclyde and disagg...
Strathclyde RC's chief executive Neil McIntosh emphasised today that the task of breaking up Strathclyde and disaggregating its services and staff to 12 new councils, three joint boards, a water authority and the Scottish Office, will be a 'demanding' one.

Speaking at a special local government 'Managing for Change' conference organised by The Herald, Mr McIntosh said that Strathclyde will have to have detailed ongoing consultations with 37 different councils and authorities plus many more bodies over the next 16 months.

'The timetable for unitary authorities to be set up and running by April 1996 is extremely tight and a matter of genuine concern. There will be a combination of pressures upon the new authorities in the first year and energies will have to be concentrated upon ensuring the best possible start in the public interest.

'The transfer of district services and staff to the new councils will be best achieved by a positive approach', added Mr McIntosh.

Mr McIntosh warned that the current timetable for extending compulsory competitive tendering is certain to cause problems and could 'positively hinder' the setting up of the new authorities.

'This is when services and staff should be focusing their efforts upon securing the best for the new councils in their early life,' said Mr McIntosh. Staff who deliver the services face the biggest uncertainty as Strathclyde is disaggregated. Mr McIntosh argued that any action which can be taken to remove or reduce their anxieties is of prime importance.

'The nature of the break-up of services is such that there is a clear need for special provisions to protect and assist regional and district council staff who may otherwise be adversely affected by changes to the nature and location of their employment. It is encouraging to note that the staff commission has recognised and advocated the need for mandatory arrangements which will be essential for this process.'

Mr McIntosh told the conference that despite the criticisms voiced about this reorganisation it also creates opportunities for new approaches to the organisation of council services. 'It is important that the new authorities should not simply perpetuate the existing patterns of committee and departmental arrangements.

'The opportunity presents itself to apply fresh thought to council structures and to determine from the start what the management culture and patterns of the new organisations will be,' he said.

Now that the timetable has been set, Mr McIntosh said, it is important that new councils are given a real prospect of success so that they will have sufficient 'space' to establish themselves and to pursue decentralised management objectives which they have to meet.

In Strathclyde, he said, there were serious implications for regional services and the new councils would have to consider whether to break up and redistribute some key services or work out amongst themselves in terms of value for money or quality of special provision arrangements for keeping some services together on a joint or special arrangement basis.

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