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JEYNES SLATES DOE OVER IGNORED ADVICE

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The government's failure to accept the recommendations of the Staff Commission is undermining its position and forc...
The government's failure to accept the recommendations of the Staff Commission is undermining its position and forcing its three commissioners to consider their position, one admitted this week.

In a speech to a Capita Training seminar Colin Jeynes acknowledged that few in local government circles can spare a 'kind word' for the advisory body.

'A lot of people are still being kind but many of them would rather be saying 'Why are you still here then?'. It is a question we are currently asking ourselves, but for the time being my view is you can't affect the meal if you leave the kitchen - and that applies even if the meal looks like being a dog's breakfast.'

Mr Jeynes attacked the DoE for ignoring many of its redundancy compensation recommendations in recent draft regulations. The DoE has not responded to its proposals for detriment compensation, and its circular on staff transfers has attracted criticism from councils and unions.

'Although no decision has yet been made on compensation, the consultation paper's woefully inadequate proposals have threatened to cut a leg off the chair on which we stand,' Mr Jeynes said.

Mr Jeynes also challenged the DoE to back any future commission recommendations about continuing authorities. 'Ministers have repeatedly assured local government that the Staff Commission would overcome the recruitment problem of continuing authorities; if therefore we conclude that radical steps are warranted, and the local government bodies agree, it is my assumption that the secretary of state will back those steps,' he said.

He was also critical of the DoE's response to recommendations for hybrid unitary/two-tier solutions in different review areas. These have created what the commission calls 'remnant counties'. The problem with these is 'that the DoE does not seem yet to have made up their minds whether a remnant county is a new authority or a continuing one!'

The Association of County Councils has virulently opposed continuing authorities but now argues for remnant counties to be treated as continuing authorities.

There is concern that top managers might have to reapply for their jobs if remnant counties were designated new authorities. Some fear councils would reduce salaries on the grounds that a job was changed by the loss of responsibility for services in some areas.

The commission has faced stiff criticism at meetings with councils around the country. Bill Wheeler, Labour chair of Hampshire CC's personnel sub-committee, said: 'It seemed to me the Staff Commission wasn't doing very much except absorbing punches for the government.'

Mr Jeynes was frank about the Staff Commission's weak position. 'Assuming there is a worthwhile task for the Staff Commission to continue doing (and the jury is still out on that one), there may well need to be a rethink of the process. Whether the present Staff Commission are the people to do that is one question; whether they would want to do that is another,' he said.

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