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STAFF COMMISSION ATTACKED FOR 'LIMP' RECRUITMENT ADVICE

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The Staff Commission has been attacked for its failure to establish clearly how continuing authorities should recru...
The Staff Commission has been attacked for its failure to establish clearly how continuing authorities should recruit staff.

In a draft circular issued this week, the commission only 'recommends' councils to give staff from outgoing authorities a fair chance at securing jobs.

In an attempt to ensure fair play, the commission wants to scrutinise the staffing structures of all continuing authorities. Councils will have to supply staffing structure plans, identifying the change of role of each post and how each job will be filled.

These will then be circulated for comment among outgoing councils and union representatives.

The staffing structures for top management will have to be submitted to the commission within two months after the start of shadow running.

If the commission is not satisfied with the structure it will be sent back to the council. Any council failing to comply with a request for information will be referred to the environment secretary.

The circular comes in a week in which the commission published the full text of its legal advice from Professor Robert Upex on a range of review staffing issues. It claimed that Professor Upex's advice was 'on the same lines' as the advice obtained by councils from Dr Patrick Elias QC.

But this failed to quell disquiet among councils over what is seen as the commission's continuing failure to lay down a firm line.

'More than anything else local authorities want clarity,' Association of District Councils assistant secretary Rob Pinkham said. He said the commission should insist that continuing authorities establish fresh staffing structures and ensure a level playing field for staff from outgoing councils.

Unison described the draft circular as 'a bit limp'.

'They tell you in private that they want to create a level playing field but they have not grasped the opportunity to do that,' Owen Davies, Unison's review co-ordinator, said.

'The circular needs to be tougher,' Mr Davies said. 'It needs to say that it is not a option to be fair but they are obliged to be fair.'

In an attempt to fill the gap councils and the union representatives met on Wednesday to take the first step in drawing up a national agreement on how staff should be treated during reorganisation.

Adviser to the Society of Chief Personnel Officers Tim Rothwell warned that the commission may not have allowed enough time for councils to draw up proposed structures.

The publication of Professor Upex's advice also led councils to reiterate their view that all staff should be transferred to incoming authorities. Using Professor Upex's advice the commission claimed earlier last month that it was open to outgoing authorities to make redundant staff who failed to obtain a job with incoming councils.

The local authority associations and the Local Government Management Board say this approach will leave councils open to legal challenges for failing to comply with TUPE.

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