Local democracy during coronavirus

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Agenda and minutes

Venue: The Thornton Room - Ground Floor, West Offices (G039). View directions

Contact: Chris Elliott  Email: christopher.elliott@york.gov.uk

No. Item


Declarations of Interest

At this point, Members are asked to declare:


·        any personal interests not included on the Register of Interests

·        any prejudicial interests or

·        any disclosable pecuniary interests


which they may have in respect of business on this agenda.



Members were asked to declare any personal interests not included on the Register of Interests, any prejudicial interests or any disclosable pecuniary interests that they had in respect of business on this agenda. None were declared.


Public Participation

It is at this point in the meeting that members of the public who have registered to speak can do so.  The deadline for registering is 5.00pm on Friday 2 November 2018.  Members of the public can speak on agenda items or matters within the remit of the committee.


To register to speak please contact the Democracy Officer for the meeting, on the details at the foot of the agenda.


Filming, Recording or Webcasting Meetings

Please note that, subject to available resources, this meeting will be filmed and webcast, or recorded, including any registered public speakers who have given their permission. The broadcast can be viewed at http://www.york.gov.uk/webcasts or,if sound recorded, this will be uploaded onto the Council’s website following the meeting.


Residents are welcome to photograph, film or record Councillors and Officers at all meetings open to the press and public. This includes the use of social media reporting, i.e. tweeting.  Anyone wishing to film, record or take photos at any public meeting should contact the Democracy Officer (whose contact details are at the foot of this agenda) in advance of the meeting.


The Council’s protocol on Webcasting, Filming & Recording of Meetings ensures that these practices are carried out in a manner both respectful to the conduct of the meeting and all those present.  It can be viewed at http://www.york.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/11406/protocol_for_webcasting_filming_and_recording_of_council_meetings_20160809.pdf


It was reported that there had been one registration to speak under the Council’s public participation scheme.


Andrea Dudding, Lead Convenor & Branch Secretary UNISON, spoke in support of the call-in. She stated that the union were supportive of a more positive and pro-active approach being taken toward sickness absence and also welcomed the comments made by the call-in Members. She highlighted the union’s concerns that an external service could not manage the long term cultural changes and support they felt were needed. Finally she stated that there should have been more engagement with the unions before the report was produced.



Called-in Item Post Decision: Attendance Management and Wellbeing pdf icon PDF 214 KB

To consider the decision made by the Executive at a meeting

held on 18 October 2018 in relation to the above item, which has

been called in by Councillors Myers, Boyce and Crawshaw (Labour) and Councillors Craghill, D’Agorne and Taylor (Green) in

accordance with the Council’s Constitution. A cover report is

attached setting out the reasons for the call-in and the remit and

powers of the Customer & Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee (Calling-In) in relation to the call-in, together with the original report and the decision of the Executive.


Additional documents:


Members considered a report which set out the reasons for the call-in and the role of the Committee, together with options available to it under the agreed post-decision call-in arrangements. In accordance with those arrangements Councillors Myers, Boyce and Crawshaw (Labour Group) and Councillors Craghill, D’Agorne and D Taylor (Green Group) had called in the above item for the following reasons:


Labour Group


·        The report provides insufficient detail on the root causes of stress related absence as the biggest cause of work-related absence at the council. This information is essential to determine the appropriate response;

·        The omission from the report of historic rates of absence over an extended period and the interplay with factors such as shrinking budgets, also prevents a thorough understanding of, and response to, the sickness absence issue;

·        Some analysis of the council’s previous experience of contracting an external provider to help manage adult social care staff absence is missing from the report;

·        An under-resourced central HR function means the preferred proposal cannot be compared against internal efforts to address the problem because the latter have not been resourced, contrary to the Executive Leader’s assertion; and

·        The Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism’s expressed concerns about ‘financially incentivising companies to drive people back to work’ in cases of stress-related absences not being ‘the type of approach that is appropriate for people in this situation’ has not been adequately addressed in taking this decision, given the new model is predicated on exactly this approach.


Green Group


·        We believe the Executive should revisit its decision to support Option 2 rather than Option 1 and should reconsider recruiting an in-house dedicated team to address problems associated with the current levels of sickness absence in the authority.

·        It should also reconsider what an appropriate brief should be for such a dedicated team. The current decision commits the Council to taking a target based approach to reducing sickness absence without any apparent consideration of what the root causes of current sickness absence levels might be. It commits the authority to taking an enforcement based approach which aims to set up every manager in a policing role with their ‘performance’ based on meeting targets and the likelihood that a remote private company will be bullying staff who are ill into returning to work ‘at the earliest opportunity’. We believe the brief for a dedicated team should not initially include specific targets but should begin with a requirement to listen confidentially to all staff, to review work demands against current capacities and to support and empower managers to come up with options for work programmes that can be delivered with existing resources in reasonable timescales.


They added:


·        We know that following a 40% cut to Council budgets many Officers in the authority are still attempting to cover 2 3 jobs or even more and it would not be surprising if levels of sickness absence were related to this situation. Mindfulness classes and a table tennis table are not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


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