Monday, 9 February 2015

Regalia, who pays?





"During a recent committee meeting dealing with the provision of regalia it became clear that some proposals such as dis-assembling the current chains of office and creating new chains from the various pieces were simply not viable. With that in mind I proposed that the cost of any new regalia should be met by reducing the amount of Special Responsibility Allowance payable to Councillors over the next few years. The rationale is simple, such items have rarely been purchased from the public purse, instead they have been presented by groups, businesses and others as gifts when such donations were common place. Society is different and it is possible that such generosity does not easily present itself. The Chief Executive has suggested that she believes new regalia will be presented to the Council and on that basis I have withdrawn my proposal with the intention that should such donations not be forthcoming I will once again make the same proposal. If needed we should have the confidence as Councillors to say will shall put our hands in our own pockets rather than taking the view that the ratepayer is the first port of call when seeking funds rather than the last port of call when all else has failed."

Health and Well-being must be core of new council vision

"For many years it has been recognised that health promotion and ill-health prevention leads to a better quality of life and a reduction in demand on health services. The reform of local government was always intended to deliver better outcomes in addressing social deprivation and promoting healthier lifestyles. That means that community planning, well-being, sport and leisure amongst others can all be used to integrate services with other agencies to the benefit of residents. More playgrounds mean safer healthier children, better sports facilities means healthier residents a commitment to build healthy communities means a better society. Mid and East Antrim Council has a desire to influence others such as health bodies on how they deliver services, such influence would be weakened considerably if we as a council did not show that promoting a healthier society was one of our core objectives."

Change in working practice vital in local council reform

There are occasions when the use of staff from recruitment agencies makes absolute sense in terms of workforce planning such as when someone is off on maternity leave or when additional workers are employed during the summer months. However where there are core council posts which exist year in and year out the use of such agency contracts is highly questionable. Those employed lack the same opportunities for advancement as council employees and when asked about pay and conditions of such staff Council has responded "In regard to those who do not qualify for equal pay and conditions, we do not hold this level of information, this responsibility lies with the appropriate agency." As we move forward into a new managerial scenario a full review of employment practices must be undertaken.
Responses to FOI request from Ballymena Borough Council
1: The number of agency workers employed by Ballymena Borough Council as of the 1 April in each of the last 5 years.
Ballymena Borough Council do not “employ” agency workers. The numbers of agency workers in placement with Council for the past 5 years would not be readily available, however these numbers could be reliably collated for the past 2 years. We can advise that the total headcount at April 2013 was 175 and for April 2014 this was 155. Headcount covers all temporary full-time, part-time and casual agency workers.
2: The number of current agency workers employed by Ballymena Borough Council and the length of time they have been employed in their current role.
As in the answer to question 1 above, Council do not “employ” agency workers, however we can reliably collate the current number of agency workers placed within Council to be 184. The length of time that these agency workers have been placed with Council in their current roles is not information that Council holds – the agencies concerned hold this information. The nature of agency work is transient and agency workers are provided to Council from their Preferred Supplier List under a Contract of Services.
3. The number of current agency workers placed with Ballymena Borough Council who are employed by the agency and do not qualify for equal pay and conditions.
As in the answer to question 2 above we can reliably collate the current number of agency workers placed within Council to be 184. In regard to those who do not qualify for equal pay and conditions, we do not hold this level of information, this responsibility lies with the appropriate agency. To the best of our knowledge current agency workers qualify for equal pay and conditions as those in a comparable role from week 13 of placement.