A union official has sounded the alarm over further potential job losses at Brighton and Hove City Council.
The threat comes from a new proposal to share the staffing of some services with two or three other councils.
Brighton and Hove Unison branch chairman Andy Richards said: “The central proposal is that a number of services would be provided across a partnership called Orbis which would consist of Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council.
“So Orbis would be responsible for the provision of their services across the three councils.
“These services are
- Internal Audit
- Human Resources and Organisational Development
- Legal Services (a slightly different proposal involving West Sussex County Council as well as East Sussex and Surrey)
“These are ‘support services’ providing services to the rest of the council.
“In addition it is also proposed that the Revenues and Benefits Service would be part of the arrangement although this is not a support service and is not a service which is provided by the other two councils (being county councils).
“This is essentially what is known as a shared services arrangement and these can take many forms.
“Sometimes they involve the private sector but this one is being presented as ‘a compelling alternative to outsourcing options’.
“Union reps asked a number of questions of management and, while we got some answers, there is clearly much that they still haven’t worked out.
“The main points to come out were – Orbis is not being set up as a legal entity. It cannot employ staff. All current staff would remain with their current employer on their current contract of employment.
“The picture regarding what would happen as vacancies arise is less clear.
“Orbis would be run by a management board drawn from the three councils and there would be elected member involvement from the three councils too.
“It is not clear what would happen if the ‘partners’ were to have a serious falling out about something.
“We were obviously concerned with issues around where staff might be expected to work but no details were forthcoming on this.
“It is important to be clear that, however Orbis starts out, there are no guarantees about how it would develop (forever being ‘a long time’ as the interim director of finance and resources put it!)
“Also, this does not mean that the threat posed by budget cuts is going to go away – we still have this to deal with.
“Unison will work with our regional officers and our colleagues in the other Unison branches and as ever our priority will be to defend members’ jobs and conditions.”
Mr Richards said: “Unison and GMB reps met senior managers on Thursday afternoon (12 November) to discuss the proposals which will go to Policy and Resources (P&R) Committee on (Thursday) 3 December.”
Separately, the council’s executive director of children’s services, Pinaki Ghoshal, told the Children, Young People and Skills Committee this afternoon (Monday 16 November) about another big review.
Mr Ghoshal said that the council’s “subventions” budget – its support for conference organisers – would also be the subject of a paper at the next P&R Committee.
He was responding to a suggestion by Green councillor Alex Phillips to cut the subventions budget, said to be worth about £1.2 million, to save the budget for children’s centres.