Councillors expected to vote themselves off staff disciplinary panels – Brighton and Hove News

Councillors will no longer be part of the staff disciplinary appeals process if proposed changes are agreed next week.

Brighton and Hove City Council plans to remove councillors from employment hearings for all staff other than chief officers.

The proposed changes are due to be decided by senior councillors at a meeting of the council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee next Thursday (25 April).

The changes follow the report by independent barrister Aileen McColgan’s into the “toxic culture” at the council’s refuse and recycling service Cityclean.

Ms McColgan recommended an end to “member appeals” panels in her report published last November after finding that councillors had reinstated members of the GMB union.

The members in question had been sacked for gross incompetence on more than one occasion – and councillors also reinstated a union rep who had been suspended by management.

Currently, all dismissal and dispute appeals are heard by a Personnel Appeals Panel of three elected councillors – an arrangement that has been in place since the council’s formation in the late 1990s

A report prepared for the meeting next week said: “A recent review of appeal panels in other local authorities demonstrated that many have removed members from involvement in formal employment procedures.

“The removal of elected members from decision-making in the disciplinary and dispute procedure provides for greater clarity of roles between members and officers of the council.

“It is the role of members to set the strategic direction and policy framework for the council and this will include ensuring the right policy framework is in place to manage employment issues.

“Any changes to the main employment procedures are approved by the Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee.

“The head of paid service is a statutory role and is responsible for ensuring the council’s functions are properly co-ordinated.

“This includes ensuring the right staff are in place, how staff are organised, led, managed and developed.

“The involvement of members in disciplinary and dispute processes (aside from specific statutory responsibilities related to some chief officers) blurs the clarity of responsibilities derived from respective roles.”

Since Ms McColgan’s report, trade unions have asked that councillors continue to sit on appeal panels to allow for independent oversight of employment processes.

These discussions have led to proposals that dismissal appeals and dispute hearings are heard by a corporate director or assistant director.

This official must not have been involved in the original decision and be senior to the person who made the original decision and be from a different directorate.

The council has agreed with unions that it will review the process by August next year.

The council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee is due to meet at Brighton Town Hall at 2pm on Thursday 25 April. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

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