Earlier this year Parliament approved orders creating, from 1 April 2009, nine new unitary councils for the seven areas of Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire. I explained to the House during debates on these orders the approach we intended to adopt for the transfer and appointment of staff to these new councils. Today, I am confirming these arrangements and publishing draft regulations and draft guidance, which cover both the transfer of staff to the new councils and the appointment of the chief executives and other senior managers.
We have developed this approach in consultation with the councils concerned, the local government employers and the trade unions, based originally on our discussion document of August 2007, “Councils’ Proposals for Unitary Local Government: An Approach to Implementation”. Today we are sending to these interested parties drafts of the regulations and draft guidance, inviting any further comments on the detailed drafting over the next two weeks.
I plan to make staffing regulations which will apply the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) to any transfers of staff occurring as a result of local government reorganisation. The staffing regulations will also require the post of chief executive (head of paid service) of each new unitary authority to be recruited by means of open competition, to be held by 1 April 2010 at the latest. Furthermore, our planned guidance makes clear that the Government expect to see open competition as the means of recruiting to all other senior management board posts, unless there are clear and specific circumstances on the basis of which the council considers there is a compelling case for an alternative approach, which would not detract from both the reality and the perception of the authority being genuinely new.
We believe that this approach will create a clear and consistent framework for the transfer and appointment of staff to all the new unitary councils, which will give both the level of reassurance staff rightly need and expect over their employment, and the flexibility the new councils need to establish innovative arrangements for empowering local communities and delivering improved local public services. Whilst recognising concerns about continuity, particularly through the transition period, the importance that we attach to open competition for senior management board appointments is a recognition of how the new councils will need senior officers with new skills, experiences and perspectives if they are to take full advantage of the opportunities they have to become genuine flagship councils for the future of local government.
We will consider any comments from interested parties and make the regulations and publish the final guidance document as soon as practicable thereafter.
I have placed copies of the draft regulations and draft guidance in the Libraries of both Houses.