Practical tips for local government re-organisation
Local government re-organisation and the transition from two tiers of local government in to a single tier unitary authority is a big undertaking, which necessitates looking at numerous practical considerations.
This article is taken from January's public matters newsletter. Click here to view more articles from this issue.
Local government re-organisation and the transition from two tiers of local government in to a single tier unitary authority is a big undertaking, which necessitates looking at numerous practical considerations. This article, the final one in our local government re-organisation series, looks at some of the practical considerations to consider when looking at moving to a unitary model.
The move from numerous councils in to a single unitary authority will likely result in a level of duplication regarding contracts with suppliers. For example, each council is likely to have their own stationary or FM contracts resulting in a large amount of different service providers potentially providing the same services to the new unitary authority. Therefore, as part of the re-organisation process, it will be necessary to thoroughly document all of the contracts each council holds to identify where there is overlap and to decide, in relation to those contracts which are surplus, how best to deal with them, whether that be letting them expire or exercising termination rights. Those contracts which are being kept will also need to be novated across to the new unitary authority, which in itself could be quite an onerous task due to the volume of contracts that will need novating. Finally, it may be prudent to identify services which should be re-procured following re-organisation in order to benefit from the unitary authority’s increased economy of scale.
It is important to document all members of staff from across the councils and identify where those staff should sit in the new unitary structure, as the existing councils are all likely to be structured differently. Much like in relation to contracts, there is likely to be an overlap in staff with duplication in skills, meaning it may be necessary to consider longer term restructuring projects.
This will be one of the most important things to consider when approaching re-organisation. Each local authority involved in the re-organisation will have its own governance arrangements and indeed each local authority may be fundamentally different in structure. For instance, one authority may operate under a committee arrangement and one under an executive arrangement. Therefore, it will be necessary to undertake an internal exercise to decide which structure to use. To do this involves taking several steps:
- Firstly, it is necessary to take a step back and plan out a methodology to be followed when approaching the review of governance. For example, it will be important that all of the views of interested parties are collated and therefore the methodology will need to detail the stakeholders and when it will be necessary to engage them. These parties will obviously include those working in the relevant authorities and the elected members, but it will also be necessary to factor in local residents and when they will be consulted.
- Secondly, it is necessary to derive several potential systems of governance that are worth exploring and conduct a detailed assessment of their respective strengths and weaknesses using the views collated. As part of modelling these arrangements it is important to think about what procedural steps would be needed to arrive at that design and also the impact on the unitary authority’s culture that design may also have. Another important factor to consider would be whether one or possibly more unitary authorities would be needed and how/where the boundaries for these new authorities would be drawn.
Re-organisation naturally leads to many people being displaced from their current role and being given new roles, potentially one which is seen as lower than the role they held previously prior to the re-organisation. It is important that those people who may be required to change roles are consulted carefully during the process and views listened to in order to mitigate any discontent that may arise due to the change.
All councils either own or lease a substantial number of assets, whether it be buildings, vehicles, equipment etc. Therefore it will be necessary to conduct a thorough audit and compile an itinerary of these assets to identify where savings can be made. The obvious example of this being in relation to council office space and whether several council offices can be condensed in to one of the existing buildings, or whether it may be more cost effective to source a new building to house the whole new unitary authority.
Each council will have its own logo and name and therefore a new logo and name for the unitary authority will need to be agreed. Alongside this is an additional task of updating other documents which are used by the authority to reflect the new unitary authority ‘brand’, such as letter headings, and front pages of brochures.
Re-organisation is a complex and time consuming process so when putting together an overarching plan for the re-organisation it is necessary to make milestones realistic and build in contingencies in case certain aspects overrun. There is also the need to be mindful of external events which may have an impact on the re-organisation. One example being a general election, currently scheduled for 2020 but which could very possibly occur sooner! Ideally, the point of change needs to fall outside of any election period.
If you have any further queries about local government re-organisation generally, or you are interested in exploring potential re-organisation routes in your local government area, we would love to talk to you. Please contact our specialist public sector team.
Read previous articles in the local government re-organisation series:
Local government re-organisation: successes and warnings
Local government re-organisation: how and why use a unitary model?
You may be interested in...
Section 106 Agreements: I’m not dead yet
Supreme Court will hear Worcestershire case on local authority responsibility for Section 117 Aftercare in April 2023
HXA and YXA failure to remove cases: Key considerations in anticipation of the Supreme Court judgment
Combined County Authorities - Key differences to Combined Authorities
Devolution: a catalyst for long-term, positive change in local communities
Public matters - February 2023
Can toilet facilities amount to sex discrimination?
Biodiversity Net Gain — Government publishes consultation response
‘Awaab’s Law’- a significant amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill
Embargoed Judgments: A Professional Word of Caution
Procurement Bill debarment regime and ECHR issues
Digital Twin Technologies: key legal contractual considerations
Public procurement: key facts and compliance considerations
Browne Jacobson’s real estate specialists advise Chesterfield Borough Council on prestigious new development - One Waterside Place
Will fixed recoverable costs in housing conditions claims see the light of day?
Register to join our Academy: to Register your interest in our next Academy
Government introduces first Streamlined Subsidy Schemes under new regime
Browne Jacobson advise High Peak Borough Council on future high street funded acquisition as part of Buxton regeneration vision
Term-time school worker entitled to national minimum wage for unworked basic hours
Public matters - January 2023
Browne Jacobson advises Natural England on investigation of ‘first in its kind’ sentenced Devon farmer
What are freeports and what benefits could they offer?
Reaching cloud nine? Public procurement for cloud-based services
Unlawful delegation of decision-making powers
The Subsidy Control Act 2022. Putting the new regime into practice
How the Environment Act affects existing contracts’
Public matters - December 2022
Updated Greening Government Commitments 2021 – 2025 published
Is over centralisation hindering economic growth?
Protecting children and their data in the online environment
Browne Jacobson helps launch new innovative council company network with Wiltshire Council and Christ Church Business School
Law firm Browne Jacobson has collaborated with Wiltshire Council and Christ Church Business School on the launch event of The Council Company Best Practice and Innovation Network, a platform which brings together academic experts and senior local authority leaders, allowing them to share best practice in relation to council companies.
Public Matters - November 2022
Dipping in and out of the Investment Zones
Announced in September but scrapped on 17 November the investment zone proposals were very short lived. The proposal has now morphed into the proposal for a smaller number of clustered zones earmarked for investment.
Hillside – the end of drop in applications?
On 2 November 2022, the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in the much awaiting case of Hillside Parks Ltd v Snowdonia National Park Authority  UKSC 30. The Court’s judgment suggests that the long established practice of using drop-in applications is in fact much more restricted than previously thought. This judgment therefore has significant implications for both the developers and local planning authorities.
Local authority duties: Up in the air
In ‘failure to remove’ claims, the claimant alleges abuse in the family home and asserts that the local authority should have known about the abuse and/or that they should have removed the claimant from the family home and into care earlier.
Browne Jacobson advises Bromley Council on the first social housing initiative of its kind to tackle homelessness
Settlement agreements – what are the limitations post Bathgate?
Settlement agreements in an employment context are ordinarily used to provide both parties with certainty following the conclusion of an employment relationship – but what happens when there is alleged discrimination after entering into a settlement agreement?
Public Matters - October 2022
Updates include UK Shared Prosperity Fund, contracts, Subsidy Control Bill, data controller liability, Government Covid-19 procurement and Highway Code revisions.
Investment Zones - getting the country working, building and growing
Investment zones have been introduced by the Conservative party to get the United Kingdom (UK) ‘working, building and growing’. They are to be designated sites which provide time-limited tax incentives, streamlined planning rules and wider support for local growth to encourage investment and accelerate the development of housing and infrastructure that the UK needs to drive economic growth. Processes and requirements that slow down development will be stripped back with the intention of attracting new investment.