LGR dispute escalates

Our sister branch, the Harrogate Local Government branch, has escalated its dispute with Harrogate Borough Council following the surprisre announcement that some council staff will not transfer to the new council on 1 April and will instead transfer to a different employer. The decision means that the staff, who work in audit and governance, will not have the same opportunities as their colleagues when the North Yorkshire councils merge on 1 April.

Harrogate Local Government branch lodged a formal dispute on 16 January. Since then, an email has come to light which was sent to he affected staff in August 2022 which confirms that they would transfer to the new council and that discussions would then commence post-transfer about the future service provision.

Speaking for UNISON, the Harrogate Branch Secretary, Dave Houlgate said:

“In December UNISON received a letter from the Chief Executive of the new North Yorkshire Council, categorically stating that any decision around where staff would transfer to was up to the sovereign Council – in this case Harrogate – and that the expectation was that staff would transfer to the new Council. Indeed staff have received a communication only yesterday (23 January) from the new Chief Executive saying that they will transfer to North Yorkshire Council on 1st April.

“Following the lodging of our Dispute last week, which will be heard on 26 January, the Borough Council has come back to us to say that it was not their decision but that of North Yorkshire County Council using its transition/implementation powers.  We have asked for some more detail around this but the upshot is that no one seems to want to take any responsibility for the decision.  That cannot be right.  This is incredibly stressful for staff who all along have had an expectation they would transfer to North Yorkshire Council.  This late change is unfair and is unacceptable.

“We can reveal that in August last year, following concerns raised by UNISON, the staff were reassured by the Borough Council that they would be transferring to North Yorkshire Council on 1 April 2023.  It remains our belief that the decision is ultimately with the Borough Council and that the Council should stand by what it has previously told its staff.

“Understandably we are pursuing this with both Councils, seeking clarity around decision-making, accountability, oversight and where the duty to engage with staff and UNISON actually rests.

“We will, if necessary escalate our Dispute to Harrogate Council’s Human Resources committee and we have already tabled a public question for the Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee, that is scheduled to  meet on 6February to discuss Local Government Reorganisation.”