Commercial and Regulatory Services – (C-032-2020-21) this report presents the 3rd Quarter for the period up to 31 July 2020.
The Cabinet discussed and noted the Qualis Quarterly Monitoring report .
The Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Regulatory Services, Councillor Patel introduced the report of the Qualis Board monitoring report for Quarter 3 as agreed by the Qualis Board on 22 September 2020.
The key message for Cabinet was that Qualis had been engaged over this period in completing the loan funding transaction, progressing planning work on the Epping Development sites and preparing for the transfer of Housing Maintenance at the end of September.
As reported in the last Cabinet report, Covid19 has delayed many of the key actions for both Epping Forest District Council and Qualis and as a result some of the originally planned targets had slipped. However, good progress was now being made.
For Qualis, Quarter 3 represented a further phase of planning, set-up and initiation works because of the delays associated with Covid19. Key asset acquisitions and service transfers would take place during Quarter 4 and monitoring reports wold look different from that point forward.
Given the points above and noting the impact of Covid19 on all Council activities, Qualis had performed in line with expectations during Quarter 3.
Councillor Murray noted that he had issues and concerns with Qualis. He asked if he could have assurance that the mentioned staff consultation plan was not only for individual staff but for the Unions. The Housing Maintenance Staff had kept their terms and conditions; would new staff have lesser terms? Councillor Patel assured him that the Unions had been consulted. As for new staff, new employees would sign new contracts, but he could not comment on the terms offered. Councillor Murray said that he would like this information in a future report. Councillor Philip added that Qualis was operating as a separate company, so contracts were commercially sensitive. S Jevans as the Managing Director for Qualis added that Terms and Conditions for Qualis employees were different from the council’s and had a greater ability to incentivise staff.
Councillor Brookes asked what other services were to be reviewed to be transferred over. Councillor Patel said that a survey would be carried out to determine which services would stay or be moved. A report will then be brought to Cabinet detailing this. Councillor Wixley asked if there were any guiding principles or set criteria governing this. He was told that each area would be looked at as a business case for each service.
Councillor Heap said that as the only shareholder in Qualis we should be able to set the terms and Conditions for new staff. He was told that any services would be transferred over on a TUPE basis, but any new staff would not be guaranteed the same terms as existing staff. You may find that in the long term things would improve for staff, especially in areas where there were skill shortages.
Councillor Neville asked if there was a limit to the number of services that could potentially be transferred over. Councillor Patel replied that there was no limit as each new case would judged as a separate business case. Councillor Heap interjected that it should be a public service and not a private enterprise. Councillor Patel responded the purpose of Qualis was to safeguard services to residents.
Councillor Murray said that staff employed on new contracts after other staff came over on TUPE would almost always be employed on worse conditions and it seemed to him that Qualis would become a Trojan Horse where the Council would offload as many services as they could. Councillor Philip, speaking as someone who had been TUPE’d on more than one occasion offered that Terms and Conditions could be better after TUPE. The aim was to have better contracts for our staff to get the things that need to be done, done. As for how many services were moved across depended partly on the business case and what capability Qualis had.
The Cabinet discussed and noted the Qualis Quarterly Monitoring report.
Reasons for Proposed Decision:
The Governance framework for Qualis, as agreed by Cabinet in February 2020, set the requirement that Qualis should report to Epping Forest District Council on its performance Quarterly.
Other Options for Action:
None, as this was a report on the previous quarter.