News Neighborhood Offices

NewtownCSC, NeighbourhoodOffice

Newtown CSC one of the 11 Neighbourhood Offices to close across the city as part of Budget Cuts 2014.

The Ladywood/Perry Barr District will see all it's offices close and replaced by a number of surgeries. Interviewing staff levels will be cut from 24 to just 8 reducing the interviewing service by two thirds.

Neighbourhood Offices Update January 2015

Reducing staff and pressure of work

On Tuesday last week Kathryn Rider, Taheir Mahmood and myself from UNISON met up with Chris Jordan and Shona Adams plus Keith Dugmore (Health and Safety) at a special meeting arranged to look at the health and safety implications of declining staff numbers and reducing office locations. In particular we focussed on HACs.

Shona Adams said the footfall across offices was relatively stable however this did not reflect UNISON experience and Shona agreed to share the figures.

Keith reported on the situation at Sparkbrook and the problems that largely related to excessive queues at reception. It was agreed to look at different queuing systems and the use of ticket machines.

It was agreed the office layout and pressures vary between HAC offices and it was agreed a visit to all 4 HACS was required. There was discussion about the specific stress at first response and there is a variance between time spent from 1 to 4 hours (and even all day) at different offices. It was thought that reducing time on first response is beneficial.

At this point there was a discussion about the experimentation that had gone on at Erdington HAC in which staff were fully involved in proposing new working practices, trialling them and then changing pretty quickly if they were not working. It was agreed that a top down approach telling offices how they should organise would not work. However sharing good practice between offices is worthwhile.

It was agreed that signage should be reviewed so that was clear on services available and how.

Kathryn advised some staff are frightened to go to work and that there needs to be individual stress risk assessments.     

VF is a source of considerable pressure and footfall in offices. The new VR risk process is unlikely to see any immediate reduction in VF. Various options need to be looked at, one location, lots of other locations, letting suites managing VF.

UNISON raised concern over removal of Midland Heart and increased risks in dealing with single non priority homeless.

Joint working with Homeless, Housing and Neighbourhood Offices

Last Thursday we met with Rob James and Pete Hobbs (Housing), Jim Crawshaw (Homeless) and Chris Jordan. There was little new to be reported as we are still awaiting a business case to be developed with a new model of service delivery. UNISON said the timescale for meaningful consultation cannot be considered to have started until the proposals are know.

It was confirmed that those lateral moves agreed will take place but the timing is yet to be determined.

The issue regarding the removal of Midland Heart and BSWAID was discussed and it was agreed a separate meeting was needed to fully explore the issues.

Equal Pay Offers

As previously reported I have had several members contact me regarding the recent batch of Equal Pay offers. There are two factors that determine the amount you are offered. Your Spinal Column Point(s) during the relevant period and the hours you worked during that period. You should check both quite closely.

With regards to hours in some cases they have just been calculated incorrectly. However there appears to be a pattern where some offers relating to members who have received Occupational Sick Pay these hours have not be included. In our view this not correct if members have been paid full pay for these hours. The Council and Thompson’s are aware of this issue and we are awaiting further response from the Council.

With regards to Spinal Column Point (SCP) this is more complex. Firstly for Neighbourhood Advisers it is generally the case the lower the SCP the larger the hourly rate differential, and in turn the higher the equal pay settlement. It is impossible for a UNISON Steward to know exactly what SCP you were on during the period of the offer. This could possibly be calculated if you have the payslips for the relative period or correspondence that includes this information.

However certain general information can be given regarding long term staff. The pre Job Evaluation Grade for Neighbourhood Advisers was Grade 4 to SO1 whose maximum was SCP 31. Initially after Job Evaluation Neighbourhood Advisers were placed Grade 3 SCP 20 to 28 and received salary protection if their salary already exceeded this. Following a JE appeal this was revised to Grade 4 SCP 28 to 37. This was back dated to April 2007. Whilst I was not directly involved a grievance was submitted as all advisers who were on the top of SO1 SCP 31 were placed on SCP 31 as from April 2007, moving to SCP 32 from April 2008 and SCP 33 April 2009, where most hit a glass ceiling in the new grading structure. If your offer does not correspond with this it is worth checking any correspondence or pay slips that can confirm your actual SCP during this period. The grievance was never resolved.

One further possible complication is language increments. Traditionally some staff received 1 or 2 extra increments to reflect using a second language. This enabled them to reach SCP 32 or SCP 33. This was later changed to a Language Allowance of £1200. My view is that Equal Pay should be calculated without including these additional increments or payment.

One note of caution. Some members who have queried their offers have then experienced a considerable delay in getting a revised offer made and I am aware of at least one example where on closer examination the offer was reduced due to discovery of an error. I am not seeking to deter members querying offers that they think are wrong, but to do so in full knowledge you may anticipate a further delay and you may wish to consider how substantial the difference could be.

David Hughes

UNISON Convenor Neighbourhood Offices

Neighbourhood Offices Update December 2014

Budget Cuts

 You will have all received email links to the Council’s Budget proposals. The headline information for Neighbourhood Offices is a proposed further staff reduction of 22 from the budgeted staff level of 83 (9 grade 5, 64 grade 4 and 10 grade 1). The actual staff in post is below this figure and will get lower as further lateral moves already agreed take place.

 Proposals that will be considered include a move to an advice service delivered from four hub centres or a number of smaller offices that focuses on homelessness, housing and welfare advice including potential outreach work in retained community buildings e.g. Community libraries.

 We are at the very start of the consultation process and more information will be provided as it becomes available. Remember there is also a proposal for closer working with the Homeless Service and Lettings Suites.

 Releasing appointments

 UNISON is aware a number of staff have been approached to release appointments. This task has historically only been undertaken by Grade 5 staff, though the now abandoned operating model did include a proposed new post on Grade 4 that would undertake this task. Some staff are doing this on a voluntary basis, the UNISON position is that this is not an accepted part of the current Grade 4 job description and members can decline to undertake these duties.

 David Hughes

UNISON Convenor Neighbourhood Offices

Neighbourhood Offices Update November 2014

New ways of working?

On Thursday 13 November 2014 UNISON Stewards representing Neighbourhood Offices, the Homeless Service and the Housing Service met with Rob James (Director of Housing), Chris Jordan (Service Integration Head) Jim Crawshaw (Homeless Service Head) and Pete Hobbs (Hall Green District).

We had been invited to by Rob James as an early notification that he has been tasked with looking at the way these services can explore closer ways of working as called for in the Council’s Green Paper and in light of further potential budget cuts. He had no proposals to table at this stage but wanted to alert the unions to the fact that these discussions have started and that he wished to involve us.

UNISON took the opportunity to highlight the extreme pressure members are working under and the difficulties further staff cuts would lead to.

There was a brief discussion of lateral moves from Neighbourhood Offices to Housing and though details are not finalised these are likely to be staggered and early moves will only be where Housing have identified the roles as business critical.

Pay proposal accepted

UNISON has confirmed the recent pay proposal has been accepted following a majority vote of members.

This is a very disappointing result as where local branches put the arguments for rejection this was widely supported (Birmingham had a 71% vote to reject). It was a different outcome where no recommendation was made, or as I would put it, this demonstrated the result of a lack of leadership by UNISON. GMB and UNITE also voted to accept.  

David Hughes

UNISON Convenor Neighbourhood Offices

Neighbourhood Offices Update October 2014

Teetering on the brink

The Neighbourhood Office Network is teetering on the brink of chaos due to a series of Management decisions that have effectively thrown in the bin the proposed service structure consulted on between January and July.

Instead of the structure based on 11 Offices with 64 Grade 4’s that was agreed, an interim service is being run, with quadrants/districts being expected to manage with the staff they have left after VR’s.

Based on this ad hoc approach bizarre decisions are being taken such as ending the homeless drop in service at Newtown (the busiest of the 4 Homeless Advice Centres) and utilising staff at a number of locations to provide only a minimal advice service which will largely consist of advising people to phone or go online. It is rumoured that no pre booked appointments at all will be released to the call centre.

This interim service looks to be a precursor to moving to a 4 office model as early as January 2015.

UNISON is very concerned at the stress these ad hoc arrangements will place on staff and the potential for conflict with customers being passed between offices only to find no service available. No Health and Safety assessment has been made of these new ways of working and the risks they entail to staff. The new arrangements may greatly reduce the ability to take annual leave or sustain a service in the face of unplanned absences.

Equally concerning is that the whole concept of Neighbourhood Offices will be ditched and we will end up as some kind of adjunct to the Homeless Service.

The Neighbourhood Office Stewards Committee will meet this Thursday to look at the current position and determine how UNISON should respond.

Call Centre, Capita and Service Birmingham

Two interesting articles appeared in the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post recently concerning the Call Centre and Capita profits.

Less than half of those who call are happy with their experience or the subsequent service they receive. This puts a big question mark on the enforced channel shift that now goes on.

Meanwhile Capita creamed off a whopping £23 million pounds in dividends on the £100 million the Council spent with them in 2013.

Link to articles: and

Pay developments

Attached to this email is a UNISON pay bulletin that looks at proposals from the employer’s side that do not yet amount to a new offer. Also there are comments on the position of the GMB and UNITE unions.

Below is the text of an email received today from National Officer Heather Wakefield and you will see that there may be further developments this week which I will keep you up to date on.

Dear Colleagues,

Just an update to let you know the latest on the negotiations and GMB and Unite’s position on strike action on 14 October.


As agreed by the last NJC Committee, we went back to the LGA and made it clear that we want improvements in the current proposals. The LGA met Regional Directors and senior elected members last Thursday and we understand that there are possible new proposals. We haven’t seen the detail yet as these are subject to agreement of all the political groups on the LGA and the Conservative group has yet to agree to them being put to us. We understand that a meeting will take place tomorrow at which this will be discussed. I will let you know as soon as we have any further update.

Strike action – GMB and Unite

Both Unite and GMB have confirmed that they have issued action notices to employers and currently intend to pursue strike action on 14 October.

Best wishes, Heather”

David Hughes

UNISON Convenor Neighbourhood Offices

Neighbourhood Offices Update August 2014

District Budget Cuts

 Stewards met with Chris Jordan on Wednesday the 13 August 2014 went through the points raised by UNISON, though there are still a number of grey areas.

Staffing levels

We received an updated displacement chart that showed that at Grade 4 we are still between 6 and 9 posts above the funded staffing level. The figure is variable as there was three outstanding VR offers that should by now have been resolved. This does not include any staff who have applied for a lateral move and these may well bring staffing in line with budget.

At Grade 5 we are now half a post below funded staffing level.

At Grade 1 we are still pressing for these posts to be filled on permanent contracts.

Staffing locations

UNISON proposed that to avoid the problems that occurred last time a substantial number of VRs took place the new staffing structure should be implemented on 1 October 2014. Management agreed with this and said they would undertake a location preference exercise. UNISON put forward the view that minimal change should guide the preference exercise with staff remaining at existing locations where sufficient funded posts exist.

Risk assessment

The reduced staffing levels at some locations (for example Sparkbrook and Newtown/Ladywood) raised serious issues over how the offices will deal with public demand and the practicalities of a closed door operation. There was also the issue of health and safety and staffing levels at any new surgeries/locations. It was agreed there needs to be a more detailed discussion that involves Districts to address these issues.

Homeless Service

There is still no clarity about the shape of the Homeless Service in the future and whether there will be any involvement from Neighbourhood Office staff. This is a crucial issue and needs resolution. It was agreed to meet again first week in September and they will update us then.

Half day closure

UNISON re-iterated its opposition to removing half day closures and that we feel it should not happen at all due to the unacceptable level of stress on staff. We put the view if it happens it definitely should not be until after the new staffing structure beds in.

Fair Pay Campaign – a tale of two Britain’s

The Metro carried an interesting article on the increasing disparity between top bosses pay and those who work for them.

Martin Sorrel CEO of WPP Group, an advertising company, receives a whopping £29.8 million per annum compared to the average pay of his workforce who earns £38,365 that is 780 times as much.  Mark Bristow CEO of Rangold Investments might be envious of Mark as he struggles on a mere £4.4 million per annum but is no doubt comforted by knowing he is paid 1,498 times more than his employees who earn on average £2,968 pounds per annum.

UNISON believes our members in Local Government have been locked out of the benefits any economic recovery there has been.

While local government staff have been offered a 1% pay rise, the directors’ of some of Britain’s biggest private companies (the FTSE 100) saw another inflation busting year of growth in remuneration (covering basic pay, bonuses and share option schemes) over 2013, with average remuneration growing at the rate of 14%. Total dividend payments to shareholders across the UK are also expected to hit a record high in 2014, growing by 23%.

David Hughes

UNISON Convenor Neighbourhood Offices



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