Agenda item

Public Question Time

Members of the public are invited to put questions to the Chair and Executive Councillors on any matters within the powers and duties of the Executive, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice.  (Questions must be submitted no later than 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the meeting on the card provided.  These are available at the meeting and at local libraries and information centres. You can also submit via the Council’s website at


The public were invited to put questions to the Executive on any matters within their powers and duties, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice.


13 questions were asked.


Questions one to twelve related to the proposals contained in the report ‘Review of Property Services (FIN108)’ (see Minute 6 below).


The first question asked whether the Council would commission an investigation of the feasibility of returning property services ‘in house’ in light of examples of externalised services being successfully returned elsewhere in the country.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) confirmed that the option of returning property services in house would be given serious consideration.


The second question asked whether the possibility of bringing property services ‘in house’ (‘Option 4’) would be given equal consideration as the other options outlined in the report, given that the report contained less text in relation to ‘Option 4’.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that ‘Option 4’ had been included following consultation with Unison and that she had welcomed its inclusion. She reiterated that all options would be considered. She further replied that the shorter discussion of this option within the report did not indicate less importance.


Question three queried whether a review of property services was necessary given that the report stressed the need for greater emphasis on Strategic Asset Management and that this could be achieved by recruiting to the vacant posts within this discipline at NPS, which had been left unfilled at the request of the Council.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) reported that no record could be found of any request from the Council to NPS to freeze recruitment to vacancies and any decision to do so would be that of NPS. The report had not criticised staff that were providing a good service within the parameters of the existing contract arrangements. She stated that all the options within the report would be subject to TUPE arrangements for existing NPS staff.


The fourth question queried why the thrust of the report was to separate property services functions, despite Government guidance on best practice advocating the combining of these functions.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she disagreed with this interpretation of the report as only one of the options suggested the separation of services. She stated that the review had been undertaken at this time because it was an opportune moment as the five year break in the NPS contract was approaching. She added that the aim of the review was to further rationalise property service functions.


Question five asked whether it was feasible for NPS to bid for the future property services contract and whether this would jeopardise the jobs of former Council employees.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she believed NPS to be in a strong position to bid for any future contract and that it was likely that the future arrangement would involve the expansion of the role of property services.


The sixth question asked whether any discussions had taken place between the Council and NPS about any concerns over service provision and options for resolving them.

The Executive Councillor (Finance) reiterated that the review had been undertaken because it was an appropriate time within the contract and because the financial and economic circumstances had changed since property services was first externalised, meaning the requirements of the Council would not be best served by extending the existing contract. The Executive Councillor stated she could not comment on all the correspondence there may have been, but she believed that NPS had been made aware of the review early in the process.


The seventh question asked whether the Executive were satisfied with the efforts of the Council and NPS to resolve any service and performance concerns and that these had been undertaken with appropriate levels of staff consultation.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she was unable to comment on any consultation NPS had undertaken with its staff although she was aware that a meeting was arranged between staff and the Service Director (Legal & Democratic Services) to take place shortly as part of the ongoing process and continued consultation. She reiterated that she envisaged some of the same staff being involved in future service delivery.


The eighth question asked what consideration had been given to the future of NPS staff should the TUPE process not be applicable to the new service provider.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she understood the concerns of staff but that options that would negate TUPE had been ruled out and that any bids for the future service delivery that did not include TUPE would not be looked on favourably. The Executive Councillor stated that the staff at NPS had a great deal of experience and expertise and knew the Council’s estate and it was hoped to build on this in the future.


The ninth question asked whether any risk assessment had been undertaken for the review project should the existing contract with NPS be terminated before an alternative service had been procured.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that it was not proposed to end the current arrangement with NPS until the future service had been procured and a thorough transition plan had been put in place. Until the soft marketing process was completed and a service specification was finalised no risk assessment would be completed.


The tenth question asked whether the Executive were aware of a letter from Unison to the Council’s Chief Executive detailing their concerns about the value of the King Sturge report that had informed the review.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she had not seen the letter referred to but was aware of the concerns of Unison through meetings between them and the Council. As a result of these meetings ‘Option 4’ had been included in the report.


The eleventh question asked how the experience of NPS staff and their knowledge of Stockport’s property portfolio would be replaced if new staff were providing property services.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) reiterated that it was envisaged that many of the existing staff would be retained and that the current review was concerned with the appropriateness of the services provided and the arrangement between the Council and NPS.


The twelfth question asked what the Executive’s view was on the possibility that a leaner and more efficient workforce could be returned to the Council as a result of NPS making significant savings, perceived to be disproportionate, as required by the Council.


The Executive Councillor (Finance) replied that she did not accept that NPS had taken a disproportionate burden of savings as these were being made across the Council. She stated that she hoped that the staff at NPS would be able to assist the Council with its innovate projects to realise more savings across Council activities.


The thirteenth question asked why the Leader of the Council had not ensured Joint Highway and Traffic Ward Spokespersons had been appointed by area committees for those wards represented by more than one political group.


The Leader of the Council replied that the Highway and Traffic Ward Spokespersons Protocol had been circulated to all councillors at the first area committees meetings of the Municipal Year and that it devolved the decision on the appointments to those  committees and that it was not the role of the Executive to impose an arrangement on area committees.