A decision has been called in for scrutiny, in accordance with section 7.25 of the Council's Constitution
To support the Cabinet's decision 18-01-2022
The Monitoring Officer highlighted the fact that the Audit and Governance Committee, in its role to scrutinise corporate matters, had the right to call in the Cabinet's decision for review, and to receive further information that was relevant to aspects of that decision.
Councillor Nia Jeffreys (Cabinet Member for Corporate Support) was invited to present the information and explain the background of the decision.
Members were reminded that on 7 October 2021, the Full Council had decided unanimously to ask the Cabinet to consider officially recognising St David’s Day as an official holiday for its workforce. At the Cabinet meeting held on 18 January 2022, it was decided to designate St David’s Day as an additional holiday for Council staff. It was noted that a request had been received for more details about the cost (approximately £200k) of implementing the decision, and also an observation that the money could be used for another purpose for the benefit of Gwynedd's residents.
The Cabinet Member explained that there was no cost of allowing an additional day's holiday on 1 March 2022 to staff who worked in an office or from home - the day would be added to their annual entitlement. There would be a direct cost in relation to care staff and waste collection staff who would receive an additional day to be taken at a future date. For these staff, cover costs would need to be paid (an additional cost of approximately £45k (Care) and £30k (Highways and Municipal). It was reported that teaching assistants and school ancillary staff had the right to an additional day, but they had to work within the school terms - and they would receive an amendment to their salaries (a cost of approximately £90k). With Teachers' working conditions decided nationally, they could not be included in the decision.
It was explained that a corporate underspend would be used to pay these costs - money that would normally transfer to reserves, as opposed to money paid from individual services. It would be a one-off payment, with no impact on the 2022/23 budget. The estimated total cost was £200k. The money would not be released to the departments until the expenditure had been made.
The officers were thanked for responding to the decision by taking action and holding discussions with the Unions to ensure that the aspiration was realised. It was emphasised that the Cabinet had responded in good will to the Full Council's unanimous decision.
During the ensuing discussion, the following observations were made by members:
· Supported celebrating St David's Day, but it should be made a day's national holiday for everybody.
· The public response had been fairly negative
· The timing of the decision caused concern - in a period of tax and living cost increases, from where had the money come?
· Agree with the concept, but it was the wrong time
· Need to pressurise the Government again to reconsider making it an official holiday
· No information about the cost of an additional day's holiday had been submitted or discussed in the Full Council - would the result of the vote have been different?
· Proposals in the Full Council were out of control - a need to consider what was legal.
· £200k was a significant sum – there had been no consultation with staff
· Could better use be made of the money? Was this a misuse of public money?
· Did the Council have the necessary powers to grant an additional day's holiday?
· The matter should be referred back to Cabinet, in order to change the decision and continue to lobby Westminster
· The members expressed their thanks for the explanation and the clarification. It was accepted that there was a right to scrutinise the decision, but there was surprise that the matter had been called in by some members
· The Cabinet had responded to a unanimous motion by the Full Council
· The reasons cited by Paul Scully SM for rejecting to formally recognise St David's Day as a Bank Holiday were insulting
· Celebrating St David’s Day was a reason to take pride in our culture
· Giving staff an additional day's holiday was a means of appreciating their efforts over the past two years.
· Other employers supported the decision and were following by example
· The Holiday needed official recognition
· It was a matter of pride that Gwynedd was taking the lead.
In response to an observation that notices of motion were becoming out of control in the Full Council, the Monitoring Officer noted that this specific notice of motion had been appropriately framed and that the Council's request for the Cabinet to consider the motion was also appropriate. It was added that the Full Council had the right to state a view, but did not have the power to make a decision.
In the context of statutory aspects, it was noted that the Council's powers to employ staff and set working conditions (including dates of holidays) fell under section 112 of the Local Government Act 1972. It was noted that the Council had a fundamental right to employ staff and set reasonable conditions under this Act.
In response to an observation about General Competence, it was explained that the Local Government and Elections Act 2021 had introduced a General Power of Competence that noted that the Council could not use its power to do something where previous Legislation restricted its ability to act. It was considered that the Power was not relevant in this case as the 1972 Act gave the Council the right to determine holidays.
It was added that the Wednesbury Principles, which noted that the Council had to come to a decision by considering only what was relevant, disregarding irrelevant arguments, had also been considered. The Monitoring Officer's view was that the Cabinet's decision continued to be within the authority's statutory powers as there was an appropriate funding source in place, and that the matter related to setting holiday dates for staff within the Council's jurisdiction. It was considered that the Cabinet's decision was not therefore illegal nor inappropriate.
In response to a comment that there had been no staff consultation, it was noted that officers had consulted with the recognised Labour Union representatives in accordance with the usual consultation arrangements.
It was proposed and seconded that the Cabinet should be asked to reconsider its decision to give staff a day's holiday as the cost of £200k was significant.
A vote was taken on the proposal.
To accept the Cabinet's decision 18-01-2022