Harrogate Borough Council

Harrogate Borough Council staff to transfer to Veritau, shared services group, but UNISON raise concerns

18 January 2023

As the time approaches for the new North Yorkshire Council to come in to being on 1st of April, public service union UNISON is dismayed to learn that there are plans not to TUPE transfer all Harrogate Borough Council staff to the new authority but to switch them to Veritau, a shared service group owned by local authorities in Yorkshire and north east England.

Speaking for UNISON, Harrogate Branch Secretary Dave Houlgate said:

Staff and UNISON have engaged with the TUPE process for well over a year now and our expectation and the expectation of all staff is that they will transfer to the new North Yorkshire Council on 1st April on their existing terms and conditions but with the opportunity to move on to new terms and conditions at the new Council, which UNISON has negotiated.

It would seem, however, that the current County Council has decided at this very late stage, it does not want Harrogate Borough Council staff who work in the area associated with Audit services to transfer to the new Council but instead has decided that they should transfer to a separate company, Veritau. UNISON opposes this move.

UNISON has been in discussions with representatives from all the Councils involved with Local Government Re-organisation for over a year and this option has never been on the agenda, even though we had raised it as a concern early in the process. There has never been any indication prior to this ‘late hour’ decision that staff would not transfer to North Yorkshire Council. We are dismayed by this development.

Whilst we are aware that both the current North Yorkshire County Council and Veritau want staff to transfer directly to Veritau, ultimately we hold Harrogate Borough Council responsible as it is their decision to make and not the County Council’s. On this basis, we have lodged a formal Dispute with the Borough Council.

Indeed we have had written confirmation from the new Chief Executive at North Yorkshire Council, Richard Flinton, that the decision is one for the sovereign Council, in this case Harrogate Borough Council, to determine where their staff transfer to. It should be noted that there is no benefit to Harrogate Borough Council by this decision.

Our position is clear, we object in the strongest terms to this late change of plan which shows total disregard for the staff involved, denies them the opportunity to move on to new terms and conditions negotiated and agreed by UNISON and ignores established procedures and protocols that are in place. Staff in Audit services at Harrogate should, as they expect to do, transfer to the new authority and then if there is a need to review how audit services are delivered for the new Council then the proper processes should be followed after the transfer.

Our expectation was that Harrogate Borough Council would stand by it staff and should resist this late change rather than give it the ‘green light’. Our Dispute is intended to ensure this happens.

A council spokesperson said:

Engagement with staff, and consultation with trade unions, has taken place at every stage of the transition to North Yorkshire Council. This will continue, ensuring staff are kept informed of progress and have the opportunity to raise concerns. All staff also continue to be offered support.

The audit service for the new council will be provided by Veritau, a company created in 2009 by North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council. Veritau has provided audit and other specialist services to the authorities, as well as other organisations, for many years. Providing income that will continue for the new council. Veritau already provides services to five of the seven district and borough councils that will be replaced by North Yorkshire Council.

It is proposed staff currently providing the service in Harrogate will move to Veritau on 1 April 2023. Employment protection ensures that they will transfer on their existing terms and conditions. Individuals will have the option of choosing Veritau’s terms and conditions, should they wish to do so.

Other than the chief executive, all Harrogate Borough Council staff will TUPE.


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