Working with Officers
Working with Officers
Officers are employed to manage the work of the council and help councillors put their policies into action. Officers working in councils are, like councillors, subject to a code of conduct.
There are several key designated officer roles which are statutory. They are the:
- Chief Executive who is the most senior advisor and manager within the council;
- Section 151 Officer (normally the director of finance or equivalent) who is responsible for ensuring financial probity;
- Monitoring Officer (normally the Head of Legal Services or equivalent) who ensures compliance with the law and advises and acts to protect the council; and the
- Head of Democratic Services. This role may be performed by the Monitoring Officer. The Head of Democratic Services ensures that members and committees are provided with appropriate resources and support. They will also provide policy advice to the Democratic Services Committee.
Some officer posts are politically restricted under legislation. This means that these people are not allowed to have any active political role either in or outside the workplace. These are the Head of Paid Service, the statutory chief officers, deputy chief officers (officers reporting to a chief officer excluding secretarial/clerical support staff) the Monitoring Officer, officers exercising delegated powers, assistants to political groups and any officer who is responsible for giving advice on a regular basis to members, committees or the authority.
Officers have a duty to give unbiased advice. You will need to bear in mind that this advice is given from a professional standpoint and designed to help you take appropriate decisions and actions.
It is important to establish positive professional relationships with officers so that you can work in partnership to turn policies into action for the benefit of the public.
Councils are major employers in Wales and employ some 140K employees (100K full time equivalents). This has reduced significantly due to budgetary pressures in recent years. Most of the workforce will live as well as work within the county borough boundary and they and their families will receive as well as provide services.
Councils have a duty of care to their employees. Councils employ staff as corporate bodies with councillors being ultimately accountable for their welfare. There is a raft of employment legislation aimed at protecting employees and ensuring equality for all staff. It is important that any decision made by the council considers the impact on the workforce. Councils should ensure that there is an effective human resource strategy in place which relates to the various strategies and plans adopted by the council. The strategy should consider how it will recruit, train, retain, develop and reward the workforce to deliver the services and priorities for the Council.
It is important there is an effective working relationship between council staff and councillors Member/officer based on trust, mutual respect and a common understanding of respective roles. Councillors are elected to represent the whole community and officers are appointed by the council to give impartial advice, which will assist councillors in reaching the best decisions for their community. Councils have codes of conduct for councillors and employees and a protocol on member/officer relations which sets out respective roles and responsibilities, expectations around impartiality and processes for handling any queries or complaints.
Pay and Conditions of Service
Most councils operate nationally agreed terms and conditions of employment for local government and nationally agreed pay scales. These are contractually binding as will be any annual pay settlements. Pay deals are generally settled at a national level but all councils are consulted before any agreements are reached. However, councils can determine and vary some of their own terms and conditions e.g. flexible working hours and leave policies. They will need to do so in consultation and negotiation with the recognised trades unions to develop what is known as a collective agreement which will then apply to all contracts.