Thursday, 30 July 2009

£40m cuts at Notts County Council

Last week we reported potential jobs cuts in schools in Leicester and now we have the even more worrying news of the Leader of Notts County Council saying that she wants to cut £40m from the budget. This is an alarming amount – double the amount that neighbouring Nottingham City Council have cut from their budget this year.

If these cuts go through there is no doubt there will be an impact on front line services. The local Nottinghamshire County UNISON branch will be campaigning against these cuts and if you want to assist contact the branch office on 0115 981 0405 or you can e-mail them on:

And their website is here.

If like UNISON, you are worried about these proposals and you are a resident of Nottinghamshire you should write to your County Councillor and Kay Cutts, the Leader of the Council to say why you are opposed to these cuts. You can find details of who your County Councillor is here.

There is more information on this story on the Nottingham Evening Post website here.

And finally if you work in local government and you are not a UNISON member, you need to join now, Leicester and Nottinghamshire are not the only councils who will be hit by cuts. The more people in the union, the stronger the voice we will have in fighting any cuts.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The (so called) Taxpayers' Alliance

The self styled (and self appointed) "Taxpayers' Alliance" are a small, grumpy, shadowy organisation that promotes slashing public services, having ultra low taxes and abolishing inheritance tax. It spreads pernicious propaganda and misrepresents facts to paint a false picture of the public sector.

As the country charts its way through these difficult economic times we expect more ill informed propaganda from them. We want to warn readers of this blog that this organisation has no legitimacy.

Now you might expect a trade union such as UNISON to be opposed to them. But it's not just trade unions that oppose them even leading Tories do! The Tory Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea, Cllr Daniel Moylan, has called them "insidious anarchists." He has gone on to say:

I personally have no doubt that the Taxpayers’ Alliance would have been amongst the opponents of the project to build sewers for London in the nineteenth century. Society, particularly urban society, is complex. A civilised society is dependent on a degree of civic co-operation, which happily has tended to be under democratic control in this country. The Taxpayers’ Alliance seeks simultaneously to crush that civic effort and to de-democratise what remains. They are dangerous people masquerading as promoters of lower taxes and better government.

You wouldn't expect UNISON to agree with the Tory Deputy Council Leader in affluent Kensington and Chelsea on many things. But on this we do. We are happy to agree with him that the Taxpayers' Alliance are indeed "dangerous people.”

Thankfully a proper response to the Taxpayers' Alliance has been set up - The (Other) Taxpayers' Alliance. This organisation wants "fairer taxes, not lower taxes." You can click on the link to see more about them. Three of our favourite bits of this website are:

- the article on "Those Union Wreckers" which asks you to "imagine if the economic crisis had been caused by trade unions....." and asks you to consider what action would have been taken against the unions to stop it happening again. It then contrasts the action that has not been taken against the banks who did cause this crisis. It’s food for thought.

- the articles on who The Taxpayers' Alliance really are and about their secret and shadowy funding arrangements. Go to the homepage and scroll down the page for these two articles

- the amusing Taxpayers' Alliance quote generator that produces random knee jerk quotes that would typically come from them.

So, next time you hear the Taxpayers’ Alliance being quoted, remember they are a self appointed bunch of right wing ideologues who worship at the alter of destructive and discredited Thatcherite free market economics. And even Tories think they are "dangerous" people!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Job Losses in Leicester Schools

If you want to know why this "Local Government Matters" campaign to protect council jobs and services in the East Midlands is important, you need look no further than Leicester, where it looks like cash strapped schools may have to make teaching assistants redundant.

Gary Garner, Leicester City UNISON Branch Secretary said: "UNISON has become alarmed at the number of primary schools reporting financial difficulties. This has resulted in a number of schools carrying out a review of staffing and teaching assistants are being targeted for cuts."

There is more information about this story in the Leicester Mercury here.

Teaching assistants play a critical role in schools working alongside teacher colleagues to ensure all of children get the best education possible. Without them our classrooms will be poorer places. The Leicester City UNISON branch are a well organised branch and have a great track record in supporting and protecting members. UNISON members in schools are going to need the branch now, more than ever. And the branch is going to need workplace contacts and stewards in schools to help distribute information. So ,if you work in a school and you don't have a local rep or contact please talk to your colleagues and agree who you want to act as a local rep or contact point - and then contact the branch office to let them know.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Why cutting public sector jobs will not save money

Economist Richard Murphy has shown that that the cost to the government of cutting a public sector job for a person earning £25,000 is £23,000 a year. In other words 92% of the cost of any redundancy right now will be borne by the state. Check out Richard’s blog at the link below – it makes very interesting reading.

Let's hope that Alistair Darling has read Richard's blog entry.

Are Councils Wasting Money?

Last year the UNISON East Midlands regional office sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the 45 councils in the region asking them how much they spent on consultants and agency workers over previous few years. All of the councils, except for Derby City Council (more on them later) responded.

The responses were staggering. From the 44 councils who responded we identified:
  • Over £54 million was spent by the councils on external consultants in 2007/08
  • Over £67 million was spent by the councils on agency workers in 2007/08
  • About half of the councils were spending over 5% of their staffing budget on agency workers
Everyone accepts that from time to time councils will need to use external consultants where they lack certain expertise. But the experience of UNISON branches is that employing consultants has become a default position for councils on most issues - council managers don't appear to have the confidence to think for themselves. Spending on external consultants has got out of control in most councils.

The situation with agency workers is even worse. It costs councils more money to employ and agency worker than it would if they directly employed a members of staff. But the agency worker gets paid less than they would if they were directly employed as there is a big slice paid to the agency. Not only that agency workers have worse terms and conditions. Why are councils wasting money on agency staff when they could employ people directly more cheaply and ensure they were employed on better terms and conditions? This madness has to stop.

Derby City Council would not give us the figures saying they did not collect them. This is strange, as all the other councils were able to supply the figures. This can only mean one of three things:
  • they have something to hide
  • their finance systems are so poor they can't record this information
  • they don't think it is important to know how much they spend on agency workers and consultants
It will be interesting to see if they have changed their systems to record this information this year - or if they still think it is not important.

This week we will be writing to all 45 councils in the East Midlands again to ask them to supply the figures for 2008/09. It will be interesting to see if they have learned any lessons after we exposed the waste last year. When we get the information we will post it up on this blog.

And if, as we expect, many councils will be saying that they need to make budget cuts later this year we will be pointing the an easiest way to save money is by cutting back on wasted expenditure on agency workers and consultants costs. It's a "win-win-win-win" as:
  • services don't need to be cut - the public don't suffer in these hard times
  • staff don't have to be made redundant - families don't suffer and the state does not have to pay out benefits
  • councils manage their budgets better - less stress for public sector accountants and managers
  • tax payers get value for money - taxes don't need to rise


Welcome to the UNISON (East Midlands) local government blog about our "Local Government Matters" campaign to defend jobs and services.

In these difficult economic times public services matter more, not less. Council services are the "Cinderella" of the public sector and unfortunately do have the same high profile as other public services such as health and policing.

There are many myths about council workers and this blog aims to dispel those myths and also demonstrate the important work council staff do. The blog will also be updated on the union's campaign to defend jobs and services in what we know will be a tough budget process later this year.