Friday, 23 October 2009

Notts County UNISON say "no way"

Notts County UNISON have hit back at the council's proposals to slash terms and conditions of staff as a precursor to budget cuts from the aptly named Tory Leader of the Council, Kay Cutts.

For more info read here and check the branch's website.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Heather Wakefield on Council Workers' Pay

A quick plug for another blog.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON's National Secretary for Local Government has written about the current pay negotiations for council staff on the Public Finance website. You can find it here.

Well worth a read for anyone who wants to know the real facts about council workers' pay. One sentence in the last paragraph of her piece gives the most food for thought. It's reproduced below.

"After all, who could really say that a Goldman Sachs trader is worth more than those who feed and educate children, house the homeless and care for the vulnerable elderly?"


Saturday, 17 October 2009

Politics Show Piece on Agency Workers and Consultants Costs

Here is the 4 minute piece the BBC East Midlands Politics Show did on agency workers and consultants last Sunday. Someone has helpfully uploaded it onto You-Tube.

And here is the studio debate.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

How low can they get?

Today, Notts County Council sent out a letter to all staff telling them there would be cuts to their terms and conditions which they will say will save £2.9m a year. The letter, from Chief Executive, Mick Burrows (who was on holiday in Egypt at the time) said "the proposals in this letter have been shared with the trade unions as part of the formal consultation"

FACT 1 - the first UNISON knew of this letter was on Wednesday evening when the Nottingham Evening Post got hold of a leaked copy of the letter and contacted UNISON for a comment.

FACT 2 - the contents of the letter were never shared with UNISON before it was sent.

FACT 3 - the county council told the media that the unions were going to be briefed on the proposals on the evening of 14 October.

FACT 4 - no such briefing ever took place

FACT 5 - this morning UNISON formally advised the council that they were misrepresenting the sitation and asked for them to issue a retraction.

FACT 6 - Kay Cutts, Leader of the Council appeared on Radio Nottingham at just after 5pm and said that the information had been shared with the unions.

How can anyone have faith in the council to manage anything effectively when they continue to misrepresent the truth?

Why is it that home care workers, teaching assistants, librarians and other hard working council staff are being asked to pay for the mistakes of the greedy bankers who caused this recession?

One of the first acts of the newly elected Tory administration at Notts County Council was to create extra cabinet posts for their cronies adding £168,000 to the cabinet wage bill. It is outrageous that they create lucrative cabinet posts for themselves whilst cutting the terms of the people who actually deliver the services.

The council spend £19m they on agency workers which is the highest figures for any council in the East Midlands. If they implemented some proper management controls they could easily save at least 10 per cent, which would go a long way towards the required £2.9m saving.

We fear that this is an attempt to soften up our members before the council attack jobs and services. Read more about the proposals on the Nottingham Evening Post website. UNISON members should rest assured the Notts County UNISON branch will be mounting a vigorous campaign against these outrageous cuts. Watch this space and the branch's website for more info.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Those FOI figures in full

We are finally able to publish the results of what we have uncovered from our Freedom of Information requests on how much councils spend on agency workers and consultants.

The headline figures are that councils in the region spent more than a whopping £150m on these areas. And that does not include Derby City Council consultant costs or Northamptonshire County Council agency worker and consultant costs as these two councils refused to give us the info saying their systems did not allow them to access this information easily!

If you want to see the figures for all councils in the East Midlands click

We are sure that like us, you will be staggered by the wide range of figures – and the potential savings that can be made.

All we are asking councils to do is to set up some proper management and control mechanisms to control these costs. Corby Council managed to reduce their costs in these areas from £3.1m to £1.1 in three years. If you want to see more details read
this report sent to their Overview and Scrutiny Committee in July this year. If they can do it – so can others. UNISON have produced an action plan for councils on how to reduce their costs in these areas. Click here to see a copy.

Corby did very well cutting costs by over 50%. We don;t expect all councils to do as well, but if councils could save just a modest 10 per cent of their costs, that would be £15m to put into frontline services. The equivalent to around 1,000 homecare workers; or 1,000 teaching assistants.

UNISON says “cut waste, not services.”

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Campaign kicks off on the BBC

Our campaign against councils wasting money on agency workers and consultants kicked off today with a 11 minute piece on the East Midlands Politics Show. There is a 4 minute filmed piece giving details of what our research has uncovered followed by a 7 minute studio debate, with Ravi Subramanian, UNISON's regional head of local government, with the deputy leader of Wellingborough Council and Cllr John Boyce, the leader of Oadby and Wigston Council.

If you want to see the show, click on the East Midlands Politics Show and then watch the latest episode on the iPlayer. You'll have to be quick though as the show on the iPlayer will be replaced next Sunday. You will need to slide the controller to 31 mins and 10 secs to catch the start of the piece.

Did Ravi make our case that councils can be saving money on agency workers and consultants; or did the politicians persuade you it was all a good use of taxpayers' money?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Cut waste - not services

This weekend sees the launch of our campaign to highlight the fact that many councils are wasting money needlessly on agency workers and consultants. We have made Freedom of Information requests to all 45 councils in the East Midlands asking how much they spend on agency workers and consultants and we are now ready to expose our findings through the media.

There should be an article about agency workers and consultants' costs in the Nottingham Evening Post on Saturday, followed by a piece on the BBC East Midlands Politics Show.

Then, from Monday, we are are hoping for some coverage in the regional press, local TV and radio. We will be publishing the agency worker and consultants' costs on this blog sometime late on Monday. So if you want to know how much your council spent keep an eye on the blog.

We can assure you that you will raise your eyebrows at some of the costs. The Tories say there needs to be cuts to services and wage freezes to "balance the books." Our findings show that councils shave plenty of scope to be cutting waste rather than jobs and services.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Boris defends bankers

In a recent speech Boris Johnson defended the bankers who were the prime cause of the economic crises we are now in. It's perhaps not surprising that a man who makes so many gaffes could be so out of touch with popular public opinion. If anyone had forgotten, Boris has given the country a timely reminder that the Tory Party's primary aim is to look after the interests of their friends in the city over anything or anyone else.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott said: "Boris Johnson is the unacceptable face of capitalism. He wants low taxes and light regulation for the bankers who brought Britain to its knees and 'compassionate cuts' for everyone else."

The country is in a financial mess because of the greed of a few - and it is for this reason UNISON launched its Million Voices for Change campaign demaning social justice, good jobs and quality public services. If you've not signed up yet - please do.

The East Midlands region had its own regional launch of the campaign this weekend at the Branch Officer Training Weekend where over 100 activists were being trained. The campaign was kicked off with a fantastic group photo of the activists, their families and UNISON staff. The photo will be posted up on this blog and the Million Voices website as soon as we get a copy.

Councils facing cuts across the country

A blog called UNISON Active, run by a group of UNISON activists, has written about cuts facing councils across the country. See here for more info.

UNISON members working in local government up and down the country need to be ready to fight and make the case for the vital services they provide.

In a few days time the East Midlands region will be kicking of a media campaign by publishing the first part of information uncovered through Freedom of Information requests made to all 45 councils in the region. We will be starting with information on the money spent by councils on agency workers and consultants. Some of it makes for very interesting reading.