Monday, 28 June 2010

End of this blog, but a new one starts

Back in July 2009 we set up this blog the major area of the public services that was being hit by spending cuts was local government - hence this "Local Government Matters" blog.

Times have changed and it is clear the whole of the public sector is under attack and as a region our campaigning is wider than just local government.  So we've set up a new blog to cover the work we are dong across the public sector, in health, the police service, transport, energy, HE and FE, as well as local government.

We've imported the posts from the old Local Government Matters blog so there is some continuity. The new blog can be found here.

The "Local Government Matters" blog will now be defunct.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The public cost of cuts

A letter from John Sharman, branch sec at Lincs County branch to his local paper.


I read with dismay the article in today's Echo about announced reductions to Council budgets ("Authorities are 'ready to play part" in £4 cuts"). Lincolnshire County Council alone has been told it will receive £4,200,000 less from the government this financial year.


And of course this is only the start. Pronouncements from the coalition government indicate that there will be massive cuts in public spending over the next few years. Not just local councils, but other public services, many of whom are already being squeezed, will be squeezed further and further. This week one national personnel body – hardly a home of left-wing agitation – predicted that 750,000 public service jobs will be lost over the next five years.


These savage public sector cuts will have a devastating effect on local economies. For example, Lincolnshire County Council spends the majority of its budget on purchasing, so as that spend reduces so does the income of its contractors. Allied to that, it is the county's largest employer, so a shrinking workforce means less personal spending on local goods and services. And so the vicious circle goes on, taking us back into the recession from which we are said to be emerging.


The people who will pay the highest price for public spending cuts are the public themselves. It beggars belief that government ministers can talk of spending cuts of 20% and yet say that they will protect "front line" services. Firstly, with cuts of that magnitude, such a proposition is self-evidently impossible. Secondly, it is a false assumption that "front line" services are somehow separate from the rest of an organization.


I'm no expert in military matters, but even to me it is obvious that an army (and the term front line is a military metaphor) is dependent for its fighting capacity on its support systems. Soldiers in a war cannot survive without transport, ammunition supplies, catering, medical back-up, and so on. The situation is no different for those caring for the elderly, educating children, keeping the highways safe – and all the other services that local councils provide.


There is no way in which members of the public will not be hit hard by public spending cuts. Services that today we take for granted as part of the fabric of our society will disappear.


And let's remember where all this started: with the greed of the global finance industry. I cannot believe it is right that the price for bankers' mistakes should be paid by public servants. Pay in local government starts at £6.31 an hour (frozen this year, and it would seem for some time to come), hardly a comparison with city bonuses. Nor do I believe that price should be paid by the people of Lincolnshire being deprived of the services they deserve.


John Sharman

Lincolnshire County UNISON Branch Secretary

What the local government cuts mean for your council

See the attached link for a list of what the totally unnecessary local government cuts to this year's budget will mean for your council.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Spending Cuts – what does it mean for local government?

Yesterday the government announced £6.2bn of spending cuts to be made in this financial year with £1.165bn coming from local government.

Some of the cuts will be in the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) budget. The rest of the local government cuts are being made to specific and general grants that partly come from other government departments. Some of the funding streams that form Area Based Grant will be cut too. The breakdowon of the local government cuts is

  • Department for Communities & Local Government £362m – includes cut of £150m in PFI grant and cut in grant to Audit Commission
  • Treasury (via DCLG) £175m  
  • Department for Transport £309m
  • Department for Education £311m (from Connexions; Positive Action for Young People; Education Transport Grants)
  • Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs £8m


DCLG still cannot confirm which grants yet and say they are going to consult the LGA. Grim reading.


Hard pressed council staff have now got more uncertainty to contend with.


A Dismal Queen’s Speech says Dave Prentis

UNISON, the UK's leading public sector trade union, warned that Lib Dem/Tory plans outlined in the Queen's Speech today, will undermine vital public services, by opening them up to greater private sector involvement, while providing little help for the jobless and for economic recovery.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

"The plans set out in this dismal Queen's Speech spell danger for public services, and for economic growth and offer little hope to either the young or long-term jobless. Breaking up the NHS and schools, letting the Tories' friends in big business get a slice of the pie, will not deliver better services or save money.  It is not what the public want either. Poll after poll shows people don't want greater private sector involvement in public services. With the recovery at an embryonic stage, it is vital that support for growth is maintained. Cutting public services and jobs now will hit local economies, stunting economic growth, and ultimately force long-term borrowing up."


On Schools:

"Rushing through plans for more academy schools, and allowing parents to set up free schools, top slicing existing education budgets to pay for them, will see mainstream school budgets dwindle, hitting children in failing schools hardest. These plans are totally out of step with public opinion. A recent survey by UNISON and NASUWT showed only 5% of the public support schools being run by parents; with only 4% in favour of schools being run by private companies. Most parents want a good local school, run by professionals, rather than one they have to get involved in running."

On the NHS:

"Opening up the NHS to greater private sector involvement is a red herring. It will not save money, but could have costly implications for patients. Selling off services to long-term, inflexible contracts, creates huge transaction costs, and the shareholder premium means money lines rich shareholder's pockets instead of being ploughed back into better services. It's a bad move to scrap Strategic Health Authorities, which play a vital role in making sure that there are no shortfalls or gaps in healthcare provision, and in overseeing standards. They make sure local health authorities can respond to national emergencies, such as the swine flu pandemic."

On Welfare reform:

"Handing welfare over to private contractors – at the same time as increasing sanctions for the jobless and cutting support available through the Future Jobs Fund  – is a recipe for exploitation and abuse."

On Housing:

"It's right to involve local councils and communities in planning and housing decisions, but there also needs to be a strong voice for the 1.7 million of families stuck on housing waiting lists. There is nothing here that will ensure the delivery of the affordable housing we desperately need. A radical programme of council house building now would also provide much-needed jobs in the private sector."

On Financial reform:

"UNISON along with many others has been campaigning hard for effective regulation and fair taxation of the banks and financial institutions that caused the economic crisis. We hope the promises Financial Services Bill won't have been written by the Tories' friends and funders in the City – but we won't hold our breath."

On Constitutional reform:

"We will always welcome any restoration of our civil liberties – especially through the abolition of the costly ID cards scheme - and enhancing the power of devolved and local government. But much of this government's reform agenda seems more designed to secure its own position against democratic pressures, and turn parliamentary accountability on it head."


On Police:

"Of course police forces should be accountable, but directly elected police chiefs are not the way to achieve this. Locally, there is broad political consensus that joined up neighbourhood policing/neighbourhood management is the best approach. These plans could be the cause of friction. Instead, UNISON believes councillors should be given a bigger role in police forces."


Monday, 24 May 2010

Government Cuts – One thing they got right

Regular readers of this blog will know we've been campaigning hard to cut wasteful expenditure on agency workers and consultants. There is one area where the Government has listened to UNISON – they have announced that they will be cutting back on the use of consultants in central government departments. If the government can see sense on this, why can't they see sense on the whole cuts agenda?


Let's hope local councils follow the lead of the government and cut back on the extravagant and wasteful £150m plus that was spent on agency workers and consultants in the East Midlands alone. In July (when the financial accounts for 2009/10 are closed off) we will be making another round of Freedom of Information requests to councils to see if the 2009/10 figures show an improvement. Watch this space for the results.


Cuts announcement signals worse to come - everyone will suffer

Commenting on George Osborne's speech today, which set out plans for £6 billion worth of public sector cuts, Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, said:


"This is the first cut of the axe, but it signals that there will be more to come from the emergency budget and the comprehensive spending review. The new Government is completely ignoring the human impact of these cuts.

Despite high levels of unemployment, the Government is happy to add tens of thousands more workers to the dole queue, putting the recovery at risk. Public spending cuts will hit small businesses, devastate families, and the most vulnerable in our society will suffer.

There is no logic in cutting public sector jobs and money for development, only to pile on pressure to the private sector to create jobs."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Another picture caption that speaks more than a blog post can

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

There is an alternative to spending cuts

Ravi Subramanian, UNISON Regional Head of Local Government, had a column published in today's Nottingham Post outlining an alternative to the proposed £6bn of spending cuts. See below for the text of the article.


As Nick Clegg gets used to sharing power with David Cameron, the country waits to see what this marriage of convenience will bring. Speaking to Tory councillors, David Cameron said: "You demonstrate Conservative government – your values, your achievements, represent our party in action." Post readers already know what Tory councils are like.


Notts County Council recently implemented £28m of cuts. UNISON did a detailed analysis of the council's finances and showed the £28m could easily be found and the cuts were ideologically driven. Vital services like welfare rights were slashed and some old people had increases in user charges of over £20 a week.


Tory-run Barnet Council is adopting an "EasyJet" model with basic services provided free, with top-up charges for extra services. It's cuts by another means, as those who need higher levels of service are least able to pay the extra.


In tough times we need public services more than ever. They support communities, help people back into work, give our children the best start and care for our sick and elderly. Putting money into local services helps kick-start economic growth. When the Notts pits closed the local economy collapsed, as people had less money to spend in local businesses.


Big cuts are not inevitable; they are a political choice. It's not just UNISON saying this. Less than a month ago the Lib Dems pledged to oppose the savage £6bn of extra cuts proposed by the Tories. Now they are part of a government that has agreed to the £6bn of extra cuts. This coalition is nothing more than a shabby deal, for the benefit of politicians who are prepared to shed their principles in a grab for power.


It was not ordinary taxpayers or vulnerable people who caused this financial mess; it was greedy bankers. You'd expect UNISON to be against cuts and you might well ask: "Where's the money going to come from?" The people who got us into this mess can help get us out of it; around £30bn could be raised annually by introducing a major financial transactions tax on UK financial institutions.


Further annual savings could be made as follows: £10bn by reforming tax havens and residence rules to reduce tax avoidance by corporations and "non-domiciled'' residents such as Tory donor Lord Ashcroft; £14.9bn to stop tax relief being used to disproportionately subsidise incomes over £100,000; £1bn by halving local government agency workers costs (Notts County Council spend around £19m each year); £5bn could be raised with an empty property tax on vacant dwellings.


The Lib Dems had a chance to smooth off the worst excesses of a Tory government but they've agreed to the extra £6bn of unnecessary cuts. Labour said "vote Lib Dem, get Tories" and were scoffed at for scaremongering. Sadly, they were proved right.


In the 90s the unjust Poll Tax was defeated by a public campaign. These cuts can be defeated, too. UNISON's Million Voices for Public Services campaign aims to do this. All we want is a civilised, fair and compassionate, society with decent public services. Even in these difficult times, this is still possible by implementing a fairer tax system.

The war on Quangos starts by creating a new one!

The government have said that they would have a cull of Quangos as part of their deficit reduction scheme. They have got off to a bad start as George Osbourne's first announcement is to create a new one – the Office for Budget Responsibility.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A picture speaks a thousand words

New Government – Message from the General Secretary

Today, Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary issued a statement in response to the formation of the new government. Dave said:

"We now face our biggest challenge ever. Without a strong union, no public service will be safe from privatisation and cuts. Without a strong union, no public service worker's pay and pension will be secure.

The LibDems have already ditched their promise to oppose the Tories' plans for £6bn cuts this year. This will put the recovery at risk, and cost thousands of jobs. Plans for more cuts will follow, hitting communities hard.

We will fight tooth and nail to protect our members and the vital jobs they do. We will seek to build strong alliances, particularly with local communities and service users, to campaign against cuts and privatisation.

I call on every member and activist – however you voted at the general election – to join us in the fight of our lives to defend our vital public services."


Monday, 10 May 2010

Heather Wakefield on the Tories “Invitation to Public Sector Workers”

With it looking increasingly likely that David Cameron's Conservatives will be forming the next government it's worth reading Heather Wakefield's most recent Public Finance blog posting that takes a good look at Cameron's recent "Invitation to Public Sector Workers."

Heather looks at the seven pledges made by Cameron and exposes them for what they really are. Every public sector worker should read this so they know what to expect if Cameron manages to hoodwink the Lib Dems and becomes the next Prime Minister.


Public sector workers say job satisfaction is falling

According to the right wing press and their storm trooper allies, the TaxPayers' Alliance, life in the public sector is easy. A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), who could hardly be described as trade union allies, has shown job satisfaction in the public sector has hit a new low of +34% compared to +45% this time last year, with rising levels of job insecurity and an increase in work pressure likely to be the main culprits.

Nearly one in five (18%) of public sector workers now think it likely they could lose their job as result of the economic climate, compared with just 7% in April 2009. Almost four in ten (39%) public sector employees say their organisation is planning to make redundancies, up from 14% a year ago. And nearly two thirds (63%) of public sector workers think it would be difficult to get a new job in contrast to 56% a year ago.

Against this backdrop it is not surprising that public sector workers feel under increasing pressure, with one in four (23%) reporting they feel under excessive pressure at work every day compared to just 13% in spring 2009. The proportion of public sector workers reporting an increase in stress in their organisation has soared to 56% from 43% this time last year. And compared with a year ago, they are also less likely to say they are satisfied with their work-life balance (52% compared to 57% last year). The report can be downloaded from


Those who criticise the public sector usually do with no experience whatsoever of what it is really like to work in the public sector. This survey illustrates the very real pressures public servants face.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

UNISON reaction to the General Election

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis warned politicians that the election results show there is no public support for savage cuts in public services, saying:


"As the politicians manoeuvre to grab power, they all need reminding that there is no popular support for the savage cuts in public spending, that would have followed an outright Conservative victory.  The City and big business, who have poured millions into the Tory coffers, have been denied the decisive result they craved.

The priority now must be to secure the economic recovery and jobs, whilst protecting our vital public services.  UNISON will fight tooth and nail to defend our public services, oppose more privatisation and will strongly resist any attempts by any new government to attack our members' pay and pensions.

We are ready to fight for what is right for Britain's public services.  We will fight for the hundreds and thousands of jobs that are in imminent danger if the Tories' dangerous and irresponsible plans to cut fast and cut deep are realised. If that happens, the country will not just be plunged into a further recession, but into social dislocation and industrial strife.

Where our members are forced into taking action to protect services, the union will be right there with them.  Where they are fighting for their jobs and pensions, we will give them the backing they need. And where other public sector unions are challenging cuts, we will work side by side to fight with them and save the vital services that the public rely on.

Public sector workers did not cause the economic crisis and they will not be made to pay the price for bailing out the bankers."


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Ross Kemp signs up to Million Voices

TV star, Ross Kemp was in Nottingham today to help with Labour's election campaign. He popped into the UNISON regional office to speak to local Labour Party activists. While he was there we managed to grab him for a few minutes and he agreed to sign up to our Million Voices campaign.

Ross said he was proud to support our campaign – and we are very pleased to have his support.

Notts County Council cuts – another view

We've blogged before about the vicious £28m cuts made by the Tories at Notts County Council. But it's not just UNISON who believes these cuts are unnecessary and unjustified.

The mother of a service user of one of the care homes which the council intends to sell off has blogged about the cuts here:

It's powerful stuff. With a general election in a few days time it is well worth reminding yourself exactly what it will mean if the Tories form the next government.

Use your vote carefully.

Notts County Council industrial action continues

UNISON members at Notts County have been taking industrial action since the beginning of April to defend an attack on their terms and conditions.


The real impact is beginning to hit home with the Council. The cost of pool cars, taxis and additional time taken due to using public transport is mounting up. The goodwill of staff has been lost and service delivery is beginning to be seriously affected.


Relatively few staff have returned the tear off slip from Chief Executive, Mick Burrows, letter asking them to agree to the new terms and conditions.  The local UNISON branch has sent members an alternative letter stating that they are opposed to the new terms and conditions and only working under protest. The letter is on the branch website below:


We know that the action is having a real impact and we hope the council will see sense soon and come back to the negotiating table. Watch this space for more developments.


Friday, 30 April 2010

Party leaders must come clean on local government pay

UNISON, Unite and GMB are demanding that party leaders and Local Government Association bosses 'RSVP' to an invitation before the election - to come clean on whether they will back local government workers in overturning the pay freeze, or leave them out in the cold.

The Trade Union Side Secretaries to the National Joint Council for Local Government Services - a body set up to negotiate on behalf of 1.5 million local government workers - are calling for the leaders to respond with their stance on supporting a pay award in light of rising inflation, which has seen staff taking a pay cut.


The unions are also demanding a response on whether the leaders would back negotiations though ACAS and their views on the fact that highly-paid public sector staff are still receiving generous pay awards, while low paid workers bear the brunt of the recession. The Local Government Employers wants a pay freeze for 2010/11 and has made no attempts to negotiate with the unions, or provide a formal response to unions' claim for 2.5%, or a £250 flat rate, whichever is higher.

In the Conservatives' 'Invitation to Public Sector Workers' manifesto, Cameron sets out a £18,000 pay freeze limit for workers, yet the Employers organisation - governed by the Conservative-led Local Government Association (LGA) - demands a widespread freeze.


Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

"We are demanding that all parties come clean to our members in local government and say what they really have planned for local government workers, before the election. The Tory-led Local Government Employers want a widespread pay freeze, while the Tory leader says this will only be for those earning more than £18,000 – which one is it Cameron?

More than 60 per cent of our members working for councils earn less than the £18,000 lower threshold for a pay freeze proposed by the party, so it is crucial to voters that the Conservative's respond to our invite to comment. Local government workers want to know which party will support negotiations for a fair pay award, to recognise the hike in inflation, which has left them with a pay cut. Or whether they believe that it is right that public sector bosses enjoy generous awards, while low paid workers bear the brunt.

Local government staff have a vital role to play in helping local communities ride out the recession and may be struggling to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads. The party that comes into power should be backing these workers and the public who rely on these vital services, not imposing a freeze that leaves workers, such as school assistants, dinner ladies, care workers, out in the cold."


Thursday, 29 April 2010

UNISON sends voters sharp reminder about "axe-wielding" Tories

UNISON is warning that the Tories would wield an axe to public services, with the launch of a hard-hitting, two-week pre-election poster campaign. The advertising campaign, funded by the union's General Political Fund, urges the public to "Look What's in the Tories' First Budget". The posters will appear in key marginal constituencies and are designed to send a sharp reminder that cuts planned by the Conservatives would crush vital services, that local people rely on.

Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, said:

"The poster's graphic image will give voters a sharp reminder of Tory plans to take an axe to vital public services. Public spending and the threat of job cuts are high on the election agenda. 

Tory councils have already wiped out thousands of jobs across the UK and local people are paying the price. We are seeing vital services such as meals on wheels, nurseries, day centres, home care and libraries disappear – and if the Tories get into power they have said that thousands more jobs will go. 

Our message is a simple one – use your vote and stop the threat to your public services."


Lincs County UNISON quiz parliamentary candidates

Candidates for Lincolnshire constituencies in next week's general election are being asked for their views on the County Council's plans to close the last eight homes for older people provided directly by the authority.

Staff at the homes and members of UNISON are writing to parliamentary candidates asking what they think of the plans, which have been out to consultation for the last six months. An analysis of consultation responses was commissioned by the authority, and showed minimal support for any of the closures. Because the Council didn't get the result it wanted, it is spending more public money on further consultation, and will make a decision on its plans after the general election.

"This is an important issue for everyone in Lincolnshire constituencies," said Branch Secretary John Sharman. "All of us have an interest in maintaining the specialist and highly regarded services provided by these homes – we never know when they could be needed for our families or indeed ourselves. So it's right that we should ask the people seeking to represent our county in the House of Commons what they think about the closure proposals.

"We all know that care is a huge challenge for the future, and we all support developing services. But shutting the excellent homes that the Council provides now, and replacing them with private sector provision that's run to make a profit, is not the answer. For decades the County Council has justified privatisation by referring to 'the mixed economy of care'. If these proposals go ahead there will be no mixed economy of care, just a private sector monopoly. The choice of public care will be a thing of the past."

There will be a demo against the sell off on Saturday 1 May. The demo has been organised by Lincoln and District Trades Council.

Assemble: 11am, Castle Square, Lincoln
Rally: 12noon, Cornhill, Lincoln


Over 400 angry UNISON members attend demo

This lunchtime, well over 400 Nottingham City UNISON members attended a lunchtime protest against the council's unjustified attack on terms and conditions. This fantastic turnout is a reflection of the widespread anger that is felt.

Several UNISON members got up and spoke out against the cuts and said the council was dishonest in sneaking in the cuts under the guise of Single Status.

Members of the public came to ask what the demo was about and once it was explained to them most were in support. One person commented it was unfair of the council to attack staff when the council has spent well over £1m paying off three Chief Executives. We can't argue with that.

The demo showed the strength of feeling and the council will surely now have to listen and reverse their proposals. If they don't, they can expect the branch to step up the campaign, which will include industrial action if necessary.

UNSION General Secretary, Dave Prentis has today written to all members of the council's Cabinet to express his anger at the proposals. Dave has said "it is wholly unacceptable to bully staff" and that if the council do not reverse the proposals he will ensure UNISON will "fight these cuts by any means necessary."

It's great to know UNISON members have the support at the very highest level of the union.

To keep up to date on what is happening go to the branch's website here.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Quiz your parliamentary candidates

As part of UNISONs Million Voices for Public Services campaign there is now an interactive facility for the public to quiz their candidates before the general election.

All you need to do is enter your postcode and then you can send an email to all of the candidates standing in your constituency.

Click here to go to the website. Make sure you find out their views on public services before you cast your vote it only takes a minute.

Chesterfield fight privatisation plans

The Chesterfield UNISON branch are fighting plans to privatise back office functions at the council. Whilst its not unexpected that UNISON would be opposed to these proposals what is shocking is that the council are planning to proceed with the privatisation despite two out of the three bidders pulling out.

How can it be value for money for the tax payer if there is only one company bidding for the contract?

The picture shows a poster used by the branch in bus shelter ads in Chesterfield. The poster design was as a result of a competition in the branch. The costs of the ads came from the union's General Political Fund.

Demo against council cuts in Leicester

Theres a backlog of stories to update the blog. The first story is about a demo in Leicester on Saturday 12 April.

Council workers took to the streets to protest on Sat 12 April against impending job losses and budget cuts. Leicester City and Leicestershire County UNISON branches are angry at plans cut hundreds of jobs as part of the city and county council spending cuts and they worked together to organise this joint demo.

The Labour-run city council will cut 7% off its £280m budget over three years – while cutting around 300 posts. In the county, the ruling Tory group will cut £66m or 20% from its budget and lose 650 posts over four years.

On Saturday, workers met in Humberstone Gate to vent their anger and raise public awareness of the proposals and their effects.

Keith Libetta, Regional Organiser said: The rally was about highlighting the savage cuts and asking the public to support us and the services they rely on by calling on all election candidates for their support for proper public funding. The cuts that are being proposed will affect all sectors of public services including museums, libraries, care for the elderly, services for people with learning, mental or physical disabilities – a whole range of dedicated services. Nobody will remain unaffected."

The event in Leicester city centre was one of four events taking place nationally, the others were held in Sheffield, Glasgow and London.

In London, groups ranging from the TUC and National Pensioners' Convention to the Disability Alliance and British Medical Association gathered to voice their concerns.

Disgraceful attack on terms and conditions by Nottingham City Council

Nottingham City Council have disgracefully used Single Status as a smokescreen to mount an attack on terms and conditions, including cutting nationally agreed sick pay and mileage rates.

The local UNISON branch has arranged a series of workplace meetings to discuss the matter with members.
There will be a lunchtime demo at 12:30 on Thursday 29 April outside the Council House. If you work for the council make sure that you attend to protest against these unjustified cuts.

There will be more posts about this issue in the next few days.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Who should run our schools?

Education will be a key battleground area at the next general election. Each of the main political parties wants to show that they have the right balance of policies which will appeal to the electorate and contribute to improving the nation’s schools.

UNISON, along with teaching union NASUWT recently asked Ipsos-Mori to conduct a public opinion survey on the state of the nations schools. If you want to see the full results of the poll click here, the headline results are below.

  • Most of the public want state-funded schools to be kept public and run by government.

  • Parents and the public generally believe that today’s state-funded schools are of good quality.

  • The public want state-funded schools to be run by local councils/local authorities in preference to any other type of provider, including universities, groups of parents, charities or private companies.

  • Just 4% of the public prefer proposals that would allow state-funded schools to be run by private sector companies.

  • Only 5% of the public prefer the policy proposal advanced by some political parties to establish Free Schools (i.e. state-funded schools run by groups of parents).

  • There is significant opposition to alcohol companies, drugs companies, fast food outlets, tobacco companies and adult entertainment/pornography companies running schools.

  • By 3 to 1 the public oppose allowing state-funded schools to charge parents additional fees to supplement their funding.

  • Parents and the public reject by a ratio of 9 to 1 any increase in autonomy for head teachers. The public want the work of head teachers to be checked and regulated by inspectors, governing bodies, local councils and the Government.
Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON the largest public service union said

This survey blows a great big hole in the Tories education policy. Only 5% thought parents should run state funded schools.

Perhaps instead of looking to Sweden, or the USA, for inspiration, or listening to a mainly London-centric middle class complaining about their local schools, politicians should start listening to the vast majority of parents who want a good local school run by the public sector.

All the political parties need to rethink their policies and place a commitment to democratically run state education at the heart of it.

This survey shows the extent of public support for maintaining a school system that is democratically accountable and where local education authorities continue to play the lead role. Parents, young people and the general public are not persuaded by the concept of ‘independent state schools’, especially if this involves them being run directly by private companies.

Lets hope the politician’s listen.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Spoofing Notts County Council

Weve blogged before about the £28m of cuts of cuts at Notts County Council. In our letter to the Chief Executive outlining where the council could find over £28m, one saving we identified was not to appoint to the Service Director Communications (akaspin doctor) post.

It seems the council are stillspinning away. They have now set their e-mail system up so that every email has a picture with a council logo and the commentsproud of our past, ambitious for our future at the end of it.

As the mydavidcameron site showed this sort of spin is ripe for spoofing. Some wag hasamended the councils graphic and sent it in to us. The amended version is at the start of this blog post.
We think the spoofed image tells the real truth about the council much better than the original.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Budget - the devil is in the detail

The Budget - the devil is in the detail
The devil is in the detail last week’s budget and UNISON nationally have called on the Chancellor to clarify where exactly the so-called efficiency savings would come from. Our worry is that local government, which is already seeing heavy job losses and service cuts, would bear the brunt of any cuts. Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

Local government is already facing heavy job losses and service cuts. Across the country, vital local services such as homecare, meals on wheels, day centres, parks and leisure and local authority nurseries are facing the axe. Communities will suffer if local government workers are added to the dole queues. Local economies will fall into a downward spiral. 

Tory councils are already using this bankers recession as an excuse to make cuts. Local authorities got an above inflation 4% grant from central government last year, have billions stashed away in unallocated reserves. Councils have a further funding boost, after making above and beyond the efficiency savings demanded by central government and pocketing the cash. 

Local Government services are already suffering and this budget will fuel further job losses which will see local services disappear.”

    Who cares: Who Pays

    UNISON has launched a hard-hitting report on the future for care in the UK, in light of the roll out of personalised budgets in social care. 

    The report, written by senior academics at Bristol University, exposes the current underfunding of the system, which is leading to increased privatisation and plummeting standards, as care is sold off to the lowest bidder. UNISON is calling for more funding to tackle the demographic time-bomb, that will see care demand shoot through the roof over the next 30 years.

    The report calls for a sea change in the way employment in social care is viewed, to increase recruitment and retention, and improve training and career opportunities. It recommends a boost in support for personal assistants, for them to be employed and regulated by local authorities, and help for people managing their own personal budget. 

    The “Who Care: Who Pays” report can be downloaded here. Or you can download a summary of the main findings here.

    Sunday, 28 March 2010

    Privatisation: The Tories are at it again

    Guest post from John Sharman, branch secretary at Lincolnshire UNISON and member of UNISONs Local Government Service Group Executive

    Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire County Council is set to make a decision on the closure of eight Council homes for older people, in order to re-provide services through the private sector.

    The authority got rid of most of its homes in 1992, leaving itself with just eight homes which have developed specialist services, such as reablement, support for older people with dementia, respite and intermediate care. All the homes are highly valued in their local communities, and the Council itself describes the quality of care provided by the staff as “second to none”.

    In spite of this, Lincolnshire began consultation in November on plans to scrap all publicly-controlled residential care in the county. It clearly expected this to go through with the minimum of fuss, and on the original timetable all the decisions would be done and dusted by early March. But it hasn’t quite panned out that way.

    UNISON has mounted a high profile campaign aimed at keeping the homes open and improving services within a public sector dimension. We’ve had good publicity in the local media, including coverage of a visit by Dave Prentis, who came up to Lincoln to meet activists and members from the homes. And there has been a public outcry, from service users, carers, and concerned members of the community.

    The result is that the Council has been pushed onto the back foot. It’s had to send the mass of consultation responses for independent analysis, and the Executive decision was pushed back first to April then May, and now to 1 June. The branch is organising a billboard and leafleting campaign across the county, and Councillors can expect some company when they arrive at county offices on 1 June.

    Our members in the homes are of course concerned about their jobs, but in every meeting their primary objective is to protect the standards and quality of care to older people in Lincolnshire. If the eight homes go, the Lincolnshire public will be at the complete mercy of those who seek a profit from the care of the elderly. The last public sector safety net will have gone.

    For decades we’ve listened to Tory councillors justifying creeping privatisation by reference to the “mixed economy of care”. That phrase has now disappeared from their vocabulary. If their latest proposals are enacted there will be no mixed economy, just a private sector monopoly. The concept of consumer choice will be history.

    That’s why UNISON will fight every inch of the way to keep these homes where they belong – under direct public control.

    John Sharman
    Lincolnshire UNISON

    Notts County UNISON take industrial action to defend terms and conditions

    As well as implementing savage and unnecessary cuts totalling some £28m Tory controlled Notts County Council are attacking staff terms and conditions including car allowances and annual leave. The branch have tried to negotiate with the council and even presented alternative proposals, but these were rejected by the council.

    An industrial action ballot was held and a thumping 77% voted for action short of strike action. From Monday 29 March UNISON members will be taking the following action:

    . Refusing to use their own vehicles for work purposes
    . Refusing to cover for absent colleagues
    . Refusing to work more than their contracted hours
    . Refusing to carry out any work not specifically mentioned in job descriptions

    UNISON members are committed to providing services to the community but they will not be bullied by an employer who is attacking terms and conditions, even when UNISON have showed them where they could find over £28m.

    Messages of support can be sent to at

    Thursday, 25 March 2010

    We told you so

    Last week Nottingham City council discussed a report which revealed that there had been an increase in the number of children in care of nearly 20% and that the majority of these are being accommodated in private residential establishments.

    This time last year, in the face of opposition from UNISON, staff and ex-clients, including Oscar winning actress Samantha Morton who addressed a rally in Nottingham in March last year, the Council decided to reduce the number of its own children homes.

    UNISON Regional Organiser, Peter Savage said, “This is one of those occasions when we can say that we told them so. They now have three children homes empty, they’ve sacked the staff, paid redundancy costs, yet the demand for the service has increased. This is a classic example of short term savings having long term costs in both the Council’s finances and on the people who need the service.

    Monday, 22 March 2010

    Taxpayers' Alliance attempt to smear Million Voices

    The UNISON Million Voices video that was released a few weeks ago has got the Taxpayers Alliance rattled. So much so, that they tried to parody the video with one of their own that was posted on the blog of Tory MEP Dan Hannan (a lovely man who said the NHS was asixty year mistake).

    The video purports to show there are lots of so callednon jobs in the public sector. All it does is show the Taxpayers Alliance do not know anything about public services.

    Our colleagues over at UNISON Scotland have blogged about this and shown this to be nonsense. If the Taxpayers Alliance spent more time paying their taxes rather than making unfair and illogical attacks on hard working public sector workers, the world would surely be a better place.