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.

    Taxpayers' Alliance gets its sums wrong (again)

    Earlier this month the so called Taxpayers Alliance (aka the Taxdodgers Alliance) put out some misleading figures about the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

    It is clear they deliberately manipulated figures to suit their claims that local government pensions face a black hole. In comparing liabilities to assets, they are deliberately making a ridiculous assumption that everyone will retire at once, tomorrow.

    The local government pension scheme is affordable and sustainable and its income exceeded expenditure by almost £6 billion in the last year. UNISON National Secretary, Heather Wakefield, said:

      “The Taxpayers’ Alliance deliberately distorts the true picture to suit their claims and their low-tax aims. With pensions you have to take the long view. Their claims are based on the nonsensical supposition that everyone is going to retire at once and tomorrow.

      Local government pensions are affordable and sustainable. We spent many months in lengthy negotiations to agree a scheme that did just that. These pensions do not cost £1 of every £5 of council tax, because council tax makes up only a small percentage of funding. They are funded by employers, employees and by investment income. The LGPS generates one-third of its own income.

      Remember, too, that we are not talking about gold-plated pensions, here. The average pension for women (the majority of employees) is £2,600 a year. If local government workers didn’t save for their retirement by paying into their pension scheme, they would have to rely on state benefits, funded by the taxpayer. What we need is some perspective here and a move away from a race to the bottom on pensions.

      The real pensions scandal in this country is that the boardroom fat cats vote each other ludicrously generous retirement packages, while plotting to cut the pensions of their workforce.

    The real facts about the LGPS are below.

    1. It is funded by employer contributions, employee contributions and investment income.

    2. It is cash positive – member benefits paid out in 2008-2009 were £5.6 billion against gross income of £10.2 billion.

    3. The total value of combined assets in England, Wales, Scotland and NI was £143 billion (in 2008).

    4. That’s 5 times greater than the largest single pension fund in the UK.

    5. Total assets of the 89 LGPS funds are equivalent to 10% of GDP.

    6. 60% of the fund is invested in equities or shares – in UK and global stock markets.

    7. By 2008, more than £1 billion was invested in each of the top four FTSE companies and it owned 1.3% of seven of the top nine companies in
    the UK.

    8. £4.7 billion
    is invested in the big four banks – Barclays, HBOS, HSBC, RBS and £2.3 billion in the 49 largest companies delivering UK public services in local government, the NHS and the utilities.

    Nottingham City Council cuts

    Nottingham City Council agreed their budget a few weeks ago. In it they made over £18m. The cuts were wide ranging but they included cuts to some of the most vulnerable in our communities, including cuts in adult services, reduced staffing in the deaf team, and reductions in the services for people with learning disabilities.

    The council will also be closing the Riverside Residential Home in Bulwell, introducing a £2 charge for all day centre users and increasing charges for transport and meals.

    The branch were determined not to let the council get away with these cuts without a fight and had a rally outside the Council House in the Market Square that was well attended by UNISON members and service users.

    Council cuts are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

    Public services don’t wait until theyve gone to defend them.

    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Speaking up for Social Workers

    UNISON is putting its money where its mouth is, and funding this major national advertising campaign to improve public understanding of social work. Over the last few years the profession has taken a battering. Whilst the tragic stories hit the headlines, the thousands of children, families and vulnerable adults that social workers help every year go unnoticed.

    We know that in addition to the high pressures of the job, social workers are struggling to cope with heavy workloads, too much paperwork and staff shortages. Morale has reached a new low. That’s why UNISON is taking the unprecedented step of launching an ad campaign to stand up for one group of workers.

    The series of ads, which will hit local and national papers over the next two weeks, will highlight the important role social workers play in keeping vulnerable children and adults safe. The adverts, which will be backed up by advertorial features, are intended to bring to life the reality of social work, through the eyes of a child protection worker.

    “The best thing about my job is seeing the outcomes. It can take weeks, months or even years until a child is heading in the right direction. But when that happens, you know that now a child has a much better chance in life and that is really satisfying.”

    Laura Aspinall, child social worker, featured in UNISON’s ad campaign.

    Monday, 15 March 2010

    West Midlands region says "Unlock the Door"

    Our colleagues in the West Midlands region have launched theirUnlock the Door campaign, which is part of the national Million Voices campaign.

    It is calling for a commitment to deliver a million affordable homes in the UK by 2015. Shockingly there are a million fewer homes available for rent from councils and housing associations than there were in 1979.

    The region has worked with the National Housing Federation and they warn that their region is facing an unprecedented surge in waiting lists for affordable housing with households facing years of waiting before they have any hope of being allocated a home.

    We in the East Midlands are happy to support their campaign, not least because this is an issue that affects the whole of the UK, not just the West Midlands.

    If you want to support the campaign click here.

    UNISON Mother's Day appeal to local government employers to end pay freeze

    Last Friday UNISON delivered a giant Mother’s Day card to the local government employers, calling on them to end the pay freeze for council staff. The Mother’s Day message is delivered on behalf of 1.6 million local government workers, 75% of whom are women. More than two-thirds earn less than £18,000, so a pay freeze will leave them struggling to make ends meet.

    Recent research by the TUC and Fawcett Society showed that women are bearing the brunt of the recession, as the most likely people to work in, and make use of, public services. Many women with families to support are being hit by heavy job losses in the public sector, plus cuts to services they rely on, such as nurseries, play schemes and care services for elderly parents.

    Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

      “It’s nowhere near a bed of roses for mums working in local government this year. Council staff are already some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector. They are facing the grim prospect of a pay freeze from April, just as inflation is on the up. Many are worried about losing their jobs, whilst working harder than ever, covering vacant posts, to keep services running.

      A pay freeze is a political choice, not a necessity. Councils have billions stashed away in reserves. Government grants are above inflation. Many Tory councils are choosing to keep council tax low – making little difference to weekly family budgets. There is money available to pay staff fairly. But some councils are using the recession as a smokescreen to cut jobs and services.

      Women in local government work in caring, cleaning, educational roles, as social workers helping families through tough times. They have supported people through the recession. They deserve to be treated fairly, not hit with a pay freeze. The local government employers need to think again about their damaging plans.”

    The East Midlands region's contribution to Million Voices #2

    Download now or listen on posterous
    Unison revised.mp3 (938 KB)

    Following on from our previous post about the region’s contribution to the union’s Million Voices campaign here’s information about a radio ad we commissioned and ran a month ago. The ad was funded from a General Political Fund bid agreed at the end of 2009.

    The 30 second radio ad ran on a number of commercial radio stations. The audience reach figures along with the advertising schedule meant the ad was heard over six million times in three weeks. The schedule was follows as:

    - Run for three weeks w/c 8 Feb on Trent FM, Ram FM and Leicester Sound

    - ads to run for two weeks w/c 8 Feb on Heart (Northants) and Lincs FM

    If you want to hear the ad, click on the link above

    Wednesday, 10 March 2010

    New rules pile pressure on social workers

    UNISON has backed calls from the Local Government Association (LGA) to cut added targets and rules placed on social workers. The latest LGA report highlights the potentially damaging impact of Lord Laming’s recommendation, requiring every referral from another professional to be followed up by a formal process known as an initial assessment.

    Commenting on the LGA report, Helga Pile, UNISON National Officer for Social Services, said:

      “This new requirement could cause referral and assessment teams to implode. UNISON estimates that local government is short of at least 6,000 social workers. Where are we going to find the extra 2,000 social workers needed to implement this measure? Staff shortages are already piling pressure on social work teams, who are struggling with an increase in demand since the baby Peter case. “

    She went on to say:

      “In addition social workers tell us they already spend too much time dealing with paperwork, leaving them little time left to spend face to face with clients. Cutting the burden of bureaucracy would be a real step in the right direction.”

    Posted via email from UNISON (East Midlands)

    Tuesday, 9 March 2010

    The East Midlands region's contribution to Million Voices #1

    At the end of 2009 the East Midlands region had a General Political Fund bid agreed to run some Million Voices themed campaigning messages. The messages were based upon the “disappearing jobs” theme that has been used previously. One of the mediums used for the message is the back of a bus. Actually it is the back of three buses! One each in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.

    Pictured in this blog post is a picture of the back of one of the buses which will have the message displayed on it until the end of June this year.

    We think it gets the message across very well, and it fits in nicely with the recent national stepping up of the campaign. Keep an eye out on this blog for details of the radio ad we had commissioned and the billboard posters we had put up.

    Who will be hurt by public service cuts

    As part of the Million Voices for Public Services campaign this hard-hitting film about who could be hurt by public service cuts has been released.

    We need as many people as possible to see this film and speak out for public services before it's too late. Please share and forward the link to members, colleagues, contacts, friends, and family.

    Public services

    Don’t wait until theyve gone to defend them.

    Posted via email from UNISON (East Midlands)

    Monday, 8 March 2010

    Million Voices campaign steps up a gear

    UNISON’s Million Voices for Public Services campaign has stepped up a gear. There is a revamped website here, which shows you how and where service cuts could affect your locality. If you’ve not signed up please do.

    Over the next few weeks the union will be raising the profile of public services and the people who work in them with the following:

    - an online 60 sec short film

    - TV ads

    - Newspapers ads

    - A campaign using social networking tools

    Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

      "Public sector cuts are looming large, and UNISON's new ads shine a light on the story behind the facts and figures. The human cost of cuts is people left without vital services. Emergency call centre operators, forensic experts, hospital porters, nurses and social workers all provide the services people need and rely on. Why should hard-working people pay for the recession when the bankers who caused this crisis are still getting billion pound bonuses? It is not right that services are being axed when the super-rich can bend the rules and avoid paying their fair share of tax.”

    He went on to say:

      "Projecting an alternative future without essential public service workers, brings to life the reality of cutting public services. In the latest stage of the Million Voices campaign, UNISON is calling on the public to join us in standing up for local services, to make the politicians think again about the consequences of making cuts."

    To find out more about the film, TV ads etc click here. To sign up to the Million Voices campaign click here.

    Public services

    Don’t wait until they’ve gone to defend them.