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.