Tuesday, 25 May 2010

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."


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