Defending local democracy, jobs and services

Inez Teece
Inez Teece

#ulgc16 Local Government Conference slammed the Tory Government’s ideological austerity policies which are having such a devastating effect on local democracy and public services. It pledged to continue the fight to oppose these attacks.

Scotland’s motion was included in a wide-ranging composite which set out a comprehensive strategy for combating cuts, and was moved by Scotland’s Inez Teece.

Inez said, “None of us sat here today could have imagined the battles we would be facing in local government just 10 short years ago

“Battles that are the result of an ideology not a necessity, a choice that the current government are consciously making, choices that need not be made.

“Choosing to impose cuts on jobs and services, choosing to cut our vital wellbeing services.”

She told delegates that in Scotland we have already seen the impact of the loss of 40,000 jobs in local government, “with services pared to the bone, outsourced or privatised, community facilities closed, leisure centres and libraries with reduced opening hours and home care workers contact time with older people reduced to just 15 minutes per visit.

But, warned Inez, it is not just cuts and closures of facilities, but restrictions and rationing of what is left of our services.

“Services once universal for all now have eligibility criteria that excludes all but those in the most immediate and desperate need. Prevention services are stretched beyond limit and no longer prevent the problems they were envisioned to prevent.

“Criticism is heaped onto services when they inevitably fail in their desired aims, criticised for not having marvellous services with bells and whistles, whilst at the same time being given funding for a teddy bears picnic,” slammed Inez.

She asked, “When failures happen, what do we do?   Do we look at how we fund the services and how we provide them? No! We censure the staff, we reorganise and we sell off those services to private and voluntary agencies but this time with even smaller budgets.”

She told delegates that to fight this downward spiral, the local government committee in Scotland has embarked upon a concerted and coordinated plan to fight the cuts and to fight compulsory redundancies.

“We have developed an austerity toolkit for branches, to engage with their local authority in seeking to address some key financial issues where savings could be made, such as seeking to renegotiate the terms of hugely expensive PPP/PFI contracts.”

Inez added the Scottish local government committee has also  given full support to all and any local government branch that want to ballot and secure a mandate for industrial  action – action to fight for jobs and services.

“In UNISON we need to stand up and say ‘this has to stop’.

“But we activists cannot do this on our own, we need our members to engage with the campaigns and we need the public to engage with us, to believe us to trust us and to work with us.”

She called on UNISON to provide appropriate training, facilities and materials specific to our needs and that we can adapt to our local needs and situations.

Local Government Reports by Kate Ramsden, Marie Quigley and John Stevenson

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