Stable, sustainable funding is key to supporting branches and members

Stephen Smellie
Stephen Smellie

#uNDC16 After a very tense and close debate which then went to a card vote, National Delegate Conference narrowly agreed the report “Gateway to the Future: Stable and Sustainable Funding” as the way forward to best use UNISON resources to the benefit of members.

This report has been the outcome of a review process which has been widely consulted on and aims to support the branches who need it when they need it.

Jane Carolan
Jane Carolan

Scotland Regional Delegate Stephen Smellie, who was a member of the Branch Resources Review Group told Conference that as a branch secretary he wants adequate levels of funding to recruit organise and fight the employers, but also wants this funding to be sustainable.

Stephen said, “I also want other UNISON branches to be equally adequately and sustainably funded. If my sisters and brothers are weakened I am also weakened. So we need to have regard to the needs of all branches.”

He called for the union to be able to help those branches who don’t have enough money and have to set deficit budgets and argued that we need a model in place to allow the union to identify these issues immediately.

Scotland NEC member Jane Carolan also supported the recommendations of the Report, telling delegates that this will get the money to the branches that need it.

She pointed out that branch funds are not evenly distributed. “Branches in the union are not on a level playing field. Branch reserves are at £39 million but not all branches share in that – that’s branch reserves, not national reserves,” said Jane.

Stephen added that Activity Based Budgeting allows branches to quickly demonstrate the need for additional resources as it allows the Region to know, before the crisis happens, that it needs to provide additional support, including additional branch funds.

This was why Scotland agreed to run the initial pilots on developing Activity Based Budgeting, said Stephen, adding that consultation with branches had resulted in no adverse comments, bad experiences or refusals to participate.

“There has been no regional power grab, no loss of autonomy for branches, no taking away funds from branches. Instead it has helped to identify issues and focussed the Region on how to address these.

“Scotland opposed the NEC motion 2 years ago. We are now fully in support of it” said Stephen.
He warned that the proposal to give branches an extra 5%, or 10% seems attractive but would not address the issues that have been thrown up in the work of the review over the past 5 years.

“It would add to the reserves of some branches and not actually be enough to help other branches who are struggling and would mean a significant cut in funds from the National and Regional level available to support branches.”

He added that there are other issues in Branch Funding to be addressed, including developing criteria for the use of the Regional pools to ensure consistency, transparency and accountability.

“The issue of growing reserves in some branches whilst others struggle will need to be discussed and thought through,” he said, but reminded delegates that under the terms of the motion, the NEC and this conference would monitor and evaluate branch funding, and bring forward proposals for branches and ultimately conference to consider, and decide whether we support any proposals.

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