Third Comprehensive Spending Review

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2002 National Delegate Conference
9 May 2002

Conference notes that the third Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR 3) will report in the summer of 2002 and cover the period 2003-2006 and believes that the three priorities should be:

1)increasing spending on public services and staff to secure world class services;

2)increasing capital investment without using Private Finance Initiative/Public Private Partnership (PFI/PPP); and

3)reducing poverty and inequality.

Conference notes with alarm that the Institute of Fiscal Studies reports that we have the lowest level of public sector investment for decades, 1.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2000 compared to 8.9 per cent in 1975.

Conference believes that the Government should be bold and expand significantly public spending and investment, building on the extra £43 billion allocated in the second review covering 2001-2004. Public spending is still only about 38 per cent of GDP compared to 48 per cent in Germany, 50 per cent in Italy and 54 per cent in France.

Conference records that in 2000/2001 there was a total underspend of £6.8 billion, 3 per cent of total, of which the capital investment budget was 30 per cent underspent, with the biggest shortfalls across local government and in schools, hospitals and transport.

Conference believes that the reason for the capital investment underspending is due to:

1)The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public Private Partnerships (PPP) being slow, bureaucratic, expensive and complicated;

2)The lack of a corresponding investment in the number of staff from the revenue budget to make it happen.

Conference condemns the departmental underspending, notes the budget surplus in 2000/2001 of £23 billion and believes that plans to improve our public services to a decent standard will still require extra resources from increased taxation as set in the UNISON Taxation Report passed at National Delegate Conference 2000.

Conference is concerned that the increasing private sector involvement in public services will hinder the drive to improve services. PFI/PPP is both inefficient and costly and usually involves staff transferring to the private sector where their pay, conditions and pensions are often downgraded.

Conference welcomes the commitment to raise health spending to the European average and agrees with the conclusion of the report by Derek Wanless that the current method by which healthcare is financed through general taxation is both a fair and efficient one. It further calls on the Government to ensure that full funding is make available to implement the Agenda for Change.

Conference recognises the fundamental importance of integrating social and equality provisions into the public procurement process in order to address inequality and disadvantage and highlight the importance of quality public service delivery. Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to ensure that pressure is put on governments and all public bodies to equality impact assess the procurement process using such tools as the new Great Britain statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity arising from the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the social and equality recommendations in chapters 2 and 5 of the Procurement Review in Northern Ireland.”

Conference also believes that the Government can use the opportunity presented by the review to demonstrate a long-term commitment to public services through increased investment, and that such a public commitment will contribute to improving young people’s perception of public services as an option for their career choices.

Conference resolves to:

a)highlight the contribution public services make to the health of the UK economy and society;

b)campaign with the Trades Union Congress for CSR3 to dramatically increase direct investment in public services using well paid, trained and directly employed staff;

c)highlight the restrictions placed on public spending freedoms, and the wider economic threats, of entry to the European Monetary Union arising from the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Stability Pact and the link between this and national budgeting;

d)highlight the importance of public spending and investment which targets the recruitment and training of young people for careers in public service;

e)ensure that branches are encouraged to participate in the campaign and are kept informed of the outcome.