The Economy

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2003 National Delegate Conference
16 June 2003
Carried as Amended

Conference remains concerned that, despite the relative health of the UK economy compared to other industrialised countries, there are still enormous imbalances between the health of the private services sector and the decline of manufacturing, between regions and between the rich and the poor. There is also a vulnerability to the collapse of a debt-financed housing boom.

Conference notes that other countries in the Eurozone have struggled to meet the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact, keeping a budget deficit of no more than three per cent, and have faced the painful prospect of having to cut spending in a recession.

Conference also notes that, in line with UNISON’s campaigning principles and in the face of a global economic slow-down, the Chancellor stuck to his tax and spending plans in the November Pre-Budget report. UK economic growth in 2002 was only 1.6 per cent and is forecast for 2.5 per cent in 2003 and as a result public sector borrowing will increase.

In July 2002 spending plans of £61 billion were announced up to 2006. The NHS will also receive £40 billion up to 2008, a 7.4 per cent increase in real terms every year.

But Conference is concerned that the opportunity to rebuild our public services is being squandered on ring-fenced projects, excessive bidding, finding efficiency savings, excessive target setting and monitoring. The new money needs to reach front line staff who deserve fair pay and reward for their efforts.

UNISON opposes the policy of the New Labour Government to force ordinary working people to pay for the minimal increases in public spending through increases in taxation, such as the recent increase in national insurance contributions for employees. This is in stark contrast to cut taxes for big business and the rich.

UNISON is at the heart of a growing consensus and opposition to the reliance on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Whether on or off the balance sheet, they are wasting both time and public money, whilst not delivering improvements, and are actually downgrading staff pay and conditions.

Conference resolves to support the current spending programme as welcome and affordable and to oppose any attempts to cut public services if economic growth is slower than expected.

Conference welcomes the Chancellor’s commitment to full and fulfilling employment, but notes that real unemployment remains unacceptably high: around 500,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing since 1997 in regions throughout the UK. Conference believes that a well resourced regional economic policy in the UK, linked to public investment in the renewal and improvement of basic infrastructures, is needed to aid the development of a sustainable economy for the UK’s regions. Public service investment is key to boosting regional economies, and should come on stream faster than the bureaucratic and inefficient Private Finance Initiative allows.

In order to progress our policies, Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)highlight the inflexibility and dangers of adhering to the European Stability and Growth Pact in a recession and how such an approach threatens jobs and investment;

2)continue to promote improvements in public services and associated increases in spending to be financed by progressive taxation;

3)keep on drawing attention to the failures of the PFI/PPP system to efficiently rebuild our national infrastructure;

4)promote the principle of direct public investment in staff and capital projects, so that the fourth largest economy in the world has world class public services;

5)campaign to promote spending on public housing, to stabilise the housing market and reduce inequality;

6)campaign for councils to have more independent tax raising powers and for a shift from central control to local control, so that more money is raised and spent locally;


6)to promote regional economies that provide decent well paid, high-skilled jobs;


8)urge the Labour Link and the General Political Fund to raise these issues within the Labour Party and with UK and devolved governments;

9)work with TUC, STUC, Wales TUC, Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other trade unions to ensure pressure is continued on Government and its advisers;

10)ensure branches are fully briefed and provided with information to enable them to lobby on the above policies where relevant;

11)support manufacturing unions in campaigns to keep jobs and investment in the UK:

12)continue to lobby for a Tobin Tax on international currency transactions that would go with