Efficiency Reviews

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2005 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that there are efficiency reviews across the governments of the United Kingdom (UK), driven by the 2004 spending review.

In Whitehall departments, this simultaneously expanded public spending but demanded £20 billion of efficiencies in services controlled by Whitehall departments as a result of a report by Sir Peter Gershon. Conference is alarmed that over three years £12 billion in hard cash savings have to be found and £8 billion in productivity improvements if the UK government is going to raise the money for the new spending plans of Whitehall departments.

Conference further notes that there are separate initiatives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that adopt different approaches to the issue. In both Scotland and Wales there is more union involvement in the process and though efficiency targets for joined-up services have been adopted there are no job cut targets as such. The Northern Ireland review replicates the English/Whitehall review more closely.

Conference deplores the facts that one of the first casualties of the review were the posts of 80,000 civil servants and that the major political parties are in auction to cut jobs which are allegedly not in the front line. UNISON members in public bodies such as OFSTED and 38 NHS arms-length bodies such as NHS University and NHS Logistics are also first in the queue for job cuts.

Conference regrets that the rush to criticise public service workers performing vital administrative work is taking place whilst the public sector is growing in size and ambition. Numerous targets have been set, and now must be considered in peril, because the impact on staff of the reviews will be distracting and detrimental.

Whilst civil servants were the first casualties, many UNISON members across the public services will face smaller budgets to perform the same or more work and there will be increased pressure and focus on cutting administration. Administrative staff play vital roles across the public sector and need recognition.

Conference believes that public services will be undermined, not improved, by the target-driven rush to cut administration, impose greater use of IT, promote outsourcing and squeeze conditions of service like pensions and sick leave. Public services are labour intensive, for example social care, and efficiency targets will put pressure on the pay and conditions of staff.

Public service workers are not against efficient government, but they are against knee-jerk and simplistic solutions that are imposed and that place no faith in staff and their managers, rather than involving the workplace in decision-making.

Therefore Conference resolves to:

1)continue to campaign for decently funded and high quality public services;

2)defend the current collective bargaining arrangements for pay and conditions against the demands for cuts in the name of flexibility;

3)support service groups negotiating directly with government departments and employers to defend both jobs and services;

4)provide campaigning and negotiating advice for branches to deal with the efficiency targets whilst recognising that local negotiations alone are insufficient to achieve our objective of defending jobs and services across the public sector;

5)reinvigorate the Positively Public campaign by focusing on ending strategic service delivery partnerships with the private sector and bringing contracted out services back under direct public control;

6)ensure that the union monitors the effects of efficiency proposals on jobs, conditions and service quality, ensuring that the strategic impact of these proposals is evaluated, and publicise the results among members of parliament, members of the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly members, Northern Ireland members of the legislative assembly, councillors, our own members and the general public;

7)work with the Trade Union Congress, Scottish Trade Union Congress, Wales Trade Union Congress and Irish Congress of Trade Unions to bring together all public service unions in a united and campaigning response.