Efficiency Reviews in the UK and Reviews of the Public Sector in Wales, Northen Ireland and England

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2006 Local Government Service Group Conference
24 February 2006
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the motion passed in 2005 warning of the detrimental impact that efficiency reviews across the UK could have on jobs and services. Their effects are already being felt. Local authorities are implementing Efficiency Reviews by introducing more shared services through public-private partnerships or public-public partnerships. This is leading to job losses from economies of scale, job relocation and in some cases off-shoring. At the same time local authorities across the UK are faced with extremely tight finance settlements, with concerns that front line services cut to keep council tax budgets low.

In England most efficiency savings are being made by cutting adult social care, corporate services and housing services. Across the UK sick leave, sick pay and unsocial hours payments have been targeted. Staff are being made redundant and their working hours reduced, while others are being forced to work longer hours to cover vacant or deleted posts.

The structure of local authorities and other public bodies is also being reviewed by the government/devolved administrations. The review of Public Administration in Northern Ireland will drastically reduce the number of councils, Education and Library Boards, Health and Social Services Boards and Trusts, leading to job losses across the public sector and an expanded role for the private sector.

The review of public services in Wales raises the prospect of seamless/joint services across Health, local government and HE in Wales, which could lead to job losses and worsened regional pay and conditions.

The Lyons Inquiry into Local Government in England is looking into the role and functions of local government as well as funding and pay. This could fundamentally change the nature of local government.

In Scotland, the Scottish Executive continues to review public sector efficiency. Initial targets have now been increased with expected savings of £900m achieved by 2007/08. Total savings are expected to be £1732m. The Executive’s planned consultation exercise to consider the functions and role of local government and how to achieve greater collaborative working across the public sector has been delayed until later this year. Meanwhile some councils are progressing with plans to secure funding for efficiency programmes which will result in arrangements for developing shared support services across local authority boundaries and involving various public service providers. The plans will no doubt create anxiety and possible job loss for UNISON members. There are real concerns that workers will be de-skilled and de-motivated and that savings will not be fully reinvested in frontline services or in training and developing the workforce.

UNISON wants to see well funded, efficient and joined-up services which are publicly owned and managed and which meet the needs of all users. We also want the UK administrations to ensure that any savings made through efficiency reviews are put back into staffing, enhanced services and equal pay and appropriate terms and conditions for employees.

Conference therefore calls on Local Government SGE to:

1)Provide campaigning and negotiating advice and guidance for UNISON stewards and branch officers to deal with central and local government proposals on efficiency targets, to include best practice examples of where efficiency savings could be generated without cuts to services and jobs

2)Monitor the development and impact of the efficiency plans on terms and conditions, jobs and services

3)Publicise the impact of the efficiency proposals on jobs, terms and conditions and service quality amongst UNISON members, the public, AM’s, MPs and MSPs

4)Continue UNISON’s campaign to ensure that funding and resources are made available to provide quality services and employment without loss of services or staff, off-shoring or outsourcing of services

5)Respond to the reviews of public sector and local government in Northern Ireland, Wales and England

6)Highlight the detrimental impact of cuts and job losses on services and local/regional economies