Public Services

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2006 National Delegate Conference
3 June 2006
Carried as Amended

Conference records that the last Spending Review by the Chancellor committed an extra £60 billion to public services up to 2008, with £40 billion going to the National Health Service (NHS). Despite this growth, and accompanying increases in public sector jobs, there has been a misguided efficiency drive and marketisation strategy that is leading to destabilisation, cuts and privatisation. Conference condemns the thousands of jobs shed in the NHS, with 4,000 announced in March 2006 alone. Frank Dobson, the former Labour Health Secretary announced “The so-called NHS reforms are costing a fortune. The government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on management consultants and franchising operations to the private sector”. Conference notes that under a Labour government, Tory policies on public services have not only continued but accelerated. Conference believes that the Labour government’s attacks on public services bring in serious question the relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Conference notes with concern some of the proposals being placed before Parliament this year, and welcomes UNISON’s strong opposition to the damaging proposals contained within the Schools White Paper. We similarly deplore changes that the government have attempted to push through in areas like primary care trusts, the police service, local government and energy policy.

Conference further notes that the Spending Review announcement planned for July 2006 and covering funding up to 2011 has been delayed one year and replaced by a comprehensive review of long term issues such as energy supplies, efficiency, globalisation of trade, global warming and an ageing population. The review will complement the work of the long-term reviews already underway into the future of transport, skills, pensions and local services. An interim report will be made in the summer of 2006.

However, Conference notes with regret, that with economic growth slowing, the Chancellor has already conceded that spending will fall by about £9 billion between 2009 and 2011. This will intensify the efficiency drives already experienced, make pay bargaining tougher and further destabilise public services.

Conference reiterates the views in the “Taxation and Public Services” report agreed by Conference in 2000 which set out a variety of measures to re-build public services funded through progressive taxation. In 2006 Conference believes that the values of collective public provision, universally provided through direct taxation need re-asserting as the best way for a government to deliver high quality services for all. Poverty and inequality still blight the United Kingdom (UK) and Conference believes that social justice and a successful economy are compatible and that well-resourced public services are the key.

Further, Conference has been opposed to the direction of policy on public services and developments that are changing the very nature of how services are being delivered, and has presented both a strong, objective and relevant critique and progressive and practical alternatives. This is based on members’ experience as service providers and users. We are able to work with United Kingdom (UK) governments where there are benefits to members and advances to be realised in the equity, accountability or quality of services being provided. However, we will continue to question and oppose policies that lead to lack of accountability, marketisation and the fragmentation of public services.

As a Union we will only be successful where we can demonstrate why such initiatives are dangerous and present the case for well-funded, equitable, innovative and accountable services where providers co-operate, not compete.

The Welsh Assembly Government and Scottish Executive stand as pillars of good practice in terms of their relationship with stakeholders like UNISON, and in the way they develop and implement policy. However, co-operation brings its own challenges including integrated service delivery and structural change that can go much further than sharing back office functions.

We will continue to demonstrate the user benefits of a well-trained and motivated workforce, as opposed to the detriment experienced in the private sector where terms and conditions are reduced to their lowest common denominator.

Conference also acknowledges that the last year has seen areas of progressive thinking. We believe that the government has missed a most important opportunity to implement truly radical reforms, like those proposed by Tomlinson for 14-19 year old education, and the alternative Schools White Paper published in December 2005. Conference believes that the government must heed the criticisms and warnings over its reforms from its own backbenchers, parliamentary select committees, academics and user groups. The government must recognise that many of its current plans will actually harm the service ethos and delivery which are such important parts of local government and the National Health Service.

Conference believes that our agenda must continue the fight for adequate funding, and consistent campaigning for quality public services. We therefore call on the National Executive Council to pursue the following policy aims:

1)work with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC), Wales Trades Union Congress (WTUC), Irish Congress of Trades Union (ICTU) to ensure decent budget settlements that match social need;

2)make the case for all local authority services to be funded sufficient to achieve a high quality standard and a progressive council tax with more bands at the top and bottom, including submission of evidence to the Lyons Review of Local Government;

3)maintain NHS spending above the European average;

4)ensure effective funding of, and protection of jobs, in criminal justice services;

5)close the income inequality gap between rich and poor;

6)end child poverty and fuel poverty;

7)campaign to secure decent final salary pension provision;

8)close the gender pay gap;

9)fair wages in public procurement;

10)increase the supply of affordable public housing to rent;

11)lessen the tax paid by the low paid in favour of taxing the assets and unearned income of the super rich.

In order to help find the substantial sums required to achieve these vital objectives, we call on the government to:

a)consider levying windfall taxes on those companies making exorbitant profits, for example banks and oil companies;

b)review the amount of money currently being spent on warfare as opposed to welfare;

c)consider reversing the tax handouts with which the Thatcher government rewarded those on the highest incomes.

In addition to pursue our Public Services goal, we resolve to