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2007 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2007
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that since Labour came into power in 1997, parts of local government have received welcome investment and started to recover from the lean Tory years. For example, by 2007/8, local government in England will have seen a 39% increase in overall funding in real terms since 1997. Much of this has been in the form of ring fenced grants, although the rise in general funding has been 14%.

Local government in England will receive £65.7 billion in the 2007-8, an increase of 4.9% in total funding, although some councils will only get a basic 2.7% increase. Core funding in Scotland is £8.7 billion, a 4.7% rise including a welcome extra £250 million, following concerns expressed by UNISON, local authorities and others. Welsh local authorities funding rises by 4.4% to £3.7 billion in 2007/8, and current funding in Northern Ireland is £0.5 billion.

However, the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 will lay out a funding settlement from 2008/9 – 2010/11 which will be much tighter than in the past. Real ‘cashable’ savings of 3% a year will be expected from local government, and administrative savings of 5% will be required from central government departments. Alongside this, council tax rises will be capped at 5%.

New Tory councils such as Hammersmith and Fulham are hell bent on decimating services in their drive to reduce the Council Tax.

This is at a time when there are increasing demands on local government. The rising number of elderly people makes specific calls on inadequate social care budgets, and the funding problems in the NHS mean that local authorities have to provide a safety net for patients who would previously have been cared for by the NHS. There are new financial demands from green policies to increase recycling and reduce land-fill.

The financial problems that local authorities face are increasingly leading to job cuts which have a knock on effect on local communities and the local economy where they spend their wages. This situation is likely to intensify in the future as funding becomes even tighter and as ‘marketisation’ increases. In a number of sectors private companies are abusing their position by acting as cartels and pushing public sector contract prices up at more than double the rate of inflation.

At the same time, as restructuring is leading to redundancies, there is a trend to increased spending on senior management grades and the use of expensive consultants brought in to reorganise services, often in preparation for privatisation and outsourcing, with resulting redundancies. Such costs are an unnecessary waste of resources and add to the funding crisis.

This Conference therefore calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Make an input into UNISON’s submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 and stress the damage caused to local communities and services by public sector spending cuts and increased ‘efficiency’ targets

2)To implement the terms of the motion on Social Care passed in 2006, especially in relation to the continued lack of funding by the Department of Health and the Department of Communities and Local Government.

3)Work with local councils and other bodies to campaign for adequate funding of local government as a whole

4)Highlight the extent of underfunding and potential job losses in local government across the country and the effect on local services

5)Work with all Trade Union bodies and appropriate organisations, including the National Pensioners Convention to influence the Social Care agenda.

6)Provide advice and guidance to branches facing redundancies, cuts to vital services and further privatisation

7)Publish guidance on local authority finance to enable branches to engage with councils, MPs and Government over the funding crisis

8)Actively support lawful industrial action and ballots for industrial action where branches are campaigning against redundancies, cuts to services and privatisation

9)Support anti cuts campaigns that include the community and other local trade unions to fight against the resulting loss in jobs and services.

10)Assist branches to organise lobbies of councillors and MPs for adequate funding and publicise the responses.

11)Liaise with Labour Link to explore the possibilities of a MP with whom UNISON has a Constituency Agreement leading on this issue.