Local Government Reform

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2007 Local Government Service Group Conference
16 June 2007

Conference notes that in the last year major reforms have been announced to local government in England (Local Government White Paper 2006) and Wales (the Beecham Review – ‘Delivering Beyond Boundaries’). A major reorganisation of local government is also taking place in Northern Ireland.

Conference condemns the fact that the proposed reforms will turn councils in England into commissioners rather than service providers. All executive power will be given to the Mayor or council leader. There will be a statutory duty for councils to help develop markets for local government contractors, and £5 billion of annual funding through Local Area Agreements (LAAs) will be outside direct democratic control. Although local communities, the community and voluntary sector and the private sector will be consulted over service delivery through LAAs, the workforce and their trade unions will not be consulted as equal stakeholders over changes that will affect our members

The proposed reforms also include a strong emphasis on citizen focussed services; the strengthening of scrutiny committees and co-ordination of a range of public services at a local level through LAAs and Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) in England, and Local Service Boards in Wales. They also include proposals for the involvement of local people in service delivery and ‘Community Calls for Action’ whereby councillors can raise important local issues with scrutiny committees.

At the same time the creation of a new set of unitary authorities in England is being driven primarily by efficiency savings and is required to be cost neutral. It is vital that this is not achieved at the expense of cuts in services or a tax on our members’ jobs, terms and conditions.

Conference believes that the proposed reform of local government is a mask to disguise further outsourcing and privatisation and calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Work with the other Service Groups in UNISON to campaign to ensure that:

aUNISON’S opposition to reforms on this basis is widely publicised

bMembers affected by these reforms are fully protected

cUNISON has a voice in service delivery changes

d UNISON and other public service unions are included in Local Strategic Partnerships

eUnions are fully consulted over the creation of any Local Area Agreements

2) Continue our opposition to marketisation and contestability in local government services and work with local communities to deliver services that they want and need

3)Campaign to strengthen local democracy, by opposing the transfer of all executive power to the Mayor or Leader, and for Community Calls for Action to be widened to cover all local services including the private and community and voluntary sector

4)Campaign to make Local Strategic Partnerships accountable to local people and ensure that communities are properly consulted about what they want

5) Provide support and guidance for branches on working with local communities to protect local services and to support local government workers and other public service workers as vital members of the local community

6) Provide support and guidance for branches on how to use scrutiny committees alongside local communities

7) Use UNISON’s experience of section 31 partnerships and similar bodies to produce guidance for branches on organising in cross-agency bodies which may be created under Local Strategic Partnerships.

8) Negotiate nationally with government and employers for good workforce practice to be applied during the creation of new unitary authorities, and to provide advice and guidance for branches on defending members interests during the process.

9) Lobby the Government to strengthen and extend the scope of the Best Value Code of Practice on workforce matters, provide branch guidance on any changes to it and target employers to ensure they are aware of their legal responsibilities.

10)Support lawful industrial action in accordance with UNISON’S industrial action procedures where jobs, pay and conditions are affected by the reforms