Local Government White Paper

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2007 National Delegate Conference
27 February 2007
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the 2006 Local Government White Paper has major implications for thousands of UNISON members not just in local government, but in health, education policing, transport and other areas. It also affects all our members as local citizens.

Conference also notes that the agenda set out in the White Paper, and the subsequent Bill, overlaps with the reform of health and social care signalled in the community health white paper, ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’, and that the broad direction of policy is towards ever greater emphasis on commissioning services from a range of providers and more shared services. Conference believes that such a policy has its origins in the Tory minister Nicholas Ridley’s model of the ‘enabling council’ and that reforms of this type will result in fragmentation and deterioration of services to the public.

It is trying to impose former Tory Cabinet Minister Nicholas Ridley’s model of an ‘enabling council’ on all local authorities, where they would only meet once a year to award contracts to private companies. The National Health Service (NHS) and other parts of the public sector are also being pushed down this road.

We note the proposals also have a strong citizenship dimension. Virtually all local authorities have to adopt a mayoral system, or have a council leader with full executive power. Only 13 local authorities have a mayor, and we reaffirm the decision of Conference in 2002 which said mayors were “fundamentally flawed”.

Expanding Overview and Scrutiny Committees to cover health and crime issues would be welcome on its own, and they have been used to oppose cuts in the NHS, but they do not balance the power given to mayors.

We welcome better coordinated local services and our experience of ‘cost shunting’ from the NHS to local councils, and sometimes in reverse, is that it benefits nobody. However, the bodies proposed to do this, Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), are unelected quangos which threaten to suck billions of pounds of funding away from local councils.

Where LSPs in England lead, Community Planning Partnerships in Scotland and Public Service Boards in Wales are likely to follow.

Therefore, Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1)oppose this new attack on public services and work with other unions and friendly organisations to campaign for directly provided public services;

2)publicise the effects of the proposals, and promote an alternative vision of strong local democracy;

3)mobilise the union across all relevant service groups and at all levels to campaign and lobby for the government to alter the proposals;

4)provide guidance, training and support for UNISON branches to make best use of Overview and Scrutiny Committees and, where possible, Local Area Agreements and Local Strategic Partnerships to pursue fair employment conditions and effective and accountable local services.