Local Government Reorganisation

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 June 2008

High quality public services can be delivered through two-tier or unitary local government structures where supported by adequate resources, a fairly paid and properly developed workforce, and a healthy respect and enthusiasm for democratic accountability to the local community.

Proposals to create new unitary authorities should therefore be rigorously assessed to evaluate the level and quality of services that the financial, staffing and accountability arrangements planned to support them can realistically sustain.

Furthermore, Conference recognises that Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) presents significant organising challenges to Branches and Regions arising out of the changes to services, and the need to respond with effective restructuring of UNISON Branches.

In Cheshire the challenges of LGR are particularly daunting with the existing County Council and 6 District Councils being replaced by two Unitary Authorities from 1 April 2009, East Cheshire and West Cheshire and Chester. This involves aggregating services from three Districts into each of the two new unitary bodies and, more complex, the disaggregating of county wide services into the new authorities. In addition to the inherent organisational challenges the bid that led to the LGR decision in Cheshire was premised on claims of significant financial savings involving up to 300 redundancies, the brunt of which are likely to fall on UNISON members. The question of Shared Services and existing county wide contracts delivered by outside bodies is also an area creating uncertainty.

In addition it has been difficult to get meaningful engagement with the employers simply because key decisions on structures are not going to be taken until the shadow authorities come into place after May 2008 and the key management teams are appointed after that. These strategic decisions will include whether some services will be delivered jointly by, or for, the two new authorities and clearly this has a major impact on how UNISON will need to organise its resources. The timetable for LGR from the decision to implementation has placed enormous pressures on the affected councils and this has created additional pressures and uncertainties for our members;

Conference urges UNISON Local Government branches to act jointly across existing authority boundaries to engage and involve all staff affected by the creation of new unitary councils in a campaign to defend and improve services, employment opportunities, pay and conditions of service, and democratic accountability and to produce the best organisational outcome for all members

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to;

1)monitor the process of establishing new authorities under LGR and to produce guidance and shared information on how things develop in terms of the impact on staffing numbers, redundancies, shared services and marketisation, providing regular reports to regional and national lay committees

2)Provide help and assistance at national and regional level so that branches are able to maximise the impact of campaigning through completing or commissioning the necessary rigorous and independent evaluation of each proposal

3)Safeguard full consultation and agreement with UNISON Branches on proposed staffing arrangements for new unitary authorities

4)Continue campaigning in all appropriate forums for clear workforce guidelines, and for the adoption of ‘levelling up’ of Terms and Conditions where LGR involves the aggregation of more than one current authority and for clear and unambiguous guarantees of no compulsory redundancies. Severance arrangements should be uniform, fair and equitable across the country. Any local provision must meet a clearly defined minimum national standard