Public Services and Taxation

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2010 National Delegate Conference
16 February 2010
Carried as Amended

Conference applauds the dedicated work of public service workers throughout the country that has helped this country through a severe recession and provided a lifeline to countless families, businesses and individuals facing homelessness, bankruptcy, joblessness, poverty, or personal stress and poor health.

Conference wishes to highlight again how crucial public services will be for supporting economic recovery and improving our society. The recession has exacerbated pressing social problems such as long-term unemployment, child and pensioner poverty, housing shortages, particularly in social housing, and threats to community cohesion which must now be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Moreover, all objective evidence makes it absolutely clear that the need for high quality public services will increase, not decrease, over the years ahead. For example:

1)The need for health services and residential and domiciliary care will increase as a result of advancing medical science and an ageing population;

2)The need for affordable, sustainably developed social housing will grow as a result of demographic pressures and new environmental challenges;

3)The need to improve access to education and learning at all stages, from early years to adult skills enhancement, will become more important for expanding opportunities in the global economy and raising levels of political and social participation;

4)The need for the whole range of local services that strengthen communities, support vulnerable groups, maintain democratic processes, protect our environment, and improve our quality of life, will be greater in the face of accelerating social, economic and cultural change.

Conference believes that we can afford the public services we need if we ensure we have a tax system that is fair and progressive, raising the greatest amount from those best able to pay, and we eliminate the loopholes that currently allow many large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid or evade paying their share. Fair increases in taxation to pay for necessary social spending do not conflict with the needs of the rest of the economy; on the contrary they are essential to supporting our overall economic strength and prosperity.

Against this background it is clear that current calls for public service provision to be cut down, broken up and privatised are motivated by vested interests, ideological agendas and private profit and would be disastrous for economic and social progress. In particular Conference deplores the attempts that have been made by some politicians, newspapers and right-wing lobby groups to prepare the ground for these attacks by fostering myths and resentment around public service workers’ pay, pensions, and working conditions.

Conference notes that private sector providers of key services hope to profit from this attack on public provision – both by winning new publicly funded contracts, and by offering superior ‘top-up’ services to those able to pay while universal provision is run down. Conference notes that policies claiming to achieve economies of scale by sharing or pooling funding streams, or deliver ‘personalisation’ and individual choice, all too often have the effect of creating new opportunities for the private sector to extract profits and fees while public sector provision contracts. Furthermore the continuing inadequacy of workforce protections means that the transfer of services to the private sector entails the achievement of short-term cost-savings at the expense of employment standards and the long-term stability and quality of the service.

Conference applauds the work of UNISON’s Million Voices campaign which has celebrated and promoted the vital work that our members and other public service workers do, ensuring that their voices are heard in the public debate and educating the public about the differences they make to their lives and communities.

It is clear that over the coming year this work will need to be stepped up. Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Ensure that the need to strengthen and invest in key areas such as health and social care, affordable housing, education and training, and all the services that support our communities, remains at the top of the national political agenda and informs the comprehensive spending review planned to take place in 2011;

b)Continue to highlight the contributions and commitment of public service workers and the fact that securing quality public services means supporting them with decent pay and pensions; job security and development opportunities; access to training and learning; excellent working conditions and measures to improve their health, safety and wellbeing; staff consultation and involvement in decisions; and a strong trade union voice in every workplace;

c)Highlight and oppose moves to privatise service provision and increase the power of the private ‘public services industry’ that will fragment service delivery, increase exploitation of employees and service users, weaken democratic accountability and lead to mounting costs and delivery failures in the longer term;

d)Develop and promote the case for fair and effective taxation, including local taxation needed to fund democratically accountable local services, as essential for securing the resources needed to employ and pay public service workers and develop public facilities, assets and infrastructure, including social housing;

e)Continue and step up the work that the Million Voices campaign has begun to involve regions, branches, members, service users and the wider public in developing and promoting the case for public services and a fair society, so that UNISON’s lobbying and campaigning is firmly rooted in workplaces and communities and backed up by local initiatives and action.

f) Continue to support the campaign for a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions to make banks and finance houses contribute to the costs of clearing up the damage caused by the economic crisis.