Total Place

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2010 National Delegate Conference
3 June 2010

Conference notes the trend towards increased integration of public services at local level, originating in “Strong and Prosperous Communities” in 2006, and gradual extension of local authority scrutiny over other public services. This covers almost all local public services, and sectors and service groups of UNISON. Conference deplores the absence of meaningful consultation with trade unions at a national level in connection with the development of Total Place.

Conference notes the strategic, philosophical, financial and political change implied in the most radical restructuring of public service provision as epitomised in the concept of ‘Total Place’.

‘Total Place’ is the geographic analysis of all public sector spend in a defined geographic area, coupled with a root and branch review of all service provision which will examine shared services, possible outsourcing, potential privatisation, commissioning and enabling public sector bodies. It potentially combines separate services – local government, health, education provision, voluntary sector, employment, housing etc. which will produce fundamental change to traditional, local and public sector service provision and democratic accountability.

The 13 ‘official’ Total Place Pilots in England funded by central government, and other similar initiatives funded by Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEP), are supported by all major political parties. There are also a range of other initiatives towards closer cross-sectoral integration, including the Clyde Valley Review in Scotland and in Powys in Wales.

Whilst there is an inconsistency in government policy as to whether services should be integrated across sectors in a local geographical area or within their own sector, there are still overall pressures towards making economies of scale in public bodies. Total Place has become a major focus for the development of proposals to integrate services to achieve savings, and is increasingly being taken up by Local Strategic Partnerships. The ideas underpinning this initiative were set out in the report Whole Systems Go written by academics from the Warwick Institute of Governance and Public Management and centre on identifying efficiencies (ie. cuts) from the better management of public spending which is currently spread across a number of agencies.

Conference believes that evaluating potential overlap, with a view to improvements across services, is legitimate providing that it is not merely used to cut costs. The experience of UNISON members is that integrated services can produce better and more efficient services. However this must only be done by involving users, the workforce and trade unions in the process. Conference rejects using integration purely to slash public services and make redundancies. Conference therefore deplores the fact that one of the key aims of Total Place is to Deliver early savings to validate the work. Conference rejects the suggestion that any worthwhile project to improve public services should be required to deliver savings in order to be valid and reaffirms UNISON’s opposition to reductions in public spending.

Conference believes that it would be naïve to suppose that, in the current climate, Total Place will be anything other than a cost-saving initiative which risks the jobs of public servants and that the cross-sectoral nature of this challenge will require coordination across the entire trade union movement at a local level.

The interim report on Total Place found that it was vital to ensure local, democratically accountable influence, yet the government has postponed introducing the “Duty to Promote Local Democracy” on cost grounds.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Campaign for unions to be involved at the heart of service improvement initiatives at local and national level;

2)Campaign for more transparent local government, with increased local democratic accountability and democratic scrutiny over all public services;

3)Work with service groups to develop cross-union advice to branches on tackling cross-sectoral integration and organise cross service group branch briefings on ‘Total Place’;

4)Publicise the impacts of the London pilots (Croydon and Lewisham) coupled with other ‘Total Place’ developments in Greater London such as the clustering of London Boroughs into five alliances, developments around health reconfiguration, the developing of outsourcing enabling Boroughs etc.;

5)Develop publicity and campaign themes to highlight both to members, service users, local communities and the wider public the implications of ‘Total Place’ for political, economic, financial and democratic accountabilities;

6)Call upon Labour Link to assist with this strategy as a work priority.

7)Review the ability of branches and regional structures to engage with ‘Total Place’;

8)Campaign for the implementation of the Duty to Promote Local Democracy;

9)Promote public sector collaboration as an alternative to outsourcing;

10)Ensure that service reorganisation is based on reorganisation of work and not redundancies supporting branches who resist redundancies arising from Total Place initiatives;