Local Government services

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Conference
2012 National Delegate Conference
Date
28 February 2012
Decision

Conference is fundamentally opposed to the sustained attack on public services resulting from the savage cuts to local government funding being inflicted over 5 years by the ideologically driven Tory led government. These drastic cuts in spending fail to recognize the need of the country to grow our way out of recession and are devastating communities and forcing a new generation into unemployment whilst hitting the most vulnerable and lowest paid hardest. Where these cuts result in further outsourcing, redundancies & training budgets slashed and services cut beyond recognition Conference believes that service delivery to the general public will suffer.

The 2011 Autumn Statement confirmed that these cuts would continue beyond the next General Election, at least until 2017, and they will fundamentally change the role of local government, the scale and range of services that it provides and its capacity to support communities and individuals, regardless of their needs. Local authorities have been faced with a 20% reduction in formula grant over the two years since the General Election and the Local Government Association has stated that the Finance Settlement for 2012/13 confirms that local government continues to bear the brunt of public sector cuts in this Spending Review as councils are singled out for some of the deepest spending cuts.

Conference is aware of the cuts to services taking place in every part of the United Kingdom but is alarmed that these regressive cuts are unfairly distributed with significant regional differences that research shows will reinforce the North/South divide in England as households in the North East lose services equivalent to six per cent of their household income, while those in the capital will lose less than four per cent. Within London the impact is also uneven, with the impact of cuts falling most heavily on the poorest boroughs. These disproportionate cuts will have a devastating impact on the lives of local government workers and communities relying on the vital services they provide.

Council workers are expected to cover larger numbers of deleted and frozen posts whilst being subjected to a two year pay freeze, and including the non implementation of the £250 compensation promised by the Government for the lowest paid. Workers are doing all they can to deliver more, for less, as resources drop, but demand rises. On top of this, they face cuts to pay and conditions, alongside plans to make them pay more into their pensions, work longer and receive less in retirement.

Conference is also worried about local authority plans to meet these challenges through greater privatisation and the government’s re-introduction of compulsory competitive tendering under the banner of “community right to challenge”. Those councils that merely privatise or outsource their responsibilities are in denial of all the evidence that shows that privatisation costs more in the longer term and rapidly leads to shoddy services.

Conference notes that unemployment has continued to rise in the last year, with the Office of National Statistics stating that the unemployment rate is at its highest since 1995, and the situation facing young people as they seek to find work and identify suitable careers is particularly acute. Careers advice services play a vital role in supporting young people as they make crucial life choices about entering the world of work, improve social mobility and reduce inequality by helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds to raise their horizons and giving them the support they need to fulfil their potential. Conference believes that the lack of a clear and coherent transition plan towards the new all-age careers service, and the levels of funding cuts being experienced, will lead to at best an inadequate service and at worst a failed service, denying our young people the support they need.

A legacy of underfunding and a wave of cut-price privatisation left the country ill-prepared for the challenge of an ageing population – a problem that these decimating cuts have only exacerbated. The Dilnot Commission called for extra spending of at least £1.7bn and this conference condemns the assertion by the Government that there is no crisis of funding in the social care system and no identifiable gap between the needs of elderly and disabled people and what the state provides.

Library services are key source of local employment and make an essential contribution to local communities and educational achievement. With the National Literary Trust finding that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who doesn’t, cutting libraries presents a literacy time bomb for deprived communities. Conference notes that the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals estimates that 600 of libraries in England alone are under threat of closure despite library services functioning as a key source of local employment and make an essential contribution to local communities and educational achievement. Conference regrets that community groups are now being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of library services, or lose them under the banner of the “Big Society”.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1) continue the work they have been doing, under the Million Voices campaign and Public Works in Scotland, to get the key messages out to members and the public that the cuts are unfair, unnecessary and will damage the economy;

2) build on our work among members, and continue to seek to influence public opinion by actively promoting our Alternative Budget, ensuring that all branches have the resources and the knowledge for that campaign;

3) continue to campaign against the ideological attack on Local Government services;

4) campaign with all available resources against the cuts;

5) oppose privatisation and build broad based campaigns which promote viable in-house alternatives;

6) continue to build alliances with community groups to oppose the cuts and to promote the alternatives;

7) ensure all branches have the resources and information to actively defend services, jobs and terms and conditions of service, supporting them in local campaigns.