Devolution and Local Government

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Conference
2015 Local Government Service Group Conference
Date
18 February 2015
Decision
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the Westminster Coalition government’s ‘austerity’ measures are causing devastation across local authorities and other UK public services. UNISON members working in them are facing redundancies, cuts to pay and conditions, increased workloads and increasing privatisation. Integration of social care and health is a further issue affecting all four UK nations. Conference recognises that these are core issues for our union and that we must work together across the four UK nations within UNISON to support and learn from each other and exercise our collective strength as one union wherever possible.

However, Conference also notes that policies relating to local government, approaches to collective bargaining and to workforce issues are taking different paths within the UK nations. The referendum on Scottish independence and the outcome of the Smith Commission, the passage of the Wales Act 2014, the Conservative Party’s proposals around “English Votes for English Laws” in the Westminster Parliament and the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland at the end of the year all lay the basis for further devolution of powers and greater divergence of approach to the funding and nature of local authorities and local government employment.

In addition to this, further devolution of funding and local government powers are increasingly being promoted – and occurring – within England. Combined authorities are now being established, bringing together budgets from a range of public bodies in a single governance arrangement. While they may embody the potential for more joined-up public services and efficient use of public resources, they could also undermine local democracy and lead to further job loss and attacks on pay and conditions. City regions, shared services and combined council initiatives – such as the Tri-boroughs in London – all represent a challenge.

Conference believes that there is a common bargaining agenda across the whole union and notes that the Service Group Executive has begun to develop shared bargaining objectives to apply across the UK in respect of:-

1)Employment rights and industrial action legislation;

2)The position of women in public services;

3)Low pay and the Living Wage;

4)Equal pay;

5)Equalities;

6)Rights and conditions for part time workers;

7)Vulnerable and casualised work;

8)Access to workforce development;

9)Workloads and stress;

10)Health and safety at work;

11)Pensions.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive (SGE) to:-

a)Refine the work on core bargaining objectives and priorities to apply across the UK and ensure that Regions and branches are made aware of them, working with all sectors and Regions;

b)Develop a vision of universal, well-funded, quality local government services, recognising both commonalities and differences across the four UK nations;

c)Work with the National Executive Council (NEC), Regions, sectors and Service Groups to take a view on combined authorities and city-region proposals outside London and on any future proposals on London governance;

d)Ensure that all policies and committee papers are ‘devolution-proofed’ and reflect the common and divergent situations across the UK.