Attacks on Democracy

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2016 National Delegate Conference
29 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the current government have shown a disregard for democracy and civil society, including:

1) The introduction of individual voter registration and a subsequent decline in voter registration;

2) Boundary changes based on these lower levels of registration that disproportionately hit regions where the Conservative Party has few MPs;

3) The Lobbying Bill, which restricts the ability of voluntary organisations – including trade unions – from campaigning against government policies at election time;

4) The Trade Union Bill, which places restrictions on the ability of unions to run and support political campaigns, collect subscriptions through check off and take industrial action unless arbitrary turnout levels are met;

5)The reduction in the level of “Short Money” to opposition parties, which will made it harder for them to scrutinise a government that has the full weight of the civil service behind them;

6)The gagging of charities through “gagging clauses” attached to government grants, restricting the ability of vital campaigning organisations to speak out on government policy.

Conference believes:

a) That the government have a deliberate and co-ordinated strategy to restrict the voices of civil society in general and trade unions in particular;

b) That this government’s approach is a genuine and serious threat to democracy and scrutiny of their actions;

c) That the government’s aim for councils to raise more money through increasing business rates effectively discriminates against economically and socially-deprived areas, where unemployment is high and which are hard-pressed to attract new businesses;

d) That the development of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ combined authorities, linked to the election of regional or sub-regional mayors, poses serious dangers to local democracy and the ability of local politicians, local communities and citizens to effectively scrutinize and control the activities of the new political elites and the new political elites that they will create.

Conference resolves:

i)To campaign against all anti-democratic changes introduced by this government;

ii)To ensure that local alliances are built with other unions, local ward and constituency labour parties and community and voluntary groups to campaign for decisions to be taken by local people. [A useful model for this could be the Public Service Alliances established in the Northern Region];

iii)To promote and encourage UNISON members and activists to willingly support UNISON’s policies on anti-austerity and local democracy by becoming more active in their communities, especially by standing for elected positions on local councils, hospital trust boards, etc;

iv)For UNISON, in association with the TUC, the Workers’ Educational Association and other relevant partners, to initiate a programme for the training of all its Stewards in understanding, from a socialist perspective, basic ‘capitalist economics’, in order to better prepare them to argue the anti-austerity cause. This programme to be eventually developed to be part of the basic training for all Stewards.