Raising the Profile of Local Government Workers

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2018

Conference notes that local government services too often suffer from a low profile, with little political or media understanding or support for the work local government employees do. There is not enough recognition for the work our members in local authorities and schools do. Often, members providing services in local government are not recognised for the essential contribution they make to the well being of society. This applies both to their everyday work and also in times of crisis, like the recent terrorist incidents and the Grenfell Tower tragedy, when many of our members come into their own and provide invaluable support to communities.

The lack of awareness or recognition of the importance of what local government workers do has made it easy for the Westminster Government to cut local government funding at a much greater rate than any other part of the public sector. By 2020, 75% of local government funding will have been cut since 2010, and there is massive uncertainty about the structure and level of local government finance in the future. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and real pay has fallen massively behind in recent years.

The lack of profile for local government has also meant that some authorities have been able to cut UNISON members’ conditions of service without any public awareness.

This lack of recognition means when cuts are made to services, pay, terms and conditions, the wider public are not sufficiently aware of the damage caused to local services and the negative impact on the lives of our local government members.

Conference also notes it is often difficult to find local government members who are willing, and have the confidence, to speak to the media about the impact of cuts on the services they provide and on their lives.

Homecare workers are a particular victim of the lack of profile for local government services. In Birmingham, UNISON homecare workers recently took strike action against attempts to make 40% of the workforce redundant and to introduce unworkable split shifts which would leave many workers away from their homes from 7am until 10pm. Conference applauds the stand taken by these workers.

Conference calls on the SGE to run a campaign working with branches, regions and the press and media office, along the same lines as the public service champions which raises the profile of members who provide local government services and creates a positive profile for our members and the vital, often hidden, work they do, including:

1) Building on UNISON’s Public Service Champions campaign, which is using some very positive examples of local authority services, to demonstrate the value of what our members do;

2) Working with the press and media office to provide a guide for branches and members about dealing with the media, and increasing our press and media profile through a detailed strategy devised with UNISON Press Office;

3) Working with LAOS, regions and the press and media office to develop a training programme enabling branches and members to confidently maximise the positive impact media engagement can have;

3) Developing organising and recruitment materials which demonstrate that UNISON understands the jobs that local government workers do;

4) Working with the other local government unions and sector representative bodies and think-tanks across the four nations of the UK, to explore the development of a shared vision for local government services in the future;

5) Using social media to highlight the realities of our members’ work and the contribution they bring to society;

6) Exploring the possibility of commissioning research on the “value added” provided by local government services or particular services within local government;

7) Holding one or more days of celebration ‘stars in our…’ days for particular local government occupations, highlighting those roles;

8) Pressing the House of Commons Select Committee for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and appropriate committees in the Scottish parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, to hold inquiries relating to the local government workforce.