The Future of Local Government

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2021 Virtual Special Local Government Service Group Conference
6 April 2021
Carried as Amended

Local councils across the UK have suffered huge funding cuts over the last decade. We have seen significant changes to the funding mechanism for local government, the functions councils carry out and thanks to devolution the actual make-up of local government. Throughout this time UNISON has sought to stop these cuts and highlighted the resulting impacts on the public and staff. The Local Government Service Group has compiled a comprehensive dataset of the range of services that have been lost since 2010 as well as the impact that these cuts have had on our members and the wider community.

The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the financial crisis councils are facing at a time when demand for the vital services they provide has skyrocketed. Due to extra expenditure and lost income, local government across the UK has to deal with a funding gap running into the billions of pounds, which the governments across the UK have consistently failed to close. The Local Government Service Group, working with the devolved nations, has developed a wide-ranging campaign for more local government funding, including enabling members to lobby politicians, a dedicated website, campaign videos, major social media profile, media campaigning and training.

However, as well as campaigning against cuts, the time has come for UNISON to set out a new bold vision for how local government should operate and be funded across the UK. UNISON Scotland, in tandem with the Jimmy Reid Foundation, has begun to explore alternative ways in which councils could be funded more fairly. And through their social partnership and fair work agenda UNISON Cymru/Wales have set out a positive vision where workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive setting. These initiatives should be incorporated into UNISON�s new vision of local government.

Through the wider devolution agenda we have seen significant changes to how local government operates throughout the UK, such as through directly elected mayors and combined authorities. Rather than simply reacting to these changes, UNISON, as the main trade union for local government workers, drawing upon members� experiences, should set out a proactive view of how we believe local government should operate, be funded, provide services, and ensure local democracy.

Conference calls upon the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) to:

1)Continue to campaign strongly for proper recognition of local government services, highlighting the vital role local government played throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including calling for the investment needed to provide services and safeguard jobs, an end to the austerity politics which cause cuts to services, job and pay, and for local government funding to be restored to 2010 levels;

2)Ensure the campaign is co-ordinated with the devolved nations, to ensure a joined-up approach;

3)Work through the SGE�s Service Delivery Working Group, UNISON regions and other relevant bodies within UNISON to develop a positive vision for the future of local government, drawing on the experience and expertise of our members, and working with outside bodies when appropriate;

4)Replicate the excellent work in Cymru/Wales where UNISON local government activists together with councillors explored the future of local government funding;

5)Work with the NEC, UNISON regions and national and regional TUCs to explore the creation of Fair Work Commissions in nations, regions or combined authority areas;

6)Working with UNISON�s devolved nations, educate MPs, MSPs, MSs, MLAs and London Assembly members on the work in Cymru/Wales with a simple request to invite them to support setting-up a Fair Work Commission in their nations, regions or combined authority areas;

7)Working with UNISON Scotland, call upon the Scottish government to enhance the Fair Work Framework in Scotland by assessing and reviewing the progress of the Fair Work Convention which ends in 2025;

8)Work with UNISON Northern Ireland and the re-instituted Northern Irish Assembly to help develop a positive vision for local government services;

9)Work with the NEC and UNISON�s English regions to ensure that the vision incorporates and reflects the changing regional make-up of local government structures throughout England;

10)Work with Labour Link to support councillors campaigning against cuts, including those who wish to explore lawful no cuts budgets.