‘Your role, your voice, has never been more valuable’

Community, voluntary and housing activists hear shadow minister Anna Turley say: ‘We need to work together,’ at service group conference in Southport

“Your role has never been more valuable; your voice has never been more valuable,” Labour shadow civic society minister Anna Turley told UNISON’s community activists gathered at their conference in Southport today.

“The community and voluntary sector has always been there to pick up the pieces.” the Redcar MP told delegates.

“And unlike this government, we value your voice and we value your experience.”

Looking at the challenges facing the sector, the union and society as a whole, Ms Turley said: “I refuse to believe that the books can only be balanced on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.”

But the Conservatives, she said, have a “fragmented, piecemeal approach to public service that fails to put people first,” and a government “which sees the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

So we – UNISON members and the people they service – are finding themselves on the frontline of things like:

underfunding of social care, where staff in both care homes and home care are paying the price;

low pay, which has been problem across the sector as whole;

housing associations, who provide two million houses for five million people in affordable homes which are now under threat from extending the ‘right to buy’;

attacking the voice of charities, and unions, through the last parliament’s gagging act – officially the lobbying act – and new legislation after last May’s election.

“This government is afraid of civil society, afraid of us, afraid of people using their voice,” Ms Turley said.

“Because as it says on the back of my Labour card: “By our common endeavour, we achieve more than we can achieve alone’.”

The last 10 months, she said, how shown her the limits of parliamentarianism, especially in opposition. And the lesson was clear: to get things done, “we have to work with everyone, and across the trade union movement.”