Time and again, in a series of motions at local government conference this week, a common theme emerged: as Wendy Aitchison from Scotland put it, borrowing from that great Liverpudlian thinker, Lily Savage: “the government needs to ‘sling their hook’.”
Speaker and speaker told of the impact of a decade of funding cuts to local government.
Nicky from the Northern region said that there was a prospect of more than 30% more funding cuts to local government in the air.
She cited a foodbank in the North East that feeds 42,000 people a year – a fact reported by the UN, yet denied by the UK government.
And she, like others, stressed the need for progressive taxation.
Ewan Davey from Cymru-Wales pointed out that, if local government spending in Wales had kept pace with inflation since austerity began, it would now be £1.59bn higher.
He emphasised the impact on women in jobs lost, plus the crisis in schools and other services.
For the executive, Alison McCorquodale said that UNISON has been working hard to show the resulting “devastation of a decade of slash and burn” in local services.
Mags Maguire from Dundee City said: “Over the last 10 years, our council has had over £100 million slashed from our budget. Where did the money go?”
“This Tory government has to go and it has to go now. We need a government that will make public services its priority.”
In Derbyshire, among the services under threat is that dealing with vulnerable children, even though early intervention schemes have already been slashed. The idea of ‘volunteer counsellors’ is being touted.
Dave Jones from the Wirral cited that council’s recently-set £200 million budget – half what it was a decade ago. Yet the Labour council has claimed that it is protecting services, the workforce and more.
But Lorna Glover from Renfrewshire said that the union has to “embrace change and move from ‘we can’t’ to ‘we will’,” as she cited income generation programmes that are helping councils raise funds in some areas.