Building on the Year of LGBT+ Workers

Local government delegates in Brighton have been celebrating the successes of the union’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, while accepting that the fight to achieve LGBT+ equality and acceptance is far from over.

A composite motion noted that the year devoted to LGBT+ workers is providing an opportunity to promote UNISON as the union for LGBT+ workers in local government, raise awareness of LGBT+ rights, challenge discrimination, negotiate LGBT+ inclusive policies and recruit and activate LGBT+ members in the service group.

But while LGBT+ people have seen positive change in recent years, prejudice and discrimination continue to impact the lives of many.

Proposing the motion, Penny Smith of the national LGBT+ committee (pictured) told delegates: “The contribution that our LGBT+ members make in local government to improving employment conditions for LGBT+ workers and to campaigning more broadly on equality for LGBT+ people is amazing.

“We have much to celebrate this year. We are continuing the trans ally roll out, we are asking branches to fill in our LGBT+ policy checklist on LGBT+ equality, we are creating new training on plus identities. And many branch members have worked tirelessly to make this year successful and educative.

“This is all so positive. And yet I don’t always feel positive. Prejudice and discrimination continue to impact our lives. Anti-trans rhetoric and anti-LGBT+ sentiment is endemic in all forms of media. Many of us are not safe at work, not many of us can be ‘out’ at work.

“This is due to misconceptions deliberately perpetrated by anti-LGBT+ and anti-trans groups. We also do not receive the support we should get from some employers.”

Ed Whitby of the local government executive told delegates: “The last five years have shown how important this year is to us,” citing a 112 per cent rise in hate crime based on homophobia in that period, and a 186 per cent rise in hate crimes against trans people.

“We celebrate our long history,” he said, “but we double our commitments as activists to make the practical steps for change.”

Liz Wheatley of Camden branch said that “LGBT+ people have been at the sharp end of Tory attacks. Election year has been a race by the Tories to attack the most vulnerable in society, to divide us and make us blame each other and not the Tory criminals who are stealing our pay, our services, our homes, our schools and our hospitals.

“In particular, they want to scapegoat refugees and trans people, so it’s important that we stand and organise against this.”

The motion calls on the service group executive to work with the national LGBT+ members committee and others to:

  • Continue to promote the Year of LGBT+ Workers at every level of union activity
  • Continue to encourage branches, regions and sectors to negotiate on LGBT+ workers’ rights in collective bargaining
  • Promote and encourage participation in equality training, in particular the trans ally training
  • Work with local government employers to identify and share good practices which support the recruitment, retention, and progression of LGBT+ people in local government workplaces and careers
  • Encourage LGBT+ members to participate and stand for election in their respective branch, regional and national local government service group executives/committees and as workplace stewards and other representative roles.

Penny Smith concluded: “We need your help in making sure that our LGBT+ members can feel safe in their workplaces and that local government workplaces are free from hate and discrimination.

“And we need your help not just in 2024. We need the momentum we have created and are creating to carry forward. Branches completing the LGBT+ checklists can use that as a starting point for further work in 2025 and beyond.

“The work in advancing LGBT+ equality does not mean less equality for everyone else. It means better outcomes for all.”

The article Building on the Year of LGBT+ Workers first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Building on the Year of LGBT+ Workers

Local government delegates in Brighton have been celebrating the successes of the union’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, while accepting that the fight to achieve LGBT+ equality and acceptance is far from over.

A composite motion noted that the year devoted to LGBT+ workers is providing an opportunity to promote UNISON as the union for LGBT+ workers in local government, raise awareness of LGBT+ rights, challenge discrimination, negotiate LGBT+ inclusive policies and recruit and activate LGBT+ members in the service group.

But while LGBT+ people have seen positive change in recent years, prejudice and discrimination continue to impact the lives of many.

Proposing the motion, Penny Smith of the national LGBT+ committee (pictured) told delegates: “The contribution that our LGBT+ members make in local government to improving employment conditions for LGBT+ workers and to campaigning more broadly on equality for LGBT+ people is amazing.

“We have much to celebrate this year. We are continuing the trans ally roll out, we are asking branches to fill in our LGBT+ policy checklist on LGBT+ equality, we are creating new training on plus identities. And many branch members have worked tirelessly to make this year successful and educative.

“This is all so positive. And yet I don’t always feel positive. Prejudice and discrimination continue to impact our lives. Anti-trans rhetoric and anti-LGBT+ sentiment is endemic in all forms of media. Many of us are not safe at work, not many of us can be ‘out’ at work.

“This is due to misconceptions deliberately perpetrated by anti-LGBT+ and anti-trans groups. We also do not receive the support we should get from some employers.”

Ed Whitby of the local government executive told delegates: “The last five years have shown how important this year is to us,” citing a 112 per cent rise in hate crime based on homophobia in that period, and a 186 per cent rise in hate crimes against trans people.

“We celebrate our long history,” he said, “but we double our commitments as activists to make the practical steps for change.”

Liz Wheatley of Camden branch said that “LGBT+ people have been at the sharp end of Tory attacks. Election year has been a race by the Tories to attack the most vulnerable in society, to divide us and make us blame each other and not the Tory criminals who are stealing our pay, our services, our homes, our schools and our hospitals.

“In particular, they want to scapegoat refugees and trans people, so it’s important that we stand and organise against this.”

The motion calls on the service group executive to work with the national LGBT+ members committee and others to:

  • Continue to promote the Year of LGBT+ Workers at every level of union activity
  • Continue to encourage branches, regions and sectors to negotiate on LGBT+ workers’ rights in collective bargaining
  • Promote and encourage participation in equality training, in particular the trans ally training
  • Work with local government employers to identify and share good practices which support the recruitment, retention, and progression of LGBT+ people in local government workplaces and careers
  • Encourage LGBT+ members to participate and stand for election in their respective branch, regional and national local government service group executives/committees and as workplace stewards and other representative roles.

Penny Smith concluded: “We need your help in making sure that our LGBT+ members can feel safe in their workplaces and that local government workplaces are free from hate and discrimination.

“And we need your help not just in 2024. We need the momentum we have created and are creating to carry forward. Branches completing the LGBT+ checklists can use that as a starting point for further work in 2025 and beyond.

“The work in advancing LGBT+ equality does not mean less equality for everyone else. It means better outcomes for all.”

The article Building on the Year of LGBT+ Workers first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Young members are ‘the future of our union’

Image: Steve Forrest

UNISON local government delegates have affirmed their commitment to supporting and developing young members and activists within their service group.

Meeting on the first day of their conference in Brighton yesterday, they heard that young members are “the future of the union”.

But they also accepted that, while there have been recent strides in recruiting young workers, young members are still under-represented as activists.

Proposing the motion on the topic for the service group executive, Dave Rees told the conference: “This is a crucial motion for the future of our union.”

Mr Rees said that only 6% of young workers are members of a trade union, partly because many work in insecure jobs, in parts of the private sector that are “union-free zones”, and are unaware of their workplace rights and that unions could protect them.

At the same time, he noted that many young people are already involved in collective activism on such issues as climate change, LGBT+ rights and Black Lives Matter.

“So now is the time to focus on young workers and encourage them to join and get active in UNISON,” he said. “Recruiting young members is imperative if UNISON is to maintain a strong and relevant presence in local government. And we must acknowledge that they are under-represented as activists.”

Some young delegates told the conference that young members sometimes felt alienated by the union’s bureaucratic processes and struggled to get involved.

Sam Church, young members’ officer in Surrey County branch, said that the union needed to better support branches in their recruitment and development of young activists.

“I know the feeling of young members who are much more energised in seeking better pay,” he said. “Young people are our future. We need our branches to better support them.”

The conference noted the rule change passed at national delegate conference in 2023, which raised the ceiling age of young members from 26 to 30, believing this offered an important opportunity to evaluate the service group’s approach to young workers – sharing best practice to branches.

Delegates called on the service group executive to work with the national young members’ forum in evaluating the recruitment of young members and development of young activists. It will also:

  • Promote the forum’s campaigns and initiatives to young members in local government, supporting its efforts to get more young members involved in the work and structures of the union
  • Review existing guidance on organising young workers in local government and consider whether this needs to be refreshed or developed
  • Encourage regional local government committees to establish mentoring schemes for young members, pairing young members with experienced activists in their regions
  • Encourage branches to support young members to attend UNISON conferences and events, either as delegates or visitors.

‘Essential services are crumbling before our eyes’

 

The article Young members are ‘the future of our union’ first appeared on the UNISON National site.

‘Essential services are crumbling before our eyes’

                                                            Christina McAnea in Brighton. Image: Steve Forrest

UNISON’s local government conference opened in Brighton yesterday with an urgent call to a likely Labour government to rescue services that are suffering from “a disastrous funding crisis.”

General secretary Christina McAnea told delegates: “If Labour get elected, they will have to deal with the mess that is local government. They will have to deal with the fact that our essential services are crumbling before our eyes.”

Councils are facing a funding deficit of £6.2bn over the next two years, with an increasing number filing for bankruptcy. One in five council leaders think they will be bankrupt within 15 months.

On Saturday, UNISON released new research showing that huge cuts to youth services could create a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital services at a critical time in their lives. Funding cuts have led to the closure of more than two thirds of council-run youth centres in England and Wales since 2010 – with the loss of so many facilities, and the specialist workers who run them, putting teenagers at risk.

And today, more research will be published that shows that more than a third (38%) of council-run children’s centres have been closed across England since 2010, with the situation only due to get worse as town halls struggle to avoid bankruptcy.

“Of course this has hit deprived areas and disadvantaged families the hardest,” Ms McAnea said. “We know that the Tory austerity plan – and it was a deliberate plan – has meant incredible hardship and a legacy from which some communities may never recover.”

The general secretary noted that while the government blames local mismanagement by Labour councils for their malaise, Tory authorities are also suffering, “because the reality is that the fault lies with 14 years of Tory mismanagement, 14 years of a Tory Government that has systematically and deliberately under-funded local councils.

“Our members are committed to the services they provide – supporting the most vulnerable, educating our children, keeping our local communities safe and healthy.

“It’s the Tory Government that has put all of this at risk – and it’s time for a change.”

L-R: Christina McAnea, Lisa Thomas, Alys Exley-Smith, Ramon Hutchingson, Glen Williams
Day one of conference saw the presentation of UNISON’s local service champions awards 2024. L-R: Christina McAnea, runner-up Lisa Thomas, winner Alys Exley-Smith, runner-up Ramon Hutchingson, Glen Williams

“If Labour wins the general election, one of their first big crises will be how to deal with local government funding. I know they can’t reverse all the cuts overnight. But we do need to see real investment in public services, in particular in local government. And a fairer funding system, moving on from the way the Tories have favoured areas where they’re strong, at the expense of more economically challenged Labour-run areas.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.”

Ms McAnea assured delegates: “I make this case every single time I speak to the Labour Party. And I give you my word that I will not give up pushing this when Labour comes into government. To say they must – they absolutely must – deal with the crisis in local government.

“But conference, make no mistake – we have to get the Tories out. Our members cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Our public services cannot sustain five more years of cuts. And our communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Glen Williams

Her views were mirrored by Glen Williams (above), chair of the local government service group executive, who was eager to ensure that Labour stick to its manifesto promises.

Presenting the local government annual report to conference, Mr Williams said that if Labour wins power, there can be “no dilution, no compromise” in the party’s proposed New Deal for Working People, with its many promises to boost workers’ pay and conditions.

Mr Williams spoke of the fact that local government pay has lost 30% of its real value under the Tories, observing that “Pay cut after pay cut after pay cut is like being burgled, every year for 14 years.”

The union is currently consulting local government members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the latest NJC pay offer, with the executive recommending that they reject it.

Images: Steve Forrest

The article ‘Essential services are crumbling before our eyes’ first appeared on the UNISON National site.

‘Essential services are crumbling before our eyes’

                                                            Christina McAnea in Brighton. Image: Steve Forrest

UNISON’s local government conference opened in Brighton yesterday with an urgent call to a likely Labour government to rescue services that are suffering from “a disastrous funding crisis.”

General secretary Christina McAnea told delegates: “If Labour get elected, they will have to deal with the mess that is local government. They will have to deal with the fact that our essential services are crumbling before our eyes.”

Councils are facing a funding deficit of £6.2bn over the next two years, with an increasing number filing for bankruptcy. One in five council leaders think they will be bankrupt within 15 months.

On Saturday, UNISON released new research showing that huge cuts to youth services could create a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital services at a critical time in their lives. Funding cuts have led to the closure of more than two thirds of council-run youth centres in England and Wales since 2010 – with the loss of so many facilities, and the specialist workers who run them, putting teenagers at risk.

And today, more research will be published that shows that more than a third (38%) of council-run children’s centres have been closed across England since 2010, with the situation only due to get worse as town halls struggle to avoid bankruptcy.

“Of course this has hit deprived areas and disadvantaged families the hardest,” Ms McAnea said. “We know that the Tory austerity plan – and it was a deliberate plan – has meant incredible hardship and a legacy from which some communities may never recover.”

The general secretary noted that while the government blames local mismanagement by Labour councils for their malaise, Tory authorities are also suffering, “because the reality is that the fault lies with 14 years of Tory mismanagement, 14 years of a Tory Government that has systematically and deliberately under-funded local councils.

“Our members are committed to the services they provide – supporting the most vulnerable, educating our children, keeping our local communities safe and healthy.

“It’s the Tory Government that has put all of this at risk – and it’s time for a change.”

L-R: Christina McAnea, Lisa Thomas, Alys Exley-Smith, Ramon Hutchingson, Glen Williams
Day one of conference saw the presentation of UNISON’s local service champions awards 2024. L-R: Christina McAnea, runner-up Lisa Thomas, winner Alys Exley-Smith, runner-up Ramon Hutchingson, Glen Williams

“If Labour wins the general election, one of their first big crises will be how to deal with local government funding. I know they can’t reverse all the cuts overnight. But we do need to see real investment in public services, in particular in local government. And a fairer funding system, moving on from the way the Tories have favoured areas where they’re strong, at the expense of more economically challenged Labour-run areas.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.”

Ms McAnea assured delegates: “I make this case every single time I speak to the Labour Party. And I give you my word that I will not give up pushing this when Labour comes into government. To say they must – they absolutely must – deal with the crisis in local government.

“But conference, make no mistake – we have to get the Tories out. Our members cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Our public services cannot sustain five more years of cuts. And our communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Glen Williams

Her views were mirrored by Glen Williams (above), chair of the local government service group executive, who was eager to ensure that Labour stick to its manifesto promises.

Presenting the local government annual report to conference, Mr Williams said that if Labour wins power, there can be “no dilution, no compromise” in the party’s proposed New Deal for Working People, with its many promises to boost workers’ pay and conditions.

Mr Williams spoke of the fact that local government pay has lost 30% of its real value under the Tories, observing that “Pay cut after pay cut after pay cut is like being burgled, every year for 14 years.”

The union is currently consulting local government members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the latest NJC pay offer, with the executive recommending that they reject it.

Images: Steve Forrest

The article ‘Essential services are crumbling before our eyes’ first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Cuts to children’s centres hitting the most disadvantaged

Children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support, says UNISON today (Monday).?

Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the union reveal that over a third (38%) of council-run children’s centres in England have closed since 2010 when the government implemented austerity measures and slashed councils’ financial support.

There were at least 3,106 council-run children’s centres across England in 2010/11. But hard-up local authorities had locked the doors of 1,168 centres by the end of March 2023, the union’s figures show.

Children’s centres play a crucial role in early-years education, and provide working families with childcare, health support and parenting advice.

But the mass closure of council-run centres, and the loss of specialist staff, have left many vulnerable families unable to access vital early-years support.

Local authorities in the South East (68%) and West Midlands (59%) closed the highest proportion of their children’s centres between 2010/11 and 2022/23.

Meanwhile, three county councils topped the list of authorities that closed the most council-run children’s centres. These were Essex (74), Hampshire (70) and Surrey (39).

Across England’s city, unitary, metropolitan and borough councils, troubled Birmingham (38 closures) shut down the most sites. It was followed by Shropshire (23), Somerset (20), Sandwell (20) and Stockport (17).

The data is being released today at UNISON’s annual local government conference in Brighton.

But councils’ latest FoI disclosures do not cover further cuts to children and family services – including early help centres – planned over the next two years at struggling authorities such as Birmingham and Derbyshire, says UNISON.

A separate local government staff survey by UNISON highlights the devastating impact that austerity measures – including children’s centre job cuts – have had on some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and parents.

Staff report a surge in health and mental health issues among children and parents, child learning and speech difficulties, soaring referrals to social services, and a worrying lack of preparedness for school among children – including basic toilet training.

One family support worker describes a young and disabled mum who relies heavily on specialist local support to help her disabled child.

“If it wasn’t for our team supporting this child, unfortunately the child would go into full-time care. This child is loved so much by her mum and siblings. It breaks me to think this loving family could be split up. If it wasn’t for our team, there would be more children going into care,” the support worker warns.

UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Every region of England has closed vast numbers of council-run children’s centres – further victims of the government’s misplaced austerity drive.

“Children’s centres are the lifeblood of local communities. They support working and vulnerable parents, and they provide essential education and developmental support to the nation’s children from birth to school age and beyond.

“This research has exposed the harsh reality of centres closing. From leaving vulnerable families in deprived areas and isolated communities beyond the reach of support teams, to cutting the specialist staff who prevent at-risk children from being taken into care.

“Cuts to these crucial services merely create more problems and costs for the future. Ministers and council leaders should invest in children’s centres as part of wider plans to stabilise council finances and provide a boost to parents and youngsters.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s report Sure Start Uncertain Future can be read here. The data was gathered through FoI requests, looking at the period between the financial years 2010/11, when austerity began under the coalition government, and 2022/23.
– UNISON’s annual conferences began yesterday (Sunday) and runs to Friday 21 June at the Brighton Conference centre. Further details of the conferences can be found here.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Cuts to children’s centres hitting the most disadvantaged first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Cuts to children’s centres hitting the most disadvantaged

Children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support, says UNISON today (Monday).?

Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the union reveal that over a third (38%) of council-run children’s centres in England have closed since 2010 when the government implemented austerity measures and slashed councils’ financial support.

There were at least 3,106 council-run children’s centres across England in 2010/11. But hard-up local authorities had locked the doors of 1,168 centres by the end of March 2023, the union’s figures show.

Children’s centres play a crucial role in early-years education, and provide working families with childcare, health support and parenting advice.

But the mass closure of council-run centres, and the loss of specialist staff, have left many vulnerable families unable to access vital early-years support.

Local authorities in the South East (68%) and West Midlands (59%) closed the highest proportion of their children’s centres between 2010/11 and 2022/23.

Meanwhile, three county councils topped the list of authorities that closed the most council-run children’s centres. These were Essex (74), Hampshire (70) and Surrey (39).

Across England’s city, unitary, metropolitan and borough councils, troubled Birmingham (38 closures) shut down the most sites. It was followed by Shropshire (23), Somerset (20), Sandwell (20) and Stockport (17).

The data is being released today at UNISON’s annual local government conference in Brighton.

But councils’ latest FoI disclosures do not cover further cuts to children and family services – including early help centres – planned over the next two years at struggling authorities such as Birmingham and Derbyshire, says UNISON.

A separate local government staff survey by UNISON highlights the devastating impact that austerity measures – including children’s centre job cuts – have had on some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and parents.

Staff report a surge in health and mental health issues among children and parents, child learning and speech difficulties, soaring referrals to social services, and a worrying lack of preparedness for school among children – including basic toilet training.

One family support worker describes a young and disabled mum who relies heavily on specialist local support to help her disabled child.

“If it wasn’t for our team supporting this child, unfortunately the child would go into full-time care. This child is loved so much by her mum and siblings. It breaks me to think this loving family could be split up. If it wasn’t for our team, there would be more children going into care,” the support worker warns.

UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Every region of England has closed vast numbers of council-run children’s centres – further victims of the government’s misplaced austerity drive.

“Children’s centres are the lifeblood of local communities. They support working and vulnerable parents, and they provide essential education and developmental support to the nation’s children from birth to school age and beyond.

“This research has exposed the harsh reality of centres closing. From leaving vulnerable families in deprived areas and isolated communities beyond the reach of support teams, to cutting the specialist staff who prevent at-risk children from being taken into care.

“Cuts to these crucial services merely create more problems and costs for the future. Ministers and council leaders should invest in children’s centres as part of wider plans to stabilise council finances and provide a boost to parents and youngsters.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s report Sure Start Uncertain Future can be read here. The data was gathered through FoI requests, looking at the period between the financial years 2010/11, when austerity began under the coalition government, and 2022/23.
– UNISON’s annual conferences began yesterday (Sunday) and runs to Friday 21 June at the Brighton Conference centre. Further details of the conferences can be found here.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Cuts to children’s centres hitting the most disadvantaged first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Change for local government can’t come soon enough

Fourteen years of Conservative governments have left council finances in disarray, forcing them to make cuts to vital services, says the head of the UK’s largest union today (Sunday).

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea was making the remarks earlier in a speech to open the union’s annual local government conference. The event takes place in Brighton today and tomorrow.

Christina McAnea told delegates: “Change can’t come soon enough. An increasing number of councils have issued section 114 notices – in effect, declaring bankruptcy.

“The government often claims this is down to local mismanagement, but ministers are brushing over the fact that councils of all political persuasions are struggling to balance their books.

“The government has systematically and deliberately underfunded councils for 14 years. It’s targeted lower-income Labour areas for the biggest cuts. So, it’s no surprise that places like Birmingham and Nottingham have been the worst hit.

“Recent UNISON analysis has found that children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support.

“Similarly, huge cuts to youth services risk have created a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital support at a crucial time in their lives.

“Despite this, council workers are doing everything they can to support the most vulnerable, educate children, and keep local communities safe and healthy. But the impact of these cuts can’t be reversed overnight.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.

“The UK’s witnessed the biggest fall in living standards in generations. And recent local government pay awards haven’t been good enough.

“But bringing back the school support staff negotiating body would be a chance to finally get pay right for such a large and important group of workers.

“Union campaigns to ensure school buildings are safe and fit for purpose, and to fight for recognition of the growing threats and actual violence against school staff are critical.

“Too many staff are at risk of violence in schools. But just because some children don’t set out to be violent, it shouldn’t mean it becomes a part of the job. Everything can be risk assessed and steps taken to remove or minimise attacks as far as possible.

“When it comes to further education, it’s obvious how little ministers care about the sector. Not many Tories went to further education colleges, and not many of their children do either. But colleges are badly needed to help young people gain post-school training.

“This country needs a government that will listen to public sector workers’ concerns, and a government that will work with UNISON to improve services.

“If Labour gets elected, one of the first major domestic crises the new government will have to deal with is the fact that local authorities are on their knees.

“The essential services that keep society functioning are crumbling before our eyes.

“This country cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Public services cannot afford five more years of neglect. And communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Notes to editors:
– Christina McAnea was speaking to delegates on the first day of UNISON’s two-day local government conference in Brighton. This will be followed by the union’s national conference taking place from tomorrow to Friday (17 to 21 June).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Change for local government can’t come soon enough first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Change for local government can’t come soon enough

Fourteen years of Conservative governments have left council finances in disarray, forcing them to make cuts to vital services, says the head of the UK’s largest union today (Sunday).

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea was making the remarks earlier in a speech to open the union’s annual local government conference. The event takes place in Brighton today and tomorrow.

Christina McAnea told delegates: “Change can’t come soon enough. An increasing number of councils have issued section 114 notices – in effect, declaring bankruptcy.

“The government often claims this is down to local mismanagement, but ministers are brushing over the fact that councils of all political persuasions are struggling to balance their books.

“The government has systematically and deliberately underfunded councils for 14 years. It’s targeted lower-income Labour areas for the biggest cuts. So, it’s no surprise that places like Birmingham and Nottingham have been the worst hit.

“Recent UNISON analysis has found that children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support.

“Similarly, huge cuts to youth services risk have created a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital support at a crucial time in their lives.

“Despite this, council workers are doing everything they can to support the most vulnerable, educate children, and keep local communities safe and healthy. But the impact of these cuts can’t be reversed overnight.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.

“The UK’s witnessed the biggest fall in living standards in generations. And recent local government pay awards haven’t been good enough.

“But bringing back the school support staff negotiating body would be a chance to finally get pay right for such a large and important group of workers.

“Union campaigns to ensure school buildings are safe and fit for purpose, and to fight for recognition of the growing threats and actual violence against school staff are critical.

“Too many staff are at risk of violence in schools. But just because some children don’t set out to be violent, it shouldn’t mean it becomes a part of the job. Everything can be risk assessed and steps taken to remove or minimise attacks as far as possible.

“When it comes to further education, it’s obvious how little ministers care about the sector. Not many Tories went to further education colleges, and not many of their children do either. But colleges are badly needed to help young people gain post-school training.

“This country needs a government that will listen to public sector workers’ concerns, and a government that will work with UNISON to improve services.

“If Labour gets elected, one of the first major domestic crises the new government will have to deal with is the fact that local authorities are on their knees.

“The essential services that keep society functioning are crumbling before our eyes.

“This country cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Public services cannot afford five more years of neglect. And communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Notes to editors:
– Christina McAnea was speaking to delegates on the first day of UNISON’s two-day local government conference in Brighton. This will be followed by the union’s national conference taking place from tomorrow to Friday (17 to 21 June).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Change for local government can’t come soon enough first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Councils face ‘existential crisis’ without proper investment from next government

Commenting on a new white paper from the Local Government Association that calculates councils in England face a £6.2bn funding shortfall over the next two years, UNISON head of local government Mike Short said today (Friday):

“Councils are facing an existential crisis because of years of severe government underfunding.

“Wave after wave of budget cuts to essential services has harmed communities immensely, with the worst off always the hardest hit.

“Authorities have been forced to sell off buildings, open spaces and other prized assets, and cut thousands of jobs. But still their books won’t balance – and now scores of town halls face effective bankruptcy.

“Without a sustained programme of proper investment many more will go under. This cannot be allowed to happen. Local services, and the councils that provide them, are too important to lose.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

 

The article Councils face ‘existential crisis’ without proper investment from next government first appeared on the UNISON National site.