Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Danger of 'national' services

Speech on STUC motion from FBU on a national fire service: UNISON will be abstaining on this motion for a number of reasons but primarily because we cannot commit to supporting a national fire and rescue service without a full debate, discussion and consultation with out members who provide the vital infrastructure for this service. But we also have reservations in general about the drive towards national rather than local services.

While we respect the views and knowledge of our FBU comrades – and we would have to defer to their understanding of the needs of this front line service – we would be worried if a national service became a template for a host of other services.

We know that FBU comrades would contest whether a joint board system in many areas actually deliver real local democracy and accountability.

But UNISON has long taken the position that services should be democratically controlled and accountable to the electorate at the closest possible point to that electorate.

That is why we are thinking long and hard about the proposals for a national care service and whether the evidence would really support that this would provide a better service for people that gives them a real say in that service.

That is why we are suspicious of reorganisations claiming to be better for people when they are really only financially based – with huge bits of that scarce funding being ploughed into the reorganisation itself instead of the services.

We would be seriously concerned if this became a model for a national police force with all that would mean for…

- a lack of local engagement and accountability affecting the concept of police by consent.
- a real effect on civil liberties
- and a breaking of the fundamental tradition and suspicion in this country of national government controlled arms of internal security.

And finally, we have concerns because of the very principles we fought for in creating and building our Scottish Parliament.

- Subsidiarity: Services organised as close to the people as possible.
- No ‘sucking up’ of locally controlled services into a central monolith
- A real Parliament, not a glorified local authority taking over local functions.

Colleagues, we respect the FBU’s analysis of what they think is best for their members and the service they – and our members – provide and we all rely on. It may be that it is the best was forward.

But our members have yet to arrive at a position on this significant change and the effects on their jobs and our services.

Their voice will also have to be listened to in this debate. It is for that reason that UNISON will be abstaining today but hoping to play a full part in the debate in the future.


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