Sunday, 5 February 2017

Is local government ready to fight back?

We have just seen another huge cut in funding for councils on top of massive cut after cut in the last 10 years. (UNISON Edinburgh Annual Report)

We now know that 87% of all the job losses in services under the control of Holyrood have come in local government.

The Scottish Government has unashamedly piled the worst pain of austerity onto local services while increasing its own share of the overall financial pot.

Last year we called that the ‘silent slaughter’ of services as the unions appeared to be the only ones speaking out with any force.

The reason for the relative silence may have been councillors drifting into being managers of cuts as opposed to a political force to defend and promote services.

It may have included loyalty to party outweighing loyalty to council services. Whatever the reason, thankfully we are now beginning to see stronger condemnation from councillors and COSLA.

If they are prepared to take that a step forward and make a stand, they will find ready allies in the trade unionists and community organisations who have been fighting the cuts for years.

Reorganising... again

Successive cuts have brought reorganisations, reviews and now ‘Transformation’.

You wonder how much better services might have been if workers had just been allowed to get on with delivering them instead of putting all the effort into reorganising them, all too often just to reorganise them back again.

Of course not all reorganisations are bad things. Workers on the ground know how things could be done better and are certainly not opposed to improvements in services and how they are provided. For example, the much billed culture change in the council may give some cause for optimism.

But it is hard to carry workers’ goodwill when they see plain, simple cuts spun as ‘efficiencies’ or ‘new ways of working’; valued colleagues being lost to the service and workloads increasing.

This is especially so when the changes are pushed through from a top layer that sometimes seems woefully ill-informed about what the front line actually does.

That is where the work of officers and stewards in the organisational reviews has been so crucial, often staving off the worst effects.

That underlines just how important unions are to workers and to the people who rely on the services they provide.

Throughout this booklet are a few quotes from famous figures about the importance of trade unions, not just to members, but to the whole of society.

They might give you a wee bit of ammunition next time someone tells you unions aren’t relevant.

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