Want to know what the local government service group executive does?

Published February 20, 2018 at 10:48

Want to know what the local government service group executive does?  How does it affect you and your members?

This is a report of the main issues discussed at the last Local Government Service Group Executive meeting on 8 February 2018.  We hope you find it interesting.
Service Group Conference 2018
The SGE discussed Conference and agreed to submit motions on the following topics:

  • Local Government Finance and the Cuts
  • Raising the Profile of Local Government Workers
  • Local Government and Brexit
  • Privatisation
  • Stop the Spread of Regional Adoption Bodies
  • Funding for Early Years
  • Dealing with the Menopause in the Workplace
  • Maternity Rights
  • Housing
  • Devolution

The SGE also considered possible topics for fringe meetings and initial ideas for guest speakers.

Anti Cuts Project / SOS Campaign
We are currently discussing the priorities for SOS campaigning and organising for 2018 and exploring strategies for income generation and mitigating cuts.

Towards the end of 2017 we launched a new wave of campaigning on UNISON’s proposal for the business rate surplus to be invested in social care. This issue will continue to be highlighted with politicians.

Work is on-going regarding llobbying of MPs on local government cuts. The current plan is for a programme of lobbying MPs at their surgeries with a view to influencing the Autumn budget. Discussions will be held with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to determine the approach in the devolved nations.

Local Government Finance
The Local Government Finance Settlements for England, Wales and Scotland were recently published, bringing more bad news for local councils.

In England the Government is permitting an increase in council tax by a further 1% in both 2018/19 and 2019/20, on top of the social care precept. Councils can increase council tax by up to 3% or, in the case of social care authorities, up to 6% without triggering a local referendum on the issue.  Poorer areas with a lower council tax base will be disproportionately hit by this move.

The Government plans to continue with the system under which councils will retain 75% of business rates from 2020/2021. This risks disadvantaging councils in parts of England with lower levels of economic activity.

The lack of new funding means that councils won’t be able to adequately deal with increasing demand for children’s and adults’ social care.

The situation in Wales is again less severe than that in England.  The final Local Government Settlement published in December will see a decline in funding for nine of the twenty two councils in Wales, with small increases for the rest.

Local councils in Scotland will continue to be disproportionately hit by funding cuts.  The funding settlement will result in a cut of £153 million for core local government services.

Privatisation and Oursourcing
Privatisation and outsourcing are increasingly discredited. The collapse of Carillion has further enhanced the view that privatising public services represents a massive waste of public resources.

More and more councils are bringing services back in-house to save money and to end the in-built inflexibility of private contracts.

UNISON will continue to work with other housing campaigners to make the case for council and social housing and call for measures to improve housing supply and affordability across all housing types.

UNISON’s Policy Unit, Local Government Service Group and Community Service Group will work together to develop UNISON’s housing campaign to protect social housing services and the housing workforce.

We will be organising a housing seminar for branches in Spring/Summer 2018 on the “The future of social housing”.

Library Campaign
The Library Taskforce has issued a research report into community-led libraries. It looks into the sustainability of community libraries. UNISON has commissioned two researchers at Cardiff University to look into issues surrounding the use of volunteers to run libraries. We are working closely with the researchers to agree details and methodology.

Branches are asked to provide Sarah Pearce, sarah.pearce@unison.co.uk with contact details of library convenors to improve UNISON’s organising capacity in libraries and to help the research into library volunteers.

Social Work
In December the Government issued its formal response to its consultation on the National Assessment and Accreditation System.  Just 34% of the 396 respondents agreed with the proposal to accredit all social workers by 2020, while 59% were split between being uncertain that it would work and flatly saying it would not. The Government is proceeding, but has scaled back its plans. The scheme will be piloted over the summer in 5 councils – Bury, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham and Wigan.  They then plan to roll it out to a further 12-15 councils before rolling it out across England.
Halton, Hartlepool and Stirling councils all recently adopted the Ethical Care Charter.

UNISON activists in Wales have been meeting with the Minister for Health and Social Services around new social care legislation that will be introduced in 2018.

UNISON held a cross-Service Group seminar on social care in mid January.  It considered the range of work currently being carried out across the union on both homecare and residential care issues. It looked at UNISON’s future priorities and how our structures should look in order to support this work.

The Local Government Service Group delegates all emphasised the need for the union to do more to try and reverse the widespread levels of privatisation in the sector.

In Scotland, the Ethical Care Charter has been increasingly picked up by local authorities. Some have fully embraced the need for workforce issues to be a major part of commissioning through Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCP’s).

Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS)
UNISON launched a campaign to encourage LGPS funds to divest from carbon based industries in early January. A report produced with Shareaction will help LGPS members to push funds to sell their shares and bonds in fossil fuels.  Last year £16 billion was invested in the fossil fuel industry by LGPS funds.

The LGPS Code of Transparency, which asks investment managers to declare all their costs and fees, has signed up most investment firms involved in the UK LGPS. UNISON has encouraged English, Scottish and NI LGPS funds to promote this code and pressurise managers to sign up.

Education and Children’s Services
In January UNISON launched a report in Schools Week, based on responses from 1,200 kitchen staff.  UNISON has called for improved pay, recognition of the vital work kitchen staff do and for employers to provide adequate training for all school kitchen staff.

UNISON Scotland welcomed new government guidance ‘Supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools’.

The school cuts website (England) will be re-launched shortly with a focus on the effects that funding cuts have had on staff numbers and pupil/staff ratios. This time it will include support staff as well as stats for teachers.

An independent report sponsored by UNISON Scotland ‘Early Learning and Childcare’ has confirmed the link between staff qualifications and performance. It notes that the best experiences for children appear to be where there is a range of staff with complementary skills. Those services led by early year’s staff offer as good and comparable a service as those run by teachers.

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