As austerity enthusiast Theresa May steps across the Downing Street threshold as prime minister today (Wednesday 13 July), Unite, the country’s largest union, renewed its pledge to work with the Labour group of the Local Government Association (LGA) to roll-back six years of cuts to local authority services.
Unite, which has 70,000 members in local government, said that it energetically wished to work with Labour-controlled councils to find inventive and creative solutions to reverse the £12.5 billion worth of cuts imposed by the Tories since 2010.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Defending services and fighting for jobs are at the core of the agreement we signed with the LGA Labour group at its annual general meeting last week.
“We warmly welcome the agreement achieved with the LGA Labour group at its AGM last week where Labour councillors overwhelmingly supported the document 'Local Government Trade Union Principles'.
“One of David Cameron’s baleful legacies will be the 676,000 jobs lost in local government during his premiership – libraries closed, education deprived of resources, social care cut, youth centres shut, and services, such as parks, outsourced. What a legacy to leave his fellow 65 million citizens.
“There is nothing in Theresa May’s record that suggests that local government can expect any mercy as she becomes prime minister – it will be more of the same, lots more, coming down the tracks in the years up to 2020.
“Labour councils and the trade unions are the major forces in the land that can stand up to this year-on degradation of fine public services stretching back to the 19th Century.”
Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of the LGA Labour group said: “Since 2010, councils have dealt with a 40 per cent real terms reduction to their core government grant. In adult social care alone, funding reductions and demographic pressures have meant dealing with a £5 billion funding gap.”
“Councils have made significant efforts to minimise the impact of funding reductions. However, this hasn’t been without cost and the scope for making efficiencies has almost run out.
“Spending reserves on plugging funding gaps would be a gamble with the future of people who rely on council services and would put local communities on the fast-track to financial failure. Such a move would leave councils with no funds to make vital investments or manage new financial risks and would also increase the national deficit.”
The key elements of the agreement embrace good industrial relations; ethical employment issues; the promotion of housing services; opposing the Trade Union Act; and recognising the positive contribution of trade unions and their members.
Yesterday (Tuesday 12 July) Unite delegates at their policy conference in Brighton endorsed a 14-point campaigning template including lobbying councils to use appropriate borrowing and re-financing to make savings, as well as borrowing to invest where it will result in income.
The statement recognised that Scotland is differently funded and as such has other campaigns that the union fully supports. For example, pre-devolution debt that the councils continue to pay off still consumes more than 55 per cent, on average, of council tax monies – and that only pays the interest.
The union in Scotland is leading the campaign to drop historical debt, which consumes such a sizeable chunk of current council income. There is a precedent for this with Glasgow city council, which following a debt amnesty, was then able to invest in housing.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.