believes that an elected tier of government at local level, representing
the views of the community and determining and delivering quality
public services, is essential for the people of Scotland.
Many of the Government's priorities in local government are also
UNISON's aims. The joined-up working epitomised in the Joint Future
discussions, an expanding early years education, and the acceptance
of the principle of a ‘Power of Wellbeing' for local government
are all welcome developments.
However they still require careful consideration and consultation
with service deliverers and users if they are to be successful.
The track record of partnership discussions with staff representatives
has not been good in many areas of local government. This must
change if important and necessary reforms are to be implemented.
It is now time to ensure that those who will require to deliver
the service in local authorities are brought on board.
The Local Government Act goes some way to addressing concerns
from local service users and service providers alike. The power
of wellbeing will assist councils to intervene positively in their
area, and community planning will assist in taking into account
the needs of the local people.
We welcome the recognition of the need to increase the ability
of councils to borrow by abolishing Section 94 constraints. This
will assist in giving them a real choice of sources for funding
new facilities - rather than ‘the only game in town' of PFI/PPP.
It will free up council borrowing, and increase their ability
to react flexibly to changing service demand. However it will
not be sufficient on its own. We must also create a level playing
field for the award of government grants, ensuring that PPP/PFI
projects do not continue to receive the preferential treatment
they currently enjoy.
Partnership working with the voluntary sector has been a feature
of local government and we recognise the provision of services
by such partnership arrangements where it is identified as being
the most appropriate method.
The government should encourage quality services, by monitoring
and promoting best practice. We support the plan for councils
to have the lead role in community planning. UNISON believes that
a form of proportional representation that continues the links
between elected councillors and their local electorate would be
a fairer system and would help bring back legitimacy to local
elections. Removing the democratic deficit that debars a large
section of the population from taking a full part in our local
democracy would also help. Staff in local government should be
able to stand for election to councils.
Best Value, too requires changes. UNISON welcomed the move away
from competitive tendering, but unless there is to be a change
to the ‘cheapest is best' attitude, Best Value will not be delivered.
We want to see clear guidelines that base Best Value in quality
service provision, training and resource provision, not cost alone.
We want to deliver high quality services. To do this we must play
a full partnership role. We propose a consultative Quality Forum
to oversee continuous improvement through Best Value, and ensure
quality is delivered. A fair employment agenda is also needed
to ensure that the workforce is treated fairly and is not subject
The use of the private finance route to fund service developments
means that many developments are far from satisfactory. Problems
like the poor quality of work in Glasgow's schools PFI, the lack
of flexibility in facilities management contracts and the persistent
failings of the trunk roads maintenance contractors - in some
cases the same firm! - provide yet more evidence of why private
sector control is wrong for public services. This is a lesson
that has been learned in the careers service, which is being brought
back in-house after some years of fragmented part-private provision.
The recognition of the need for public services to be delivered
by properly trained and resourced in-house staff should now be
clearly outlined by the Government.
UNISON member and Nursery Nurse Glasgow City Council.
"If the expansion of early years education is to be successful,
the problem of low pay in this sector must be addressed.
"Treating nursery workers as second class staff cannot
be justified. We need proper recognition of our role and
a full review of our function and remuneration".
Unless we address the problem of low pay in the nursery sector
we run the risk of a similar recruitment problem for nursery nurses
that we are facing with nurses and other professional health staff.
The expansion of early-years education will be jeopardised unless
proper recognition is given to the needs of the often low-paid
nursery staff who are at the sharp end.
Similarly social work is facing a chronic staffing crisis. The
reasons for this include stress and inadequate pay. Whilst we
need to address pay, in particular we would want to see much greater
public support from the Government for the difficult and necessary
job of social work. We also need to introduce funded education
and training to staff at all levels in social work to equip them
to move into higher skilled jobs.
In housing, it would make far more sense to allow local authorities
and their tenants to determine the proper mix of housing tenures
rather than continuing with the current crude coercion of removing
debt charges only if houses are lost to democratic control. Local
councils will have strategic power over local housing. It would
make sense for all of them also to be able to provide housing
directly, free from the burden of housing debt charges. This would
enable councils to provide affordable housing for all, including
key workers, who are unable to live and work in areas of high
cost housing such as Edinburgh. Councils should be free to borrow
for investment; all capital receipts should be returned to councils
to fund investment in council housing and the right to buy should
Kate Ramsden, UNISON Member
and Children's Rights Officer, Aberdeenshire Council.
"Whilst pay needs to be improved to address the staffing
crisis in social work, we also need better public support
from the Government. They should recognise the difficult
but essential job that social workers do. We also need to
introduce funded education and train staff at all levels
to equip them to move into higher skilled jobs."
UNISONScotland welcomes the commitment to retaining local police
forces in Scotland. The Scottish Government must continue to recognise
the important role that police force support staff play in a modern
police environment. This is often in key areas such as crime detection
and analytical intelligence work. Over the years many posts have
been ‘civilianised' to allow the deployment of more police officers
on the beat.
Plans for common services to be provided on a Scotland wide basis
require careful consideration. They need to ensure the retention
of key staff, by protecting terms and conditions and job security,
and ensuring that services are able to respond effectively to
We must ensure that police support staff are properly rewarded
for the key roles that they carry out. Forces must also be provided
with budgets that allow them to deliver training that will enhance
the career development of all staffs.
Higher and Further Education
Higher and further education is an area which has undergone exceptional
expansion in numbers of students, but which requires adequate
funding to meet the new demands. There is a desperate need for
funding to enable the sector to develop properly trained and resourced
teams of teaching and support staff to deliver the courses that
Scotland's people need.
It is an area where the market place philosophy has been tried
and found wanting. All that the undignified scramble for students
has meant in H&FE is merger after merger and the reorganisations
that go along with these. This has meant that many colleges now
run the risk of closure, ironically both by being merged and therefore
providing duplicate courses or the reverse - by being left on
their own and not gaining any benefit of scale. In addition, multiple
mergers have also led to institutions losing local identities.
The real term decrease in the Enterprise and Life Long Learning
Budget has also had a significant impact on the Further and Higher
Education sectors. Higher and Further Education has been dogged
by underfunding, with universities and colleges that are poorly
resourced, and some on the brink of bankruptcy.
UNISON Scotland is increasingly concerned at the incidence of
low pay for support, ancillary and teaching staff in these sectors,
and in addition the prevalence of discriminatory pay within this
sector. This also means that already low-paid support staffs are
trapped in the low pay ghetto by underfunding and the problems
of individual college balances. UNISON welcomes the Scottish Executive's
Close the Gap initiative, but implementation requires support
for equal pay audits, backed up with resources, in all institutions.
Lifelong learning requires a healthy tertiary education sector,
with properly trained and resourced teams of teaching and support
staff allowed to deliver the courses that Scotland's people need.
The energy industry is crucial to the Scottish economy. Three
of Scotland's top six companies are in this sector which is also
a vital utility to the economy as a whole. Whilst energy generation
is a reserved area, other aspects of energy policy are devolved.
Scotland's energy industry is in crisis. Thousands of quality
jobs are disappearing across the sector. Whilst the Scottish Executive
switches support from inward investment to indigenous companies,
UK energy policy drives Scottish investment overseas. European
companies, not subject to our competition frameworks in their
home market, are squeezing Scottish companies out of the UK. The
regulatory framework in Scotland is a complete shambles, producing
a system that benefits no one, least of all the bewildered customer.
In the gas industry OFGEM price controls have resulted in even
more job losses undermining safety - a key issue in Scotland following
the explosions in Dundee and Larkhall.
Kevin Egan. UNISON member
and Engineer, Transco.
"The Scottish Energy Industry needs a planned energy market
and security of supply. A Scottish strategy that builds
on, rather than undermines our strengths. In particular
the Government must recognise that co-ordinated action rather
than failed competition, is needed to tackle fuel poverty."
Action on the energy review is long overdue, and UNISON has published
our proposals. A Scottish Energy Strategy calls on government
at all levels to adopt a planned market for energy combined with
security of supply, meeting social, employment and environmental
objectives. Scotland's integrated electricity industry should
be supported - not undermined by a regulator determined to impose
the failed English model on Scotland.
Other losers have been the disadvantaged customers who make up
most of the 30% of Scottish households who suffer from fuel poverty.
UNISON has supported the Keeping Scotland Warm campaign that sets
out a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue. The Executive is
to be commended for its initiatives in this field and in particular
the commitments in the Housing (Scotland) Act. However, further
co-ordinated action is necessary. In particular a recognition
that competitive markets do little for fuel poverty as companies
cherry pick the affluent customer at the expense of the fuel poor.
UNISON welcomes the concessionary fares scheme as the first step
towards creating a Scotland-wide concessionary fares plan for
older and disadvantaged people. Next steps must be to deliver
a more co-ordinated Scottish scheme, including linking of local
schemes to allow reciprocal travel.
We continue to have major concerns with the ill-advised decision
to award the trunk roads maintenance contract to private contractors.
Short-term savings have been made at the expense of the level
of service given to council-tax payers and workers' pay and conditions.
The cut will also result in a continued decline in the roads network
as both trunk and council roads need substantial investment. To
give just one example, the Highland Council budget allows for
resurfacing roads once every 108 years. The split between trunk
and local roads maintenance has meant the loss of integrated maintenance
across all roads.
These contracts should be brought back in house as soon as possible,
and tendering procedures drawn up to ensure in-house and private
contractors are subject to the same conditions, and that the workforce
is protected from attempts to reduce pay and conditions to cut
UNISONScotland remains committed to the retention of Scotland's
water service within the public sector. Given the chaos that competition
and privatisation has brought to Scotland's energy industry, it
seems bizarre that we should be going down the same road in the
Whilst full competition has not yet been introduced, there are
provisions in recent Acts and further legislation planned for
this year, to encourage greater private sector involvement and
access to Scotland's water and sewerage infrastructure. In private
utilities the objective to maximise profit, is achieved by cherry
picking the most profitable customers, leaving the rest to pick
up the bill. A public water industry should be focussed on providing
an effective and accessible public service, maintaining public
health, protecting the environment and underpinning economic development.
Scotland's water industry is being gradually privatised, originally
through PFI and now through broader PPPs. The early PFI schemes
have been a dismal and costly failure. Not only has PFI cost vastly
more than conventional schemes but also once in operation has
resulted in a long list of service failures. PPP's are subject
to even less public scrutiny.
It is too early to judge the effectiveness of Scottish Water,
created by merging the three former water authorities. UNISON
remains concerned over the absence of public accountability and
a financial framework that results in massive job losses within
an unrealistic timetable. Our experience in other utilities show
that the loss of experienced staff could fatally undermine safety
and customer service.
Future budgets for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
contain no real term increases. This will make it very difficult
for SEPA to carry out the various EU directives which have to
be implemented and the additional responsibilities it has been
given, such as the Flood Warning System. Real term increases are
necessary, given the context of inadequate funding over recent
years and the increased role for the private sector in water and
UNISON Scotland has significant concerns about the impact of
the Water Services Bill and the amalgamation of the three Scottish
Water Authorities on the level of service and the effect on Scotland's
environment. Currently, there is no level financial playing field
with multi-national competitors in England. UNISON calls for an
equivalent debt write off and public investment in the current
Scottish public system.
Community & Voluntary Services
The community and voluntary sector is an important provider of
public services. This should be recognised by government, by local
authorities and other funders with a more long-term funding structure.
This will require funding bodies themselves to have their resources
adequately maintained and improved. In particular there is a need
to ensure that funding that is available from government and local
authorities recognises the need for the voluntary body to pay
appropriate rates and deliver conditions and training.
The overall role of this important service in public service
provision is only patchily recognised. Many services provided
are ones that have not and are unlikely to be, provided by the
traditional public sector. A main strength of the community and
voluntary sector is its capacity for innovation and the development
of services outside the mainstream. Indeed this is why many of
the organisations grew up in the first place. It is clear that
in any manifesto dealing with the delivery of services, the vital
role of the community and voluntary sector is not only recognised
but proper resourcing of it is addressed.
Ian Williamson, UNISON member
and Print/ Resource Administrator, Scottish Pre-School Playgroup
"Whilst we welcome Government recognition of the the importance
of the Community & Voluntary Sector, the problems of resourcing
and accountability need to be tackled. Both the sector itself
and other funding bodies need improved resources, and funding
must recognise that the sector should deliver appropriate
pay rates, conditions and training."
There has been a clear recognition by the Government of the status
of the sector and its importance in delivering public services.
This is welcome. Other positive developments have been the beginnings
of partnership working and training proposals.
It is therefore concerning that the problems of resourcing and
accountability are not being tackled. We believe that the Executive
should address these issues within the Scottish Budget to give
the voluntary sector increased funding and a more long term funding
structure that provides a better balance between core and project
funding. This will also require funding bodies themselves to have
their resources adequately maintained, and for the voluntary sector
to be accountable in service delivery to the local communities
The community and voluntary sector should also be involved in
the discussion on service needs and priorities. To that end they
should be major players in partnership discussions and planning.
They should also be accountable for their involvement in this
to the local communities they serve.
These aims are outlined as UNISON's contribution to the renewal
of Scotland's public services. This is a document to stimulate
discussion amongst politicians and people, amongst service users
and service providers. We intend to circulate this widely, and
hopefully from this document and responses to it can come broad
agreement on the way forward for our public services.
We think that our principles:
- Giving people a say in their public services;
- Choosing quality services;
- Choosing teamwork;
need to guide us as we attempt to create world-class public services
in Scotland. We are also clear that these principles have found
widespread acceptance, and that what is now required is for government
to move to directly resourcing the core public services that will
be required to deliver.
It is time to recognise that
- There is a need to renew Scotland's public services
- We must recognise the difference between public and private
- We must invest to revitalise public services
We also need to adopt the principles for renewal outlined in
our opening pages, namely:
Public Service Organisations (PSOs) should
- Be open, transparent and democratically accountable
- Have a vision of what they want to achieve. Plan for and assess
the delivery of that vision
- Build their capacity to allow the development of innovative
services to meet the needs of users
- Encourage active participation from users, the community,
staff and their trade unions.
- Provide resources to recruit and retain high quality staff.
- Have their performance measured by standards linked to available
resources and social need.
- Work together in public service networks
- Be funded from sources that do not conflict with these principle.
Scotland's Parliament will be judged on how it delivers Scotland's
We need our new government to
our Public Services