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Democracy Investment Fairness




UNISON's manifesto for Scotland's public services


Under Labour, health spending has doubled, education spending has doubled, transport spending has doubled and social services spending has doubled. This was necessary to overcome the under investment during the Tory years. It's time for us to be a world leader in public service provision. This means not just funding, though this is crucial, but also implementing ways of working which allow best practice to flourish.

National standards - local innovation

UNISON members are keen to play their part in revitalising Scotland's public services. This can and should be achieved with the full involvement of staff and trade unions as those with the knowledge and expertise of frontline service delivery. Complex services, "fair to all” and "personal to each of us” cannot be delivered by central mandate. There must be space for local innovation with broad standards set to disseminate best practice. Users of public services are not homogeneous. The needs and wants of differing groups need to be taken into account when designing efficient services.

Appropriate performance measures

Traditional methods of measuring the performance of organisations have concentrated on cost accounting methods that may not be entirely suitable to public services. There is also a concern that a costly, bureaucratic, scrutiny industry could develop to examine public services. The measurements used to assess performance are often subjective and fairly crude and do not take into account all the factors involved in providing a service. They are also often based on what data is already being collected.

This can lead to pressure on PSOs to concentrate on such indicators to the detriment of the services they provide: the recent furore about GPs appointment waiting time guarantees in England illustrates this.

Targets should be based on inputs, outputs and outcomes together with process measures. Financial systems will also need to be reviewed to be consistent with this approach. It should also be recognised that assessing outcomes is fraught with the difficulties of identifying cause and effect and the influence of other policies and organisations.

There is also a concern of how open and transparent any scrutiny regime would be, especially with the growth of quangos, and the increased use of private firms, in either the delivery of services or in their inspection.

Transparency - sharing best practice

Revitalising public services requires innovation so new ideas and improvements to the way services meet the needs of people are developed. The public service organisation (PSO) must also have the capacity to allow innovation to occur; otherwise no amount of innovative thought will actually translate into better services at the frontline. Innovation requires challenging the assumption that public services are based on a "one size fits all” approach. This process requires transparency and an element of risk taking, so it is necessary to end the blame culture to enable innovation to take place without recrimination. Giving staff the resources and freedom to develop networks to learn from the best practice that they encounter best does this. Again, relying on private firms who jealously guard innovations as commercial advantage does not.

Quality, not just price

Efficiency and effectiveness in the public services are about more than price. This should be reflected in our procurement policy using the new flexibility in European law to ensure that the social dimension is properly reflected. The public has a right to expect high performance from public services.

That performance should be rooted in a culture of citizenship not consumerism. The quality of services offered - not just the lowest cost - must be a crucial factor in any procurement decision. Any analysis of the performance of public services needs to take into account the often-variable funding levels that public services receive as well as their interaction with other public service organisations and the possible impact on their service provision.

Efficient Government

UNISONScotland recognises that all public sector organisations should be aware of opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively.We also welcome the commitment to reinvest savings in services and the absence of crude job-cut targets. PSOs in Scotland already continuously review their operations and have a record of achieving efficiencies under the existing best value arrangements. They are also subject to a range of inspection and audit arrangements.

UNISON is concerned that in the past ‘efficiency savings' have simply been a mask for real cuts in services or privatisation.We would be more impressed if the Executive tackled real waste such as the billions wasted on the additional cost of PFI schemes as compared to conventional procurement.

There are also concerns that efficient government could be a cover for the centralisation of services through shared services, streamlining bureaucracy or procurement initiatives.We need to develop local and virtual solutions as distinct from centralised ‘big shed' arrangements or outsourcing. Early evidence would indicate that most efficiency savings are coming from front line services such as health and local government. Local authorities have also had their ‘savings' top sliced from budget allocations.

The implementation of efficient government requires negotiations at local level to be based on a genuine partnership approach with early and meaningful involvement of staff and their trade unions with realistic timescales and objectives.





Janet MoxleyHaving spent three years working for a PhD and with several years experience I didn't want to stop working completely when I had children.

However, after my second child was born I found I needed to spend more time with them. Being able to work part-time has meant that I can have more time with them while they are young and I will be able to pick up my daughter from school when she starts.

The department hasn't lost an expensively-trained chemist, and has been able to put the money saved on my wages towards employing additional technicians, so after initial reseverations they are pleased with this arrangement too.

Dr Janet Moxley, UNISON member and trace organic chemist



Alan CowanJoint Planning Teams in the NHS and our Council are having an impact at a local level - working alongside local people through local community planning groups.

Together we are developing a local agenda for health improvement.The teams are helping to present a representative and balanced case for change to key decision makers in the NHS and Local Authority through surveys and focus groups.

This will ensure better use of resources and a greater accountability from service providers.

Alan Cowan, UNISON member and public health capacity building officer.





© UNISONScotland 2006
Published by UNISONScotland,
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Glasgow G2 6RX. Tel 0141 332 0006