Friday 16 February 2018


The annual Central Consultative Committee took place yesterday but unfortunately didn’t go ahead because the TU side was inquorate.  Not because UNISON Angus weren't there though! The 'CCC' is the yearly meeting where unions meet elected members to hear about the budget for 2018/2019. We're looking at changing how that dialogue takes place in the future but it's what we have right now.

We prepared a statement for our elected members which we didn’t get the chance to share in in the minutes of the Committee. However, they till wanted to hear what we had to say, so we still got to make our statement to them, on behalf of you, our members.

And here's what we said:

I’m addressing you today in my capacity of Secretary of the Angus branch of the trade union UNISON before you join your fellow elected members in the special meeting to set the Council’s budget for 2018/2019.

You will of course not need reminding that UNISON represent members working for Angus Council, negotiating and representing them, campaigning for better public services, better working conditions and pay that reflects the true cost of living and the valuable nature of the work that our members deliver for you as the elected representatives of our local authority.

In the run up to the Draft Scottish Budget settlement, UNISON lobbied our politicians at Westminster and Holyrood. We asked them to work towards a budget that does more than just mitigate against the worst excesses of the cuts that have been inflicted over the past seven years. We reminded them that local services need investment to enable them to survive and provide adequately for all in our Angus communities. We welcomed the manifesto pledges made by the Scottish government but we also saw that as a result of those pledges there was very little left in the pot for local government. Indeed, local government is once again at the bottom of the Scottish Government’s list of priorities. The impact of that is continuing cuts to budgets and the shortfall of £18m that you and your fellow elected members will be considering later this morning. It would be an appropriate point now perhaps to offer the Branch’s thanks to the Strategic Director – People and the Head of Corporate Finance for their help in providing the financial evidence to substantiate our submissions to Westminster and Holyrood representatives on gaining a fair budget settlement for Angus Council.

But the harsh reality of our genuine and passionate call for better funding fell on largely deaf ears. Our representative at Westminster took two reminders before responding to us, more concerned with  tax than her hard working local authority residents, the recipients of services and Council employees. And in Holyrood, only one constituency MSP responded and none of the list MSPs for North East Scotland. A shameful response for those who claim to represent us.

 Our members are currently in the midst of the largest ever review of Council services ever seen. Some of our members have endured the stress and worry of being in scope for more than one review of their particular service area. We’re told not to talk about numbers of job losses but of the positive outcomes of the reviews. But now, we read of a further 600FTE job losses in the next three years and that only SOME of this reduction will be achieved through not filling vacant posts, voluntary severance and natural wastage. Whilst news of Early Years expansion is to be welcome, your hard working employees, our members, are rightly concerned that they will be out of work by 2021. These people live in Angus, work in Angus and contribute to the local economy, spending money on locally provided goods and services. They may even vote for you.

The 10.3m of savings from the Business Change Programme comes with a health warning from UNISON Angus. It is easy to save perceived large amounts of money from a 20% reduction in management posts. Alas, with that comes a loss of knowledge and experience across the Council. Furthermore, the efforts to re-align the Council’s resources and become more efficient  may well help deliver a budget for 2018/2019 but for our members still, in the words of some, ‘lucky to have a job’ in the coming years will be working harder with an increasing workload, fewer resources and fewer people, paid less, to deliver those services. This will undoubtedly impact on their own health and well being as they struggle to deliver to the Angus public. They may also deliver services collaboratively in the future with our neighbours but there is a very thin line between that and ‘shared services’ where sterile, anonymous, centrally delivered services undoubedtly lead to further job losses.

Our members, your employees, did not ask for cuts and austerity yet they will be expected to defend your decisions today to the public at large. Depending on your own allegiances,  we’ll no doubt be told that the blame for austerity lies with Westminster or at Holyrood. In reality it lies with the excesses of the banking industry and of the dogma of relentless Tory public service cuts. Why therefore should our hard working members just have to soak it up and take it on the chin?

A word too on pay. Since 2010, the cost of living has risen by 22%. The wages of local authority workers has only risen by 4%. Boosting the wages of lower paid public sector workers can ameliorate austerity cuts and generate expansion in the Scottish economy more effectively and efficiently than cutting
taxes for the rich and powerful or building major infrastructure
projects. For those continuing to deliver services in Angus, the key lies with the dedicated staff who provide the services here.  This must be recognised and staff properly rewarded through this pay round and to redress the earnings versus cost of living gap.

We have a further three years of major cuts ahead of us. We therefore urge you, the elected members of Angus to reduce and dilute the funding gap you and our members face. UNISON supports ‘no cuts budgets’ whereby authorities utilise underspends, prudential borrowing, reserves and other financial options available to them.

We’d urge you to shout louder on behalf of your staff and citizens in the direction of Edinburgh and London and make even more of a concerted effort to secure more funding for our Council to safeguard services right now and in the future. A viable no-cuts budget is not a pipe dream, it can be a reality.

We’d also point out that the Council’s reserves are there for the proverbial rainy day. As a UNISON colleague recently noted, it’s pouring down outside. 

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