Scotland’s new councils are central to a modern decent Scotland

Written by Dave Watson on 31 May 2017 in Comment

ASSOCIATE FEATURE: Dave Watson, UNISON's Head of Policy and Public Affairs, on the future of Scotland's councils

As new councils are forming across Scotland and setting their policy for the next few years it is worth remembering that the collective provision of services did not arrive by accident. Local government developed because private provision and markets failed to deliver the services necessary to build a modern society.

However, in recent years a combination of austerity and centralisation has made councils, far from being drivers of well-being in their localities, more concerned with limiting the damage from decisions taken elsewhere.

Local government has borne the brunt of austerity. Billions have been cut from council budgets and a staggering 91% of public sector job losses in Scotland have been in local government. This must stop.

UNISON’s Manifesto for Fairness and Democracy sets out how we should use local services to re-build that modern decent Scotland. We ask new councils across Scotland to consider our ideas.

We welcome the end of the council tax freeze. Having control over raising your own revenue is a crucial component of councils making meaningful decisions which are accountable to local people.

We also ask councils to explore new comprehensive debt refinancing which could save millions. You can see more in our Combating Austerity documents. 

Early years should be delivered by the public sector, it is the most cost effective way to deliver quality childcare and close the attainment gap.

Education must invest in the whole team: pupil support, school administrators and other professionals are crucial to our children’s education particularly those who need additional support for learning.

Social work budgets must be protected and we must invest in those services that make a difference to vulnerable people.

Our social care sector is struggling to meet demand. To start, we urge every council to sign UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter.

Leisure and library services deliver valued services which contribute to a decent society. But charging for leisure services has increased beyond inflation. Library staff tell us that these services need significant investment.

Housing has been left to the market for too long. Almost a million homes are in fuel poverty, 60,000 homes are overcrowded, and 180,000 people are on council housing waiting lists in Scotland. We need big investment in public housing.

There is no escaping the fact that central to all this is investing in the workforce. Services are delivered by people not machines. Proper staffing levels, decent wages, security of employment and adequate training are key to quality local services and to the kind of decent society we all want to live.

You will find more information on local government at UNISON-Scotland website. UNISON Scotland’s campaigns and policy team is more than happy to talk to you.

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