Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson firstname.lastname@example.org. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.
Thursday, 29 January 2015
The new plan starts with merging management structures, saving money through cutting senior posts then moving towards a single staffing structure by 2017. Richmond’s chief executive retires next year and the Wansdworth chief executive would then head up both councils. The plan includes joint commissioning of services. Curiously the figure given for savings in the local government chronicle is only £10m which doesn’t seem much given the disruption and the size of the cuts in budgets overall.
The plans have yet to go to the elected members and they claim that the job cut figures have yet to be worked through. The claim that residents will enjoy the same levels of key services also seems shall we say optimistic. If governance issues were impossible to resolve with Richmond it will be interesting to see how they can be resolved with 2 sets of councillors and only one set of staff.
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Tuesday, 20 January 2015
We generally highlight the more material benefits of joining an union but a US study has found that being a union member actually makes you happy.
The study of happiness or life satisfaction is becoming increasingly popular: even the Tories are measuring it. Studies measure both how people say they feel, things they do like laugh and smile and some include asking participants' friends and family to rate the subjects happiness as well as professional and clinical assessments. UNISON has joined others like Oxfam in campaigning for wider of use of these types of measures rather than for example GDP as a measure of a country’s success.
Two American academics have used data from a range of life satisfaction studies to see whether membership of a trade union “contributes to a higher quality of life”. They found that union members are more satisfied with their lives than non members and that the effect of union membership “rivals other common predictors of quality of life” The effect was found regardless of age, income, gender or level of education.
We spend a great deal of time at work so how we experience that time has a massive impact on our well being. The researchers give four suggestions as to why unions are so effective in creasing our happiness:
Unions give members a route to influencing how their workplace operates, they have routes to appeal management decisions and processes to deal with group or individual problems. This makes work life more satisfactory
Union members are generally better paid and have more secure employment especially in the US. Unemployment and worry about unemployment are major predictors of poor mental and physical health. Union membership can therefore reduce this type of stress and anxiety.
Unions provide lots of opportunities to for social interaction both formally through meetings and through working together to achieve goals. This reduces loneliness and social isolation. Having professional networks both formal and informal also helps reduce job stress and improves your ability to do your job.
Unions promote active citizenship, there is a growing body of evidence that being active in a community and achieving things through this activity improves how we feel about ourselves and the communities in which we live
So as well as gaining better terms and conditions at work , lots of services like cheaper car insurance joining a union will make you happy. Who could say no to that?
Monday, 19 January 2015
That's the message in a special report from The Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew to the Scottish Parliament. The Report explains that the provision to extend FOI to non-public sector organisations delivering public functions has been “woefully underused” in the ten years since FOI law came into effect, with the consequence that some public functions are no longer open to full public scrutiny.
The Commissioner’s report reflects growing concern about the impact of changes in public sector delivery on information rights, something that UNISON Scotland has highlighted many times. Since 2005, over 15,000 Scottish households have lost FOI rights following the transfer of local authority housing stock to housing associations and many more as services, particularly in the care sector, have been outsourced. While the Scottish Government has the power to extend FOI to third parties that provide public services, this power has only been used once in the last decade. This was in 2013 for the designation of local authority leisure and culture trusts.
Commissioner Rosemary Agnew said:
“The first decade of FOI in Scotland is a real success story. Over 60,000 requests were made last year alone, and recent research revealed that 95% of the public believe that the right of access to the information held by public bodies is important. Worryingly though, our right to information is being slowly eroded. Rights have been gradually lost over the last 10 years as the responsibility for public service delivery is passed to third parties. These rights are fundamental to ensuring public services are open, cost-effective and accountable to the public. As the models for the delivery of public functions evolve and change, it is vitally important that the public’s right to the information held about the services that deliver them are protected and strengthened”.
The Commissioner’s Special Report, FOI 10 Years On: are the right organisations covered? contains a number of recommendations for action by Scottish Government Ministers to address her concerns. The recommendations include:
• adopting a policy to ensure FOI rights are migrated whenever a body delivering public functions or services changes
• carrying out a review to identify where FOI rights have been lost over the past decade, and reinstate them
• taking steps to ensure that FOI rights apply to those bodies responsible for social housing and private prisons and
• adopting a factor based approach to wider FOI designation, to ensure that FOI rights apply to bodies which are considered to be delivering functions of a public nature.
The Commissioner’s Special Report is available on her website at: www.itspublicknowledge.info/reports.
Thursday, 15 January 2015
Across Europe the twin challenges of demographics and the recession caused by the financial crisis mean public sector reform is high on the political agenda.
France has moved quickly to make substantial changes to local government. They are reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13 and on January 1st 10 new city Regions were set up. Two more will follow a year later. It is claimed that this is the "first major reorganisation since Napoleon".
While the previous Sarkozy government also looked at reform nothing actually changed the present government has moved quickly to implement change. The French President, Francois Hollande, claims this new system will save €12.2B. Local communes do continue to exist, the new city regions (Metropoles) provide a way for them to work together to provide services for the entire Metropole area. Over the next few years further powers will be devolved to these authorities. These include economic development, housing, water and skills. The three biggest cities will also gain powers over tourism, culture , agriculture and international relations. The two “super metroples” which come into place next year are Grand Paris and Aix-Marseille-Provence. Grand Paris will include at least three of the current suburban department s and possibly more. It is hoped this will increase investment in these suburban areas.
The plans weren't universally welcomed when first announced, for example those in relatively rich Alsace didn't appear keen to merge with Lorraine, where the decline of steel and mining industries has had a severe impact on the economy. The plans for new regions were though passed in December so the merger will go ahead.
Interestingly while many in Scotland highlight the strengths of the localism of countries like France the French are actually are becoming more centralised. Still a long way from our increasingly centralised system though
Monday, 12 January 2015
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
By the end of today, Britain’s top bosses will have made more money in 2015 than the average UK worker earns in an entire year.
The High Pay Centre's calculations show that earnings for company executives returning to work this Monday will pass the UK average salary of £27,200 by late afternoon on ‘fatcat Tuesday.’ Yes, that really is less than two days work!
FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200. When the High Pay Centre made the same calculation last year, the think-tank estimated that top bosses would have to wait until the first working Wednesday of 2014 to surpass the earnings of the average worker. But while pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "It’s a stark reminder that while the average worker is £50 a week worse off than in 2010, boardroom pay gets bigger and bigger every year. We urgently need a change of course to put wage growth for all workers at the heart of Britain’s economic plan – if not then people’s living standards will not recover and the economy will remain in the danger zone."