Monday, 11 July 2011

UNISON Labour Link Forum 2011

I attended the UNISON Labour Link forum in Liverpool at the weekend with the the Northern Region delegation. Northern Region delegates spoke on half of the 19 motions at Forum and moving 2 of our own, every delegate had a part to play speaking on a wide range of issues such as Pensions, Housing, low paid workers and the NHS. Speaking to motion 18 on Education cuts Tina Roche pointed out the vital work being carried out in the Region by the PSA in defence of youth services, such as Connexions, and our 2 motions on Local Government Funding and Retired Members were carried overwhelmingly. Merv Butler, Chair of the Regional Labour Link Committee said: ‘It was a superb effort all round from the Northern Region, our speakers were impressive and the messages they got across were important.’

Keynote speakers at the Forum included Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor), Dave Prentis, Arlene McCartney and Linda Macovin (MEP’s), Lilian Greenwood and Angela Eagle (MP’s) and Jake Morrisson; Health Care Assistant, Liverpool City Councillor, UNISON member and at 18 years of age the youngest person ever to be elected to Council. Speaking on the importance of UNISON’s past and present campaigning Ed Balls said: ‘The partnership today (with Labour) is more important than it ever had been’, while General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: ‘It’s our link that keeps the Labour Party on its toes – week in, week out it’s UNISON people working on the ground for Labour. We expect Labour to be there for us as well.’

I moved the motion Local Government Funding, see my effort below:


Ian Fleming, Northern Region, moving motion 7 on Local Government Funding.

We all know Council’s play a crucial role in the economic, social and environmental well being of people, businesses and communities. Council’s are responsible for a wide range of issues and services which affect peoples lives – caring for and safeguarding adults and children, creating the conditions for economic growth, skills, health, transport, roads, environment, housing, planning, culture and leisure to name but a few.

None of these important areas relate to business rates income – which is a central feature of this Governments proposed reforms for local government finance. In the Northern Region all 12 Councils collect less business rates than they receive from the formula grant. So how the review is resolved and the impact a new system has on the ability to provide a good level of service no matter what your needs are, who you are or where you live is a critical issue for us all.
The 2011/12 and 2012/13 grant settlements for the North East will result in grant losses above the national average in percentage terms and substantially above average reductions in cash grant. The significant reduction in resource equalisation means that Councils can no longer provide the same level of service by charging a similar Band D tax. With an alternative cap on Council tax increases this means that the North East has to make deeper cuts in its revenue budgets, thereby putting greater pressure on the delivery of core services.
We would all agree that the current system we have used for years is far from perfect and it is our union which rigorously campaigned for something better, but at least you could say the system we used attempted to be fair by providing different Councils with different levels of resource to meet different needs. It does this by compensating for different council tax yields and allocating according to different levels of need. Its objective is to financially enable Councils so that residents, our members, across England receive the same level of service, regardless of the resource base of their local area.
Under the reforms Councils will make up their remaining Government grant, which is 80% of the calculation through collecting business rates.
Localisation of business rates would re-allocate resources to Councils with strong economies, i.e wealthy and business rich parts of London and the South East, led by Westminster and the City of London and in areas where there is a vast mix of high value national and international businesses and retail sites. Those losing would be poorer areas, smaller commercial and business areas and those with high rates of out – commuting to neighbouring urban conurbations. Due to the uneven British economy, the vast majority of areas throughout the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, East and West Midlands and the South West would lose, as would many poor parts of London.
My region would lose 320m. One Council projects losses of 88m per year. My own Council is set to lose 60m in one year making it one of the biggest losers, but this isn’t the end as my Council is still expected to make a 30m saving on top of the 60m, while the likes of Westminster will collect half a billion pounds more than it was previously allocated.
Forum it was Cameron and Clegg in May 2010 who said ‘We will ensure that fairness is at the heart of decisions so that all those most in need are protected’. What a joke!
Forum we need a new funding formula which delivers better financial outcomes for our Councils in the short, medium and long term and provides a fair and equitable formula that takes into account the different needs of different people and places, but most importantly a formula that works to help everyone right across our country, not just for those who live in the likes of Westminster – no offence to colleagues from there.

Forum please support the motion.

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