Carmarthenshire UNISON pledged to fight cuts
Oppose cuts whether they come from Westminster or Cardiff
The draft Local Government settlement was announced by Mark Drakeford Labour Finance and Local Government Minister last week. The Senedd was lobbied by Unison and GMB members to tell politicians that local services are under such severe strain their future is threatened. Following the announcement some Trade Union leaders appear to think that this budget indicated a positive change from this Labour Government.
In real terms when inflation is taken into account the budget is equivalent to a 1.5% cut on average for Local Authorities across Wales and more for Carmarthenshire. Our Unison branch does not think this is a good budget for our members or for those receiving council services in Carmarthenshire and across Wales. This budget will inevitably result in further cuts to services, jobs, terms and conditions when services have already pared to the bone by previous cuts.
We should remind ourselves that there are council elections in May 2017 and the decision to put off implementing more draconian cuts is clearly a political one by Labour to avoid losing even more votes and council seats in May. After the election the real situation facing councils will become apparent.
The recent Tory Conference had the slogan 'a country that works for everyone' - this is code for the rich will get richer and cuts and austerity will continue for the rest of us. We know what to expect from the Tories but haven't our members and the people who voted Labour and Plaid (who supported the draft budget) have the right to expect these parties to do more to fight the cuts.
We need them to be opposing Tory cuts not implementing them with barely a whimper. The Tory cuts passed on by the Welsh Assembly Government are having a devastating impact on real people and essential public services with West Wales being the poorest region in Northern Europe. Wages in the UK and in Wales particularly in Local Government due to zero pay rises have declined dramatically with only Greece being worse! As a result according to Save the Children Wales has the highest percentage of children living in poverty in the UK. This will only increase when thousands more jobs are lost if these and future cuts are imposed in Local Government.
We need Opposition not Implementation. As our branch has consistently stated the future of council services are under serious threat. People didn’t vote Labour or Plaid to get Tory cuts. Unison Service Group Executive, Unite Local Government, Wales TUC and GMB conference all voted for councils to implement legal No Cuts budgets. Our branch has advocated and campaigned for this for many years and we welcome that the major trade unions in Local Government and Wales TUC now support this stance.
We don’t want less cuts or slower cuts (whoever is imposing them) we want no cuts. The Welsh Assembly Labour Government should refuse to implement Tory cuts that will and are damaging so many lives. They should implement a no cuts budget and mobilise with the trade unions and Local Authorities a mass campaign of resistance. That could spell the beginning of the end for this weak and divided Tory Government.
We will continue to campaign for Plaid/Independent Carmarthenshire County Council to implement our branch's No Cuts budget - this is a legal budget that would avoid cuts while providing time to build a campaign to defeat them. Plaid claims to be anti-austerity we call on Plaid Councillors to deliver on this. Councillors have a choice (despite their claims to the contrary) and that is between defending fully funded council services or doing the Tories dirty work for them. Already we are seeing the consequences of implementing cuts with services being undermined/cut or by charging or increased charges to the public.
The Local Authority we believe has plans in the future to outsource services that we think will lead to an inferior service for the public. Our branch will oppose all cuts and outsourcing and any attempt to make the public pay for cuts by charging or charging more for services for example the recent decision that you have to pay more for your garden waste to be collected. This is the thin end of the wedge. We in favour of the Local Authority increasing income generation but this should be from businesses not the public or sports clubs. Unfortunately there are examples where senior management’s inefficiency has led to loss of income not income generation.
We will continue to fight all cuts and call on the people of Carmarthenshire to join our campaign for Councillors implement a legal No Cuts budget and defend council services. We need councillors that put the needs of Carmarthenshire people first.
Mark Evans, Branch Secretary Carmarthenshire County Unison
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