Proposed changes to the structure of local government across Somerset must bring about improvements to services and not simply provide cover for further damaging cuts, says the UK’s largest trade union, UNISON.
Sedgemoor District Council members have approved a plan to create a new system for councils across Somerset, in a direct challenge to proposals drawn up by the county council for a single unitary body.
The Business Case for the ‘Stronger Somerset’ proposal was recommended last week by Sedgemoor’s Executive with one abstention and endorsed by the Full Council.
UNISON says residents and council staff across the county will be watching closely to ensure that whatever plan is finally adopted, future reforms bring about genuine public benefits, and aren’t a cloak for yet more austerity measures.
The union has already written to council leaders with a five-point scorecard for judging the best bid. This includes high quality services, a stable and skilled workforce, local democratic control, and services provided by local authorities, not private firms.
The Association for Public Service Excellence, leading experts in public sector reform, is working with UNISON to review the two rival bids and will assess which one offers the most for residents and staff.
Chair of the joint UNISON branch steering group, Zoe Rodgers, says: “After a decade of budget cuts, Somerset needs renewed investment in vital local services. These underpin the local economy, educate children, and keep the most vulnerable people safe.”
“In the past, both county and district councils have wasted huge resources on failed privatisation experiments like the South West One contract – the disastrous partnership between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane district and Avon & Somerset police – and on reports from highly paid consultants.”
“Somerset deserves better. Local politicians must not waste this opportunity to rebuild a stronger public sector that serves its community well.”