Solihull Local Government Branch UNISON Office
Solihull MBC Council House Solihull West Midlands B91 3QS firstname.lastname@example.org
1st February 2011 Dear Councillor, Joint Trade Union Response to the Budget savings proposals for 2011-12 We welcome this opportunity to respond to the Budget proposals for 2011-12. UNISON and the GMB received copies of the Report of the Budget Working Group with a brief presentation from Paul Johnson at the CNCC on 5th January 2011. Detailed questions were prepared to understand the effect of specific savings proposals on jobs and services. These questions formed the basis of discussion at two meetings with the Directors of Places and People with Paul Johnson which took place last week. This letter is a very partial response to some of the budget proposals. We have not been afforded the time and opportunity to consult with groups of members directly affected by specific savings proposals. It is also difficult to consult with our membership without the detail of the specific proposals. While we welcome the principal of ‘protecting front line services’ it was made clear that some posts would be lost. From the verbal reports of the Directors some of the savings proposals are ‘work in progress’ it is difficult for us to make any considered comments when we don’t know the detail of how the saving is to be made, particularly when posts are at stake. UNISON and the GMB need to be afforded the full opportunity to consult with our membership when we know the detail of these proposals in specific service areas. We will then be in a position to more fully represent our members concerns. 1. Mileage scheme Savings proposal: The proposal is to replace the Banded mileage scheme for essential car drivers negotiated under the Single Status agreement with a single non-taxable payment of 40p per mile for all drivers, removing the essential and casual car user distinction.
Comment: Staff mileage is not just a terms and conditions issue, the ability of workers to use their cars for work purposes enables ‘front line services’ to be provided and there are important external costs to be considered. These factors all need to be carefully considered and weighed. This proposal appears to be a short term fix when an opportunity exists to make longer terms savings through a more sophisticated approach to the issue. The Trade Union’s have made proposals and asked legitimate questions about the proposed HMRC scheme which remain deliberately unanswered by Management. We would ask you to re-consider the issues raised by the Trade Unions in regard to this budget saving proposal, they are: I.
II. III. IV. V. VI.
What is the likely environmental impact of the HMRC mileage scheme? Are there any green benefits and how have they been calculated and how do they compare to the historic scheme? What are the equality impacts upon essential car drivers of moving from the present to the new scheme and how have they been assessed? Why hasn’t consideration been given to integrating the Mileage proposal within the Council’s Green staff travel strategy? Why haven’t alternative form of greener travel, such as developing pools of electric cars, not been given proper consideration? Could longer terms savings, both financial and environmental, be made through a ‘invest to save’ approach to staff travel? Will the HMRC proposal adversely affect the way particular groups of staff work which may negatively impact upon service delivery (income generation)?
2. Children’s Social Work Services Proposal: 5% targeted reduction in budgets across services through greater efficiencies Comment: Appendix A of the Budget report notes that there has been a 23% increase in referrals over the last two years. It is likely that increasing social need resulting from the impact of Government economic and social policies will create demand pressures on the service, The Trade Unions have had longstanding concerns about the workloads of Teams and individual workers, we have sought to ensure that there is effective management of work related stress across all the Social Work Teams. As an example the unannounced OFSTED inspection of DART noted that ‘Capacity to respond across the range of work is only achieved by significant additional hours being worked by individuals.’ Protecting the working conditions and workloads of frontline social work staff is a pre-condition for effectively safeguarding children. The administrative support provided to Social work Teams is integral to the delivery of a frontline service and not a backroom function. We would also have concerns if there were any reduction in the professional supervision available to workers. The Government commissioned Munroe Review of Social work is proposing to cut down on bureaucracy and Statutory Regulation relating to Social Work. Given the timescales of the Review,
the Government need to respond and legal changes required it is unlikely that this will have any impact in 2011-12. There is a case that Children’s Social Work Services need additional new funding rather than being required to make savings of £600k. Saving £600k should not be achieved through cutting the establishments of Social work Teams and frontline management posts, nor through delay in filling vacancies. 3. Library Services Proposal: Reducing resources budget in the library £44k Comment: The Library Service has been the subject of disproportionate cuts in recent years. In 200910 13 posts were deleted alone and in 2010-11 has seen reductions in Branch opening hours. We are concerned about the impact of this year on year attrition to this important universal and community service. The reduction in the resources budget will reduce the range of available stock and hence the attractiveness of the Libraries to users. This budget is like the life blood of the service. 4. Bereavement Services Proposals: Gas Consumption and Overtime savings Comment: The Trade Unions are concerned at the accuracy of the calculation of these lean savings, particularly when they have been held against the service budget for 2011-12. The overtime saving does not appear to include any costing for the provision of an alternative service. It is unclear what level of service is to be provided at the weekends and by who and at what cost. A quote from Enterprise to open and close the sites alone without any further service is comparable to the saving identified. 5. Service to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children UNISON and the GMB will be making a full written response to the proposals for the UASC Service following a meeting with our members later this week. This service area is the subject of the largest single cut in funding and will require a more detailed response. This limited response should not be taken as implying our agreement to other proposed cuts and savings. UNISON and the GMB believe these cuts to be unnecessary and damaging to jobs and services. Yours sincerely, Jolyon Jones