Tagged: status quo

Newcastle City Council jobs axe is a return to out-dated ‘salami-slice’ policy, says union boss

A council leader has been accused of reneging on his promise to not ‘salami-slice’ authority jobs.

Unison have said Newcastle City Council’s draft budget plans which will shred 260 jobs across a range of departments, from highways to adminstration staff to family service workers, fails to come up with a new model for how the authority will be run.

Council leader Nick Forbes has previously said annual ‘salami-slicing’ of budgets, where a handful of jobs are taken from a range of departments, is ‘no longer adequate’ when faced with large cuts from Central Government. The key to future services is instead, he argued, to transform the status quo.

However Paul Gilroy, Newcastle branch member for Unison, said:

The council talked two years ago about how Newcastle would look in 2020 and they talked about transforming the city council. They have done only elements of that. The Family Services Review has transformed what’s delivered to families but in other parts of the authority there isn’t a significant amount of evidence of transforming services.

“There still is an element of ‘salami-slicing’ and people are bothered by it. An example is the decision to shut the Tourist Information Centre. In 2012 the council talked about transformational change but we are struggling with what that means.”

Details of Newcastle City Council’s Family Services Review, which includes changes to the Sure Start service, will be released in January.

Up to 27 jobs will go when the council embarks on creating new ‘community family hubs’ across the city after having its budget cut by £5m.

Leader of the council Nick Forbes, who works at a national level to come up with ideas on how to change public services within the Core Cities organisation, believes significant changes are being made.

He said:

“Our budget demonstrates a transformational approach to public services and we know that we need to go further in years ahead. But it is the Government that is holding back true transformation through its unceasing and savage cuts to public services.”

He said there were many examples of transformational proposals for services in the council’s draft budget for 2015-2016 and the authority has already been financially rewarded for its innovation in its social services department.

Councils are awarded financial grants from Central Government if they demonstrate ways in which they have tackled delivering public services differently and in the past Newcastle has received a grant for its work redesigning family mental health services.

Councillor Forbes, said:

“We have also worked with our partners to save many of our libraries from closures and have set up a fund independent of council that guarantees funding for the arts.

“We are also looking at setting up a trust to manage many of our parks and heritage assets.”

In the future we are looking to save money through digital transformation by making many of our services available digitally, and we are looking to integrate our health and social care services.”

He said ‘true transformation’ of services requires a fundamental change from the current top-down ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach and more upfront funding for local innovation, which is what Newcastle City Council is lobbying for.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  23 Dec 2014

Buses are better in council hands, North East MPs tell combined authority

Bus services are better in council hands, MPs have said ahead of a vote that could dramatically change the future of public transport in the North East.

Twelve Tyne and Wear MPs have written to the North East Combined Authority leadership board ahead of their meeting this afternoon to decide whether to establish the first council regulated network of buses outside of London since 1986.

They believe the proposed Quality Contracts Scheme run by Metro operator Nexus will deliver £272m in economic benefit to the North East.

However the plans have been bitterly-opposed by bus companies Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva, who instead want to run the network under a Voluntary Partnership Agreement called the North East Bus Operators’ Association.

They believe handing back control of buses to councils would create new risks for ‘cash-strapped’ local authorities.

Bridget Phillipson MP, who has been leading the campaign in favour of the Quality Contracts scheme, said:

“The members of the Combined Authority have a clear choice when they meet today. They can either maintain the status quo where bus operators funnel profits out of our region or support real and lasting change with a Quality Contract Scheme.

“If a regulated transport system is good enough for our capital city then it’s good enough for the people of Tyne and Wear.”

She added in her letter that the present deregulated system allowed operators to cut routes and an investigation in 2011 by the Competition Commission was critical of the service in Tyne and Wear.

Tom Dodds, secretary of the North East Bus Operators’ Association, said:

“Ms Phillipson misunderstands the partnership agreement. There are 17 successful partnerships around the country. The partnership for Tyne and Wear would be the most comprehensive of all, offering cheaper fares for 16-18 year olds, new ‘Bus2Bus’ tickets for people who use the buses of more than one company but don’t need to use Metro, and up to 50 extra buses on new services. The contract scheme promises none of that, and allows politicians to increase fares and reduce services at will to balance their books.

“If the bus network is inadequate, then the contract scheme does nothing to improve it – in fact, it freezes the bus network until 2018.”

He added that there was no action taken by the Competition Commission following their report in 2011.

Nexus claims their system would see £8m saved or re-invested into the service, reducing the profits going to bus company shareholders from £20m to £12m a year.

The letter has been signed by the following MPs

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Nick Brown (Newcastle East), Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Mary Glindon (North Tyneside), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Central), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), David Anderson (Blaydon), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) and Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West).

The North East Combined Authority’s leadership board, which is made up of the leaders of seven local authorities, will take a vote today at the Civic Centre in Newcastle whether to proceed with the Quality Contracts Scheme after it was endorsed by its transport committee earlier this month.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  21 Oct 2014

Labour To Hand Lucrative ‘Workfare’ Contracts To Smaller Companies

A future Labour Government would consider handing lucrative Work Programme contracts, dubbed ‘workfare’ by opponents, to smaller businesses and charities in a bid to cut back on the number of large providers involved in controversial back-to-work schemes.

>  Small providers will then proceed to grow into big providers (re-employing all the crap staff from the ousted providers along the way) and we’re back to square one.

And whoever provides it, workfare is still forced labour.

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves MP said that she plans to “challenge the status quo” of Government commissioned Work Programme contracts by opening up the scheme to smaller providers.

 Back-to-work services could be devolved and decentralised away from Whitehall, by allowing local governments and social enterprises to develop and outsource schemes better tailored to the meet the needs and requirements of locally unemployed people.

Ms Reeves told the Financial Times that new providers may be required to pay their employee’s a living wage if they wish to bid for contracts. She said that existing providers should be worried by her plans but acknowledged that they come with potential “cost implications” for a future Labour Government.

Some of Britain’s largest charities recently announced that they were to boycott a similar scheme to the Work Programme. Hundreds of charities and 13 councils signed a pledge to boycott Community Work Placements, which form part of a new Help To Work Programme, where the long-term unemployed are required to meet with a Jobcentre adviser every day, attend training or commit to six-months “voluntary work” in their local area. Failure to comply could result in benefit claimants having their payments docked or stopped completely for a pre-determined length of time, otherwise known as a ‘benefit sanction’.

Opponents of back-to-work schemes, like the Work Programme and Community Work Placements, say they amount to a form of forced labour because of an ever-existing threat of sanction for non-compliance, as well as gifting employers with free labour enabling them to escape hiring paid workers and keep wage costs down.

Unemployed people taking part in these schemes claim their benefits have sometimes been cut for ridiculous and over-zealous reason, such as failing to turn up to a placement because of being in hospital or delays to local bus services, as well as other reasons.

Labour will have to go much further if they are to satisfy opponents of these schemes, who say they would accept no less than complete abolition of all “slave labour” programmes, and the end of private company involvement in social security benefits and the welfare state.

> They’ll have to go a damn sight further than they ever seem likely to, now that the extent of their ambitions seem limited to being the Tory-lite party.

 Source –  Welfare News Service, 24 June 2014