UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 18 March 2011

On 26 March the real 'Big Society' will assemble - Chris Tansley

Chris Tansley, UNISON Vice President and child care social worker in Nottinghamshire County Council, writing on the Community Care website, responds to Bank of England Governor Mervyn King's self fulfilling prophesy that reaction to Government cuts is surprisingly muted:

'Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, recently said that he was surprised that there wasn't more public anger over the scale of cuts being wielded.

Well, I can tell Mr King it's been building up with demonstrations in most of our major cities and increasing levels of industrial action in several of our councils, including my own, as the cuts to services and job losses become clear.

My recently elected Tory council is forcing through a politically motivated £78m of cuts that will see all our residential care homes for older people sold, day centres closed, libraries shut and 3,000 workers losing their jobs over the next two years. UNISON pointed out, to no avail, that the council had £28.9m in reserves, which it could use to offset job losses and service cuts.

Other local authorities are facing budget shortfalls from a government that has deliberately given more to rich Tory areas than to poorer, inner city Labour controlled areas.

As the NHS faces wholesale marketisation, other parts of the public sector - police, probation service, careers and youth services - are facing cuts. It's clear from statements that are coming from the prime minister about opening up the public sector to the market that it's all part of a strategy that the Tories have been planning for the past 11 years to roll back the state.

The mantra of the government that they have to do this to bring down the national debt is a smokescreen. We've had higher levels of national debt. In fact, the highest was after the second world war when it stood at 250% of the gross domestic product, not the 40% it is now - and we still managed to create the NHS and the welfare state.

Local authorities are set to be commissioners, not providers, of the services that were run for the needs of the local communities and the vulnerable within them but will now be run for profit instead.

We are in the eye of a perfect storm which, unless we put a stop to it, will destroy the welfare state as we know it.

We need the real Big Society - our communities, service users, public sector workers and trade unionists - to join together on the 26 March and hold the biggest demonstration that this country has ever seen before it's too late.'

Chris Tansley