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

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tweet for Local Government on Thursday

Council workers and councillors are being urged to tweet this Thursday to raise the profile of the full range of local services they provide for the public. The #OurDay Tweetathon has been launched by the Local Government Association in England and Wales.

The LGA says that residents may be unaware that local government is responsible for providing hundreds of services other than fixing local roads and picking up the bins which include making sure restaurants are following food safety rules to helping teachers in the classroom and caring for the elderly in their homes.

While may local councils are cutting and privatising out of ideology, many more are struggling on to provide services, carrying the can for shortfalls in central government funding.

Building awareness of the range of services provided by councils, and how essential they are, was a key part in Edinburgh UNISON's anti-privatisation campaign and in Barnet UNISON's fight against wholesale sell-offs.

The aim of the Tweetathon is for staff and councillors to tell the public what they are doing and what service they are providing over the 24 hours period on Thursday. Maybe some workers will take the chance to Tweet what they wish they could do for people if it weren't for the cuts! They might want to point out the pathetic 15 minutes home care they are being asked to provide or the two jobs they are doing at once because of redundancies.

Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, Councillor Peter Fleming makes a valid point when he says: "Council tax is the most visible tax people pay, which means we have to be much better than other parts of the public sector at explaining how money is being spent and what we are spending it on. Social media can really help. Not only does it allow us to send messages directly to local people but it also lets us receive and respond to feedback instantly."

The 'visibility' of the council tax is a great tactic for central governments across the UK to pass the blame for their cuts on to local councils. It is one that all too often, councillors are content to buy into, saying there is nothing they can do.

But at this year's STUC, UNISON Scottish secretary Mike Kirby offered another vision: "If councillors are going to shrug their shoulders and say that there is nothing they can do – then we are entitled to ask precisely what councillors are for.

"Councillors should not be passive administrators of a cuts package determined elsewhere – but champions of their areas, their authorities and the services their local populations rely on."

You might hope that the Tweetathon is the start of a major thrust by the LGA to stand up for local government workers and fight against cuts and privatisation. You might hope....