27 April 2007

Unison and PCS Hustings Last Night

Myself, Bryn Tittle and Dan Finnan attended, and I was the representative for the party on the panel. The other panelists were Dave Nellist (Socialists), John Mutton (Labour), Russell Fields (Lib Dems), and Caron McKenna (Respect).

It was my first hustings, by which I mean that I was nervous and it probably showed. The speakers for each question were in alpha order by party, so I was first each time too.

I suppose that myself and Caron faced an inherent disadvantage, as the other three were already councillors, and they could use "this happened at Scrutiny Board 4 in November 2002" comments.

- I fully support Unison’s request to negotiate with council leaders. 23% of Coventry City Council workers will lose out under single status. Despite its aim that pay discrepancies between men and women are addressed, in many instances, female staff will be worse off or have their pay capped. If we want to attract talented and hard-working people, who will make a difference in people’s lives, into public sector work, pay should reflect that.

- Central government needs to fund efforts to end pay inequality. Gordon Brown can't wash his hands of this issue. We need both pay equality and to avoid cuts in local services or council tax rises.

- The problem with PFI is that is has led to a greater burden upon taxpayers (building schools and hospitals on the never-never), reduced employment rights for workers transferred to the private sector, and guaranteed profits for shareholders. We oppose the PFI for funding the renewal of street lighting in Coventry (while renewal is needed, public funding is cheaper in the long-run).

- In general, companies shouldn’t make a profit out of basic public services, whether it is health, education or prisons.

- I oppose any further reduction in service provision or involvement of private companies within health delivery in Coventry.

- In contrast to the PFI, one-massive-hospital approach, I’d like to see community-based publicly-run centres that emphasise preventative healthcare. That means outreach projects on diet (to save long term costs in NHS treatment of diabetes), properly funded NHS dentistry, community physiotherapy, mental health appointments, sexual health clinics (especially for youth and university students), and blood clinics.

- We need to reduce the use of consultants (whose growth in the public sector have gone hand-in-hand with the PFI and target-driven Blairite culture).

- Last, but not least, the insights and know-how of union members in the public services in Coventry, who have daily contact with people who use public services, could be harnessed, rather than sticking with a top-down, consultant-oriented, form of management.


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