Headlines: June 22nd, 2001

As Tony Blair amplified the Queen’s speech and promised to bring about the most fundamental reform of public services for many years, the reality of what is involved began to emerge. In the key areas of reform the Prime Minister has been reminded of some of the difficult issues that must be resolved.The NHS Confederation has welcomed the delegation of 75 per cent of the NHS’ spending power to primary care trusts, but is concerned that the management resources are inadequate for the new task. The management boards of the trusts, which include doctors and nurses, make the spending decisions, but they lack both financial information and human resources to do the job effectively.

The Police Federation has declared itself ready and eager to engage constructively in discussions about the modernisation of the police service, but made no comment about private policing. It has long been opposed to the use of outside private investigators as a means of making good the shortage of trained detectives.

The teacher unions have been quick to point out that proposals to invite businesses and religious and voluntary bodies to sponsor schools will have little impact if the teacher shortage is not overcome and if the workload of teachers is not reduced.

UNISON, the largest public sector union believes that: ” The Government’s romance with the private sector is clouding its judgment about what gives best value for money. We believe that the public sector, properly staffed and resourced, gives the best value for money.” A survey of its members, including social workers, home carers, school meals staff, librarians, classroom assistants and administrative staff, found managers working under pressure to deliver, whilst coping with shrinking budgets and staff shortages. The survey also revealed that while the public’s expectations have increased, 40% of staff said they lacked resources to do their job as well as they would like. One in three staff said that they were seriously thinking about leaving their job.