Headlines: January 23rd, 2007



Trade unionists are calling on the Government to stop selling public services short. They will underline that message with a lobby of Parliament today when those taking part will call for an end to what they see as the underselling of improvements made since 1997. They also call for the Government to work with staff and service users to bring about changes to improve services further.

The TUC is responding to a Number 10 Strategy Unit discussion paper with its own report, “Reform, not Permanent Revolution”, in which it says unions accept the need for continuous improvements in public services. But it wants an end to ministers saying reform is necessary because public services are failing as this is damaging morale and causing resentment, particularly when the Government is trying to keep public sector pay rises below inflation. Instead, says the TUC report, ministers should recognise that public service systems are complex and quick fixes will not bring results.

The report sets out the unions’ own vision of the way to bring about improvements and calls for a reduction in top down performance management targets; more flexibility for services over how they meet standards; an acceptance that the public sector ethos cannot be safeguarded with terms and conditions written into contracts with private suppliers; the rejection of market mechanisms; a new approach to giving users choice in public services and strengthening the capacity of services to improve by raising the skills of the workforce and involving staff in change.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said the Government had put new money, staff and resources into public services which had made a real difference but instead of reaping the political rewards of this they had begun to alienate public sector staff. “Public service staff recognise that there must be continuous improvement, but ministers seem to urge permanent revolution without celebrating the achievements that staff have made so far, thus sending the message that their efforts have been in vain,” he said.