UNISON will today (30 November), present its petition, to a Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee, calling for fair funding of local government. The union has collected signatures from council workers across the length and breadth Wales to pressurise the Welsh Government, as it finalises its budget today, to give the country the public services it deserves. The union will present its petition to Mike Hedges AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee at 12.30pm on the Senedd steps.
UNISON Cymru/Wales has been running a concerted campaign to increase the money for local services such as care, refuse collection, libraries and sports centres. The trade union says that severe cuts in spending by the UK Conservative Government have harmed Welsh communities and the future of local public services has never looked so bleak. UNISON recently published its Audit of Austerity which showed 23,700 council jobs have been lost in Wales since 2010. The union has arranged for a number of community campaigners to hand over the petition.
Emma Garson, a teaching assistant from Cardiff said,
“Austerity has a terrible social cost. The Conservatives say they’re saving millions of pounds but I’d like to invite Theresa May to Wales to see how Tory policies have forced the closure of 100 youth centres since 2012, turfing thousands of young people out on the streets. Shutting youth centres deprives young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, of support and help in accessing education, employment and training. Westminster created these problems but Welsh government must work as hard as it possibly can to stand up for public services in our communities.”
Peter Crews, a social care manager in Rhondda Cynon Taf said,
“If local councils aren’t given enough money, we are all worse off as services suffer. We see bus services being cut back, libraries and community centres closing, fewer social workers to protect children at risk and gaps in vital care for neighbours who find it difficult to get out of bed, get dressed, or cook their own food. Cuts are hurting our communities and we desperately need the Welsh Government’s help. Our petition calls upon the Welsh Government to increase funding to local authorities to at least 2013/14 levels in real terms and also to encourage local authorities to use existing powers to raise money by providing services to other parts of the public sector and private sector in Wales.”
Dawn Bowden AM said,
“UNISON’s proposals are a serious attempt to address how Welsh government and councils can invest in those vital services we all hold dear. The UK Conservative approach, slashing spending regardless of how much it damages Britain has set us back years. As Assembly Members we must ensure that Welsh government is doing everything it possibly can to come to the defence of local councils and the provision of services.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government Mark Drakeford AM, advised UNISON the continued UK government squeeze on public spending means the Welsh government’s budget will be 9% lower in real terms by the end of the decade, equivalent to almost £1.5bn less in real terms for public services in Wales in 2019/20 than in 2010/11.
UNISON is calling for a halt to the UK government austerity programme, and investment in our vital public services.