Monday, November 30, 2009

UNISON's response to Total Place

Regular readers, Sid and Doris Blogger, will have noticed a developing obsession here with Total Place, the Government backed initiative developed by the Institute for Governance and Public Management at Warwick University which seeks massive savings from bringing together the delivery of public services in a given locality.

An earlier post may have given the impression that UNISON was not already responding to this initiative. Having now trawled through my papers for next week's NEC meeting I know that is not the case - it is just that we are hiding our light under a bushel at the moment.

I now know that at the NEC Policy Development and Campaigns Committee (PDCC) meeting on 6 October questions and comments were raised on: the scale of spending cuts whoever wins the general election and what the union’s strategy will be; the need for a more structured approach to recruitment work; procurement; the operational efficiency programme and Total Place. The Chair stated that a report on the Total Place pilots will come to a future PDCC meeting and that a report on health partnerships will be prepared.

Also at the meeting of the Service Group Liaison Committee on 22 October it was noted that a national officer from the Local Government Group had given an update on ‘Total Place’ at a previouagreed that a cross service group working group should be set up in order to work together on taking this forward.

I will be asking for an update on this cross service group working group at next week's meeting of the National Executive Council. Total Place poses a challenge for UNISON precisely because, more than any other issue we have confronted, it cuts across our Service Group organisation - indeed that is it's whole point.

Although readers with a long memory will remember that I share the disdainful view of the Local Government Conference about the efficacy of the current Service Group Liaison Committee to manage a major dispute, as a clearing house for information and the exchange of experience it is what we have to work with.

However, in the localities where Total Place is being piloted we need to pilot joint working between branches across Service Group boundaries - and we need to loosen the restrictions imposed by the unhelpful "Democracy in UNISON" guidelines to enable branches to work together freely.

Therefore Total Place is not just an issue for the PDCC Committee or Service Group Liaison, it is an issue with which the whole Union needs to engage. We have to recognise this as an attack on jobs and services which we must resist, and a challenge to our organisation to which we must respond.

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