Report back from Lambeth UNISON
What is your name?
What UNISON branch?
Lambeth local government
What is your branch officer position?
Joint Branch Secretary (jointly with Nick Venedi)
Have any of your services been privatised? Please explain?
Lambeth was scene of what was at the time the largest privatisation in the history of English local government in 1997 when almost all our then remaining in-house manual workforce was privatised to a “joint venture company” part-owned by the Council. This proved a failure and the contracts are now with a range of different private contractors. We have had some successes in bringing privatised “white-collar” services (such as Housing Benefit and Legal Services) back in-house.
Do you know if there are any plans to share services with other public sector organisations in your borough?
We have not heard of any detailed proposals yet!
Do you have any privatisation proposals in your borough?
At the moment our ALMO (Lambeth Living) is proposing to privatise our emergency caretaking service, our Concierge service and the estate cleaning service (in those parts of the borough where it is still in-house). We have got the Council to agree to pay a consultant from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) to work with us to try to respond to these proposals – and this work is underway right now.
What do you think will be the big challenges for public Services over the next four years?
We will face spending cuts and further privatisation proposals, as well as the shared services agenda. At the same time a future Tory Government will probably mount new attacks upon our trade unions for which we need to prepare.
What is your message to Barnet UNISON members?
Your branch is leading the way in showing how we should respond to the coming challenges and other branches can learn from this – but we cannot fight one borough at a time. We need to work together and to make the official structures of our trade union work for us as best we can. Right now I think we can make use of the national Union’s Million Voices for Change campaign to provide a coherent theme nationally for the fightback in local government and beyond. The Peoples Charter also provides a national framework, supported by the Trades Union Congress, for our local demands and campaigns.