Unison will fight local government merger

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: (7027018) (7027018)

A WORKERS union is blasting a proposed transformation of local government which would see services of several councils merged together.

Under the proposals, staff from Cotswold District Council (CDC) Forest of Dean, and West Oxfordshire District Councils would transfer to new private companies that would manage areas such as planning and environmental health.

The merger is being opposed by Unison, which has around 100 members in CDC, as it believes that it would have a monumental negative effects on workers and severely destabilise council services.

John Drake, Unison regional organiser for Gloucestershire, said: “We will be running a rigorous and robust campaign to oppose this.”

“Currently CDC workers are protected under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) scheme. Under this legislation members working hours, terms and conditions and pay are kept the same. But if the workers are transferred to private companies – after six months of working for them they could legitimately change these terms.

“Workers here have agreed terms and conditions which have to stay the same – we will be opposing on this basis.

“CDC workers pensions come under the local government pension scheme at the moment called a defined benefit scheme. They pay so much in over their working life and then get a pension which will give a certain amount. At a private company workers would have to have a defined contribution scheme where you pay so much then at the end you have money to buy an annuity.

“You do not know what you are going to get with a contribution scheme and that is the key difference.”

John explained that Unison are currently putting together a report, due out at the end of the week, that will explain why council services will be severely disadvantaged if the merger goes ahead.

“Issues that we are looking at are democratic accountability which is a very serious concern. If a service is failing at the moment it can be addressed at a cabinet or committee but if does to a private company it is down to them and the councillor cannot do anything about it.”

The proposals known as the 2020 Vision for Joint Working is currently being held for consideration by each council’s Cabinet.

CDC have estimated that the move is expected to save in excess of £55m over 10 years.

A document with details of the proposal is available on the CDC website.

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