Congress agrees our country is at breaking point. Thirteen years of cuts have left public services in tatters. There are desperate problems in the NHS, the civil service, education, local government and across the whole public sector.
Congress notes that councils across the UK face billions in funding shortfalls, with many declaring bankruptcy. PCSO numbers in England have been cut by 45 per cent since 2010 for example, and SEN, health and social care funding hasn’t kept pace with demand.
The state of the NHS is causing huge concern. Britain has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds for each head of population of any western country. Disinvestment in public services harms workers and service users. In healthcare, a funding gap of £60bn has emerged since 2008, with UK spending falling behind the historic average.
Congress believes that strong public services are essential to rebuilding a fair economy and ending the cost-of-living scandal. The core role of the civil service in providing objective advice and accountable delivery has been deliberately put at risk. It is haemorrhaging key skills in a wide range of services including health and safety regulation, ensuring plant and animal health, and infrastructure planning.
Cuts contribute to a recruitment and retention crisis – stalled pay compounding the issue. Positions remain unfilled, with heavy demands placed on our remaining workforce, who experience work-related ill-health at rates higher than before Covid-19. Staff vacancies are at record levels, deliberately destroying the NHS to boost the profits of private healthcare companies and create a two-tier system.
Congress notes with concern that, in the face of this crisis, Labour emphasises “reform” of public services including the NHS and refuses to commit to paying NHS medical and support staff including doctors, allied health professionals and nurses and other public servants more than the Tories. Underfunding in maternity units has meant inadequate or no ventilation systems, meaning unsafe levels of Entonox (gas and air) in the air. Maternity staff have been exposed to harmful levels, some units have had to withdraw the use of Entonox as a form of pain relief for maternity service users.
Services fail to meet our communities’ needs – the UK now lags behind international peers on life expectancy and other health outcomes. Rationing emerges, with patients missing out on rehabilitation and other healthcare provision, ruining lives, keeping people out of work, and depriving them of their independence.
Congress calls for restorative funding for public health, enabling disease prevention and adequately resourced children’s services, including health visiting, school nursing and child adolescent mental health services. Congress notes that the most economically disadvantaged children experience a disproportionate impact arising from the degradation of children’s services, including Sure Start closures.
Serious poverty is affecting millions of people. Austerity has cut social security by £14bn and forcing many to use foodbanks, including people in work who are claiming benefits many of whom are our trade union members.
Decimated capital spending corrodes infrastructure. Members work in of inadequate clinical spaces, without staff facilities. The safety and dignity of staff and service users compromised.
Policies like as the Health and Social Care levy are announced with fanfare, then dropped. Remedial initiatives, such as NHS England’s Workforce Plan, come with time-limited funding. This deafens the public to the threats facing us.
The UK will have a general election by January 2025. The public must be able to scrutinise and hold to account prospective candidates – whatever their rosette – about public finances. The campaigning should also highlight the critical importance of multi-year settlements, of enough support staff and management capacity, and of sustained capital spending on infrastructure, without all of which the public stands to lose its return on greater public service investment.
Congress calls for the TUC – with its affiliate unions – to campaign for public service investment. This should include the dissemination of robust evidence demonstrating the case for public finance restoration.
Congress calls on the General Council to:
i. lay bare the brutal record of the Tory government in a series of communications over the next year and call on all political parties to commit to needs-based funding for all public services, ensuring fair wages for those who provide them;
ii. co-ordinate action between unions, give full support to public servants taking industrial action to fight back against cuts, and campaign for:
- above inflation pay rises for public service workers
- proper recognition of the important role local government and the civil service plays, and the funding and powers to fulfil its potential
- a proper workforce plan for policing that cuts crime not PCSOs
- a national care service ensuring proper funding, decent pay and consistent standards of care
- investment in the NHS workforce to improve services
- an end to cuts in schools and colleges, and urgent investment to repair dangerous school buildings
- fully funded universal childcare with good pay, terms and conditions for the staff that deliver it
- services to be brought back in-house.
iii. campaign for Labour to commit to funding pay increases for public sector workers that at least match inflation, provide for pay restoration, and to abandon its outdated economic policies, adopting a policy of major investment in public services to fix our broken Britain and to commit to the publication of a cross-governmental strategy for investment in public services to address the alarming rise in poverty and inequality in the UK.
Supporters: CSP, Unite, Prospect, RCM, FDA, BDA