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Issue:- 31 March/01 April 2010


MORE than 100 members of the three local government unions, UNISON, GMB and UNITE, on 30 March 2010 made noise about pay, job and service cuts, at a lobby outside the central London headquarters of the Local Government Association (LGA).

The unions are accusing Tory-Led councils of using the recession as a smokescreen to cut services, freeze pay and shed jobs, when money is available to keep vital services, such as homecare, running, and keep up much-needed investment in departments including social work.

Councils got a 4% above-inflation grant from central government this year, and started 2009/10 with more money in reserves than they did the year before. Unallocated reserves have now hit £3billion. Council workers have delivered above and beyond the efficiency savings demanded by central government – councils have pocketed the cash difference.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government said:- “Under a cloud of financial inevitability, Tory-led councils are using the recession as an excuse to cut pay, shed jobs and shut down valued local services they didn’t support in the first place. Should these plans go ahead, the consequences for social services departments, for home care, youth and community projects, libraries and leisure centres, will be huge. The reality is that councils have enough money to keep vital services running and to pay staff fairly. It is a disgrace that the employers are refusing to even enter into discussions on pay with the unions this year.”

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary said:- "GMB members in councils up and down the country are disgusted that their employers refuse to even sit down and talk about pay and conditions this year. These workers deliver vital front line services to their local communities caring for the elderly, helping the vulnerable and disadvantaged, supporting children in schools and keeping our cities and streets clean and healthy. They deserve better than the arrogant and insulting attitude they are getting from their employers. GMB calls on local and national politicians of all parties to show respect for council workers and engage with us in meaningful negotiation."

Peter Allenson, National Officer for UNITE the union, said:- “This is about making sure that the Tory led LGA realise that our members are prepared to fight back. The freeze proposed this year is actually a pay cut, and shows how little the employers value their staff, and through this action, their local community. Unite members have told me quite clearly that they will resist this imposition in whatever way they can, and this is not just about how they are treated, but shows what little regard the employers have to the services that they should be delivering to local taxpayers. There are signs that some employers want to make an offer; shame on those that don’t want to even negotiate.”

The unions put in a claim for 2.5% or for a flat rate increase of £500, whichever is the greater, in January this year. The pay freeze is force from Thursday, 1 April 2010.


POLICE Officers from the Merseyside's Matrix team have executed warrants at addresses in Dovecot on Friday, 26 March, 2010 and arrested four men and two women. Officers, acting on information from the community, arrested three men, aged 18, 16 and 35 years, on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis at one address. At another house a man, aged 36 years, and a woman, aged 47 years, were arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm and ammunition after officers found what it believed to be a handgun and ammunition at the address. A woman, aged 54 years, was arrested at a third property on suspicion of abstracting electricity.

Defence solicitors can help overhaul 'wasteful practices' in criminal justice system if government will listen

SOLICITORS at the coal face of the criminal justice process, stand ready to help the next government make significant improvements to the wasteful and challenged criminal justice system.  In its policy manifesto on criminal law and the criminal justice system, the Law Society includes several measures and proposals, aimed at improving the criminal justice system.

These include calling upon the government in power following the General Election to establish a Criminal Justice Practitioner Review Board to include defence solicitors and others who work in the criminal justice system to advise before the implementation of changes.

There has been a number of new initiatives that have changed how the criminal justice process operates, but without the effects of how these changes interact with other parts of the system being properly taken into account. Changes to the way in which one part of the system works can have knock-on effects on other parts and the Law Society believes there is a need for joined up thinking across the entire process.

A recent report by the HM Crown Prosecutions Service Inspectorate in London found that operational aspects of CPS in London had been adversely affected by initiative overload.

Law Society president, Robert Heslett said:- “The defence solicitor is the only person, other than the victim and the defendant, involved in the process from its beginning at the police station, through to trial and possible appeal. Drawing on the expertise of solicitors, the government could take positive steps towards curbing the extent of wasteful practices in the criminal justice system. We are asking political parties to commit to establishing a Criminal Justice Practitioner Review Board which would have the power to review, in advance of public consultation, all ideas for changes to and reform of the criminal justice process. This would bring to bear the insight and experience of those most closely involved in delivering justice and could secure rapid and far-reaching improvements to the system."

Robert Heslett continued:- "The Board should be comprised of practitioners actually working in the system, such as senior crown prosecutors, magistrates, district judges, resident judges, defence solicitors and barristers. Ideally, members of this Board will have relevant and contemporaneous experience of working at the front line of criminal justice. At present, the expertise, independence and integrity of members of the solicitors’ profession working in the field of criminal law is not being taken into account."


COMMENTING on the Commons Health Select Committee report into commissioning, Mike Jackson, Deputy Head of Health for UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, said:- “From the time the Tories introduced commissioning into the NHS in 1991, it has become increasingly costly. There is no place for profit in delivering healthcare and the Government is right to move away from marketisation by recognising the importance of the NHS as the preferred provider. This money-saving idea is hardly revolutionary, but will go a long way to making sure that taxpayers get value for money. UNISON pointed out right from the start that ‘Payment by Results’ increases transaction costs and provides hospitals with incentives to keep patients in hospital rather than treating them in the community, which is the government’s preferred option. It is time to realise that bringing in private companies to advise the NHS is an expensive waste of money, when it is NHS staff who are in the best position to make efficiency savings.”

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