Date: Mon 23 November 2009
UNISON, Scotland's largest public service union UNISON today warned that shared services will not necessarily save local councils money, and indeed could cost extra money in the short term.
The union was commenting on the publication of the report by Sir John Arbuthnott that recommends Clyde Valley councils work more closely together and share services to respond to likely cuts in funding.
Mike Kirby - UNISON's Scottish Convenor, said "While UNISON has always been in favour of delivering our public services efficiently, all the evidence is that shared services don't deliver savings in the short term if at all. Indeed they mean increased expense initially as new processes and systems, accommodation and IT have to be bought. The National Audit office suggests it takes on average five years before any savings are seen. We will be looking at this report carefully and in particular we want to ensure that the engagement with the trade unions that Sir John has started, continues as individual councils look at the implications. Upwards of 76,000 jobs are involved in the affected councils."
UNISON also points out that sharing services can also mean centralising services, and that this can remove jobs and accountability from local people.
Mike Kirby said "We need to ensure that increased efficiency doesn't come at the cost of cuts in accountability and damage to local economies. If roads need to be repaired in West Dunbartonshire, would this be better decided locally or in some corporate HQ elsewhere in the central belt?"
"Often jobs created by public services are very important for a local economy - particularly in rural areas. There have been examples abroad where centralisation of services has damaged that. Already in the areas being discussed the percentage of people claiming working-age based benefits is almost 22%, it is important that we don't increase the damage that recession has already brought to ordinary people, or add to the number of people having to claim benefits."
Notes for editors: UNISON is running a campaign called 'Public Works' in Scotland, stressing the importance of public services to the delivery of services, and to boosting the economy when coming out of a recession. It is part of the union's UK 'Million Voices for Change' campaign.