Budget: Unison urges government to protect frontline services

Unison has urged the government to honour a pledge made by chancellor Alistair Darling in his budget speech to protect front-line public services.

Launching the 2009 budget at the House of Commons yesterday, Darling said that additional efficiency savings in the public sector had been identified from 2011 which would rise to £9 billion a year by 2013-14. This comes on top of £30 billion efficiency savings by 2010-11 identified in the 2007 comprehensive spending and an extra £5billion in savings announced by Darling last November.

Darling said that the money would be found from efficiencies in public sector back-office functions, IT, improved procurement and local innovation. He added: “This will allow us to protect front-line public services, while keeping current spending growth, in real terms, at an average of 0.7% a year from 2011-12 onwards.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said that government spending plans had been revised downwards as a result of the “greed and irresponsibility” of the financial sector and warned that it would be a mistake to make public services the “whipping boys for financial failure”.

He added: “It’s a myth that local government or any other service is stuffed with bureaucrats doing nothing. They have made well in excess of 3% efficiency savings called for by the government over each of the past three years.

“We will look for assurances that public service workers, who have gone through 18 re-organisations in as many years to improve those services, will not be made to pay the price for the failure of others.”

Prentis also called on the chancellor to go after rich tax avoiders, who he claimed cost the economy more than £25 billion each year. He said: “That money could be used to grow the economy, create jobs and deliver world-class public services. Don’t forget that there are huge staff shortages in some areas, including in child protection and elderly care.”

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