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Keep public services public

Positively Public is UNISON's priority campaign for the rest of 2001. It campaigns for Britain's public services, for re-investment, and the public delivery of those services. We want to reverse government thinking that seeks to increase the use of the private sector to deliver public services.

Just as importantly we want to celebrate the successes of our public services and work with Government to reinvigorate public services. We understand the cuts in funding that took place over many years and believe we can help in maximising sound public investment.

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Background

The campaign was re-launched immediately after the last election with a significant MORI poll that showed that the British people felt that public services should be run by public authorities, not private companies (75% in the UK, 91% in Scotland).

UNISON motions at the TUC and Labour Party Conferences and raising the issue directly with decision-makers have followed this. UNISON has also ensured that our arguments are raised in the media, both in the UK and in Scotland. It is clear that the arguments are being won in the media and in public forums where the debate is being held. However we need to continue this campaign to drive it home to the politicians that the private sector route is not the answer.

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What Branches should do

This is a national campaign and, whilst activities are being organised at UK and Scottish level, Branch activity is very important to the campaign. There are a number of ways that this can be done.

It makes a lot of sense to co-ordinate activity between branches at a local level. This is being done in Highland and has been started in Lanarkshire. Branches should come up with ideas for local activity and discuss them with their regional officer and/or the Scottish Communications Officer. Funds are available from the GPF for Branch and Regional activity and Branches wishing to take advantage of this facility should raise it with Chris Bartter/Matt Smith in advance of application to the GPF.

Public Services Day

A national Public Services Day is being organised on the 4 December. This features a Rally and Lobby of Parliament in London, and a national briefing featuring details will be published later.

Branches are reminded that this is a major part of the campaign and, whilst the Scottish Parliament has responsibility for public spending in Scotland, the money ultimately comes from Westminster. In Scotland we are also planning an event centred on the Scottish Parliament for the 5 Dec. This would involve the Scottish Committee and Service Groups in an event aimed at positively promoting both our public services and UNISON.

Let us know

If Branches have specific ideas or issues that they think should be included in such an event please let us know. Plus if you have stories of failings of the private sector or positive stories regarding the public sector, please let Chris Bartter know.

Any queries or suggestions should also be directed to Chris Bartter, who is the Scottish contact for the campaign. Keep an eye on our Scottish website for the latest information.

We need to ensure that targets for the postcard campaign are achieved. Scotland has a target figure of 15% of our membership (this means 21,600 signed postcards - or two in every ten members).

We had a good start with the work that was done at the Gig on the Green, but this now needs to be built on. Branches could; send out postcards and pens to all their members; run stalls in the street; approach service users (HE branches could get students to sign up) and use other initiatives.

Signed postcards should be sent back to the Positively Public Unit at HQ as soon as possible. Please try to collect the postcards you put out, count them and indicate on the bundles the number and the fact they come from your branch and from Scotland. (see panel to order postcards).

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Who Profits from PFI?

The National Audit Office has concluded that a quarter of completed PFI deals do not meet Treasury guidelines on sharing windfall profits. These include major Scottish schemes like the Skye Bridge, M74 and Kilmarnock Prison.

Refinancing deals are netting contractors multi-million pound windfalls. So much so that senior treasury officials are reported to have told contractors that they risked "killing the goose that lays the golden egg".

Contractors are not only pigs at the trough. Government figures show that £52m was spent on advisors for the first wave of PFI hospital schemes. An average of £3m per advisor. Nice work if you can get it!

Sniff… Sniff…

As the first major wastewater PFI schemes come on line problems are being highlighted across the country.

East of Scotland Water are diverting tankers away from Seafield PFI scheme because of the cost. Local residents are complaining about inadequate odour control. Similar smelly PFI schemes are reported in Fort William and Inverness.

In the West the Dalmuir PFI scheme is well behind schedule as is Daldowie. There's a smell from water PFI and it's not just the sewage.

Roads - who gains?

The two private companies awarded the trunk roads contracts after a seriously flawed tender procedure have already been served default notices by the Scottish Executive. And that only covers the summer period! Not that this worries Amey PLC. They just reported pre-tax profits up 30%.

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NHS pigeons come home to roost

As they open, Scotland's first major PFI hospitals are already showing the PFI faults which have been so prevalent in England.

Hairmyres is suffering from a lack of beds, lost patient records, IT failures and a list of structural faults. The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh hasn't yet opened, yet IT provider McKesson have already announced they can't deliver the Hospital Information System on time.

Medical staff are again pointing to bed shortages and the financial inflexibility in PFI. The Trust's Medical Director said "If they insist on hospitals making budget cuts, increasingly those cuts will have to be in clinical services because there will be nowhere else to go".

Sounds familiar? It should be - these were precisely the arguments put up by UNISON when the RIE scheme was approved

What Branches are doing

The Highland Branches have a 'street postcard signing' day on Nov 3 in Inverness. Similar events are also planned by Renfrewshire and on Public Services Day - 4/5 December

East Ayrshire Branch will have a street stall in Kilmarnock and also be releasing their balloon race - balloons issued to anyone who signs up a member during November or to the member that signs up! Prizes will go to the farthest away balloon label returned.

Edinburgh Branches will be taking part in an Edinburgh TUC March & Rally for Public Services, 17 November: 11.30 East Market Street, march off 12.00 and Rally at Assembly Rooms George Street at 1pm.

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