Index . Briefings Home
. Revitalise Our Services Index
to Revitalise Scotland's Public Services
In April 2003 UNISON Scotland launched its manifesto
for Scotland's public services, Revitalise our Public Services.
The centrepiece of that manifesto was our principles for public
service renewal. In this series of briefings we expand on these
principles setting out our positive agenda for the revitalisation
of Scotland's essential public services.
What is Democratic Accountability?
Democratic accountability requires pubic bodies
to be open and transparent in their dealings with the public and
for government at all levels to explain and accept responsibility
for its actions. Democratic accountability also entails government
ensuring adequate opportunities exist for people to participate
in and influence the policy making process. To facilitate this
involvement organisational structures need to be decentralised
to appropriate levels for each function. Without the fragmentation
caused by privatisation and the growth of unelected bodies.
Democratic Accountability The difference between private
and public services
The defining difference between public and private
services is democratic accountability. However, weak mechanisms
and the rise of the Quango State have devalued many of our democratic
structures. They need to be revitalised through new mechanisms
- Elected bodies based on the active involvement of all elected
- Scrutiny of policy by elected members supported by powers
to investigate and review including calling for evidence from
outside the public service organisation (PSO).
- Encourage participation through a statutory duty to involve
users, staff and the community in decision making.
- Democratisation of the quango state together with a statutory
requirement for all public bodies to regularly report and account
for policy decisions.
- Freedom of information, effective communication and transparency
of all contracts and partnerships.
- A commitment to equality of representation making PSO's representative
of the communities they serve. Challenging racism and discrimination.
- Capacity to enable users, staff and the community to fully
Democratic Accountability and Public Service
For the reasons outlined below UNISON Scotland regards the Executive's
agenda to be limited in terms of establishing democratic accountability
as a core principle of public service reform:
- Local Government Democracy
Whilst proportional representation can contribute
towards more accountable and representative local authorities
other Executive measures are inconsistent with increasing accountability.
The ring fencing of budget allocations and the removal of functions
to quangos are the main examples. This will be exacerbated by
proposals for new quangos in criminal justice and transport.
One of UNISON's main concerns with PFI projects
is their inherent lack of transparency and accountability. Long-term
service contracts with private sector consortia are often veiled
in a cloak of commercial and financial secrecy. Stakeholders are
excluded from key stages of the planning process and have no say
in the use of a facility which is owned by a private company.
UNISON Scotland believes in the creation of representative
Health Boards to run the NHSiS at local level. We fully support
a directly elected element on NHS and also a greater level of
staff and user representation on the Boards.
UNISON believes that public bodies should comprise
an amalgam of elected representatives, appointed laypersons and
professionals. We believe that the current system of appointments
to the Boards of NDPBs does not reflect a sufficient range of
interests and expertise, and falls far short of what should be
expected in terms of equal opportunities.
Regulators promote competition to the detriment
of other factors, they fail to consider the impact of their decisions
on employment matters and other important social and environmental
concerns. Reform of the present regulatory system is long overdue
and we believe that a system of regulation be adopted that is
designed primarily to resolve problems that are not adequately
addressed by the market place.
- Participation and involvement
All PSOs should be required to produce a corporate
strategy on participation and involvement which demonstrates how
user's, community organisation's, staff and their trade unions
can be involved in the planning, design, monitoring and review
of services. UNISON Scotland is supportive of an increased role
for voluntary and community organisations, and staff representative
bodies in working with elected representatives to influence planning
and delivery of local services.
Increasing the democratic accountability of public
services could play an important role in revitalising public interest
in the democratic process. However, It is more than simply voting
every four years. It has to be structured through collective and
individual involvement at all levels. Providing a real opportunity
to influence, not simply participate in the decision making process.
Michael Byers -
Dave Watson -
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572