A council underspend of £10 million should be spent on council services in Bromley, such as libraries, and not buying commercial property, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 25 June).
The recommendation to spend more than £10 million on the further purchasing of commercial property will be strongly challenged at the full council meeting of the Tory-dominated authority by the Labour group on Monday (29 June).
The council’s accelerating push for the mass privatisation of services and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 has been challenged by Unite members who have staged three waves of strikes.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The Tory councillors have got their priorities completely wrong. Bromley residents want any available spare money spent on council services, and not invested in property speculation.
“We call on the council at its full meeting on Monday to draw back from this unwanted helter-skelter to privatise services left, right and centre – and return to the public service ethos that used to be the bedrock of the council’s activities.
“Voters expect councillors to provide public services and not gamble their money on the vagaries of property development.”
The underspend by the council for 2014-15 is £11.1 million and the recommendation is to spend £10.1 million on buying commercial property on top of the £74 million already earmarked for such investments in 2015-16.
The council is considering the privatisation of 14 libraries, replacing staff with unpaid volunteers and handing the libraries over to charities. Even the council’s own consultation exercise revealed that 83 per cent of respondents were in favour of directly-run council services.
Residents were seriously concerned about private companies, including how they make their profits, replacing trained staff, imposing staff reductions and raising charges.
The remainder of the parks service was transferred to the Landscape Group, which announced that immediately after the transfer on 1 June, it will be making redundancies. Despite this transfer, council taxpayers will be bailing out the Landscape Group by footing the bill for the redundancies.
The council has also agreed to privatise learning disabilities services by handing them to another private company, Certitude which could lead to more job losses.
Unite’s members voted by 87 per cent to take strike action in protest against the mass privatisation programme, cuts to pay and conditions, and the withdrawal of facility time from the Unite trade union representative.
The dispute comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.
The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.