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News

Unison response to Your Neighbourhoods 2017 Consultation document


It is our duty to first and foremost represent the interests of our members, but our
members are also citizens, residents and service users in the community served by
Bristol City Council so comments reflect that perspective as well as the views of
members as employees.

Unison opposes the Austerity Agenda and believes that cutting local services is a
false economy. The cuts proposed in all options of the consultation document are
targeting some of the most vulnerable citizens of Bristol, this is made clear in the
equalities impact assessments. Cuts that come from central government include
welfare reform, the benefit cap and the NHS cuts and then local government cuts on
top of that mean that the more disadvantaged citizens are targeted again and again.


Unison remains opposed to privatisation and outsourcing. We would want all
services to remain in house so that the council retain full democratic control and
oversight. This would also nurture a mixed marketplace instead of a wholly private
one, whereby we can compare the experience of outside providers with our own
experience, and ensure the authority is receiving value for money.


Bristol Community Links


Bristol Community Links was set up as a flag-ship model of care, embedded in the
community, for adults with complex physical and learning disabilities, dementia, and
autism. It has been given very high satisfaction ratings by its users and their carers,
through the Quality Assurance, HealthWatch Survey: 61% were 'Very Satisfied', 33%
were 'Satisfied' and only 6% 'Dissatisfied'. It should also be noted the service came
in with a budget surplus last year.

Universal transport has been mentioned as something that can be removed. Most
family carers need the service to pick up, and deliver home, their disabled family
members. The vast majority of Bristol Community Links' service users have very
severe impairments and can't catch the local bus service, even with support,
and regardless of person centred planning. Other ideas have been mooted, such as
making a small charge for transport, looking for better deals on different types of
transport, or assessing for need. As long as we don't seriously impoverish families
further, place additional burdens on carers or price ourselves out of the market, we
are not wholly opposed to looking at some of these ideas.


We are opposed to any changes to the complex needs service being provided in its
current form.


We hope that, regardless of the large cuts foisted on the Council by central
government, the Mayor's cabinet will see fit to preserve as much as they can of an
excellent service, while resisting the impulse to break up and privatise, which hasn't
always been a success for dignity and inclusion for disabled people.


Libraries


The possible options that are proposed make it very clear that there is no alternative
to many library closures. The impact on our members will be huge. The impact on
our citizens who use the services will be huge. With the closure earlier this year of
the Citizen Service Points, Libraries have become one of the few places that people
can access council services online for free. If these are then to be closed people who
don’t have internet access will be forced to travel to access online council services.
It is a shame that the work to analyse each library area hasn’t been completed
before the end of the consultation as specified in the Equalities Impact Assessment.
We hope this information will be made available to councillors before making their
decisions.


Library employees have already faced huge challenges to the way they work, their
work life balance and their ability to have a weekend off work following previous
changes. We are remaining hopeful that any changes that come from this public
consultation will ensure that the issues that we remain in dispute over will be
resolved for these dedicated employees.


Public Toilets


The proposals include plans to shut two urinal toilets (Blackboy Hill & Mina Road
Park) which are listed buildings, which seems rather absurd as maintenance is likely
to be minimal and the council will still have responsibility for future maintenance.
Despite the Council consultation stating explicitly “This proposal does not impact any
public toilets currently located in parks, which may be subject to review at a later
date” it seems the actual plans include proposals to shut toilets in a number of parks.
We’re confused by this contradiction.


We are also concerned about the impact on Disabled people, older people and
families with children of these proposals but appreciate that additional facilities can
be provided by local businesses.


School Crossing Patrols


We’re sure that many will highlight safety concerns about the loss of school crossing
patrols so we won’t repeat those worries.

If workers are made redundant and then replaced by volunteers this would go
against the councils own Volunteering Policy. If workers are made redundant and
then replaced by someone else, who is paid, this could call into question whether
there was a true redundancy.


Unison would request that further thought goes into proposals which seem, on the
surface, to be easily solvable by a bit of volunteering which could potentially end up
being not so easily solvable.


Neighbourhood Partnerships


We note the decision to make these cuts was already made when the budget was
set and we refer you back to our comments made to the previous consultation:
Reforming neighbourhood partnerships can result in improved democracy and
decision making through stronger scrutiny. However there will still be a need to
engage with communities, and for properly trained and resourced officers to do this.


Hence we do not believe there is real potential for savings here without weakening
the council’s connection with the communities it serves.


Buildings


Currently the council has no published Property Strategy for council property and no
plan for Community Hubs despite having closed several outlying Customer Service
Points around the City recently. This suggests that decision making is currently adhoc
and not re-enforced by a forward plan for strategic property delivery. If the
Council is serious about Neighbourhood Hubs, it might be considered helpful to have
a property strategy before making decisions about Library areas and closing service
delivery properties in the neighbourhood areas.


General Comments


These services that are proposed to be cut are all front line, all people who go out
and talk to our citizens, establish good working relationships with our citizens, help,
resolve issues, share their time and conversation, make things slightly better for
people.


Many of our members would like decision makers to really understand the powerful
feeling that they won’t be there to continue to provide that service and all the
intangible extras. It is emotional and, as employees, we worry about what will
happen to the people in the communities we support. Unison fear that a council that
loses sight of this amongst the requirements to save will only be making worse
problems which take longer to heal when finally everyone realises that austerity
doesn’t work.


Finally, our members need reassurance. They need to know that proper and full
consultation will occur once decisions are made and they want to know that the
council will do everything it can to retain jobs and services.