Councils pulling out the stops to keep services running during strikes
- Published on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 10:07
- Posted by Scott Buckler
Councils across England and Wales are working tirelessly to ensure that as many as possible of the vital services that they provide are delivered on the day of the planned national strikes over pensions reform
While many council offices will be closed on the day, local authorities are doing everything within their power to manage disruption and maintain essential 'life and limb' services for vulnerable people. Contingency measures in place include:
- mental health social workers working on emergency rotas
- keeping children's residential centres staffed as fully as possible
- continuing constructive and ongoing talks with union representatives about exemptions from strike action
- communicating and coordinating with other public sector agencies across the country to ensure minimum disruption
- keeping communities informed about service delivery in their area by putting updates on their websites and via social media
- providing emergency contact numbers where possible.
The level of disruption will vary across the country depending on the level of union membership. Some services will inevitably be reduced or be unavailable but councils will do their utmost to return all services to normal as soon as possible.
Some of the key services that will be impacted upon the most are refuse collection, street cleaning, funeral services and leisure services such as libraries. Schools across the country are likely to be closed and councils will do their best to provide information about closures. In some areas, transport networks will also be affected.
Under Government proposals to reform the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), the Local Government Association (LGA) was asked to find £900 million in savings to the scheme by the end of the 2014/15 financial year.
The LGA is in ongoing negotiations with unions about the proposed reforms to try to find a scheme that is as fair as possible to staff and affordable for taxpayers. Through discussion and negotiation, the LGA is attempting to find a way to protect the long-term future of the scheme so members receive a decent pension when they retire, while protecting the low paid and recognising how hard it is for everyone to find extra cash for their pensions in these austere times.
Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said:
"Local government is the most reliable and efficient part of the public sector and some of the most vulnerable people in our communities depend on the vital services we provide. Councils have contingency plans in place and will do everything they possibly can to minimise disruption on the day. While inevitably some services will be affected tomorrow (30 November), we will work hard to make sure the elderly are cared for and vulnerable children are protected.
"The LGA is trying to reform the pension scheme in a way that is as fair as possible to staff and affordable for taxpayers. The offer that we have achieved through robust negotiations is significantly better than the one that was originally on the table from the Government. It is unfortunate there hasn't been agreement from both sides and there is going to be strike action but councils will do everything they can to maintain services wherever possible.
"No decision has been made on employee contributions and the LGA continues to discuss a range of options with unions and the Government, including zero contributions from low paid staff. That is why it is important to continue to keep the lines of communication open."