Memorandum by Public and Commercial Services
Union (PCS) (RG 29)
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union
is the largest trade union within the Civil Service representing
over 330,000 members.
2. PCS welcomes the select committee's timely
inquiry into the future for regional governance and is happy to
supplement this written submission with further information and
oral evidence. PCS is the main union representing staff in the
regions with members in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP),
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), the Learning and Skills
Council (LSC), and Government Offices in the regions.
3. Many of our members are engaged in work
that impacts directly on local communities and has important links
with local businesses, community organisations, local authorities
and regional planning work. We believe that central government
is intrinsically linked to the future development of and support
of regional government.
4. PCS believe a properly resourced and
staffed civil service is essential in delivering the services
needed to support sustainable communities in regions. We are concerned
that the current massive reductions in civil service headcount
could seriously compromise the key services that our members provide
on a daily basis to local communities.
5. We are particularly concerned that the
Government's arbitrary approach to reducing staff numbers in the
civil service is undermining investment in regeneration and the
objective of ensuring sustainable communities across the country.
6. PCS supports the emphasis the Government
has put on the importance of investment in ensuring sustainable
communities through initiatives such as "The Northern Way".
However, we share the concerns that have been articulated by the
The need for unions to be engaged
as key stakeholders in such initiatives and in the work of Regional
Assemblies on a more involved and consistent basis.
The importance for ensuring
that sustainability is linked with well skilled and not low paid,
low skilled jobs characterised by many of the recent contact centre
The need for recognition of
the role City Regions play in driving forward economic growth
The importance of ensuring that
isolated and rural communities are not excluded from investment
planning or denied key local services.
7. PCS believe that investment in good quality
high skilled civil service jobs with access to flexible working
arrangements is an important part in providing key high quality
local and central government services that generate investment
in the communities within which those public sector employees
live and work.
8. PCS members are delivering key Government
and local community priorities. In the DWP, programmes providing
access to employment and "Pathways to Work" have been
very successful initiatives helping people back to work. However,
there are serious concerns over service delivery in this Department
which is suffering due to large scale job cuts and office closures.
Service users now have to contact call centres when in the past
they were able to visit local offices and get advice from the
9. There are serious concerns over the reduction
in accessibility of services that some of the most vulnerable
people in communities rely upon. DWP have been making these changes
in local services with no assessment having been made on how local
client groups will be affected. For example, there has been no
assessment made of the impact office closures and restricted services
will have on the more isolated rural communities where there is
difficulty in traveling long distances with very little public
transport links to alternative service providing facilities.
10. Learning and Skills Councils have provided
a key source of learning and skills opportunities for many workers
across a range of industries over recent years and are a key driver
behind delivering the Government's skills agenda. The current
"Agenda for Change" programme in the LSC aims to see
a reduction of 1,300 posts by June 2006 creating an organisation
of 3,400. A previous period of restructuring only formally came
to an end in February 2005 with the loss of 800 posts. PCS is
extremely concerned over the impact these staff reductions will
have on the LSC's future ability to deliver the Government's skills
11. PCS members who work in the Regional
Development Agencies (RDA's) and Government Offices in the regions
play a key role in co-coordinating and delivering regional investment
and strategies. Civil Servants in Equality Commissions, Department
of Trade and Industry (DTI), Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration
Service (ACAS), DWP and Government Offices are key drivers in
anticipating the demographic changes that will impact upon the
gender and ethnicity of the UK workforce over the next decade.
They are critical to ensuring businesses and local communities
recognise and embrace these changes in order to deliver sustainable
growth, community cohesion and tackle social exclusion.
12. PCS believes that there is the need
for a serious debate about whether the future of regional governance
is seen merely as a delivery mechanism for central government
or whether it is about making policy. PCS believes that all of
the considerations around the future of regional government must
be underpinned by transparent systems of democratic governance
accessible to local communities. We are concerned that the emphasis
on outsourcing of central and local government activities to private
contractors undermines the ability to ensure effective public
accountability of key local services and we are not convinced
that an inevitably lengthy round of local and regional reform
would produce realisable and beneficial change for local and regional
13. We believe that delivering sustainable
communities in the immediate future is linked directly to the
quality and effectiveness of stakeholder involvement and that
PCS and other trade unions have a key role to play in that as
important partners whose role must be re-enforced and strongly
built into the fabric of current structures for managing future