This week’s local government strike by public sector unions is disrupting council services across Swindon. This strike will not help improve public services. It can only hurt Swindon residents, and particularly the vulnerable, who rely on those services.
Swindon’s council workers provide important services to the community, from street sweeping to caring for the elderly and disabled. However, public sector pay has not kept pace with the reality of the local economy. Many council workers are priced out of Swindon’s housing and rental markets. This contributes to the council’s problems of staff retention and recruitment.
If the local government pay offer does increase, whether by strike or by negotiation, the council faces the problem of financing that increase. Local government staff have been offered a pay increase of 3%. The unions’ demand for an across-the-board pay increase of 6% is unrealistic and would add over Ł2 million to the agreed budget for this year. This is money Swindon Borough Council simply can not afford, and would represent a further 5% increase in council tax.
Whilst Labour’s waste and mismanagement of Swindon Borough Council’s finances has not helped the situation, some blame must lie with the Labour government that has starved this council of resources. Local authorities of all political persuasions are aware of the problems facing key workers, but this Labour government has hit them hard and will not listen.
Labour’s failures locally and nationally mean that Swindon Borough Council has insufficient resources to address the problems our key workers face.