UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis opened the conference with a clear critique of the Con-Dem coalition government's attack on public services. Cuts at this level are not necessary, they are driven by an ideological desire to cut collective provision. He also warned Scottish politicians to ignore the ‘ice cream van economics’ of the recent Independent Budget Review report. He said:
“A proper review of the budget would have started by looking at the services we need, then working out how you raise the money to pay for them. You don’t look at a Government’s finances and say ‘we’ve got this much, what can we get for it? That’s what kids do at an ice cream van. We should be able to expect better from experts looking at a country’s finances.”
Stephen Boyd of the STUC gave the conference a detailed economic analysis of the state of the nation's finances. Dispelling the myths that Britain is in any way comparable to Greece. What is at risk is slow growth because the UK is cutting the necessary economic stimulus too soon. Much more of this analysis can be viewed on the STUC 'Better Way' website.
In the afternoon the conference broke into workshops to look at different aspects of the cuts and how trade unions and communities can organise. There were lots of positive ideas and a real buzz from participants. A full conference report will be published.