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Nationalisation, seats for unions and free public transport – Unison unveils mayoral manifesto

Nationalisation, seats for unions and free public transport – Unison unveils mayoral manifesto

🕔15.Dec 2016

The trade union Unison has published its twenty point list of ‘asks’ which make up its manifesto for the West Midlands mayoral candidates. 

Among its suggestions are the nationalisation of the M6 Toll, a micro-pilot on the use of a Universal Basic Income; free public transport for all 16-19 full-time FE students; the creation of a regional union learning fund; three non-voting trade union seats on the WMCA and a “proper democratically elected assembly” for the WMCA.

It is understood the union views the election of the mayor for the WMCA as one of its key issues. It is the first time it has ever produced a manifesto for a local election. Unison believes the manifesto addresses what it believes are the core issues for “working class communities” across the region.

Unison believes the manifesto represents a mix of challenging aspirational asks, along with some easier ones. Chamberlain Files understands the ‘ask’ to ‘nationalise’ the M6 Toll is part of a calculated strategy to desensitise a wider policy of ‘nationalisation. ‘

The union claims the Citizens’ Basic Income (or Universal Basic Income) is “modest”, but could allow the region to lead the way on the challenges faced as work becomes more automated. It could also provide a safety net for people to take risks and be more entrepreneurial.

Commenting on the launch of the manifesto, Regional Secretary, Ravi Subramanian said:

The election of the mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority presents a golden opportunity for the region. This manifesto is not solely about the interests of public sector workers. It is a progressive, inclusive agenda around transport, education, housing, governance and the economy that will make the West Midlands a better place for the many, and not the few. UNISON are asking all mayoral candidates to publicly state which of our 20 asks they will carry out if elected.

Unsion’s twenty points are:

1. All items in this manifesto should be developed jointly with the full engagement of all key stakeholders including trade unions. Many in the community are sceptical about the WMCA and see it as another layer of undemocratic bureaucracy, distant from the people that it will claim to serve. Involving key stakeholders at the earliest opportunity can help to address public concerns about a “democratic deficit.”
2. Three non-voting trade union seats on WMCA and seats on the key working groups, including public sector reform. Trade unions are the largest voluntary organisations in the UK. The Midlands TUC can assist to ensure that all trade unions can make member issues known.
3. Develop a system to allow maximum public scrutiny of WMCA decisions. Opponents of combined authorities focus on distant unaccountable bureaucrats. Systems to promote open access and engagement with the decision making process will give public confidence in the new institution.
4. Consider the development of a proper democratically elected assembly for WMCA. The WMCA will need to gain legitimacy longer term and as further powers are devolved work must be undertaken to ensure that decision making is done by the directly elected representatives of the people served.
5. Undertake a full housing needs assessment across the WMCA region. This is vital to developing a clear understanding of housing needs. This can help to ensure that development takes place to address the housing needs of all members of the community whether those wishing to rent or to buy properties to live in.
6. Agree a proper definition of “affordable housing” so that it meets the housing needs of people on low incomes for the WMCA to use as benchmark for planning authorities. Many people in particular the young are unable to get onto the housing ladder and are trapped in relatively expensive rented housing. Others will prefer to rent but should not be subject to costs that are too high.
7. WMCA to encourage all constituent and non-constituent councils to embark upon a programme of building new, green council houses. The region is in desperate need of new, affordable, green social housing.
8. Establish minimum environmental standards for new housing developments across the WMCA area. The WMCA is well placed to stimulate the development of high quality greener housing and therefore to assist with the development of the skilled jobs and services that support these aspirations.
9. Develop proposals, that can either form part of planning permissions or be linked to the sale/lease of sites, that ensure new homes are developed for local people and prevent new homes being sold overseas and left empty, as has happened in London. Housing is a social need and should not be left to the vagaries of a lightly regulated market that works primarily in the interests of those with capital who seek profitable outcomes.
10. Develop proposals to put to government for a system that ensures that land value appreciation that flows from infrastructure investment benefits the local community and not just private corporations and property developers. The WMCA is well placed to seek to ensure that all of our community benefits from increases in wealth.
11. Make public transport work as in London so WMCA, for example, set fares, carry out procurement to ensure green vehicles and integrate public transport properly over across urban and rural routes. A fully integrated system is required to address the environmental, economic and social issues around transportation in the region.
12. Develop a plan to further extend the Metro lines. The Metro system needs developing as part of a fully integrated transport strategy.
13. Develop a proper integrated cycling strategy across the WMCA to include cycle superhighways and full cycle integration on public transport. Some work has been done to develop a cycling strategy in the region but more work needs to be done to develop a cycle superhighway and full cycle integration on public transport.
14. Nationalise the M6 toll road so all drivers can use it without charge. Given the region desperately needs improved road transportation it is ludicrous that the main M6 is congested when only a few miles away there is a toll road that is hardly used. Nationalising the M6 toll road would improve capacity quickly.
15. Establish free public transport for all 16-19 full-time FE students. This will encourage the use of public transport and make improved access to education for young people.
16. Develop an adult education strategy that supports the skills needed in the public sector but also includes personal development as well as business needs. The public sector is changing; future public services require a set of workforce roles which may be different from that of the past. Workers and potential workers need the right training to meet these changes. Additionally adult learning is not simply about academic and vocational qualifications. An adult education strategy which considers personal development needs would promote the learning/improvement of new skills, increase self-confidence, and have a significant impact upon reducing social deprivation, crime and poor health.
17. Undertake localised skills audits in areas of high unemployment along with localised FE provision. Locally paid wages stay circulating in the local community and locally trained people stay living in their communities. This helps improve local economies. A localised skills audit in areas of high unemployment, along with local training programmes will help local people to access employment and apprenticeship opportunities in and enter into local and lasting work.
18. Develop a programme of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision. Migrants bring a wealth of skills, knowledge and talent and make a substantial and positive contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of the region. A comprehensive programme for ESOL provision across the whole of the WMCA area will support migrants to acquire the English language skills they need to live, thrive and contribute to the development of the West Midlands.
19. Investigate setting up a regional union learning fund. Creating a learning society is an important part of Unison’s work. Creating a regional union learning fund would enable Unison to create more opportunity to transform the lives of our West Midlands union members in developing skills, achieving qualifications and promoting lifelong learning opportunities.
20. WMCA to run a micro-pilot on the use of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). A UBI could have many benefits including helping the long-term unemployed get back into work via part-time work and providing a basic income that would allow people to undertake entrepreneurial activities.

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