Lorna Smith is the Assistant Branch Secretary of the Northants UNISON. She talks about the way the branch works and how it is confronting plans for unprecedented cuts in the county council budget…
Northants County Branch of UNISON is based at Darnell Way in Northampton. We are a large, busy branch, with around 5000 members employed in the public sector. What people are often surprised to realize is that we work with over 300 employers in the county – that’s a lot of different Terms and Conditions of employment to absorb. For this reason, UNISON employs two staff, Emm and Gary, to work as caseworkers and local organizers.
They work with non-teaching staff employed in schools; employees from care agencies; and with a variety of other staff who are delivering services to the public including staff from the University of Northampton and the Borough Council.
The biggest employer we work with is Northamptonshire County Council. As part of the Working with Trade Union agreement, all the staff based at Darnell Way have substantive posts with NCC – the Branch Secretary, Penny Smith is a Registrar, Ged is a Youth Worker with the Youth Offending Service, and Ben, the Health and Safety Officer, is also based at Angel Square part time working in Business Support. These posts, alongside other Branch Officer roles, are elected yearly by our membership.
I am currently the elected Education and Lifelong Learning Officer, and joint Assistant Branch Secretary. I’m a Principal Social Worker based with the Safeguarding Team at Angel Square and have worked for the County Council as a social worker for 25 years.
This is the most challenging year we have ever faced as a Local Authority. The level of cuts our services are facing is unprecedented, and the impact on our communities is huge and potentially devastating. We face cuts to our libraries, Trading Standards Service, respite services for children with disabilities, and our Children’s Centres. This is just the beginning and we know we face more announcements in December.
Its hard to see how any service can be left untouched, so part of our role at the Branch is to involve Regional and National UNISON in our actions, and to co ordinate and work with other local branches including Health and civilian Police members. We also have a close working relationship with other Unions including GMB and the teaching Unions.
We receive amazing support and assistance from the local communities that we are paid to work for, and there’s a very real sense of the public coming together to fight for services for this county. I spoke with Alan Moore, world famous author who lives in the town, who has used his influence to publicise the threat to libraries, and equally I listened to a 14 year old girl address Cabinet about her very real fears about the future for her generation. This gives us hope at the Branch that we have the support of our membership behind us, and as importantly, the people of Northamptonshire.
Please follow us on our Facebook page at Northants County Unison and on our twitter feed at @northantsunison. Julia, our Communications Officer works hard to keep these updated, and its also a good way for us to know what actions you are all taking, so that we can publicise them for you. There is also a list of links to public consultations on our Facebook page, and surveys which the public can use to continue to be involved.
Finally, welcome to all our new members, we’re so glad to have you alongside us. If now is the time for you to consider joining us, and you work in the public sector, please phone and talk to Julie and Amanda, our fantastic staff who work at the Branch office on 01604 670400, or look at the Unison.org.uk website for more details.
Together we are stronger.