AN OPEN LETTER SENT TODAY FROM MIDLANDS TUC CREATIVE AND LEISURE INDUSTRIES COMMITTEE (CLIC) TO MARTIN REEVES CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF COVENTRY CITY COUNCIL.

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“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that society has found one more way to destroy itself.”
                                                                                    Isaac Asimov    
Dear Mr Reeves 
The Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) has been disturbed to hear of the proposed cuts to the libraries and museums of Coventry. The Midlands CLIC is made up of unions from across the cultural sector including BECTU, Equity, MU, NUJ, PCS, Unison, NUT, UCU and WGGB. Our purpose is to campaign in support of arts and leisure provision across the region and for an improvement in the terms and conditions of workers in the sector. 
” A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”

                                                                       Henry Ward Beecher. 
Industrialists like Sir Alfred Herbert in Coventry, who built the economic prosperity of the Midlands, understood the importance of culture, particularly libraries, galleries and museums, to the quality of life in the region and also to the economy and the quality of political discourse. Educated and informed democratic citizens are essential to the successful functioning of our democracy, just as an educated workforce is crucial to the regions economic success. 
Formal education in schools, colleges and universities, is directed, controlled and measured. Libraries, galleries and museums complement formal education by allowing individuals (especially those of limited means) to stimulate their brains and their imaginations according to their own preferences, in other words, to be intellectually free. 
In a prosperous, innovative and dynamic city, as presumably Coventry aspires to be, publicly funded libraries, museums and galleries are not an ‘optional extra’ to be discarded as soon as money gets tight, they are at the defining heart of our shared civic spaces, and without them what does the civic space of Coventry entail? Only the emptying of bins and the cleaning of the streets? 
Of course Coventry City Council needs to empty the bins and clean the streets, but it also has to provide the shared civic spaces that give cultural identity to the City by enhancing education and public discourse, and attracting individuals and families to want to live and work in the city, thus attracting businesses and inward investment. The statutory provision of essential services must not be used as a reason to cut cultural civic spaces; it is only our shared cultural experiences that give the pragmatic day-to-day realities of life meaning.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know… is the location of the library.”

                                                                                   Albert Einstein 
The shrinking of the budgets and services of the cities libraries, galleries and museums, also disproportionately impact on the poor and disadvantaged. People like Sir Alfred Herbert understood the privilege inherent in the access to learning and culture that their wealth gave them; they sought to spread those benefits throughout society, so that both rich and poor could have access to that advantage. 
It is widely recognised that rapidly escalating inequality in the UK is having terribly destructive and divisive effects on our society as a whole, not just on the poor. (See: The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.) The inevitable result of economic inequality is cultural and educational inequality. Restricting access to books, art and culture only to those who can ‘afford’ them, exponentially exacerbates inequality for only modest savings. This ultimately costs untold millions because of the negative effect cultural poverty has on health, crime and social cohesion. 
Coventry is currently preparing a bid to be City Of Culture 2021; simultaneously Coventry City Council is seeking to close or outsource libraries, cutting staff and budgets at the Herbert Gallery & Museum and decimating Cultural Services across the city. The idea of Coventry as a ‘City Of Culture’ is an important one but not just for 2021. 
We urge Coventry City Council to end the diminishing of public cultural facilities and services in the city. By doing so you would make a public statement about the type of city you are aspiring to build. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss how the Midlands TUC could help Coventry City Council fulfil its cultural duty to the citizens of the city and look forward to hearing from you in due course. 
Signed by

Lee Barron, Regional Secretary Midlands TUC

Chris Jury, Chair, Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee

UNISON Dismay at proposal to cut Job Support to Vulnerable Coventry Residents

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Unison has responded with dismay to news that the Council’s Place Directorate management are proposing to discontinue The Employment Support Service (TESS), which is a flagship services for vulnerable adults and young people with learning disabilities, autism and severe and enduring mental ill health, as well as implementing post cuts at the highly successful Job Shop.

The proposals will see 10 posts deleted at the TESS project, putting all post holders at risk of redundancy. This alongside the deletion of two specialist employment advisor roles at the Job Shop, to be replaced by recruiting new staff at a lower grade. The services being proposed for deletion are delivered by some of the most able, dedicated and expert staff in their field, not just in Coventry but nationally.

This explains how TESS won a national Award for its service only last year, winning Team of the Year from the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE), for its outstanding work in encouraging employers to employ those furthest from the labour market. TESS is also one of a small number of services nationally to be awarded Centre of Excellence status by the Centre for Mental Health, for its work with people who have severe mental health difficulties. TESS is a unique service in Coventry. There are currently no other services able to continue this work. The impact of losing this service for the most vulnerable, their families and employers will be significant.

The review proposals throw the Council’s pledge to protect the ‘most vulnerable’ into doubt. Suggestions the TESS service may be funded through ‘alternative’ means seem half formed. Unison is not convinced that those making the decisions have actually thought through how services are currently delivered. We believe direct public investment is the key to the high quality delivery, for which TESS and the Job Shop have become well known.

Unison is also aware that the Council has an opportunity to bid for substantial European Union money. This opportunity explicitly includes funding to support those facing mental health issues, as well as other groups such as young people and the long term unemployed. If a bid is successful, EU resource could develop and enhance the existing services, without the need for any redundancies. This seems to be a case of senior management making a short term saving to tick a box on the Council’s budget spreadsheet, at a time when local people are desperate to find work.

Sarah Feeney, Coventry City Unison Branch Secretary said, ‘This review proposal gives the impression that Council members and senior managers in Place Directorate see services like TESS as an ‘optional extra’, ‘fluffy’ or ‘nice to do’. They are not – they are the very core of Council provision, supporting those most in need. TESS and the Job Shop give Coventry people, who are struggling, the help they need to get a job and financial security for themselves and their families. We will not benefit from all the new investment and buildings in Coventry, if local residents looking for work are thrown back on the scrapheap, carry on being dependent on benefits and are kept out of the picture when it comes to the new jobs on offer.’

A short term investment from reserves for this year would mean that the existing staff resource and networks can be maintained to ensure the Council can maximise opportunity to deliver a successful service, using external funding from next year. Frankly this cut package is neither necessary nor needed at this time, even if one accepts the wider context of austerity, which Unison of course does not.

This review should be put back in the filing cabinet, which would be a sensible decision for unemployed Coventry residents, for the Council itself to avoid substantial potential redundancy costs, for the staff whose jobs are at risk, and for the Council tax

Contact: Sarah Feeney, 02476 521127, or phone Branch Office via 02476 550829

email – sarah.feeney@unisoncoventry.co.uk

Contact Coventry Unison via the above address or visit on the web via www.coventryunison.co.uk, our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/coventry.unison.  Follow @coventryunison on twitter.

Background Note: TESS was established in 1993 to bridge the gap between people accessing social care support and mainstream employment providers; this gap has significantly increased for many disabled people and people with mental health difficulties. With employment rates below 8% for people with learning disabilities and severe mental ill health and 15% for people with autism compared to 46.3% for working age disabled people and 76.4% for non-disabled people (2012 Labour Market Survey). People with the ability and determination to work are being written off as unemployable, passed from provider to provider with no real hope of getting into a job.

The cost to the public purse of supporting an unemployed job seeker is £9,400. This rises significantly when supporting a TESS service user. According to the National Audit Report 2011 the average cost in welfare benefits for a person with learning disabilities is £15,000 per year, this excludes housing benefit, health and social care support costs which can be significant and long-term. Cost Benefit analysis of Supported Employment has demonstrated they are a more cost effective way of supporting people, compared to providing on-going support in day services, professional support through secondary mental health services and continuing to pay welfare benefits, resulting in savings to the tax payer.

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Coventry Against The Cuts – Save Our Services – Your Services Under Threat

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Millions of pounds have been cut from local authority budgets, resulting in severe cuts to local services. And now Coventry City Council has announced yet more. Important services will go – services that will affect all children, young people, the elderly and any of us who need support at different times in our lifetime.   None of us can afford to let this happen.

What does this mean to you?

  • Elderly care – slashed!
  • Children’s Centres – shut!
  • Libraries – closed!
  • School Crossing Patrols – sacked!
  • Youth Services and Community Centres – closed!
  • Public Toilets – boarded up!

1000 local people who deliver these services sacked!………. AND MUCH MORE!

We cannot afford to let this happen. Ordinary people of Coventry did not create this crisis – we must join together and refuse to accept these cuts. There is enough wealth in our society to provide housing, education, employment and care for all – it’s just in the wrong hands!

What can YOU do about it?

Join with us in a campaign to STOP these cuts in our City.

  • GET INVOLVED

LOBBY your local Councillor

NO CUTS

CITY WIDE DEMONSTRATION

Saturday 21st February

Assemble at 12 noon

Millennium Square (Coventry Transport Museum)

For more info and to keep in touch:

coventryagainstthecuts@gmail.com

Facebook: Coventry Against the Cuts

Twitter Hashtag #covagainstcuts

Open Letter to Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council

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Dear Martin  

City Council ER/VR Programme 2014

You will be aware of the Council’s plan to manage a reduction in the workforce by offering ER/VR to employees. Sadly, it comes as no surprise to UNISON that the offer has meant that many employees have been disappointed and distressed by the fact that they have not been able to go.

It is very unfortunate that the tone and tenor of comments made at the beginning of the consultation exercise about ER/VR suggested that most people could in fact go.

For example in a Director’s cut it states ‘Other than for a small number of excluded posts, where we know we cannot lose staff without needing to replace them, there will be a presumption that those who want to go can go. Staff will not need their Manager’s permission either to apply or to be accepted onto the scheme. So, it’s getting tough, and it’s going to get tougher.  It’s time for everyone to think about the future, and to make a choice.’

Many members have approached us very upset about the outcomes for them. They have quite naturally, spent a considerable amount of time thinking about their futures and have applied accordingly. Only to find they are unable to go.

This has also left them feeling very despondent and will cause difficulty in encouraging a sense of wanting to continue to belong to the organisation many have worked for so tirelessly.

These are difficult times for us all and it will come as no surprise to you that we do not share the view that the answer to austerity is to reduce our workforce. However, we have a duty of care and responsibility to our members to point out that it is important that the employer acts in a more sensitive way in discussions about these matters which affect our members’ lives directly. Some of our members have commented that they feel very let down by the way in which this matter has been managed, disregarding their wellbeing and mental health and that this has shown that they are not valued.

Good industrial relations relies on respectful interaction with the workforce and their trades unions. It is very unfortunate that this matter has had the opposite effect. Trust and confidence is essential to ensure good working relations. We would like know what you intend to do about rebuilding that confidence and trust with your workforce.

Yours sincerely

UNISON Coventry District Branch

Room 308, Broadgate House, Broadgate COVENTRY, CV1 1NG Phone: 024 76521125 Visit www.coventryunison.co.uk for further information. hotline021214