By Claire West
Britain will become a less transparent country and less able to stand up to powerful lobby interests if the government gets its way on the Public Bodies Bill, the country’s biggest union, Unite, is warning.
Ahead of a rally on February 9th to defend the hundreds of publicly accountable bodies in the government’s firing line, the union says that bodies as diverse as the Agricultural Wages Board, the British Waterways, the Forestry Commission and advice services have a vital role in underpinning public life. Unite adds that sweeping the bodies away is an act of political vandalism which will shut ordinary people out of the decision-making process. The government’s proposals for the sell-off of Forestry Commission land have already sparked a massive wave of protest, and this is just one small part of the Public Bodies Bill.
Workers representing the thousands of public servants set to lose their jobs when the government pushes through its reforms, along with community groups, service users and agricultural workers, will come to on Westminster on Wednesday, 9 February, to urge MPs to stand up against the coalition government’s so-called ‘public service reform’ in the Bill. Unite is calling for the coalition to press ‘pause’, after criticism from the cross-party Commons Public Administration Committee which said that the coalition had ‘poorly managed’ its cull of these public bodies.
Unite is concerned at the rush to dismantle the bodies – with next to nothing in the way of prior consultation – suspecting this has more to do with silencing critics than improving the operation of government.
A photocall of workers will take place at 12.30pm on Old Palace Yard/College Green, opposite the House of Lords. There will be a marquee where workers from Unite, PCS and Prospect will look to press their cases to MPs. The waiting workers will be entertained by a cider band singing songs about the need to stop cuts hurting rural communities in particular.
The Public Bodies Bill is currently wending its way through the House of Lords. It has proposed to reform 481 bodies, of which, 192 will cease to be public bodies and their functions will either be brought back into government, devolved, or abolished altogether. Vital organisations from every sector are being abolished ranging from the UK Film Council to the Forestry Commission, British Waterways to the Agricultural Wages Board.