A message from Dave Prentis, unison general secretary

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A message from Dave Prentis,
UNISON general secretary

Today, we are beginning to see the shape of the coalition government's cuts agenda - half a million jobs axed in the public sector; services slashed to the bone and a brutal attack on the welfare state.

And it looks like local government will take the hardest hit.

George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review announcement contains only the headlines. The reality of what they will mean for public service workers and their families will be revealed piece by piece over the next few months as our devolved governments, local councils, police authorities, hospitals, schools, voluntary organisations and others struggle to make sense of the massive budget cuts they have been dealt.

Today's headlines are about job cuts - the government admits to half a million in the public sector alone. Other commentators say 600,000. And economists warn that the private sector is likely to suffer a similar level of job losses as councils and others cancel contracts, shut down projects and search for ways to cut expenditure.

And even those areas the government claims to be protecting are already under pressure - in the NHS alone, £20 billion of cuts are to be found.

Across local government, health, education, housing, police, all of our public services and the private sector that relies on them: a million jobs - axed.

Behind every one of those jobs is a real family dealing with real hardship. A million public service roles - vanished.

And for each service lost - communities losing the real services they rely on. And an economy taking another hit as our families tighten their belts and cut back our own spending. Women are estimated to use three quarters of the services or benefits being cut. That is the legacy of this spending review.

A million less jobs, £4.6bn in lost tax revenue. A million less jobs and £6.1bn increase in benefit payments. An 'austerity budget' that adds £10.7bn a year to the annual deficit and almost entirely wipes out the apparent £12.5bn saving to the public sector pay bill.

These are challenging times for everyone who works in our public services and for all those who rely on them. Our services, our jobs, our pay and our pensions - all under attack.

UNISON has been speaking up for public services. Our Million Voices campaign has warned that the effects of cutting so hard and so fast will ravage our communities. We have protested that public service workers should not be made to pay for the excesses of the bankers and speculators who caused the economic recession.

Today, we are seeing the big picture of the cuts agenda. In the coming weeks, we will see more detail. But I wanted all our activists and representatives to get the union's first take on the spending review as soon as possible.

In the coming weeks and months, we have hard work to do. Our members will be anxious and fearful for their jobs. We will have to represent our members and their concerns as well as continuing to put the pressure on government and employers through local campaigning.

We will have to work with public service users and community groups to make sure that we speak up for vital services.

But we will meet this challenge as a strong, united union, determined to speak with one voice whether locally or nationally, with one aim. To defend our public services and the people who provide them. Together, in UNISON, we will meet this challenge.

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