What privileges? (Brian Smith)

Last week’s Shetland Times contained an expensive supplement with a much-delayed report-back on last year’s public meetings on council finances, and a taster of the cuts that some councillors and consultants want to impose.

Right at the top of the taster section there is a paragraph about SIC staff terms and conditions. “[T]here was a feeling from the community”, we read, “that these are generous”.
Some of my members who had been at the public meetings were surprised by this statement. They hadn’t heard any such statements made there. So I wrote to the council’s communications department. They referred me to some online transcripts of the discussions at the meetings for evidence. I read them carefully, but could find nothing – not a word – about staff terms and conditions. It looked as if “the community” didn’t have a view on the subject after all.

So I wrote back to communications. This time round they told me that the council had received “suggestions and observations” by email from the public about staff terms and conditions. In due course one of the council’s consultants sent me a report she had written based on these remarks. (I wonder how much this document cost to produce!)

It turned out that the suggestions and observations were anonymous. Some or even most of them may have been submitted by a small number of people who like speaking about other people’s alleged privileges. A few of them are barmy.

There is no statistical information in the report, and certainly nothing to sustain an argument about what “the community” thinks.

Councillors and consultants should be wary about assuming they know what people in general believe about their pet schemes. In this case they might keep in mind that SIC staff are themselves members of the community – and voters.

Brian Smith
<i>Local Services branch of UNISON</i>


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