Labour Councillor’s Corner
With Harriet Bradley (Brislington West) and Mike Langley (Brislington East)
As a councillor I often get complaints about the slowness of responses from council services. I sympathise with people’s frustration over this. However, it needs to be put in context. Because of the dramatic cuts in government funding for local services over the past eight years a great number of council jobs have been lost, leaving some departments struggling with overwhelming workloads. This is sad, not just for all of us as service users, but because it deprives our city and region of opportunities for worthwhile, reasonably paid jobs.
This is part of a much wider problem our country faces, the loss of secure employment and its replacement by low-paid dead-end work, zero-hours contracts, and a raft of temporary jobs in what has been called the ‘gig economy’. Only this week we learn that the closure of the Honda Factory in Swindon will bring a loss of 3,500 jobs to the town. In our supermarkets and retail outlets the use of automatic tills takes away a kind of work useful for women who need jobs near home to manage the care of their children. Personally I never use those hateful tills!
Many of you who are parents will know the consequences of this for our young people, who struggle to find jobs which will allow them the futures they wish for (how can they afford a house, a car, children?). Graduates loaded with huge debt from their university fees are forced into low-paid work in call centres or on Deliveroo bikes. Those in ‘good jobs’ often suffer as well, as organizations cut staff to be ‘competitive’. Teachers are overworked, causing a third of new recruits to leave after a few years. Doctors take early retirement because of deteriorating conditions in the NHS. There has been a major rise in staff sickness related to stress.
What needs to happen to restore our economy to how it was? When I was a young adult I remember it was all very different. There was more jobs in manufacturing, more paid apprenticeships and training opportunities for young people, more funding for those in further and higher education, more meaningful and secure employment that meant a living wage for most people. We must pressure the Conservative government to change its policy on local government and start restoring funding levels. A future Labour Government is pledged to end zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships; it will institute an obligatory living wage, backed up by a free National Education service to allow people of all ages access to retraining and renewing their skills. We are a rich society. We should be able to make every job a decent job.
Harriet Bradley and Mike Langley