UNION bosses were yesterday warned to join a drive to reform public services during a tightening spending squeeze, by First minister Rhodri Morgan.
The Welsh Labour leader warned the Wales TUC in Llandudno that the years of sustained growth in public spending in Wales were on the verge of ‘flat-lining’.
The £15bn budget was unlikely to grow as much as 1% in the next Assembly, with efficiency savings of £200m already demanded from Cardiff Bay.
Mr Morgan predicted a ‘tough battle’ grappling within new financial restraints.
At the same time, the numbers of elderly people surviving into 80s and 90s were rising, wonder drugs were being invented ‘costing an arm and a leg’.
He said: “We need to put a terrific effort into how we deliver the reorganisation of frontline services.”
The changes needed to be speeded up, he said.
Local councils should collaborate more, sharing back office functions.
He offered the TUC the prospect of a new ‘social partnership’ model of government
“We want the unions in, not kept out of that partnership,” he said.
The success of a series of economic summits called to discuss the global downturn, included the CBI, TUC, Assembly Government and other agencies.
Getting round the table had produced the ideas translating into action, like ProAct and ReAct schemes to help those facing redundancy.
About 7,000 people were already protected by the initiatives, representing about a tenth of the current dole queue, he said.
With youth unemployment on the rise around Cardiff, and in Rhyl, Flint and Wrexham, there was an urgent need to use this social partnership model to ensure lessons are learned from the past two recessions.
“Despite the ripples created by the MPs expenses row, the reality of politics remains the same,” he said.
“That Government should be measured by the effectiveness of addressing the recession, and climate change or the war in Afghanistan.”
Markets alone can’t solve the problems of society and the state and voluntary sector working together is the right way forward.
The era of the free market ideology of Margaret Thatcher was now dead, ‘gone, deceased, Norwegian Blue parroted, totally expired’, he said.
“Free market ideology has never been more irrelevant, the private sector is desperately clinging to the state.”