"Our public services are the key battleground" argues Jane Carolan member of the TUC general council and Unison.

The ConDem victory in May was a victory for blue blooded neo-liberalism over its more pink tinged New Labour counterpart. The Blair and Brown failure to move from the economics of finance capitalism, combined with an espousal of privatisation and reactionary social policies saw the Labour core support neglected.

These are the people for whom a Labour Government should have meant a substantial benefit but Labour was offering only more of the same. The new government has a right wing, reactionary neo-con ideology committed to ruling in favour of one class only – its own. The declared Con Dem agenda is not a rational economic one – from the viewpoint of standard economic theory reducing public expenditure is the economics of the asylum. But if it is not rational in economic terms, it is entirely rational in terms of the stated aim of shrinking the state.

In short, the post Second World War consensus based on the welfare state of Beveridge report – health care, education, homes for all and benefits for those in need – is being ripped apart. Reforms announced so far begin the process of dismantling universal benefits and ending the provision of public services by a workforce directly employed by democratically accountable public bodies.

The NHS is likely to become a brand name, attached to a few failing services for those without private insurance. Local schools provision by Councils from nursery level up will be at the bottom of a hierarchy of education dominated by academies and frees schools in middle class enclaves. The latter will be bastions of privilege. Desperately needed social housing for 1.6 million on council waiting lists will simply not be built - a tragedy for those without homes and for building workers without jobs.

Adding to these social pressures, all forms of welfare are being attacked. Deemed scroungers by the right wing tabloids, those millions surviving on the poverty line as a result of unemployment, sickness or disability will see their inadequate incomes cut and state provided employment services decimated as civil service jobs are sacrificed.

Across the country, councils are preparing redundancy notices for essential workers from classroom assistants to social workers, from dinner ladies and home carers.

Even for those of us who lived through the Thatcher regime, what is in prospect under this government is terrifying. The only victors are likely to be the privatised providers of those services deemed too essential to be scrapped, turning taxpayers pounds into private profit.

The key to winning a sufficient consensus to oppose these changes is to demonstrate the value and quality of publicly provided provision, not easy when on a daily basis the media derides them

Shouting slogans demanding ‘fight back’ are easier  than immersing unions in community and workplace based campaigns.

Witness the painstaking work of Spanish unions above over the past six months building up to their September general strike.

But there is no real alternative to creating campaigning organisations based on the coalition of interests between communities and unions. Not just on the lowest common denominator of saving this or that local service provider – important though that is - but based on a dialogue and greater understanding of why services are being dismantled and why they must be protected. Campaigns focusing not just on job cuts, but also on the value to communities of public services. Projecting an alternative economic strategy which increases rather than decreases public spending, taxing bank transactions, the obscene profits of the financial sector and the wealth of those luxuriating in personal billions. Ending war adventures in support of US imperialism and cancelling unaffordable weapons such as Trident replacement. Rebuilding a manufacturing base through substantial industrial investment by the state.

It's not only about unions as national organisations publicly opposing Con Dem policies. It's about every trade union branch looking beyond the grind of daily workplace issues and playing a leading role in communities.    That's the challenge we must face up to make our resistance to the austerity attack a realty rather than rhetoric. 

Jane Carolan is chair of the UNISON NEC Policy Committee and a member of the  TUC General Council. She writes in her personal capacity.