Union leaders warning to Gordon Brown: 'The jury is still out on your leadership'

Union bosses warned Gordon Brown that 'the jury is out' on his performance as Prime Minister.

The warning came after he delivered a 20-minute speech to a private dinner hosted by the Trades Union Congress at Brighton's Grand Hotel.

He was said to have been relaxed at the dinner and, referring to the economy, said: 'Our job is to show we have the solutions.'

Gordon Brown and Dave Prentis

On the rack: Gordon Brown (left) with TUC President Dave Prentis. Union leaders have been critical of the PM's leadership

He warned of the cuts the Tories were planning including those in the health service 'to pay for inheritance tax cuts for millionaires.'

'It is our duty to turn our fire on our opponents and our opponents are the Conservatives.

'I don't want to wake up in 24 months time and find a Tory government that is going to cut health, cut education,' Mr Brown said.

TUC delegates are highly critical of government policy, and have said that Mr Brown has to act on the economy, pay and escalating fuel bills by the time he addresses the Labour Party conference in two weeks.

They are also particularly critical of the two per cent pay limit for public sector workers.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest union, said of Mr Brown: 'He has got to start listening to people. People want to know what the Government is going to do to help them with their problems.'

Mr Woodley said there was 'no doubt' that the Prime Minister 'had the interests of the ordinary people at heart.'

But he added: 'What is he going to do to make sure we do not go back to the bad old days?

Tony Woodley

Joint general secretary of Unite Tony Woodley said that the jury was still out on Mr Brown's leadership

'He has got to act by the time he addresses the Labour Party conference in two weeks. The jury is out.'

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison told Mr Brown: 'Labour must do more to set us apart from the Tories', although he added: 'You are among friends.'

A government announcement is expected tomorrow which will detail assistance with heating bills for those in need.

Last night Mr Brown said: 'We will help people with their heating bills.'

But only three hours earlier, Chancellor Alistair Darling had received a less than enthusiastic welcome when he addressed the TUC. He disappointed delegates by refusing to back a windfall tax on the energy firms.

A lacklustre welcoming applause from the 700-plus delegates lasted just six seconds and his entire speech was met with silence.

Many delegates just sat quietly and refused to applaud when Mr Darling finished.

Mr Woodley said: 'Without help with fuel bills now, we'll be lagging coffins of the elderly if we have a cold winter.'

Talks between energy giants and the Government on a £1 billion package to cut fuel bills were set to be held today.

Mr Darling will seek to finalise a deal to help 11 million households make their homes more fuel-efficient.

The six big energy companies, Centrica, EDF Energy, Scottish and Southern Power, E.ON and NPower are believed to have agreed to increase by 20 per cent over three years their contribution to the Government's carbon emissions reduction target.

But ministers are understood to want the energy sector to up its commitment by 30 per cent.

Four million low-income households could benefit from loft and cavity wall insulation under the programme, as well as other energy-reducing measures.

They would also be given help in finding the best gas and electricity tariffs.

Experts also warned that few homes were likely to benefit from the energy-efficiency scheme before this winter.

Energy bills have hit an average of £1,300 and the measures to make homes more efficient could take years to be rolled out.

Experts say bills can be cut by £275 with better cavity wall and loft insulation.

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