This morning I spoke at a rally at the City Chambers in support of Council staff concerned at the prospect of big cuts and proposals to hive off core council services to the private sector.
The Edinburgh’s SNP/Lib Dem council are so badly led that the council’s bin dispute has been going on for over 18 months. A Unite member I spoke to said that new council proposals to resolve the bin dispute this week looked very similar to suggestions made by unions at the very start of the dispute and rejected by the Council at ACAS talks. The lack of political will to resolve the dispute has led to taxpayers’ money being wasted to cover services.
My view is that there’s a lack of political leadership at the heart of the Council. For the last three years we’ve seen failure by the SNP/Lib Dem councillors to get a grip and set the right priorities. The city has been badly damaged by the ongoing problems of the tram project. No other city that has built a tram system has experienced the mismanagement we’ve seen in Edinburgh. Even though both parties in the administration approved the contracts to build the trams – they have remained at loggerheads ever since. Even SNP ministers have acknowledged how embarrassing it is and now want the project finished.
Schools are not seeing the reduced class sizes they were promised by the SNP and probationary teachers are not getting the start they need to get their careers going. In December last year, the Council was in crisis over its handling of the care and support tender. Eventually, they were forced to drop their plans to tender out care and support services after vulnerable people across the city protested and a damning report was released which criticised the Council’s process.
Today the Council have voted on outsourcing thousands of services without any clarity on how the quality or costs of services are to be maintained. Morale amongst staff is low and there’s a sense that the Council’s in-house bids will have an uphill struggle. A Unison member I spoke to this morning was concerned that their managers did not appear to know what their responsibilities actually were. The Council is gearing up for £90m cuts over the next three years yet the SNP Government still claims they’ve provided a good funding deal for the city.
This year’s poor deal from the SNP Government will be followed by the ideological cuts from the Con Dem Government. That adds up to a difficult future for thousands of council staff and the quality of services not just in Edinburgh but across Scotland. Labour has argued consistently that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were right to bail out the banks. And we were clear in the election that public spending would have to be tightly controlled as the banks paid back their debts to the Government. But the Con Dem cuts are too fast and too deep.
As my colleague Malcolm Chisholm MSP stated this morning, today’s council meeting will not be the end of the story. It’s a huge disappointment that the ruling coalition SNP Lib Dem Councillors, supported by the Conservatives have voted through the plans to continue the process of outsourcing huge numbers of council jobs in the face of opposition from Labour and Green Councillors. The challenge is for Labour MSPs, councillors and trade union members to make sure that residents across the city understand that the Council’s plans will damage services and harm the most vulnerable members of our communities.