Date: 1 August 2011
Edinburgh privatisation 'worse than the trams' say unions
as communities take action
Unions have warned that the fall-out from Edinburgh council's
£1billion privatisation plans could be 'worse than the trams',
as citizens take things into their own hands by organising public
meetings across the city to demand answers from the council.
The unions are backing up the meetings with a hustings on 15
August to give the public a chance to question candidates in
the Central ward by election.
"In the absence of any real consultation by the Lib Dem/SNP
coalition on Scotland's biggest ever council privatisation project,
UNISON held a public meeting on 27 June. The response was amazing
with most people shocked that they had heard nothing about plans
that would privatise all or part of just about every council
service", said Kevin Duguid, secretary of Edinburgh council's
'staff side' which includes the UNISON, Unite and GMB unions.
"Since then, shocked communities have shown what the real 'big
society' is by setting up their own local meetings to demand
answers. "A packed meeting organised by residents at Meadowbank
on 27 July took councillors to task, with another planned for
2 August. Residents in Southhouse have also called a meeting
for 11 August with reports coming in of others on the way. People
are furious that wholesale privatisation of their services -
mentioned by no party in their manifesto - is being pushed though
without their say.
"UNISON calls on council tax payers across Edinburgh to follow
the lead of Meadowbank and Southhouse - organise your own local
meeting. We will support you in calling the council to account".
Edinburgh Unite leader Stephen MacGregor said, "The council
must put the brakes on privatisation and at least consult properly
with communities. This is a massive decision that will affect
Edinburgh's services for years to come - and one that is almost
certain to come back and bite the council - and it's the council
tax payer and public service worker that will pay the price.
"Our taxes should be gathered to deliver services and protect
the vulnerable, not to pay profits to private companies or dividends
John Stevenson, UNISON branch president, "Public services
need to adapt to meet our needs but there will be little flexibility
in a fixed contract and private companies will charge a fortune
for any changes.
"Just like the trams, we could easily end up with no services
while disputes between the council and contractors drag through
court. We could waste millions on lawyers' fees and - just like
the trams - massive costs if the contracts fail.
"And on top of all that, the council has so far failed on
key legal issues. It has not engaged disabled people in discussion
about access to the new services as required by law. There has
been no assessment of sustainability issues to ensure that the
private companies protect the environment and develop "greener"
ways to deliver services and reduce carbon emissions. The people
of Edinburgh can't even get to see the business case because
For further information www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/citynotforsale