Martin Hannan: We need facts not speculation over job losses

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As trade unionists and politicians disagree about the numbers of jobs that are going to be lost at Edinburgh City Council, you can be sure of one thing – there are certainly going to be many hundreds fewer employees at the local authority.

Unison and Unite say up to 3000 jobs will go, and on a strict arithmetical calculation based on budget shortfalls that would be about right. But council leader Andrew Burns says he does not recognise that figure.

Who do we believe? The man in charge or those representing the people at the coalface?

With there being such a fundamental disagreement over numbers, the case has been completely made for an independent review of just exactly how many jobs are going to be lost at the council.

It’s important that we get proper estimates, and genuine ones that are beyond argument. Why? Because we need facts and not speculation, that’s why. It matters a great deal because the citizens of Edinburgh must know what is facing the council and its workers who provide essential services, especially education, social care, refuse collection, libraries and leisure facilities.

All of these services are labour intensive and no amount of high-falutin’ techno talk is going to persuade people that workers can be replaced by computers in the council’s forthcoming “transformation”.

Tablets cannot do the job of teachers, bin lorries can’t drive themselves, swimming pool lifeguards can save drowning people while smartphones merely sink, and the computer has not yet been devised that can physically assist an elderly person into bed.

So all the stuff and nonsense that has been spouted about “transformation” is only just so much management speak that ignores the real issue – that council services are provided by real people doing real jobs, and I for one never cease to be amazed that they do so while under constant threat of cuts and with wages that have not kept pace with private sector inflation in recent years. For what it’s worth, my senior sources at the council think ten per cent of the workforce will eventually go – between 1900 and 2000 posts. I would not be surprised if it is much more, and here’s why.

What really did shock staff at the council last week was the fact that the council will offer voluntary redundancy terms to all its employees.

I will be very surprised if the doors to the council’s human resources department are not knocked down by the many hundreds of people who will rush to avail themselves of the chance to leave.

Teachers, too, are apparently included in the offer, and that alone will guarantee a big uptake in the voluntary redundancy programme, because morale in some of our school staffrooms has never been lower.

As with all such redundancy offers, no doubt the council will insist on having the last word on who is allowed to go but, even so, it will be unavoidable that some of the best and most experienced staff will take the money and go, leaving those behind to deal with the chaos that large scale redundancies always cause.

I would expect those management staff with more than 20 years service to apply en masse, because they will remember the last great local government reorganisation in 1995 and will not want to repeat that largely unhappy experience.

Clarity on MPs’ views essential

The Labour Party is going to have to address the dichotomy presented by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Corbyn stood on an anti-austerity, pro-nationalisation ticket, and the fact that he won so resoundingly suggests that the Labour membership have embraced his politics.

Yet Corbyn’s opponents within the party – mostly MPs - believe he cannot win middle England, and thus power at Westminster, with such policies.

This SNP member says there is only one honest resolution – Corbyn must now draft a new manifesto and every Labour MP must sign up to it, or else resign from the party.

Serve some aid to the Yes Cafe

Sad to report that the Yes Cafe in Edinburgh South has hit a bit of financial trouble. It’s an excellent venue for so many things and deserves the support of everyone who favours independence.

Mike Blackshaw, who has given so much of his time to the café, emphasises: “We are not closing, but we do need your help.”

He suggests ways in which supporters can raise cash, such as joining the easyfunding website – “it costs you nothing but we get a drip feed donation every time you buy online” – and supporting the two car boot sales this Sunday.

Joining the “friends of the cafe” costs £10, or you can donate online, with details on the cafe’s website. Every little helps.

Royal High plan veto is spot on

Not often I agree with Historic Scotland, but its objection to the hotel plan for the former Royal High School is spot on. No matter how the developers portray it, their planned extensions will “dominate and overwhelm” the listed building. Time for a better plan involving use of the Royal High for public good rather than private profit.

Let’s hear it for John’s crusade

Here’s praise for a Tory MSP – well done to Deputy Presiding Officer John Scott for his one-man campaign to keep Holyrood Park free of litter. Let’s all do our bit to help him and take our litter home.