Dispute stalls evening repairs plan

Unions said the business case for the Council's scheme does not 'stack up'. Picture: Ian MacNicol
Unions said the business case for the Council's scheme does not 'stack up'. Picture: Ian MacNicol
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THE roll-out of an evening repairs service for council ­tenants has stalled amid a ­dispute with union leaders, it has emerged.

Evening appointments for routine repairs were due to be introduced six months ago but the move was frozen after union chiefs rejected the idea.

The new system had been hailed as a coup for council tenants because it meant they would not have to take time off work to allow workmen access to their homes.

A significant number of residents had been eager to see the changes introduced.

But the launch has become mired in ongoing delays, with union leaders at Unite, which counts many of the council’s tradesmen as members, insisting the business case does not “stack up”.

And they warned the introduction of routine evening appointments risked “diluting” the quality of the daytime service.

Stressing his members were committed to providing emergency repairs, Peter Lawson, convener of the union’s city council branch, said: “Currently the agency bill to run the normal Edinburgh 
Building Services (EBS) service is extremely high.

“The business case presented to Unite to bring in this significant change did not seem to stack up. The basics of supply and demand did not seem to support the case anywhere near the levels the department were proposing at the last meeting we had with them months ago.

“Despite the fact the 
proposed changes would have added well over £100,000 on to the wage bill, our members 100 per cent rejected the department’s case on practical grounds.”

And he said there were concerns about the impact on those living next to tenants.

“In our view, there was little consideration being given to the disruption routine 
maintenance work might have upon neighbours,” he said.

“For example, the type of routine work carried out by our members in the trades section can be noisy. Whilst it might suit one tenant to have significant work carried out at 7pm in the evening, their neighbour downstairs with young children going to bed might see it a little differently.”

He added: “We strongly recommend that the council continues to work with Unite craft convener Jimmy Boyle and other Unite representatives to deliver what we currently do properly and efficiently. Let’s get the basics right before considering luxury options.”

Opposition politicians have criticised the delay and called on city bosses to be better ­prepared when announcing major new initiatives.

Conservative councillor Jason Rust said: “In future, one would hope the council would consider all the legalities and different angles before putting forward good news stories.”

Housing chiefs said talks with union staff were continuing.

Councillor Cammy Day, housing leader, said: “Feedback from tenants consulted on the introduction of the service has been positive.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com