COUNCILLORS have voted against plans to privatise maintenance of public buildings, including schools and libraries – sparking fears compulsory redundancies are now inevitable.
City council officers have been instructed to develop fresh blueprints which would retain the departments in-house, with external support provided by business services giant Deloitte. The decision to reject outsourcing comes as the council bids to save £141 million and cut around 2000 staff over the next four years.
City chiefs previously warned maintaining public control over property management would lead to additional costs of £5.4m and the loss of at least 250 jobs.
They said every effort would be made to achieve cuts on a voluntary basis and through re-deploying workers, but added that failure to back privatisation would make compulsory redundancies unavoidable.
Alastair Maclean, the city council’s deputy chief executive, said: “I’m well aware of the Capital Coalition’s presumption against outsourcing.
“Retaining buildings management in-house has issues around the fact that, we haven’t managed to make that scale of change. It requires a lot of hard work to get there and considerable flexibility in the workforce, that will require compulsory redundancies, that will require a much more agile way of thinking – and, sadly, it will not get us to even half the savings [outsourcing] could have made.”
Senior council sources have indicated that a possible compromise could see the administration’s “no compulsory redundancy” pledge maintained but with a time-limit introduced on redeployment.
This could mean the option of moving posts is offered to all workers on condition that employment is terminated if no agreement is reached within a fixed period of time. Union leaders said this would amount to bringing in compulsory cuts through the back door, potentially triggering a strike ballot.
John Stevenson, president of Unison City of Edinburgh Council branch, said: “The situation now has improved slightly – we’re now in a position to talk and try to avoid compulsory redundancies. But our default position remains that, to compulsory redundancies and, perhaps, to default compulsory redundancies, there would be an industrial response.”
Senior councillors said the decision to reject privatisation would ensure they provide services which residents “need and want”. Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said: “With greater demand for our services and our budget remaining the same, we need to take action to ensure we safeguard frontline services.”