Edinburgh has never looked worse and the city is leaderless – Adam McVey
Evening News journalist Brian Ferguson summed it up best: “Woefully poor leadership in the city, the worst I can recall in 30 years here.”
Despite being in opposition, this isn’t a situation we want to see. In a time of crisis, our Capital needs clear leadership to fix problems and deliver the best for our staff and residents, even in the toughest of circumstances.
Last week the SNP published a motion to council to try and help the pay dispute. The original aim was to force Labour to U-turn on their position of only offering a “derisory” 3.5 per cent to our staff, despite having funds for 4.5 per cent in the bank to meet a pay award.
Their position of short-changing workers by hundreds of pounds was unforgivable and, as expected, the unions progressed with the strike as a result. We believe council would have instructed the Labour council leader to join with SNP-led councils and vote to raise the offer.
However, thankfully, there was a breakthrough. Cosla changed its position a week later when all council leaders finally agreed with the SNP and voted to raise the offer, bringing unions back to the negotiating table and taking the discussion further on.
This brought the Scottish Government round the table to offer any help it can too. It has already put £140m on the table to help councils increase the pay offer and agreed budget flexibilities to help meet further costs.
While Edinburgh’s Labour leader was wrong to offer 3.5 per cent, the failure of leadership since has arguably been just as bad. Labour have presented no ideas of how to reach resolution, no facilitation of discussions to crystallise issues to help Cosla’s effort through negotiation. Basically they’ve had a policy of duck and cover.
As things had moved on when Thursday’s council meeting came, we amended our motion with other suggestions, focusing on multi-year pay deals and public-sector parity, to ensure pay across NHS, police, and so on, is the same as the offer to council workers.
The Greens had some helpful suggestions and even the Tories brought forward ideas so, although we disagreed with them and voted against, at least they tried.
So what of Labour? They brought nothing but a blame-game diatribe, offering nothing to improve the situation faced by residents or aiding negotiations to better support our staff.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. In an interview with the Edinburgh Reporter recently, the Labour leader resorted to blaming local businesses for the current state of the city, suggesting they do more to help sort the mess, seemingly unaware it’s those in power who need to do more.
The first rule of leadership is the buck stops with you, a lesson they’re yet to learn.
The conclusion of the council meeting was that the Labour-Tory-Lib Dem administration united behind the Tory proposals of using non-waste council staff to try and go around the industrial action.
This was a shocking result. As unions and Cosla met in the Scottish Government building on Regent Road, Labour in Edinburgh were nodding along to the Tories.
If anyone is in any doubt that this is a coalition, they can’t be now. What’s worse is it’s a coalition built on the ideas of the Tories.
Councillor Adam McVey is SNP group leader