Martin Hannan: Salami slicing is recipe for chaos

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The announcement that 1200 jobs are to be shed at Edinburgh City Council just proves what many people think, which is that nobody in the Chambers really knows what is going on.

Let’s take last month’s full council meeting for a start. There was a clear divergence among councillors as to what the cuts would amount to, with the Conservatives suggesting 3000 job losses and council leader Andrew Burns replying that it would be in the hundreds.

Well it’s neither, as is usually the case. The figure of 1200 has now been advanced and if you read the report that caused this number to be calculated, you will see that it is based on guesswork – pretty scientific guesswork, but a guess all the same.

The guess element comes from the fact that the council is determined to press ahead with what the unions call “salami slicing”, namely taking out an entire level of middle-manager roles.

They don’t like that word “roles” do the unions, and this SNP member is not fond of it either. It suggests that the people – the real flesh and blood people who will lose their jobs – are just acting out parts in the soap opera that is local government.

It’s the kind of nonsense that allows otherwise sane people to talk about the “Tesco-isation” of council services, presumably to indicate citizens using technology to get their services delivered.

What a pity for the senior source who referred to Tesco – the following day the company announced wholesale closures of unprofitable branches. If they did that in the council, what would stay open?

This so-called “self-service” approach to council services is all very well in theory, but the personal touch will be lost and no amount of “role playing” will make up for lost people on the front line or behind it.

I just don’t buy the whole “roles” thing. Real people will lose their jobs and they will not be replaced by real people. That in turn will put even more stress on the real people that stay behind.

In this scenario, something will give, and I am absolutely certain that it will be the health of workers across the council. Put it this way, if there are four of you in, say, a social work team, and one of you is the middle manager, if you then take away the middle manager you are left with three people doing the job of four and there’s no middle manager to take responsibility. That’s a recipe for chaos and stressed workers if ever I saw one, with social work across Scotland barely coping with the workload which increases by the day.

I have said it before and will repeat it – we need to find new and better ways of funding not just local councils but all public services. If that means extra taxes to keep hospitals and schools open then so be it, but someone has to convince the public that their money is being spent on vital necessary services and not just vanity projects like, ahem, the trams.

There is a massive crunch coming for the public sector. It’s time for our local Labour/SNP coalition politicians to step up to the mark with new ideas and a commitment to solving problems.

Can we bear another baby wait?

It is to be hoped that two of our temporary residents, Yang Guang and Tian Tian, will have made a New Year resolution to get cracking on the business of starting a family.

After all, they have been here since December 2011, and that is surely a long enough honeymoon for even such slow creatures as giant pandas.

That’s three of their ten years here now gone, so can we suggest they get a move on? Or perhaps we should wait to the Chinese New Year on February 19 before wishing them all the best for the year ahead.

Ger into them and title’s won

I can’t wait for the big match on Friday night when Hearts go to Ibrox with a 13-point lead at the top of the Championship. There’s no fear factor at the Glasgow stadium these days, but I won’t put a hex on Hearts and say they will win. But a draw looks good to me, and the title will then be Tynecastle-bound.


I see the old ferry link between Granton and Fife story has been recycled, this time with a hovercraft involved. I wish the developers well, but it will be a hard sell.