Edinburgh budget: Labour insists there will be no compulsory redundancies and no outsourcing of services
Backbench Labour councillor calls for change of leadership
Edinburgh’s minority Labour administration has insisted there will be no compulsory redundancies or outsourcing of council services despite having to implement the Lib Dems’ budget rather than their own after last week’s full council meeting.
Tactical voting by Green councillors, who backed other parties’ motions in the first round of voting in order to eliminate Labour’s budget proposals, ensured the final choice was between a joint SNP-Green budget and the Lib Dems’ package. Labour and the Conservatives backed the Lib Dems’ budget, which was approved. But the proposals include a call for a “best value” review, with a view to outsourcing the council’s waste and cleansing services and also removal of the current pledge of no compulsory redundancies so that £600,000 could be saved from the “redeployment pool” of senior staff whose roles no longer exist but who remain on their previous salaries.
Council leader Cammy Day said: “As leader of this council and the Edinburgh Labour group, it will always be my commitment to invest in public services, protect our council workforce and stand up for our city. The Greens voted with the Tories to manipulate the budget process threatening compulsory redundancies and privatisation. We will bring forward proposals to in-house council services from private providers and remain 100 per cent committed to no compulsory redundancies.”
Meanwhile, Leith Labour councillor Katrina Faccenda called for Cllr Day to go. She tweeted that she had missed the budget votes because of a family emergency – her partner is very ill in hospital – but said: “I would not have voted for the Lib Dem Budget. Edinburgh Labour group now needs to show humility and admit they got it wrong and apologise to our brothers and sisters in the trade unions. The way forward for Labour and to repair the damage made to our relationship with trade unions is a fresh start. We need a new leadership and a new direction.”
Her call came after SNP group leader Adam McVey also urged Cllr Day to resign. He said: "Labour said their red lines were keeping no compulsory redundancies and keeping services in-house but yesterday they voted to sack staff and privatise waste services. How can anyone believe a word they say now? They could have voted for the left wing SNP-Green budget which protected staff and kept services in house but they shamefully prioritised their own jobs rather than maintain a shred of principle."
However, Labour transport convener Scott Arthur said there was no change of policy on redundancies or outsourcing. He said: "There will be no compulsory redundancies and no outsourcing of services. The only way there can be compulsory redundancies and outsourcing of services is if three parties on the council vote for it and Labour is not going to be one of those parties. We've had initial discussions with the Lib Dems and they respect our position on this." And he said there was no protection in the SNP-Green budget against compulsory redundancies or outsourcing.
He said the budget which was approved included more money for waste and cleansing and more money for roads and footpaths maintenance. "We'll take that money and we will use that to create jobs and bring those services inside the council. It's not going to be about private contractors that extra money, it's going to be about new jobs, good pay, better conditions and better quality work."
Cllr Arthur said there had been majority support within the council for Labour's budget – the Lib Dems and Tories had been expected to back Labour’s package once their own had been voted down – and it was "frustrating" the system had been "manipulated" to prevent it being passed. But he added there was “quite a lot of alignment” between the Labour and Lib Dem budgets. And he attacked the SNP-Green package as “a budget designed to tick boxes”. He said: “There was something in it for everybody, they were handing ut money right, left and centre to groups. It's just big long list of tiny little bits of money being handed out to people.”
He said the SNP only planned to allocate an extra £500,000 for roads and pavements: “Imagine what the city would look like in a year's time. There's no way we could support that. We looked at the SNP budget and we could see it was a budget designed to achieve glorious failure. That's what opposition budgets are about - they have to add up, but they don't have to be deliverable. Just £500,000 for road and footpath maintenance? That's just crazy. It's negligent.”