Edinburgh Council 'have no plans' to consult with public over proposed council tax rise as outsourcing services ruled out

COUNCIL leaders have confirmed no “specific consultation” will be held with residents over a proposed council tax hike – as Conservatives called for bosses to consider outsourcing services to private companies to prevent deep cuts next year.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 17:02 pm
City Chambers, Edinburgh

One proposal being considered by the SNP-Labour coalition at City Chambers, in an attempt to bridge an expected £36m funding gap for next year, is to increase council tax by 4.79 per cent. Last year, the Scottish Government increased the three per cent cap, but Edinburgh Council chiefs refused to pass it on to residents.

Conservative Cllr Andrew Johnston quizzed officials as to whether the public will be asked specifically if they back a further rise in council tax.

Council officer David Porteous said that “councils are not obliged to consult on the setting of council target” and confirmed that “there would not be a specific consultation on it and none is planned”,

The council’s head of strategy and communications, Lawrence Rockley added: “We are keen to engage with the public as much as possible.”

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Finance and resources convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, added: “We’ve had a number of internal and external consultations where these sorts of questions are raised. I think that’s a legitimate way to go about it.”

Mr Rockey admitted “it’s undoubtedly true that its harder and harder to find savings that don’t have an impact on front-line services”.

Tory finance spokesperson, Cllr Graham Hutchison, called for the authority to consider outsourcing services to private companies, rather than being forced to cut front-line services.

He said: “To what degree are we restrained as a council to the aversion to outsourcing certain services?

Cllr Rankin confirmed that the SNP-Labour administration has a “presumption against outsourcing” and that “it makes sense for us to take a cautious view”.

He said: “It’s quite clear that a number of councils in England have been in-sourcing, having found that out-sourcing has not worked for them.”

Labour Cllr Mandy Watt added: “The council in-sourcing allows the council to give people employment, terms and conditions that allow them to actually have a decent life.

“In a lot of incidents of outsourcing, any savings actually comes form damaging the pay of the people working in that sector which is really against what we are trying to achieve for our citizens.”