Edinburgh council starts taking work back from private contractors 'to improve quality of service and conditions for staff'
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Council chiefs are set to move part of an out-sourced £18 million repair and maintenance contract back in house as the first step in a policy they say will improve the quality of services and the conditions of workers.
A seven-year contract for hard facilities management services – repair and maintenance – for over 660 council buildings, as well as statues and monuments, was awarded to contractors Mitie and Skanska, starting in October 2021. But the contract allows the council to take back parts of the work. After an organisational review, the council is already planning to increase the in-house team from 29 to 55 with new roles in contract management, the council's fire, asbestos and water teams and in fabric and engineering.
And a report to Tuesday's (January 17) policy and sustainability committee says there are further opportunities to increase the use of in-house resources in janitorial services, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. But it says there is little scope for in-housing beyond that because of "peaks and troughs" in the work, with the council needing a lot of resources for defined periods but not wanting to carry the cost in between. And it said in-housing would also mean having fixed labour costs for certain activities, which would reduce flexibility for the council.
Council leader Cammy Day welcomed the proposed shift towards in-house posts, but said he wanted to go further. Labour's manifesto at last year's council elections committed to “direct council provision of council services”, retaining those currently provided directly and bringing back into the council services that had been contracted to external providers. It said: "This will improve the quality of services, and the working conditions of those who carry out the work."
The report by officials follows a motion by Cllr Day asking for a fresh look at the “hard FM” contract and the potential for in-housing areas of the contract where possible. Cllr Day said: "The report does start to do that, so I'm pleased at that but I think we need to go further and look at additional parts of the contract that could be brought in-house over a period of time."
He said the council would not have the capacity to take over the whole contract and there would be some specialised areas of work where it would prefer the work to be done by contractors, but the hope was that the council should provide the services directly where it could. “We want to get these private contracts back into council ownership and then employ council staff on terms and conditions that go along with that.”