Edinburgh Council coalition in split over employee restructure

Edinburgh City Chambers, Picture: Phil Wilkinson / TSPL
Edinburgh City Chambers, Picture: Phil Wilkinson / TSPL
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EDINBURGH City Council’s staff restructuring strategy has been put on hold after two of the ruling coalition’s members refused to back pressing ahead without more consultation with trade unions.

Conservative councillors on the finance and resources committee said the split in the administration’s ranks “effectively amended the budget” that was agreed for 2019-20 last month.

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Members agreed a two-month delay after trade unions accused the authority of a “brutalist Job Centre Plus approach” to the strategy and called for “meaningful consultation”.

The council believes the new policy will allow consultations with staff to “focus more on mitigation of redundancy”, rather than staff “often waiting weeks after consultation closes to know if they have secured a role or not”. It is thought around 200 full time equivalent jobs will be cut in 2019-20 despite a no compulsory redundancy policy – while the council needs to cut at least £147m over the next four years from its finances.

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Green Cllr Claire Miller’s amendment for a pause was set to fail, despite also being backed by Conservative councillors. But finance and resources convener Cllr Alistair Rankin, who wanted to press ahead with the policy, was defeated when SNP Cllr Kate Campbell and Labour Cllr Mandy Watt abstained from the vote.

Cllr Campbell, the council’s housing and economy convener, had earlier spoken out about worries over communication and proposed cuts to economic development and said she felt “anxious” about the issue – while Cllr Watt said she had “completely lost the feel for where my responsibility sits” in the policy.

The council’s head of human resources, Katy Miller, said that staff involvement was “absolutely crucial”. She added: “The driver for this policy is about involving them from the outset.”

Tory Cllr Andrew Johnson said: “This should never have been in the budget. Councillors shouldn’t have to worry about doing the right thing because there’s a financial consequence.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Iain Whyte added: “A number of things have gone through the budget without any detail, with a fair bit of secrecy and no consultation. Now we are getting policies to implement the budget after we have agreed the budget.”

Cllr Miller said: “At a time when the council is having to change fast, it’s vital that the council recognises that our biggest asset is staff and staff need to feel their voice is heard.

“It’s now really important that the next ten weeks is used productively to get round the table with trade union colleagues and come back with a policy that can be a solid foundation for future change.”