A TORY council candidate has sparked fury after telling a hustings meeting that the city’s binmen did not know the value of hard work.
Paul Penman, who is standing for the Conservatives in Leith, was “howled down” for his remarks and today the trade union representing the refuse collectors accused him of acting like a “Victorian grandee looking down his nose at his servants”.
Mr Penman made his comments at a meeting in the Kirkgate community centre.
Gerry Farrell, of campaign group Leithers Don’t Litter, who attended the meeting, said: “His basic premise was bin collections were not working properly and the binmen weren’t working hard enough, so we should privatise refuse collection in Edinburgh.
“He was pretty much howled down by the room.
“He said if they don’t work hard enough, we need to give the service to people who will work hard enough.”
Mr Farrell defended the binmen. He said: “Leithers Don’t Litter work with the refuse collection people all the time. They work very hard. When Hibs won the Scottish Cup there were about six tons of rubbish on Leith Links and they cleared it within 24 hours with a team of just six guys.
“So they do a fantastic job – and they do it in the teeth of cuts. We deplore any attempt to smear them as lazy.”
Adam McVey, SNP councillor for the area and deputy environment convener, was also dismayed by Mr Penman’s comments.
He said: “He stated the problems with the waste collection were because our waste collection personnel didn’t know the value of work.
“It got a long intake of breath from everyone in the room.
“I tried to put him right about the cause of the problems, which is certainly not the work ethic of the employees.”
Cllr McVey went on to criticise the Conservatives’ plans to tender some or all of the waste collection service.
He said: “The Tories don’t understand what the issues are that need to be addressed.
“Their policy is to sell the waste service to the private sector and cross their fingers that the magic private sector fairies manage to sort it all out.”
Craig Cummings, convener of the Unite branch at the city council, said: “His comments have the ‘them and us’ feeling of a Victorian grandee looking down his nose at his servants.
“We have a clear message for Mr Penman and all other council candidates: our members have been struggling to keep the city clean in the face of massive cuts. Edinburgh’s environmental services budget has fallen by at least £17 million in real terms since 2009.”
Mr Penman was unavailable for comment. But Tory group leader Cameron Rose said: “Failing to outsource has cost the people of Edinburgh at least £15m per year.
“It is no secret that the waste collection service has been beset with problems which need addressed urgently.”