SNP group insists position on services is unchanged

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The SNP group on the city council today insisted that it remains committed to opposing proposals to privatise a series of council services.

The Nationalists angered their Liberal Democrat coalition partners after announcing they would favour the “in-house” alternative to bringing in Enterprise to take over services that include street cleaning, bin collections and ground maintenance.

Their announcement brought the coalition to the brink of collapse and led to a crunch meeting earlier this week, where “clear the air” talks were held between the two groups.

Rumours spreading through the City Chambers this week suggested that part of the deal would see the SNP support the Lib Dems and back the plans to outsource services.

But SNP group leader Steve Cardownie today said the rumours were not true and insisted that his group remains committed to keeping the jobs in the public sector. He said: “I can categorically swear on my life that it is not true. Our position is the same as it was in the full council meeting.”

A vote on whether to outsource the environmental services contract is due to take place at a meeting of the full council on November 24. The SNP, Labour and Green groups are all expected to back the in-house alternative, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are expected to unsuccessfully call for the services to be outsourced to Enterprise.

Council officials are currently holding discussions with trade union leaders to determine how realistic the savings initially estimated might be.

Estimates have indicated that Enterprise’s proposals would see a minimum of £51.4 million of savings over the seven-year contract, possibly rising to £72m, while the in-house alternative would save £45m.

Officials have already published a series of advertisements showing how the option of working with a “specialist delivery partner” compares less favourably on a range of measures.

Peter Hunter, regional organiser of the trade union Unison, which is fronting a joint union campaign against the proposals, said: “I am encouraged by this [SNP] position. I think the portrayal of the SNP as doing a U-turn is not fair, they have always looked at all the options.

“We are up for change and the SNP have offered the workforce and people in Edinburgh the chance to have a collective response to the financial crisis.”

A ticket-only public meeting is also due to be held on Thursday evening at the Lothian Chambers on George IV Bridge.

But Mr Hunter criticised an advert published by council officials to promote the event. He said: “For a council that has had nothing to say to the public for two years to come out with an advert which is a naked pitch for the privatisation option which systematically misrepresents the quality of the in-house bid is hugely disappointing and worrying.”