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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ten reasons why City of Edinburgh Councillors should oppose privatisation

Peter HunterThe City of Edinburgh Council will vote today on a plan to outsource environmental services to a private company. UNISON Organiser, Peter Hunter tells STV News why councillors should vote against.
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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Lib Dems and SNP posted missing as public meeting calls for halt to privatisation

A packed public meeting called by UNISON at Edinburgh University last night called for a halt to massive privatisation and poured scorn on the council administration’s failure to consult the public.

As the council decision to sell-off waste collection and street cleaning looms on Thursday 27 October, UNISON’s Peter Hunter urged people to contact their Lib Dem and SNP councillors and demand that they ‘listen to the people”, as well as demonstrating outside the council at 8.30 that day. He also signalled that the union may take legal action against the council’s failure to consult.

Exposing the administration’s ‘secret’ Mori poll, Peter slammed the administration’s labelling of genuine public concerns as ‘myths’ and ‘information gaps’. The fact that consultation would only happen after the privatisation decision was taken was ‘disgraceful’. Peter demolished the flawed process, the false comparators and the failed contracts across the country. (see briefing)

He revealed council plans, in breach of the government PPP protocol, to allow private companies to close the pension scheme to new employees – an unfair advantage over the in-house bid but also a threat to the whole pension scheme. The privatisation contracts last between seven and 12 years, so the Lothian pension scheme is “staring at a slow and lingering death”.

He challenged Cllr Cameron Rose whether the other councils in the pension fund had been consulted on this and urged him to take this up in his role on the pension fund.

The meeting was ably and entertainingly chaired by Evening News columnist Martin Hannan who is an SNP activist and ex UNISON steward. It heard a detailed briefing from Peter Hunter but was denied the chance to question the ruling coalition as both Lib Dem and SNP leaders pulled out at the last minute.

However, Labour’s Andrew Burns did attend and told the meeting that privatisation was “At the wrong time, for the wrong reasons and the wrong decision”.

It was the wrong time when it was only 29 weeks to the next election yet the administration was committing any future council to contracts that would run for at least seven, and perhaps 12 years. The real place to consult the people was at the ballot box, especially since neither the Lib Dems or the SNP made any mention of massive privatisation in their manifestos.

The reasons, cutting expenditure, were wrong because there were other ways of doing that. The difference between the in-house and privatised bid was only £3million. There were other ways of saving that in a budget of £1 billion if there was the ‘political will’, especially when the council was committing to paying £15.3 million a year for 30 years for the trams.

Andrew said he, like many councillors, came into politics to try to make things better for people. “I didn’t stand (as a councillor) to be just a manager of contracts”, he said.

Somewhat courageously, Tory leader Jeremy Balfour also attended to defend his support for the privatisation plans. He claimed they would save jobs and save money. He conceded that the plans would affect everyone and he was also critical of the failure to engage with the public.

The audience then weighed in with question after question. Nick Gardner from Greater Leith Against the Cuts asked probing questions about the environment contracts.

He was backed by bin men who underlined that they had had wages cut already by up to 30% being ‘softened up’ for privatisation. One stressed they took pride in doing their best for the people of Edinburgh as a public service and questioned what would happen when the main motive was profit rather than service.
UNISON’s Kirsten Hey won huge applause when she spoke of the disastrous result of privatisation in the NHS.

Speaker after speaker praised UNISON’s role in campaigning and exposing the council’s plans to the people of Edinburgh.

For further information

Friday, 21 October 2011


UNISON has condemned Edinburgh council for gambling with jobs and services as it sets out plans today to sell off the city’s essential cleansing, waste and award winning parks services. The union has also condemned the Council’s refusal to publish its last minute Mori poll into the public’s views.

The council is publishing the first of three controversial privatisation proposals when they recommend that councillors pass all environmental services to Enterprise, the private contractor.

“Edinburgh council is gambling with essential services, jobs and livelihoods by proposing wholesale privatisation”, said Peter Hunter, UNISON Regional Officer.

“Privatisation can only be seen as a massive gamble. The council should be “once bitten twice shy” after the fiasco with the Tram contractor, but like a compulsive gambler the council is determined to solve its problems with one more roll of the dice.

“And like most gamblers, the council has an audience of friends begging them to step away from the table. Unions, community groups and even Audit Scotland have all highlighted the fact that the odds on victory for Edinburgh are unattractive, but it would seem the die is cast”

“Councillors do not own Edinburgh’s services, they are merely the custodians of them. They have no right to gamble them in this way. When it all goes wrong it will be the taxpayer as usual who has to pay”.

The council report endorsing the sell off has been published at the end of a week when the council steadfastly refused to release the findings of the public consultation on privatisation.

“Having failed to tell voters about the privatisation plans for two years the council hired MORI to capture public opinion at the last minute. Although the report is censored and FOI requests have been denied, the council leaked excerpts of the report to the press so we know what voters think. Edinburgh people are hostile to privatisation, they resent the profit motive of private contractors and they rightly doubt the ability of the council to win any contract dispute over service standards. We need an honest public discussion on today’s proposals and that must start with release of the MORI report”, added Mr Hunter.

UNISON has asked all political parties to pledge their support for a fair process but the union has a specific message for SNP councillors as the party of Government gather for their annual conference in Inverness.

“UNISON has great admiration for the SNP vision for quality, integrated services in the NHS delivered by public sector workers. We stand with Nicola Sturgeon in condemning Tory health plans as an “experiment in privatisation” as she will say from the conference platform today. But Nicola doesn’t need to look beyond the streets of Edinburgh to see the threat of private experiments. Her capital city has been put up for sale. The fate of public services in Edinburgh lies in the hands of the SNP and we ask them to join us in saying no to private gambling and experimentation”.

For further information

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Edinburgh Council censors critical report as UNISON launches privatisation pledge

Unions have warned that the fall-out from Edinburgh council's £1billion privatisation plans could be 'worse than the trams', as citizens take things into their own hands by organising public meetings across the city to demand answers from the council.

Beleaguered officials at City of Edinburgh Council have censored a report which records public attitudes to the proposed £1 billion privatisation of council services.

Peter Hunter, UNISON's Regional Organiser for Edinburgh said:
“The council has a legal obligation to consult stakeholders on the great service sell-off and there has been growing criticism of the veil of secrecy surrounding plans for privatisation”.

Councillors attending public meetings across the city have witnessed the clamour for openness and transparency – a call endorsed in writing by UNISON, Audit Scotland and the council’s own independent consultants.

The censored report was written for the council by pollsters IPSOS MORI and it is based on the views of Edinburgh residents who came together to debate the council’s privatisation plan.

In response UNISON has launched a “Privatisation Pledge” - the union will be asking elected politicians to oppose privatisation of services until there has been full public consultation and proper scrutiny.

Peter Hunter explained the background:
“UNISON and the council’s consultants have been calling for consultation for over a year, but secrecy is the name of the game in Waverley Court. The MORI report was always just a fig leaf – it was only commissioned after the negotiation with bidders was finished. People never had the chance to influence the design of new services.”

Now the council faces further intense criticism for censoring public opinion.

Peter Hunter said:
“The lesson of the trams fiasco is that we need more scrutiny, not less. When we heard a rumour that the MORI report was being suppressed we made a Freedom of Information Request which has been refused. We’ll see what the courts make of that, but in the meantime we’re calling on councillors to make a stand. We want all councillors to pledge their public opposition to privatisation until we’ve had open and transparent consultation across the city. The city needs another tram fiasco like a hole in the head.”

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Monday, 10 October 2011

Somerset to take failed privatisation back in house

There are huge warning lights for Edinburgh as Tory Somerset council is negotiating to take many services back in-house – including finance and HR, with staff expected to transfer back next year. As the Daily Press has reported, the controversial deal was intended to save Somerset more than £200 million through sharing back-office functions, and also involved Avon & Somerset Police and IBM.

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who has waged a four-year campaign over the project, welcomed news that the county council is renegotiating its contract with Southwest One. But he warned the “failed enterprise” had wasted four years and cost taxpayers thousands of pounds.

Check out the website for full details

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Vote Yes to protect your pension

Papers will be out soon for the pensions ballot. Vote YES – you can’t afford to do anything else. More details at


Public Meeting 7pm Mon 24 October, Appleton Tower, Edinburgh University

Lobby the Council: 08.30-10.00 Thurs 27 October, City Chambers, High Street

"Privatisation and pensions attacks are wrecking services and fleecing public service workers. But there is an alternative if we are prepared to fight for it", John Stevenson, Branch President.

Get more info, leaflets and posters on the branch website at