Give us a say in moves to outsource vital services

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UNIONS and MSPs are calling on the city council to delay its £1 billion privatisation plans until there has been a full public consultation.

Public sector union Unison says the outsourcing move would affect all council services and the jobs of 4000 staff. But it claims there has been little public information and virtually no debate about the proposals.

Three major contracts have been put out to tender, one covering infrastructure, such as janitors, cleaning and facilities management.

Another is for corporate services, including human resources and finance functions, for all departments. The third covers environmental health, including bin collection.

Council chiefs are expected to announce their preferred bidder for two contracts next month. Unison branch president John Stevenson said: "Here we have 1bn worth of services about to be privatised and we don't even have a proper public consultation. We are opposed to the privatisation, but at least postpone this until the people of Edinburgh can have some say on it."

Unison held a public meeting last week in Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, attended by about 150 people.

Mr Stevenson, who chaired the meeting, said: "The fact that people were hungry for information on the privatisation plans shows just how much they have been kept in the dark about the scale of the sell-off.

"The council must now delay a decision and come clean with the people of Edinburgh on the enormity of plans that will affect every service across the council and every citizen."

Unison says the plans amount to the largest ever single privatisation of services in Scotland and warn it will be seen as a template for other councils.

Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament, echoing union concerns.

He said: "Edinburgh council appears to be rushing headlong into a major privatisation of council services without any real consultation. I would urge the council to postpone its plans, assess the impact of these proposals and look for alternatives."

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: "We are following an open process, which actively involves the unions. It is vital to remember that no final decisions have been taken. In this financial climate it is essential that we explore every possible opportunity to enhance services and improve efficiency and value for money."