Edinburgh ‘to privatise 2,000 council jobs’

Jenny Dawe branded the previous plans 'totally irresponsible' but Sue Bruce believes the proposed partnership will 'bring investment to the service.' Photos: Dan Phillips & Julie Bull
Jenny Dawe branded the previous plans 'totally irresponsible' but Sue Bruce believes the proposed partnership will 'bring investment to the service.' Photos: Dan Phillips & Julie Bull
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About 2,000 staff at Edinburgh city council face having their jobs transferred to a private firm under a new round of plans to save the authority tens of millions of pounds.

Two months after an attempt to privatise bin collections and street cleaning was thrown out by councillors, officials want to outsource services provided by janitors, catering staff, cleaners and porters.

Sue Bruce: 'The proposed partnership is anticipated to deliver significant service improvements'

Sue Bruce: 'The proposed partnership is anticipated to deliver significant service improvements'

A £170 million, seven-year contract with Bristol-based firm Mitie has been lined up under proposals that the council claims would save more than £51.5m over the same period.

However, there is huge uncertainty over whether the plans will go ahead, because of opposition within the SNP group on the council to the prospect of jobs being privatised.

Union leaders have vowed to protest at the City Chambers next week in an effort to have the plans thrown out.

A separate report, if approved, would see the council continue to run all corporate services, covering more than 800 human resources, payroll and IT staff.

The opposition from the Nationalists, who are in coalition with the Lib Dems in Edinburgh, led to the rejection of the previous plans, which were branded “totally irresponsible” by council leader Jenny Dawe.

The proposals were aimed at saving the council up to £72m, compared with an “in-house” alternative of £45m.

Mitie, a FTSE 250 company, delivers a range of cleaning, security and energy services for both public and private sector organisations and already employs 8,000 staff in Scotland.

This summer, the group landed a contract to provide support for events at Edinburgh Castle. It has cleaned the Scottish Parliament since 2004, and recently began providing cleaning services at Stirling Castle.

Mitie also works with the Scottish Prison Service, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life Investments.

Mitie said yesterday it would set up a subsidiary called Vital Edinburgh, headquartered in the capital and supported by local partners Atkins and Lambert Smith Hampton, to service the contract, which would also cover school meals, the council’s helpdesk and an elected members’ inquiry service.

Councillors will be told next week that Mitie’s bid would secure £51.5m worth of savings over seven years, plus a possible further £63m worth of savings.

In a report for the council, chief executive Sue Bruce said: “The proposed partnership is anticipated to deliver significant service improvements, bring investment to the service and meet efficiency objectives.

“The proposals are anticipated to make a significant contribution to bridging the funding gap within the council’s long-term financial plan.”

SNP group leader Steve Cardownie, the deputy council leader, said: “We will examine these proposals in great detail over the next few days before our group meeting on Tuesday.

“There has to be clear indications that it would be better going for the private-sector bid. We have already said we are predisposed to provide work in the public sector and that there is a presumption against private- sector contracts, but at the end of the day each group will have to come to its own conclusions on this.”

Ms Dawe could not be contacted for comment.

A spokesman for Mitie said: “Mitie Group is pleased to announce that it has been recommended as the preferred bidder by Edinburgh city council for its integrated facilities management contract.

“The recommendation is for Mitie to enter into a partnership contract with the council for the next seven years.”

However, John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of the trade union Unison, said: “This is the fundamental infrastructure, and though they appear to be back-room services, they are actually the nuts and bolts.”