Edinburgh dumps plan to privatise binmen

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PLANS by Edinburgh city council to privatise services including bin collections and street cleaning, have been abandoned after they were voted down.

The decision on the outsourcing of the environmental service contract was taken following a debate at the City Chambers last night.

Council officials had wanted to hand the contract, worth £210 million, to the private firm Enterprise, but were opposed by Labour, SNP and Green councillors.

Last night, Jenny Dawe, the Lib Dem council leader, branded the three parties as “irresponsible” and accused of them of acting on political considerations rather than for the public good.

The council will now deliver its environmental services through an in-house, public service comparator (PSC) bid.

The Lib Dems’ preference for the Enterprise bid had been supported by Conservative councillors. Only one Lib Dem councillor, Gary Peacock, chose to vote against the private option.

Following the defeat, Ms Dawe said: This is a totally irresponsible decision. Councillors are required to take account of best value in reaching decisions. This means keeping an open mind and basing decisions on evidence.

“I cannot understand how anyone could possibly assess the internal public sector comparator as offering best value compared to the Enterprise proposals reached after a long period of competitive dialogue.”

Ms Dawe insisted that a “compelling case” had been for accepting the Enterprise bid, and that it would not constitute privatisation. “To reject the bid on grounds of political ideology or for perceived electoral gain, as appears to have been the case, was not fair to the bidders or to the residents of Edinburgh.”

After the vote, SNP group leader Steve Cardownie said that if the council had gone ahead with the privatisation of the services, it would have been the first local authority in Scotland to do this and so had to consider its position carefully.

“We weighed everything up, We always knew that at the end of the process it would be a decision that had to be made by the council. We’re entitled to our view… We had discussions with the unions and the workforce, received information from Enterprise, and having looked at it, the SNP was of the view that the work should be retained in-house.”

He said that the SNP group had been fully satisfied that the workforce had shown they would accept the changes in their employment conditions which would be brought in by the PSC.

The public sector union Unison welcomed the council’s decision, stating it had taken the “best value” option.