At the end of January, it was reported that Edinburgh Council had managed by good financial management and totally not as a pre-election ploy for May, that they’d spend £2m on pothole repairs, a “spring clean” of Edinburgh’s dirtiest streets, some kind of tramwork measures, even new bus shelters, cycle parking, and road safety initiatives.
“The Edinburgh Spring Clean will give us the opportunity to target some problem hot spots with extra trained staff drafted in on a temporary basis, through an existing contract. This money has been made available through careful financial management and will ensure that Leith and city centre residents, visitors and businesses will notice a real improvement quite quickly.”
Aldridge was one of the Lib Dem group on the council who were defeated on what they called the “Alternative Business Model”, what everyone else calls privatisation. (Bill Ness, who was involved in developing the “alternative business model”, was suspended at the end of 2011 for other reasons and has since left his post.)
What Aldridge means by “extra trained staff drafted in on a temporary basis” is privatisation – defeated at the beginning of February. There is £500,000 to spend on the Edinburgh Spring Clean initiative – specialist equipment that can be used to clean up streets, remove graffiti and discarded chewing gum, in in the city centre and in Leith. The work has to be carried out in March, and initially council cleaning staff were told they could volunteer to do this on their days off for extra money.
“The management put a notice up for 12 days’ overtime, which we had the option to work on our days off, but after two days they took it down and we found out Enterprise were going to be brought in. We actually had to find out from an agency worker rather than the management. The council is always on about saving money but surely it would be cheaper to pay us. The guys are thinking too much work is being handed over and the morale has really dropped because it would have boosted their wages.”
Enterprise was the private company who were intended to get the benefit of the first tranche of privatisation, which was defeated in November 2011.
After the Lib Dems and Conservatives had been defeated, Jenny Dawe, Lib Dem councillor and leader of Edinburgh Council, claimed the vote against handing services to Enterprise had been “totally irresponsible” because the Alternative Business Model (drafted by Bill Ness, who left his post over the tenements tax) had provided evidence that Enterprise would be cheaper. She said:
“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.”
So, the Lib Dems on the council wanted Enterprise. And they have been able to hand Enterprise, if not the 7-year privatisation contract they’d thought they could offer, but at least half a million of street cleaning.
Nick Gardner describes how Alasdair Slessor, Operations Director of Enterprise, was favoured at the October council meeting: he
was in the gallery, and it was turned into his own private opera box. Labour Group Councillors observed journos being herded upstairs, away from their usual seats on the Council floor; they also noticed an unusual number of Council staff in the gallery. Campaigners with valid passes – who have been challenging the ABM process for months were denied access – despite what appeared to be empty spaces. I observe Council meetings, and there is generally a relaxed atmosphere, where people come and go, and share some craik, across the parties and divides. It can be more entertaining and illuminating than what goes on down below, quite frankly. Anyhow, not last Thursday >:-(((
How was the decision to give Enterprise this contract arrived at?