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Date: Fri 21 October 2011

UNISON - if privatisation is a gamble in NHS, it's a gamble with Edinburgh Council

UNISON has condemned Edinburgh Council for gambling with jobs and services as it sets out plans 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 with a recommendation 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 Organiser.

"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 a 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' from the SNP 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".


Notes to editors:

1. There will be a public meeting organised by UNISON - to which all political parties on the council have been invited - on Monday night (24 October) at 7.00 pm in Appleton Tower, Crighton Street, University of Edinburgh.

2. UNISON along with other unions and community groups will be staging a lobby outside the City Chambers from 8.30am to 10.00 am on Thursday 27 October when the first contract will be voted on by full council.

For further information contact:
Peter Hunter, Regional Officer, UNISON 0774 016 7777