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Siu Index
Feb/March 2007 No 65

'Pseudo-charity' threat to Glasgow's culture and leisure services

by Chris Bartter

Outsourcing Glasgow's Cultural and Leisure is likely to prove an election issue. Glasgow City Council is proposing to transfer nearly 2,500 staff working in Glasgow's libraries, museums, leisure centres, swimming pools and other sports facilities, and arts development to a private charitable trust, in order to avoid paying tax and business rates.

Council 'assets' - ie the physical artefacts owned by the council will be safeguarded in the event of the need to bring them back in-house - there are no such guarantees for staff.

The proposals are being rushed through the council with little or no consultation, in order to set up the huge charity on 1 April before the elections.

UNISON has strongly objected to the proposals and it looks likely that the hiving off will be a major issue in the upcoming local elections.

Kate Riordan, Glasgow Branch Convenor of Culture and Leisure said, "These proposals will mean all of Glasgow's culture and leisure services moving out of the control of the people of Glasgow, and into the grasp of unelected bankers.

"The only reasons being given by the council are financial, and there are major concerns from staff (and the public) about the joined up services we currently provide and the long-term viability of any trust - given the track record of other examples down south."

The Branch has put a list of the major objections on its website www.glasgowcityunison.org.uk/id3.html. This also lists three questions to ask candidates in the forthcoming elections.

Whilst many other authorities have set up trusts to run sports and leisure service, and some have also included museums, this appears to be the first time that all these services plus libraries are to be hived off. The introduction of a huge 'pseudo-charity' of this sort is unlikely to be welcomed in the voluntary sector.

In addition to a political campaign, UNISON is also investigating legal challenges and negotiating with the Council to protect staff caught up in the transfer.

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