25 October 2011
Lib Dems and SNP posted missing as public meeting
calls for halt to privatisation
A packed public meeting called by UNISON at Edinburgh
University last night called for a halt to massive
privatisation and poured scorn on the council administration’s
failure to consult the public.
As the council decision to sell-off waste collection
and street cleaning looms on Thursday 27 October,
UNISON’s Peter Hunter urged people to contact
their Lib Dem and SNP councillors and demand that
they ‘listen to the people”, as well
as demonstrating outside the council at 8.30 that
day. He also signalled that the union may take legal
action against the council’s failure to consult.
Exposing the administration’s ‘secret’
Mori poll, Peter slammed the administration’s
labelling of genuine public concerns as ‘myths’
and ‘information gaps’. The fact that
consultation would only happen after the privatisation
decision was taken was ‘disgraceful’.
Peter demolished the flawed process, the false comparators
and the failed contracts across the country. (see
He revealed council plans, in breach of the government
PPP protocol, to allow private companies to close
the pension scheme to new employees – an unfair
advantage over the in-house bid but also a threat
to the whole pension scheme. The privatisation contracts
last between seven and 12 years, so the Lothian
pension scheme is “staring at a slow and lingering
He challenged Cllr Cameron Rose whether the other
councils in the pension fund had been consulted
on this and urged him to take this up in his role
on the pension fund.
The meeting was ably and entertainingly chaired
by Evening News columnist Martin Hannan who is an
SNP activist and ex UNISON steward. It heard a detailed
briefing from Peter Hunter but was denied the chance
to question the ruling coalition as both Lib Dem
and SNP leaders pulled out at the last minute.
However, Labour’s Andrew Burns did attend
and told the meeting that privatisation was “At
the wrong time, for the wrong reasons and the wrong
It was the wrong time when it was only 29 weeks
to the next election yet the administration was
committing any future council to contracts that
would run for at least seven, and perhaps 12 years.
The real place to consult the people was at the
ballot box, especially since neither the Lib Dems
or the SNP made any mention of massive privatisation
in their manifestos.
The reasons, cutting expenditure, were wrong because
there were other ways of doing that. The difference
between the in-house and privatised bid was only
£3million. There were other ways of saving
that in a budget of £1 billion if there was
the ‘political will’, especially when
the council was committing to paying £15.3
million a year for 30 years for the trams.
Andrew said he, like many councillors, came into
politics to try to make things better for people.
“I didn’t stand (as a councillor) to
be just a manager of contracts”, he said.
Somewhat courageously, Tory leader Jeremy Balfour
also attended to defend his support for the privatisation
plans. He claimed they would save jobs and save
money. He conceded that the plans would affect everyone
and he was also critical of the failure to engage
with the public.
The audience then weighed in with question after
question. Nick Gardner from Greater Leith Against
the Cuts asked probing questions about the environment
He was backed by bin men who underlined that they
had had wages cut already by up to 30% being ‘softened
up’ for privatisation. One stressed they took
pride in doing their best for the people of Edinburgh
as a public service and questioned what would happen
when the main motive was profit rather than service.
UNISON’s Kirsten Hey won huge applause when
she spoke of the disastrous result of privatisation
in the NHS.
Speaker after speaker praised UNISON’s role
in campaigning and exposing the council’s
plans to the people of Edinburgh.
For further information www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/citynotforsale
to Our City's Not For Sale