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Lessons must be learned from action - Branches across Scotland are being asked to contibute to a major review of the nursery nurse industrial action.

Sorry for the missing magazines

Housing privatisation 'insult to members

Delay in settling pay claim as other unions consult again

News round the departments UNISON is working for you

New branch officers elected

Why UNISON opposes housing stock transfer

New banner matches traditional with modern

Child & Family Centres claim

Possible movement on job evaluation?

Black members group here at last

'Dramatic' twist to anti-PFI campaign - UNISON sponsors 7:84 'Private Agenda' tour - based on the voices of its members

UNISON News Oct04


Sponsoring Salma

A council with no Social Work Department, no Housing stock, no schools and no sports centres? - it is happening now...

The views expressed in UNISON News are not necessarily those of UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch or the union. All articles/comments to Communications Officer at webmanager@unison-edinburgh.org.uk


Lessons must be learned from action

Branches across Scotland are being asked to contibute to a major review of the nursery nurse industrial action.

Edinburgh's 400 nursery nurses voted to accept a revised pay offer and return to work on 31 May after over a year of selective action and three months of all out strike.

The offer was 'reluctantly' recommended after seven hours of talks at ACAS. Nursery nurses voted to accept by five to one in a postal ballot.

"The nursery nurses were magnificent throughout this dispute and a model to others with their good nature, solid organisation and real commitment to the future of early years care and education", said John Stevenson, UNISON Edinburgh Branch Secretary.

"They achieved an unprecedented 10 point pay rise, a lump sum of up to £2,500 and an opportunity for almost one in three to progress to an even higher grade.

"Along with winning a Scottish Executive national review, that is the biggest achievement I have seen by any group of workers over the last 20 years", added John.

Carol Ball, UNISON leader of the nursery nurse working group and a nursery nurse herself, is to be on that review.

"Most of all, they have forced the council and the Scottish Executive to wake up to the importance of early years care and education and to the crucial services for children with special needs. We will be watching the national review very closely", added John.

"We will be consulting each and every nursery nurse on the lessons to be learned from the dispute", said Barbara Foubister, UNISON Edinburgh branch chairperson and also a nursery nurse.

The issues the branch is keenest to address are:-

  • How the initial claim was formed: The claim itself did not help us in Edinburgh given our members' conditions.
  • Clarify the role of the nursery nurses working group, the local government committee and members themselves in running the dispute
  • What we do about branches making local deals within national industrial action - this undermined the campaign from an early stage.

Dispute still not over

As we went to print we were still in talks trying to get the money sorted out for two nursery assistants as well as supply nursery nurses - UNISON was clear the agreement had included both groups but disagreements arose with the council on this.

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Sorry for the missing magazines

Our apologies for the lack of branch magazines recently but we hope this issue marks a return to regular bulletins.

The problem has been sheer workload with the exceptional Social Work issues over the last year, the nursery nurses year-long action and the more recent huge reorganisation involving Social Work, Education and central functions.

The magazine normally takes about three weeks to turn round from copy date, through to printing and distribution. This meant that most news would have been out of date by the time it reached you as things were changing by the day in all these issues.

We have however been issuing bulletins to the affected workers and departments and city-wide via stewards, so we hope you got some information.

We will use this issue to bring the latest news but also to catch up on some of the main issues over the last few months.

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Housing privatisation 'insult to members

Despite assuring the union that the involvement of private company Pinnacle PLC in managing housing stock in the north of Edinburgh would end, the council has now handed the company a two year extension as well as additional responsibilities.

Pinnacle now control Edinburgh Building Services, the in-house function responsible for maintaining the housing stock and other council buildings. They have also been asked to provide one of their staff to carry out the role of Neighbourhood Manager for Edinburgh North.

This post acts as a conduit for all public services including health, police and the voluntary sector as well as all council services in the area.

To add insult to injury they have now been asked to provide an employee to manage the team responsible for managing vacant properties in the north.

Unbelievably managers say they had no choice because there was no member of staff good enough to fill these roles. This despite having had a career development scheme in place since 1995!

Service Conditions Convener, John Ross, said, "This is an insult to our members who have worked tirelessly to provide a quality service to the people who live in the north of Edinburgh. It is significant the council has put more resources in the area since Pinnacle came on the scene. Additional resources had been called for before when the area was managed by a council employee but were never forthcoming."

At the time of going to print branch officers are in talks with senior UNISON representatives to decide how best to protect our services and jobs from being outsourced.

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Delay in settling pay claim as other unions consult again

Many members have been calling the branch office asking what has happened to this year's pay rise which should have been in place on 1 April.

The simple answer is (at the time of going to print) there has been no settlement. Despite a clear majority from UNISON members in favour of accepting the Scottish local government employers offer of 2.95% in each of the next two years, things will be delayed as the GMB and T&GWU unions move to consult their members more widely or ballot on action.

Joe Di Paola (UNISON Scottish Organiser for Local Government) said, "I understand that members will be frustrated by the length of time until a settlement is reached, but UNISON will respect the decision of the membership of our partner unions."

UNISON has the large majority of the membership in Scottish local government. Any settlement will be backdated till 1 April 2004. Because the employers had made a 'first and final' offer, it effectively put a stop to negotiations and the three unions involved entered into consultation processes within their own organisation.

UNISON members were consulted via branch ballots and meetings during June this year. The result was a two to one vote to reject in the City of Edinburgh Branch but when translated across Scotland this turned into two to one for acceptance.

Until the unions arrive at a consensus there can be no pay award unless the employers decide to impose one. This has happened before but would be an unusual step.

Shop Stewards will be kept appraised of any progress and will keep their members up-to-date. Look out for details as they become available at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/localgovt

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News round the departments UNISON is working for you

In the absence of a magazine recently, you might have missed all the issues UNISON is involved in on behalf of you in Edinburgh. This is just a selection of the major issues round the departments and sections and does not include the hundreds of individual cases we are taking for members.

But even with all the work that is going on, we are only as strong as our members. You can help by

  • Making sure the person next to you is a member - if not, give them a form (you can get one at www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk, accessible via the Intranet, or by phoning 220 5655)

  • Electing a steward at your workplace. That is the best way to get all the news and information - and the best way to ensure your views are passed on. You'll get all the training and support you need.

The Service Conditions Team is active in all departments supporting local shop stewards and representing members.

CITY DEVELOPMENT - Winter Emergency Operations - Health & Safety issues in the Bus Station - Review of Network Services

ENVIRONMENTAL & CONSUMER SERVICES - Harassment - Review of Waste Management - Reduction in Night Cleaning

CORPORATE SERVICES - Provision of Protective Clothing - Transport Unit Review - New Council HQ

FINANCE - Centralisation of functions - Review of Revenues and Benefits - Training Schemes

CULTURE & LEISURE - Departmental Review - Weekend Openings - Chargehand Allowances

EDUCATION - Nursery Nurses - Staffing Levels - Merger with Social Work (Children & Families)

FURTHER EDUCATION - Changes in Conditions (Queen Margaret College) - Restructuring (Telford College) - Janitorial Review (Jewel and Esk)

HOUSING - Stock Transfer - Outsourcing - Tied Housing

SOCIAL WORK - Restructuring - Review of Support Services - Recruitment, Retention and Gradings

VOLUNTARY SECTOR - TUPE Transfers - Negotiation of Policies - Contract Changes

The team is also involved with other employers such as Edinburgh Leisure, Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade and Edinburgh Zoo.

The above is just a flavour of the workload and each member of the team has to take on a share of the grievances, disciplines, sickness absence cases and the myriad of other issues ongoing at any given moment in time.

So if you call the office and cannot get immediate access to an officer it is because they are working on another case. Be patient and you will get the assistance you need but please remember your first point of contact should always be your local shop steward.

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New branch officers elected

The Branch Committee has elected Lyn Williams to the vacant post of Branch Vice-Chair. Lyn is currently convener of shop stewards in Social Work and has extensive experience in negotiating and representing members.

Dot Paterson (also from Social Work) has taken up the Lifelong Learning Convener post. This has been created to coordinate branch activities to encourage members to take up further education particularly in numeracy, literacy and basic computer skills. Dot will be working with agencies like the Workers Educational Association to provide a range of courses for members.

Finally, Kevin Duguid (Service Conditions Officer) has taken on an additional role as Freedom of Information Officer. It will be Kevin's task to represent the branch in instances where management are refusing to meet requests for information. This is a new job and Kevin will be developing the role which will be formalised in the branch at next year's AGM.

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Why UNISON opposes housing stock transfer

The City of Edinburgh Council has decided its Housing stock will be transferred to a Housing Association.

Tenants will be asked to vote to accept a change of landlord or stay with the council and lose the promised investment of several hundreds of millions pounds.

Stock Transfer means Privatisation of an essential Public Service. There is no demand from tenants for a change of landlord and democratic control and accountability through elected councillors will be lost. If tenants vote for transfer the Housing Department will cease to exist.

Staff are being advised that those moving to the new organisation will be protected by TUPE. But experience of staff transferring to Edinburgh Leisure shows that, over time, conditions of service can be eroded.

Staff remaining will be dispersed to other departments. It is UNISON's national policy to oppose Stock Transfer and to campaign for renewed investment in public housing without any strings. Stock Transfer in Glasgow is a failure despite the vast sums of money promised for redevelopment.

Housing stewards are to contact their counterparts in the Glasgow Branch to learn from their experience.

The Branch has also agreed to call for a Scottish Conference on Stock Transfer. We will campaign for a 'NO' vote. If you are interested in helping our campaign talk to your local steward or contact the Branch Office. Duncan Smith Housing Stewards Convener

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New banner matches traditional with modern

The City of Edinburgh Branch's new banner was unveiled during the nursery nurses' dispute and immediately put to good use in a series of rallies.

The banner hit the TV news bulletins and pictures appeared in the Daily Record and Evening News in both colour and black and white.

Since the new branch was formed in 1996, we have been getting by with an interim plastic banner. The new banner was long overdue but it took time to find the kind of design we wanted and the person to make it.

The branch was keen to marry the traditional banner making skills with a more modern design. Eventually we found a member able to match the brief for a sewn applique banner that would give an instantly recognisable but individual and quality image.

Given the range of services our members work in, including council, related bodies and the voluntary and community sector, we also wanted the banner to depict a generalised image of Edinburgh.

The banner is in satin applique. The edges and logo are in the UNISON colours of purple and green with the 'Edinburgh' scroll reflecting the city's dark red livery. The skyline is in merging browns and greens to reflect the feel of Edinburgh sandstone buildings and green areas.

The main design by the Branch Communications Officer was created over several months by branch member Morag Stevenson.

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Child & Family Centres claim

Following the settlement of the nursery nurses dispute in Education, UNISON has now lodged a claim for staff in Social Work Child & Family Centres.

Both UNISON and the Council agreed early on to separate these issues because, unlike in the rest of Scotland, our Child & Family Centre staff were on separate national conditions agreed some years ago.

UNISON has made it clear that all staff must be included.

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Make your views known in reorganisation

Local government seems to have only one tactic to deal with crisis - when in doubt, reorganise.

Only 10 years since the last game of musical chairs, the Council has embarked on another huge upheaval by splitting Social Work and merging the Children & Families part with Education.

Two new departments, Health & Social Care (although Health still seem bemused) and Children & Families are due to come into effect in April 2005. By 2007, everyone will have been affected in some way with work already started on 'e-Finance' and a centralised Human Relations strategy.

UNISON's position was very clear on the Social Work split. Members opposed this but stressed they did want to see constructive change.

UNISON's submission outlined a range of radical steps to change things for the better without all the bureaucracy of a huge reorganisation. We were backed up by research, specialists, professional organisations and everyone who responded apart from one group. All were ignored.

The danger that all the issues UNISON said needed to be addressed - the resource crisis, lack of IT and admin support and a workforce deserting the council - will get lost in the reorganisation is still there. Now we are promised the biggest consultation ever.

UNISON will play its full part in that to protect members.

"Our members didn't want this reorganisation but if it is to happen, they want to look for opportunities to make things better rather than wasting energy for no purpose", said John Stevenson, Branch Secretary.

The union is already in talks about new structures and working to ensure members are protected and procedures followed as the changes go through. The focus will be on ensuring staff have the tools to do the job and that their views are listened to and acted upon.

Members must be cynical about the promised 'widest consultation ever' after their views were ignored before. Nevertheless, we should test the council's commitment. Make your views heard by

  • taking part on the consultations coming up on structures etc.
  • make sure UNISON hears your views through stewards and meetings.

UNISON has set up two 'shadow' stewards committees to match the new departments and make sure that all members can start working together to have the strongest voice possible.

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UNISON Social Work campaigns

UNISON is involved in every aspect of the host of issues affecting Social Work just now. You can catch up with all of these on the branch and UNISONScotland websites. For example....

  • Youth Justice Inquiry Written Evidence
  • New issue of The Way Forward for Scotland's Social Work
  • Review of the Children's Hearing System - UNISON Scotland Response
  • Campaign against 'correctional' agency
  • Borders - Failures accepted but social work pressure must be recognised
  • Child protection risk must be recognised www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk www.unison-scotland.org.uk


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Cautious welcome for Social Work Review

UNISON gave a cautious welcome to the Scottish Executive's announcement of a review of Social Work.

Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Local Government said; "UNISON has argued for a comprehensive review to address the crisis in Scotland's social work for some considerable time"

Edinburgh Social Work Convenor Lyn Williams warned "if this group is to be successful, it needs to address the whole of social work. To consider how best to support and defend hard-pressed workers, to ensure that adequate training is available to ensure workers can develop their careers without artificial barriers, and crucially to deliver proper pay and conditions to attract and retain social work staff at all levels.

"It must also look at the best way to deliver social work services, and hopefully recognise that splitting different parts of social work away from local accountability and each other will not help to deliver the joined -up care we all aspire to."

UNISON will be speaking up for social work staff, and has already produced our ideas in its document 'The future for Scotland's Social Work.'

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Audit confirms resources are the key to child protection

UNISON's long campaign to expose the lack of resources affecting child protection and child care work has been confirmed by an expert external audit of child protection in Edinburgh.

And the council has responded by accepting all the recommendations and immediately pumping new money into buildings and IT support.

John Stevenson, Edinburgh UNISON branch secretary, said, "We welcome this action but it has been a long haul. We took a grievance to councillors as long ago as 2001 about this, and we argued that the O'Brien report into the death of Caleb Ness was flawed and had missed this point.

"Now at last a report by three independent experts has found that resources are the key issue thwarting social workers' child protection work".

A council meeting in August received an audit commissioned by the council in the wake of the O'Brien Inquiry. Professor Stewart Forsyth, ex senior police officer Douglas Kerr and widely respected social work consultant Anne Black closely examined 41 cases of children on the child protection register and looked at the social work, health and police involvement.

"Their detailed 187 page report is the most extensive ever provided for a local authority in my experience", said John. "As well as the resources issue, another of their key findings was that information is still not being shared and that often social workers are powerless to get other agencies to pass on information or attend case conferences. Even the audit had difficulty getting access to health files", he added.

UNISON called on the council to address resources urgently and not to wait for the new merger with the Education Department in April 2005.

"This report shows the council must act now and it must make sure specialist resources, management and support are carried into the new Children & Families Department.

"It also has to address pay urgently to retain its skilled staff. The council can act now but in the medium term the Scottish Executive must act to make the funds available", said John.

The report itself says:- "Our audit has identified many very hard working, skilled and dedicated professionals in the key agencies working together to try to protect children and make their care safer.

"We remain concerned that in the absence of adequate resources and without the resolution of the remaining problems in sharing sensitive information across agencies there remain some children whose safety cannot be assured"

The audit found that there were social work staff shortages, inadequate admin support, poor IT resources, a lack of placements for children and poor buildings and working conditions.

It did address some areas of practice but put this firmly in a resources context and praised staff for the quality of work and reports, noting that the social work report was often the only report available to case conferences.

UNISON has issued its own response to the audit covering the 49 recommendations. See the website for details.

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Write to your MSP to defend criminal justice services

After the Scottish Executive's recent consultation on reducing re-offending in Scotland, UNISON is campaigning against fears that the Executive now seem determined to press ahead with plans to create a new quango or single 'correctional' agency.

This would involve merging the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) with Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) services. Over the last 12 months UNISON has played its full part in trying to influence the direction of this legislation at the political level.

"We have met with Ministers, submitted a lengthy response to the Executive consultation on re-offending and submitted written evidence to the Justice 1 Committee Inquiry into the rehabilitation of prisoners", said John Stevenson, branch secretary.

"Yet, despite the weight of evidence that demonstrates the inability of such agencies to effectively tackle re-offending and the strength of opposition to the creation of such an agency in Scotland, the Executive still appears committed to establishing this model."

"We now need to step up our campaign."

A campaign leaflet that outlines our main arguments has been circulated and is on the website.

"Using these arguments we ask that Branches organise UNISON delegations to MSPs surgeries to outline their concerns and also that individual members write to their MSPs", added Stephen Smellie, chair of UNISONScotland's Social Work Issue Group.


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Pay grievance lodged for Social Work staff

UNISON has lodged a grievance about the unequal application of the retention and remuneration payments which are creating a 'two-tier' workforce and is pushing for a full review of grades.

News on progress will go out to members as soon as possible. The problem arose after the council put through some additions to pay for some staff and extra payments for child protection and Mental Health Officers.

"There was no negotiation with the union and, although we managed to get some improvements, the fact that the council did not engage with UNISON early enough has got them into this mess", said Lyn Williams, Social Work Convenor.

The council has promised a review and UNISON is pushing for this to happen quickly.

  • Mental Health Officers recently settled their claim for additional payments winning an additional £750 a year backdated for two years.

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Equipment and adaptations - Keep assessments close to home

UNISON has criticised the Audit Scotland report on the management of community equipment and adaptions for failing to take into account the need for proper resources and local needs in its critical look at the topic.

Occupational Therapists work in both the NHS and local authorities ensuring that people with long term illness, health problems or disabilities have the support necessary to continue to live in their own homes.

Kirsten Hey, an Occupational Therapist and Edinburgh UNISON activist said "This report points to a problem with resources in some areas. Care in the Community and Joint Future are not 'cheap' options and must be properly funded.

"We are pleased that staff are appreciated, but where there are problems it is almost always due to lack of resources - something that the Audit Scotland report doesn't make clear."

UNISON supports the updating of national guidelines, and supports the provision of best information, but the union is concerned that the Audit Commission seems to be suggesting a 'One-size-fits-all' approach.

Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISON's Social Work Issues Group said "Responsibilities are best allocated to the authority nearest to the client. Assessing someone being discharged from hospital is surely best done by staff in the hospital. Assessing someone in the community is best done by staff working in the community. OTs work in both.

"And what is appropriate may vary across the country. Indeed, the need for a local solution to local problems was built in to the Joint Future legislation."

UNISON also draws attention to a new problem in this area. Kirsten points out that new Scottish Executive guidelines mean that Home Improvement Grants for adaptions to people's houses are now means-tested.

"For a major adaptation, such as an extension on a house, clients can be expected to contribute thousands of pounds which can put it out of reach for many - although the right adaptation can reduce or remove the need for care packages, and thus save public money", added Kirsten."

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Possible movement on job evaluation?

Remember the much acclaimed Single Status deal which was going to make all workers equal with everyone being paid on a single pay system framed round an open and transparent Job Evaluation Scheme?

"Well, we may at last be getting close to something happening." said John Mulgrew, Service Conditions Coordinator.

Just as we went to print, the council approached the unions with an offer of talks on the possibility of implementing the national scheme, something that it had resisted so far.

However, it will not be simple. Issues will remain about protection of salaries for any downgraded posts.

"We should have had a Job Evaluation Scheme in place by April 2002 but at the request of the employers this date was extended to April 2004," said John.

Senior council officials had said they cannot afford the nationally agreed scheme and, if it was put in place, jobs and services would have to go. This is a comment replicated in other authorities.

UNISON Scotland will now be drafting up battle plans to lodge equal pay claims across Scotland and this branch will be in the vanguard of that campaign.

John said, "We believe that national scheme is a fundamental part of the Single Status agreement. The council has implemeted all the negatives, it is about time they did something positive".

This issue will be high on the agenda of the first meeting of the reconstituted Joint Consultative Group.

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Black members group here at last

After many abortive attempts to re-establish a self-organised group for Black Members, a quorate meeting of black members finally agreed a group be set up.

At this inaugural meeting Peter Sharma was elected to be Chairperson with Shiv Lal and Reena Lal being elected to the post of Secretary on a job-share basis. The group is now meeting on a regular basis and has been participating in events and conferences targeted at our black members.

Branch Equalities Convener, Irene Stout, said, "I am delighted we have finally established this group after so many failed attempts. "It now lies with our black members to ensure the group is a success." T

he branch now has two self organised groups with the black members following on from our disabled members group.

At the time of going to print Irene has called a meeting for women members to assess the level of support for restarting a women's group. STOP PRESS: Unfortunately not enough members truned up to start up a womens group (tghe branch requires six for a quorum to set up agroup).

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Sponsoring Salma

The Branch has renewed its sponsorship of Salma Mohamed in Habila, Sudan through Plan International.

Our money has helped Salma's family and community to equip two classrooms, train community leaders, start a vaccination programme, improve latrines and access support on animal health care to boost production.

Believe it or not, Salma wants to be a government worker when she grows up!

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'Dramatic' twist to anti-PFI campaign

UNISON sponsors 7:84 'Private Agenda' tour - based on the voices of its members

UNISON's long-running campaign against PFI/PPP has taken a dramatic step forward, with sponsorship of a major tour of 7:84 Theatre's new show 'Private Agenda'. It will be in Edinburgh from 19-23 October at the Traverse Theatre - check www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk for ticket offers.

The play has been created from the real life stories of campaigners, workers and users of Scotland's public services - many UNISON members amongst them.

Lorenzo Mele, 7:84's Artistic Director says: "It promises to be a surreal, maddening and hilarious trip through the corridors and wards of privately financed hospitals and schools.

"It starts with a trip over the bridge to Skye, uncovers corporate cuts in Caithness, finds fighting in Fort William and pillaging in Perth's Royal Infirmary!"

In addition the company is giving the audience a chance to air their views on the local issues and campaigns. After each performance they will create a 'Public Space' and invite local guest speakers, so that they (and you) can have their say.

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A council with no Social Work Department, no Housing stock, no schools and no sports centres? - it is happening now...

A view from the Branch Office

Throughout the past 12 months the Branch has been fighting to retain a Social Work provision following the lamentable O'Brien Report which reported on the circumstances of the tragic death of Caleb Ness.

That report focussed on attaching blame to individuals rather than looking at issues such as resources and staffing. This led to a kneejerk reaction from the Council Leader who led a campaign based on the inadequacies of staff rather than recognising he had been leader of a council which had year upon year failed to maintain budgets and had created a real staffing shortage.

This has led us to the point where the Children's and Families function will be transferred to Education. As a result the Department of Social Work becomes the Department of Health & Social Care. Note the absence of the words 'Social Work'.

What is left?

Criminal Justice - but for how long with the Scottish Executive stating its clear intention to create a single Scottish-wide agency with staff transferring from councils?

Community Care - how long before the government realises the Joint Future agenda involving councils and Health Boards with shared budgets does not work and community care will transfer to Health Boards?

Is this scaremongering?

Not when we are talking about a council which has placed the management of Housing in the north of Edinburgh under the control of a private firm because we allegedly do not have staff who are good enough to do the job.

A council who is prepared to transfer their Housing stock to an external agency rather than campaigning for additional investment.

A council who is about to hand over more schools to the private sector as a result of embracing once more the discredited PPP initiative. Remember the days when sports centres were run by the council? Edinburgh Leisure is now looking at cuts and closures because the council is reducing its grants to the arms-length Trust.

A council with no Social Work Department, with no Housing stock, no schools and no sports centres. It not only could happen - it is happening!

Will the last one leaving the building please switch off the light?

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