Now you might want to bear with me on this one. There is a bit of a preamble story but it is important for the rest of the article.
I used to go to a local council gym fairly often and one Saturday afternoon a guy, who appeared to be a bit agitated, started talking to me. He said he was very worried as the day before he’d been told that he would probably be made redundant. I sympathised with him. He looked upset and more agitated and it was obvious that his job was very important to him. I tried to offer the normal platitudes of things not going to be as bad as they look etc. but he wasn’t convinced. I had to leave but he was still very agitated.
He had explained to me that he emptied the bins and the Council were going to change his hours, which would reduce his pay, but more likely go out to tender, hence the likely redundancies. In retrospect he would probably have been subject to a TUPE situation and would almost certainly have been kept on. I felt and still feel uneasy about his situation and him being so agitated.
Edinburgh Council, yes them, went ahead with an attempt to alter the work patterns and eventually went on to a tendering process. The bin men went on a work to rule or some sort of strike etc. This has been on going for a couple of years and has really just come to a head following the Council Officers recommending an outside party as the preferred tendering option. The preferred bid reduced complication in recycling system for us poor, put upon council taxpayers and the overall cost was lower than present in-house costs.
Enter the politicians. The SNP and, wait for this, Labour councilors didn’t like the tender outcome. Council officers were asked to review the bid made by the in-house team. This was dully completed and included an audit carried out on the various bids by one of the big four accountancy firms. The council officers reported that the preferred bid was better than the in-house bid in all respects. During this time the industrial action by the in-house team, which had been going on for years ceased.
You may know the rest. The councilors voted to accept the in-house bid. The councilors in question, being the SNP and Labour in what must be the most unholy, not to mention unhealthy, partnership in Scottish politics.
So what of the value for money measurement? What about the waste of time and effort required of the businesses who tendered? Is this legal? Oh I know that there’s a clause in these tenders, which state that the winning bid may not be the cheapest, but even so following an audit I’d be inclined to think that Audit Scotland would be interested in the process.
The bottom line is that councilors are there to represent the voters in their ward and ensure that their best interests are served. If the preferred bid was cheaper and the bidder had a good track record of delivery for similar clients , which they did, then it should have been accepted.
Not content with making a monumental mess of the trams and the on going saga of the building repairs the council have now managed a third shambles which begins to look like significant structural flaws are present in governance along with serious political failures. Edinburgh is becoming a laughing stock. The current shambolic trend will not end without significant changes being made in culture and operational improvement.
Questions have to be asked of Mr A Salmond. He is the SNP party leader and he has the power to ensure that his Edinburgh councilors are beyond reproach. The SNP trumpeted their intentions in cleaning up Glasgow Council following their recent election win there. Maybe they should have started with Edinburgh several months ago? If Alex is as good a politician as he is seen to be then he will know that his party will be judged harshly should any of the members in power anywhere in Scotland mess things up?
He only has to look up the hill to see a good place to start. If he does he’ll see Joe Public standing there on his platform. He’s there to remind everyone that Joe Public is who they are there to serve. I can only guess that this must have slipped their minds. They are busy people after all. Perhaps he’s only for the staff to look up to. Perhaps the councilors are already in such a lofty position it only allows them to look down on poor Joe?