SNP slams ‘alarming’ strategy

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Concerns were raised this week that key services could be privatised as East Dunbartonshire Council pinned its budget plans on a radical new strategy.

The council is the area’s biggest employer, with 3,700 jobs, and some employees have voiced their fears at a move which it’s claimed could see jobs saved but under poor terms and conditions.

East Dunbartonshire Council's Kirkintilloch headquarters.

East Dunbartonshire Council's Kirkintilloch headquarters.

And the strategy move sets the scene for tough decisions on how individual areas of operation should be run in future.

The scheme, voted through by East Dunbartonshire’s Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, will see the authority striving to make major savings through a formula centred on sharing services with other authorities.

It could also set up “arms length organisations” (ALEOS) and could farm some areas of operation out to Trusts.

Liberal Democrat councillor Vaughan Moodie (Bearsden South) said the situation was due to the policies of both Westminster and Holyrood administrations, and that while the new strategy is ambitious the opposition had no realistic suggestions of their own for how to protect services.

The new plan and its individual elements will have to be finalised in time for the council budget in February next year.

Talks on potentially sharing some services with other authorities are to be accelerated.

Ann Davie, the council’s director of customer services and transformation, said: “We will now develop detailed business cases for the options to present to a future council which will explore all the considerations, the level of savings and the timescales for progressing these options.”

Bishopbriggs and North Torrance SNP councillor Anne McNair said the coalition had “agreed a package of measures which are as yet uncosted but which could result in the privatisation of major frontline council services.

She said: “By approving decisions without first seeing the financial implications our Labour, Tory, LibDem councillors have reversed the normal budget processes.”

The lack of financial detail and “failure” to explore further options in making such vital decisions is an “alarming” development, she said.

However, coalition councillors contend the move explores all realistic options, and that real-term cuts to council grant from government mean every option has to be studied on its merits.

The council is one of a number of authorities in a long-running Clyde Valley partnership bid to save cash by pooling services, but it has yet to deliver the across-the-board benefits hoped for.