Blood from a Stone - Why don't they want you to know how much they’re paying scabs?

Edinburgh’s citizens are being kept in the dark as to what our council tax is being spent on.

In an attempt to smash their manual staff’s dispute, the Council have handed lucrative contracts to private firms. Like employment sharks Assist,  recruiting ‘bin men’ via St Andrew’s Square Jobcentre. These scabs are paid £11 an hour — £3 more than the real workers — plus Assist's secret cut on top of this for every scab.

When Labour councillor Cammy Day asked the City Council on 13 October about the number of private vehicles being used to collect city refuse, council environment leader Gordon Mackenzie stalled: ‘Full details of this and other details asked for will be included in a comprehensive report following resolution of the dispute.’ Freedom of Information laws to the rescue? Not so.

Open Government?

Shanks Waste Management, WCR Municipal, Blue Arrow, Biffa… Exactly how much is this army of for-profit private companies costing us?

Early Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Council about the cost of these contractors were refused because of ‘commercial sensitivity.’ But on October 1 the High Court in London ruled that contractors and local councils cannot use this excuse to prevent taxpayers from viewing contracts between the two. ‘The obligation to pay local taxation,’ the Court emphasised, ‘is matched by the right of ensuring the money was well spent’ and ‘local government electors’ have the right ‘to inspect and copy the accounts and related documents.’

So now it seems that FOI requests about the costs of hiring private for-profit companies are simply being stonewalled.

Lies & Damned Lies

The Council’s Ministry of Truth is now threatened with complaints to the Information Commissioner for refusing to answer requests. In response the Council issued a press release to the Evening News which published it without comment on 22 October. ‘The number of Freedom of Information requests dealt with on time by the city council has slumped,’ ran the report. Only 64 % of requests received in August and September were answered within the statutory 20 days, compared to 89% in June and July. Why the 25% slump? Well, it seems that ‘a key individual’ has recently retired and this has had ‘a particular impact on requests received by HR and legal services’ — the two council departments that, strangely enough, deal with the private contracts! But a Council spokesman assured News readers that ‘the Council is drawing up an action plan to improve its FOI handling.’

Rubbish. The real reason for the slump in FOI responses is that they are not answering the requests about the price of hiring private companies. If the people of Edinburgh were to find out how much it has cost them there would be a snarling outcry. Some estimates put the cost at almost £1 million so far. So YOU, whose council tax is paying private contractors to break an industrial dispute, are being lied to and kept in the dark.

Spot the Operating Licence Competition!

By law, all street cleansing vehicles should have an Operating Licence prominently displayed. Look very closely then write and let us know where you think this van’s licence isBy law, all street cleansing vehicles should have an Operating Licence prominently displayed. Look very closely then write and let us know where you think this van’s licence is

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