Edinburgh City Council, a Lib Dem/SNP coalition, is planning a massive privatisation programme. Refuse collection, street cleaning and school meals are among the services they are planning to put out to tender as part of a drive to save £90 million over three years. They estimate contracting out services will reduce costs by between 10% and 30%. What they don't add is that the experience of tendering out services has generally been to drive up quality. There are exceptions where a duff contract has been signed but the overall experience is clear.
The Edinburgh Evening News reports that services being considered as Environment Services (spending currently £30.8 million a year includes refuse collection, street cleansing and ground maintenance.) Property and facilities management (spending currently £37m a year and includes building maintenance, security, mail, caretaking.) Corporate and transactional services (spending currently £26.8m a year includes revenue and benefits, human resources, payroll, contact centre.)
Contracting out refuse collection may have been a radical idea when Wandsworth did it about 30 years ago. These days it is the norm. Some of the other areas Edinburgh are looking at do seem rather more bold. But why wait to have a financial black hole before looking at it? Edinburgh's Band D Council Tax £1,169 - they seem very proud of it being lower than Glasgow's which is a pretty desperate thing to boast about. Getting the most efficient services should be a duty in good times and bad.