Socialist Worker

Council privatisation brings chaos but SNP and Labour push on anyway

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2519

Labour-run Glasgow City Council is set to privatise its IT services after its joint venture that currently runs the service with outsourcing giant Serco comes to an end.

Glasgow homeless caseworkers on strike last year

Glasgow homeless caseworkers on strike last year (Pic: Duncan Brown)


It is following in the footsteps of its Labour and Scottish National Party (SNP) counterparts at Edinburgh City Council into a deal with Canadian multinational CGI Group.

Glasgow’s Serco joint venture saw the firm incur massive fines for missing laptops, losing personal data and a network crash lasting weeks.

Now Labour chiefs are looking at handing over complete control for all IT services to schools, social workers, benefits provision and payroll to another private firm.

A decision is to be made in the coming weeks with an award of the contract in March 2017, just weeks before councillors are up for re-election.

Control

If Labour was trying to ensure it loses control of Scotland’s largest council it is certainly going about it in the right way.

But it is unlikely the SNP opposition in Glasgow would do any different. The SNP cut a joint decision with Labour in Edinburgh to hand a seven-year £190 million deal to CGI.

The SNP Scottish government also contracts CGI, and with disastrous consequences.

The firm is behind the recent fiasco of European Union (EU) farming subsidies that saw nearly 20,000 farmers without payments, some for several months.

The SNP has paid out millions in overtime to clear the backlog and avoid up to £125 million in EU fines. In all cases the rationale for the outsourcing is “efficiency savings”—cuts—and the blame always lies somewhere else, not with those making the decision.

Cuts

The councils blame the Scottish government’s cuts to local government budgets and the SNP in turn blames Westminster and the Tories.

Yet nobody ever does a thing to seriously challenge austerity. It underlines the pressing need for a political alternative.

Workers In Glasgow also now face huge uncertainty.

At Scottish Borders council staff complain of worse terms and conditions since CGI took over.

Unions must take a lead in resisting privatisation and the push to provide services on the cheap.

Edinburgh schools built through privatisation deals were only recently re-opened after they were found to be unsafe for children to be in them.

That scandal is just one reminder why we need to end the love affair with privatisation that politicians of all mainstream parties have.


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