Council on the cusp of being merged with Greenock and Port Glasgow
Exclusive by Bill Heaney
Refuse collection and roads services could soon be on their way across the Erskine Bridge.
February 27, 2018 – Councillors are to consider a proposal to share services with Inverclyde Council, which covers Greenock and Port Glasgow.
It could be the first indication of a merger of the two councils with economies of scale, cuts and redundancies being introduced in the next five years.
A report set to go before West Dunbartonshire Council on 5 March outlines an option to bring roads and transportation services from both councils together under the leadership of a single management team.
Veteran councillor Jim Bollan said: “The original plan was to include East Dunbartonshire as well but they withdrew. When this was first brought to the Council George Black and I were the only two councillors to oppose it.
“Merging these two services is the thin edge of the wedge and will lead to job losses and a poorer service for residents in West Dunbartonshire.
“No evidence has been produced as to how this merger will improve the services in West Dunbartonshire for local citizens.
“Other services like Bin Collection and Greenspace service will follow with local control and decision-making being lost as services are centralised, increasing the democratic deficit.
“Police Scotland has been a disaster and these shared services proposals will be the same. The driving force is savings not an enhanced service.
“Savings can only be made by shedding jobs. The Community Party will continue to oppose these centralisation of services, which packages them nicely to privatise in the not to distant future.”
The roads and transportation plan has been developed to address duplication across both local authorities in systems and property and would also seek to deliver greater value for money for taxpayers and improve resilience. In addition, the proposal would provide opportunities for staff development as well as planning, resourcing and performance improvements.
Councillors had previously given officers the authority to establish a Joint Committee with Inverclyde and East Dunbartonshire Councils to explore how to bring services together and a working group was also established with trade union and senior managers from each Council to discuss developments.
East Dunbartonshire has opted not to proceed with the arrangement which would see Inverclyde act as the lead authority in the partnership.
A number of public sector bodies across Scotland including other councils are already collaborating to deliver services jointly.
Ronald Dinnie, WDC Strategic Lead for Environment and Neighbourhood, said: “We had previously established the principle of working together across our council boundaries. We have been working on the detail of this arrangement and have had extensive consultation with our trade unions who have been actively involved in the process. A business case has been developed and we are now in a position to move forward with a formal arrangement with Inverclyde Council and it is now for Council to decide the way forward.”
Councillors will also be asked to approve the appointment of a senior officer to lead the project at Inverclyde Council.
MSP Jackie Baillie said: “Over the last few years local authorities across Scotland have been hit by a double whammy of budget cuts from the SNP and rising demand for services due to Tory austerity. “This and the Scottish Government’s direction has forced councils to consider new ways of doing things.
“If there is a choice between pooling resources with neighbouring authorities, outsourcing to private companies or scrapping public services altogether then the first option does the least harm to our local communities.
“That said, councillors should not rubber stamp any proposals without clear guarantees on jobs, quality and democratic oversight.
“A Scottish Labour Government would make the richest pay their fair share and properly fund our public services to allow councillors to invest in public services in West Dunbartonshire.”