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Edinburgh to cut 1,200 jobs and bring in ‘Tesco-style’ self service

City of Edinburgh Council has announced a reorganisation of services and a cut of up to 1,200 jobs as it looks plug a budget gap of £67m over the next three years.

However the council, which employs about 19,000 people, said it hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies and some of the reduction in roles would be addressed through the natural turnover of staff.

As part of the cost cutting measure the council is also looking at converting to a ‘Tesco-style’ self-service approach for dealing with the public. This would see the majority of council services - including reporting potholes, routine complaints over council tax and registering children for school trips – be processed online in a bid to decrease the amount of “avoidable” contact with residents.

Senior council sources told the Edinburgh Evening News that they wanted the public to be able to interact with the council in the same way shoppers ‘beep’ their goods through self-service check-outs at Tesco and other supermarkets, dramatically cutting the need for face-to-face contact.

Council figures show that every time council staff deal face-to-face with a member of the public it costs £20-£30 compared to just a few pence for transactions processed online.

An initial blueprint for the future organisation of the council was announced in December and highlighted key areas where future cost savings and service improvements could be achieved. 

These included working closely with third sector organisations; managing council property more effectively; in addition to improving the way the organisation interacts with residents.

The new report states: “As well as the need to address this financial position, which has become significantly more challenging in the last twelve months, key drivers for change (such as the public sector reform agenda; health and social care integration; demographic pressures; increased economic, cultural and social interdependencies; and growing customer expectations) mean transformation is essential to increase productivity and deliver services within budget.

“Given the scale and timing of the challenge, the council now needs to drive forward a transformation programme, ensuring a clear focus on outcomes and service delivery.”

Finance convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, said: “The council needs to take significant steps to tackle the financial challenges it faces as demand for our services continues to increase. At the same time, we want to make services for residents more efficient and effective.

“We set the direction of travel last month when the council agreed proposals for a new organisational structure, enabling more effective decision making at neighbourhood level and improved partnership working with third sector organisations. We are now considering detailed proposals around this and how we plan to improve the way we interact with residents.

“We believe these priority areas for change will enable us to achieve service improvements as well as cost savings. Of course change on this scale brings challenges but we need to take decisive action now to meet our targets and create a stronger, leaner, more agile council to better serve the people of Edinburgh.”

Some of the savings are expected to be found in £11m of grants paid out to third sector organisations across Edinburgh. Other essential services expected to be affected are:

  • Primary, secondary and special schools
  • Housing and homeless accommodation
  • Nurseries, early years centres and support for learning
  • Libraries and community hubs
  • Youth justice

Another money-saving change involved in the reorganisation is expected to be transferring decision-making in areas such as schools and libraries from powerful central directorates to city neighbourhoods.

The change will be made possible by carving up the capital into four main “localities”, each with a team of dedicated managers. However a number of services will continue to be controlled on a city-wide basis “where it is more economical to do so”.

Planning, roads management and trading standards are among the responsibilities set to be protected under the re-structure.

(Image source: Thomas Nugent)

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Fiona, Fife   10/01/2015 at 10:36

The analogy with Tesco, with all the problems it is having currently, is to say the least, unfortunate. It sounds like efficiency savings by another name. More human and community contact, not less, surely has to be the way forward to ensure accountability, transparency and community buy-in to Council policies? I thought local communities were supposed to be consulted more, not less, and that a key local authority outcome was to foster local democracy. Tesco menus instead of speaking to someone will hardly achieve that. What about old and vulnerable people who have no access to the internet? I wonder how much it will cost to set up the new online system?

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