Gray blow as Glasgow Council leader backs workforce reductions


Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray has suffered an embarrassing blow after it emerged that the new Labour leader of Glasgow Council….

Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray has suffered an embarrassing blow after it emerged that the new Labour leader of Glasgow Council, Gordon Matheson, claimed that natural wastage was the only way to protect front line services.

The frank admission from one of Labour’s most senior politicians coincided with Iain Gray’s attack on the SNP over similar health board proposals that natural wastage be used in order to help mitigate the expected squeeze on public spending.

In a BBC Radio Scotland interview Mr Matheson, who replaced disgraced former leader Stephen Purcell, said:
“The only way an organisation like a council can make the kind of savings that are required and protect the front line [services] as much as possible is to reduce our head count”.

Mr Matheson went on to acknowledge that Glasgow Council had been “bloated” for years, although he later changed that description to “improving”.  He also explained that in these challenging times politicians needed to be “very creative” in order to deal with the current economic crisis.  The Labour controlled local authority is to shed almost 3000 jobs over the next three years.

A recording of Mr Matheson’s interview can be heard here:

Natural wastage means that as people retire and leave their posts then the positions are not re-advertised.  Health boards have claimed that organisational restructuring and improvements to equipment as a result of efficiency drives meant that the same quality patient care could be maintained with fewer people.

The proposals also eliminate the need for compulsory redundancies and ensure that employees have no concerns over job security.

Iain Gray had attacked the Scottish government on Thursday by suggesting the natural wastage proposals were in fact NHS ‘cuts’.  However, it is widely accepted that the SNP government have increased NHS funding this year, a 2.4% increase having been awarded.

It later emerged that health board funds are adversely affected by other costs, including many Labour introduced PFI contracts.  The costs of these contracts are index linked and have to be paid for out of the NHS funds.

PFI was the method of finance employed by Scottish Labour in order to pay for school and hospital building.  The mechanism has been widely criticised by academics and Unions due to the disproportionate profits being made by many firms at the expense of the public purse.

An explanation of the PFI legacy and other problems faced by Scottish health boards is given by Professor Alison Pollock in the recording below:

The PFI model also featured in this week’s First Ministers Questions; the exchanges between the First Minister and Labour’s Andy Kerr can be viewed here: