A row broke out in the City of Edinburgh Council after SNP, Labour and Green councillors voted against plans to change environmental services in the capital.
Councillors were expected to vote through plans to award a contract to a private company last month but the vote was called off to allow councillors more time to consider their options.
However, the SNP councillors, who run the local authority with the Liberal Democrats, decided to vote against their coalition partners. One Lib Dem councillor, Gary Peacock, also voted against the plans.
The Conservative group joined the Liberal Democrats to vote for the plans, but were outnumbered.
The council spent two years investigating the possibility of contracting the job to a private company. Firm Enterprise had been chosen by officials to take control of recycling, bin collection, road cleaning and ground maintenance in Edinburgh for the next seven years. The council said it would save the local authority over £70m over that period. The council will now implement an in-house improvement plan for environment services.
Following the vote, council leader Jenny Dawe branded Labour, SNP and Green councillors “irresponsible”. She said: “This is a totally irresponsible decision. Councillors are required to take account of Best Value in reaching decisions. This means keeping an open mind and basing decisions on evidence. I cannot understand how anyone could possibly assess the internal public sector comparator as offering best value compared to the Enterprise proposals reached after a long period of competitive dialogue. Any objective consideration of the mass of information provided would find that a partnership with Enterprise represented best value on every count, guaranteeing environmental, cleanliness and recycling benefits and delivering £27m more contractually underpinned savings than the public sector comparator. These savings would have been available in future years to deliver on our council priorities of protecting our most vulnerable residents and ensuring that every young person in Edinburgh has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.
“A partnership with Enterprise would not have meant privatisation. The council would have retained control over strategy and statutory responsibilities.
There were strong clauses written into the proposal that would have entailed heavy penalties on Enterprise if targets and quality of service standards were not met.
“At the start of this process in 2009, I believed that, in most circumstances, public services were best provided by public sector workers. However, the budget decision inherited from the previous Labour administration and the impact of global recession meant we had to look at whether we could provide services more efficiently by other means.
“Our budget consultations showed that residents want high quality services and are not hung up on who delivers them. Indeed, many of our services are already delivered with and by external partners. However, I believed that it was only if there was a proven and compelling case to look outside the council for delivery of services that I would have accepted this was the right way forward.”