Independent councillor rocks the council boat

Midlothian House.
Midlothian House.

The SNP is to consider the role of the independent councillor in its ruling administration after he called for an end to the council’s ‘no compulsory redundancy’ policy.

With Labour and the SNP each currently on eight councillors and Green councillor Ian Baxter staying neutral, independent councillor Peter De Vink holds the balance of power at Midlothian House.

At last week’s Mayfield and Easthouses Community Council meeting, Cllr De Vink claimed that ending the policy, implemented in 2013 by the administration which he is part of, would eradicate the predicted shortfall facing Midlothian in 2020.

Midlothian Council currently has 4227 staff, 15 of whom are in Switch, the programme that staff join if their jobs are removed, and places them into other roles.

Cllr De Vink made the surprise suggestion while discussing the ‘shaping our future’ consultation, which encourages residents to make suggestions on how to save the council money.

He said: “Can you believe that we have a £203 million turnover and we pay in wages £124m. If we cut the wage bill by as little as six per cent we no longer have a problem.

“People literally have no job at the council and are sitting around doing nothing because of the no compulsory redundancy policy.

“We have got it all wrong I’m afraid. It’s not very popular but I’m just being honest. We have to do something.

“We are much more efficient now. But what has not shrunk is our payroll.

“Every other business is faced with the same problem.

“If we don’t do it we are not serving our 85,000 customers well.”

He said it was a very depressing situation and the council faced making £25m in cuts in 2020.

“But if we only cut the wage bill by six per cent we would save all that money,” he said.

When questioned by Labour councillor Kenny Young on whether he would raise the matter at this week’s full council meeting, Councillor De Vink replied: “If you don’t grasp the thistle you are not going to solve the problem”.

He added: “It’s really quite a thought if you think about it.

“There are some wonderful people working for the council but there are others who are not and we can’t do anything about it because they can’t be moved on.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The SNP group will be discussing Councillor De Vink’s comments and considering his role in the administration.”