ESPC
Published On: Thu, Feb 10th, 2011

City of Edinburgh Council Budget meeting Part Two – Blindcraft to Close!

And so, with an air of inevitability about it, the council decision is made to close the 200 year-old institution that has been Blindcraft.

What this means in practical terms is that the council have agreed to proceed to a further period of statutory consultation with trade unions and Blindcraft employees.

Councillor Ewan Aitken said during the discussions before the vote that this was a debate about dignity. He continued:-”There has been no help and assistance from the administration. No wonder the workers feel their dignity is threatened. No assistance given to them to vote for the three day week with some knowledge behing that vote. What meetings did the administration have with the workers?

After November did anyone contact the Aberdeen Blindcraft operation about this? And what about Jim Mather? Are we to believe that he simply washed his hands of this after a lengthy meeting with the unions?  Is it not true that a Third Sector organisation with experience offered to buy Blindcraft for £1m? Why was that offer turned down? According to a first hand report which I have the council want to put a taxi business into the building. This is a scandal!”

The Conservative Councillors who voted for the motion can be summarised as saying that the factory has not ever made a profit, but that all the alternatives have already been examined and there is a certain ‘absurdity’ in the fact that each employee is subsidised to the tune of £30,000 each, when so much more could be done with that money.

Councillor Barry said:-”Noone wants to be here. This is an operation with a 150 year history. The business has never made a profit. At one point there was a £3m loss. We looked before at employing these people elsewhere in council owned businesses. There were no such opportunities available.
They want to work! I wanted the three day week to work. We want to put it back into the budget, so let’s come back and  look at the alternatives.”

The Green Party in the form of Councillor Alison Chapman reverted to a quote from Churchill…

On October 29, 1941, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Harrow School to to hear the traditional songs he had sung there as a youth, as well as to speak to the students. When he was invited to give a speech, Churchill stood before the students and said:-”Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

But the council have now given up on the factory which employs blind and disabled people, many of whom were in the Public Gallery to hear the fate of their beloved place of employment. But for them it is more than a job. It is a way of life. What will the future now hold? Or will the alternative business models now be given serious consideration?

40 for the Motion to proceed to consultation in relation to the closure proposal.
18 for the Amendment by Labour that some extra time is allowed before making this decision.

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