Have they never heard of trams?

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Edinburgh City Council has been shortlisted for an award as “Council of the Year in Service Delivery” despite the fiasco over the tram project which has made the Capital a laughing stock.

The authority was up against 300 other councils in the awards competition run by the Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE).

The final winner will be announced at a ceremony in Bristol on Thursday.

But residents and businesses were surprised that the council was in the running for such an accolade after the farcical handling of the tram project, which is already years late and massively over budget.

Gordon Burgess, owner of The Bed Shop in Leith Walk, who lost half of his custom during preparatory works for the trams which will now not reach that part of town, said: “There are good points and bad points at the council. Look hard enough and you’d find something good at any council.

“Trams are the thing that the current administration will be long remembered for.

“Business is a bit better now, but it couldn’t have got much worse, quite frankly.

“Leith has the problem of having to endure what we had to endure, and we won’t get any benefit. It’s a double whammy.”

Council officials said the award had nothing to do with the tram project but rather recognised the quality of a wide range of services including education, bin collections and libraries.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: “It is a fantastic achievement for Edinburgh to be shortlisted for the UK Council of the Year award.

“I congratulate staff across the council for their hard work and dedication to providing excellent services for residents that has led to these nominations.

“This builds on our success in the best efficiency initiative category at last year’s awards and demonstrates a culture of real continuous improvement.”

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE said Edinburgh had been chosen from some “big names” in local government.

He said: “After an austere couple of years these awards are a way to acknowledge that, despite the pressures on local councils, those that work to deliver front-line services have continued to make sure they provide much valued services to local residents and businesses.”

Alan Rudland, chair of the Leith Business Association, said: “The award is for service delivery and is recognising what has gone on in the past, it’s clearly not taking in account the decision-making on the tram project. I think nominations for such awards will be much more difficult over the next 30 years when the council is paying off the debts to pay for the trams.”

A council spokesman said no councillors will be attending the award ceremony.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com