Gina Davidson: Councillors are not on message

A pavement cycle ban for over-12s was one of many petitions. Picture: TSPL

A pavement cycle ban for over-12s was one of many petitions. Picture: TSPL

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IT’S not even been a year since the first petitions committee of Edinburgh City Council was convened, and already it seems that most of our elected ­representatives are fed up with it.

According to a survey of our politcians, 30 per cent of them think the committee has been very unsuccessful, a further 15 per cent said it was fairly unsuccessful and 11 per cent thought it had been neither successful nor unsuccessful – there’s sitting on the fence for you.

Only 33 per cent thought it had been a success and – get this – 11 per cent “didn’t know”. And who says politicians are all about opinions?

But it’s no wonder that most think the whole thing has been a disaster. All that time they have to give to listening to folk banging on about an issue they hold dear and which they believe councillors may be persuaded to do something about – what a drag.

I mean, they’ve had to debate nine, yes, nine petitions in ten months. That’s almost, you know, one every five weeks. This when they could be playing solitaire on their tax-funded iPads, or preening themselves for their next appearance on the council webcast. Oh yes, they like appearing on those, where they can wax lyrical about motions and amendments. Who wouldn’t have the hots for that?

These people are supposed to be politicians. You would think they’d have the nous to understand that whether they like the idea of a petitions committee or not they would at least be seen to be giving it their support in the interests of democractic accountability, co-operative councils and transparency. That was what the Labour administration promised.

The whole point of the petitions committee was to give a voice to people who want to talk to the council about issues it is not already addressing, to let them particpate in local politics and decision-making, to give them a chance to make a difference to their own local communities.

Sounds quite Utopian, and ­although there’s not been a mass rush of petitions, there have been 22 submitted, although only 13 were valid. Yet between those, more than 7500 signatures had been acquired. That’s a reasonable groundswell of opinion. Issues raised have ranged from bus services to and from Kirkliston, cracking down on payday loan companies, making whistleblowing safer for council employees, religious observation within schools and ­a pavement cycle ban for over-12s.

To my mind these are pretty good subjects for petitioners to bring to the council’s attention – and the petitions committee seemed to agree, forwarding them on to the appropriate committees to be debated properly.

What, I ask then, makes councillors think this whole process is unsuccessful? Is it because they want more petitions? If so, then the council must make more people aware of this committee.

One reason appears to be a lack of belief by the public that a petition could change anything. Again then the council needs to show it does. Perhaps more pertinently councillors believe the process is onerous – for the petitioner of course, not them, heaven forfend.

Streamlining may be necessary, but the petitions committee has been a new approach and should be encouraged rather than rubbished. What the people of Edinburgh need are councillors who listen instead of 
competing for webcast ratings.

Reunion was all a bit of a blur . .

THERE were policemen and analysts, civil servants and siesmologists, retail gurus and electricians, dental nurses and nail

technicians. . .

People were living in Geneva and Tokyo, South Africa and Seoul, Burma, France and Illinois. Others had spent years in Argentina, Australia, Amsterdam and countless other stops on the global A to Z list before returning back to Edinburgh.

It’s amazing what you learn at a school reunion. Okay, it wasn’t a formal reunion, more a tentative question on Facebook which quickly blossomed, but those who turned up generally knew about others whocouldn’t come, so the whole six degrees of separation meant by the end we’d found out about most of our former fellow pupils.

I went along as part of a gang of five – safety in numbers with pals that I’ve kept in regular contact with since the school gates clanged shut for the last time. After all it had been at least 25 years since some of those expected would have last seen us and vice-versa. Who knew what awaited?

Yet, from the off, the years melted away. Yes, faces were a little more lined, some heads had a little less hair on top, but it was a fascinating evening of re-acquaintance and re-discovery; finding out where people had ended up in the world, whether they’d followed career paths or their hearts, what kind of job they were doing, whether or not they had kids – and how many.

But it’s also amazing how much you quickly forget the substance of some reunion conversations when the next day hangover kicks in. I know Buster Browns, above, was certainly mentioned, but after that it gets a bit hazy. . .

JK is true role model

WITH her slamming of the government’s austerity, a donation of £10m for a MS research centre, and inspiring countless kids to read, what better role model than JK Rowling? Edinburgh is privileged.

Hollywood got it right on cake ban

IF I had to choose I’d pick Mary Berry over Paul Hollywood anyday, but when he denounced a rule which bans home baking from the classrooms of Bruntsfield Primary as “ridiculous”, he was right.

The argument that preventing cakes created in pupils’ homes from being handed out to other kids is somehow protecting children with allergies is as substantial as a stack of meringues. Pupils with allergies – be it nuts, eggs, lactose or gluten – know what they can and cannot eat. But that doesn’t mean all kids should be made to miss out.

It’s tough for those with allergies – I know, my son is allergic to nuts – but all it takes is a sensible ­approach by the school. And a packet of ­Haribos in the teacher’s drawer.