What Twitter and Facebook told Edinburgh council

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IT was the £36 million question but the answer was a familiar one.

When council bosses took to Twitter to ask how it could make savings next year, one suggestion cropped up more than any other – scrapping trams.

The tweet – “We need to save £36m in 2014/15 as costs rise but funding doesn’t. How would you do it?” – was designed as a modern way to canvass public opinion.

But many people could not see beyond the city’s ill-fated tram project.

Within hours, responses included one from Michael Bolo (@michaelbolo) which said: “Can we get any refund for the trams – or is it too 
late?”

His remark was echoed by Stephen Quinn (@SGQuinn) who said: “How about not spending money on transport initiatives that will either go over budget or be scrapped?”

Facebook users swamped the council’s page, with Bob 
Gillies writing: “Well if they didn’t go ahead with the trams, they wouldn’t need to make savings.”

While Rory Legge advised the council to “sell off the tram network as scrap metal”.

The comments were clearly taking a dig at the £776m project which has had a history of budget blowouts and management errors behind it ahead of next year’s service launch.

Other suggestions were to stop pay increases for council management and to put an end to councillor allowances.

The council now plans to make Twitter surveys a regular feature to get feedback from the Capital’s residents.

Starting from next month, a different convenor will run an hour-long Twitter Q&A every week so that citizens can “give feedback directly to convenors”.

Lesley Hinds, Paul Godzik and Ricky Henderson have already signed up and will be asking how people want to see the budget spent on each of their remits, such as transport and education.

An online questionnaire is currently being conducted that asks people to name the neighbourhood where they live, in an attempt to better understand the “natural neighbourhoods” of the city. According to officials, the information will then be used to put together a map of natural neighbourhoods to help the council better understand its customers.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, the city’s Finance and Budget Convener, said the online consultations were about giving people a place to air views.

He said: “We’re aiming to seek views from as many people as possible across a multitude of platforms. We know many Edinburgh residents have strong and varied opinions on how Council services operate and where we can best allocate our limited resources.

“We are here to listen as well as to make decisions – decisions for which we are accountable.”

SOME OF THE SUGGESTIONS

Kevin @kevinhmfc: “You’d make a fortune if you policed the bus lanes properly, and all the double parking down Leith Walk.”

Dannii Archibald: “Stop paying for school dinners that half the kids don’t get anyway.”

Stephen Quinn @SGQuinn: “How about not spending money on transport ‘initiatives’ that will either go over budget or end up being scrapped?”

Frances Mitchell: “Stop huge wage rises for the upper echelons.”

Jim Landels @JimLandels: “Stop increasing managers’ pay in revenues and benefits! With their backlog it’s disgusting! And it’s management’s fault!”