Edinburgh survey highlights bin collection, dog fouling woes

Council concedes there is room for improvement on refuse collection. File picture: Julie Bull

Council concedes there is room for improvement on refuse collection. File picture: Julie Bull

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UNRELIABLE bin collections and streets ridden with dog dirt are leaving city residents down in the dumps, according to the latest annual survey on people’s satisfaction with Edinburgh.

Overall, 96 per cent of people said they liked living in the Capital – the highest figure since the Edinburgh People’s Survey was launched nine years ago.

But satisfaction rates for refuse collection, street cleaning and dealing with dog fouling are all down on recent years, along with those for maintenance of roads and pavements.

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Council leaders acknowledged there was “room for improvement” but hailed the findings overall as “encouraging”.

The survey – based on face-to-face interviews with 5170 adults across the city – found 68 per cent of people were satisfied with the way the council runs the city, roughly the same as previous year, but down from the high point 74 per cent in 2013.

A chart tracking how satisfaction levels have fluctuated, shows they reached a record low – falling below 40 per cent – in 2009 in the wake of the closure of Princes Street for the tram works and another dip at the height of the property conservation controversy.

The latest downturn is attributed to low satisfaction with refuse collections, which was as high as 86 per cent in 2011 but fell to 62 per cent in 2014 before recovering partially to 70 per cent in 2015.

Street cleaning – which got an 84 per cent satisfaction rating in 2013 – also recovered slightly from the 2014 low of 58 per cent and now stands at 64 per cent.

Council leader Andrew Burns acknowledged concerns about refuse collections, which have prompted repeated complaints about bins being left overflowing and rubbish not being collected.

But he said: “The shift to fortnightly collections, despite its challenges, has led to a huge upturn in the percentage of waste going to recycling and a big downturn in the percentage we’re chucking into holes in the ground in terms of landfill.

“That’s good for all of us as Edinburgh council taxpayers because we’re paying less landfill tax.

“There are other local authorities doing better than us, but I don’t think there’s another city of our scale doing as much as we are. There is room for improvement but the trends are going in the right direction.”

Dog fouling emerges from the survey as one of the biggest areas of discontent with just 46 per cent across the city saying the council’s management of the issue is satisfactory – down from 56 per cent in 2011. The lowest satisfaction ratings were in Sighthill/Gorgie (29 per cent), Leith Walk and Meadows/Morningside (both 34 per cent).

And complaints about dog fouling have doubled from an average of 100 per month to 200 per month in the past two years.

The council said the increase has meant almost half the reported incidents are now not responded to within the target time.

But officials believe the growing complaints may reflect not so much an increase in fouling as less public tolerance of the problem.

Anti-dog fouling campaigner Gerry Farrell, co-founder of Leithers Don’t Litter, said: “I’ve no idea whether there is less or more fouling, but what I do know is it is not being dealt with.

“You can double, treble or quadruple fines, but if these fines are not enforced – and they certainly are not being in any number – people will continue to leave their dog mess with impunity.

“Until the council does something bold like compulsory DNA testing we’re going to be stuck with this problem.”

Satisfaction with road maintenance was down from 54 to 51 per cent over the past five years; and satisfaction with pavement maintenance has dropped from 61 to 53 per cent over the same period.

But satisfaction with public transport was up seven per cent to 88 per cent; satisfaction rates for schools were 86-87 per cent; and 70 per cent were satisfied with sports and leisure facilities.

The people most satisfied with Edinburgh as a place to live were students (98 per cent) and retired people (96 per cent).

And there was a noticeable difference between socio-economic groups, with 64 per cent of higher managerial, administrative and professional staff saying they were “very satisfied” with life in the Capital, compared with just 46 per cent of those reliant on the state pension and casual or lowest skilled workers.

Councillor Burns said the positive figures in the survey demonstrated the impact of good work carried out by the council.

But he added: “There are still areas of concern, particularly in light of ongoing financial constraints and an increasing demand for services, and it is our intention to act on the feedback gleaned from the survey to improve the city for everyone.”

ian.swanson@edinburgh news.com