Consultation on making Edinburgh's Spaces for People measures permanent costs £60,000
The consultation on whether controversial Spaces for People measures should become permanent has been extended by two weeks to give more people the chance to take part.
Meanwhile, council chiefs have revealed the estimated cost of the consultation is £60,000, including £10,000 for separate market research on what people think of Spaces for People measures like road closures and cycle lanes.
The disclosure of the costs comes after the council agreed to remove what critics said were “biased” comments from selected members of the public which the council published on its website when it launched the consultation.
Jason Rust, Tory councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, welcomed the additional fortnight for the consultation, which will now close on April 4.
But he said the council’s spend on the exercise was “a very large sum of money”.
“You want any consultation to be well-advertised and enable people to engage with it, but there have been serious concerns raised about the initial launch of this consultation and its neutrality.
“They didn’t consult residents at an early stage on the temporary measures now in place and yet they now see fit to spend this very large sum.
“If you’re spending a five-figure sum you want to make sure there is a genuine process people can rely on. If people are coming back with serious concerns and issues that has to be recognised and the process not just rushed along anyway. Even in the limited engagements we had over the temporary measures, points have been put forward but don’t seem to have been taken up.”
A petition launched by residents’ campaign group Keep Edinburgh Moving against any fast-track move to make measures permanent has attracted well over 10,000 signatures.
Scott Arthur, Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, said the briefing which councillors were given when the consultation was launched mentioned “market research” to understand what the public thinks and after two requests he had been told the cost of this was “around £10,000”.
He said: "This is quite incredible given the lengths the council has gone to in order to exclude Edinburgh council taxpayers from commenting on these schemes. Rather than spending money on consultants to undertake this survey, they simply need to listen to residents and work with them to improve these schemes.
"I’d much rather this £10,000 was spent collecting data to settle the debate about whether or not these schemes are a proportionate use of the Covid powers."
Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We’d like to hear from as many people as possible as part of this consultation, whether they benefit from our Spaces for People schemes daily, don’t use them at all or have ideas on how they can be improved upon.
“By conducting market research alongside the public consultation, which we’ve done before with projects of this scale, we hope to gain an even fuller understanding of public opinion, and this will be essential as we look to the future of these schemes. All costs for this, and for raising awareness of the consultation, will be met with funding awarded by the Scottish Government to implement the programme.
“Of course, we know not everyone can easily complete the consultation online, and that returning postal responses is taking a bit longer, which is why we’ve decided to extend the consultation by two weeks.”