Council poll: Edinburgh happy with way city is run

Cherisse Wilson and daughter Kayla. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Cherisse Wilson and daughter Kayla. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A record number of people have hailed the Capital as a good place to live, with the city scoring a 97 per cent satisfaction rating in the council’s annual survey.

The rating has shot up nine per cent in just three years, giving Edinburgh one of the highest satisfaction scores recorded by any UK town or city in similar surveys.

Edinburgh Council has more chiefs on over £50,000 than anywhere else in Scotland>>

When Edinburgh achieved a 96 per cent rating in 2006, only three other places had been more highly rated by their residents.

Seven out of every ten people also said they were satisfied with the way the city is being run. The survey was conducted after last year’s elections which saw the council’s two biggest political groups, Labour and the SNP, come together in a coalition administration which outnumbers the opposition by almost two to one.

The results of the annual Edinburgh People poll – compiled following face-to-face interviews with around 5000 residents – show a surge in the percentage of those content with the management of the city, with the figure more than doubling to 72 per cent compared with just four years ago.

The survey just days after a top Edinburgh University academic, Professor Richard Williams, branded the city a “dystopian wasteland” and a “great city in abject decline” in an influential American magazine following what he sees as a catalogue of large-scale failures.

Across 37 topics on which residents were surveyed, satisfaction dropped in just six compared with five years ago – dog fouling, refuse collection, feeling able to have a say on issues, giving unpaid help over 12 months, dealing with violent crime and maintenance of roads.

Figures in the Capital dwarf other satisfaction surveys across the country, with research published in 2011 showing that 67 per cent of people in Britain were happy with the job their council was doing.

A spring 2012 household survey in Glasgow revealed 70 per cent of residents were happy with the city council’s services there.

City leader Andrew Burns, who came to power around four-and-a-half months before the survey began, said he was “delighted” with the improvements in results and hailed the efforts of council staff, but said he would not rush to read too much into some results.

Speaking about spike in city management satisfaction, he said: “This measure has varied a lot in the last five years and the most recent change is so large we should be cautious about drawing conclusions based on this year’s result alone.

“It may be that the progress with the tram project is a factor. Our strong leadership and commitment to listening could equally have helped. Either way, it’s something we need to understand better.

“While the results are encouraging, there can be no room for complacency. We are ambitious for the city and there is much work to be done, so we need to continue delivering the pledges we made to Edinburgh residents and look for that to be reflected in future surveys.”

He added: “What’s even more impressive is that this has been achieved against a backdrop of real pressure on public finances and the need to make efficiencies throughout the council.”

But the survey did show a wide disparity of opinion across several areas of the city.

In the Liberton/Gilmerton area, 95 per cent were content with public transport, although the figure dropped to just 71 per cent in Almond.

Nine out of every ten people in the Portobello/Craigmillar area were satisfied with the way graffiti and vandalism is dealt with, but there was a rating of just 33 per cent in Forth.

In refuse collection, 78 per cent of residents said they were satisfied – a drop of nine per cent compared with just one year ago. However, the first residents were quizzed on September 28, before the full extent of the crisis over the shift to fortnightly bin collections had become apparent. The interviews ended on November 9.

More than half of residents were satisfied with road maintenance, with local figures ranging from a 34 per cent low in west Edinburgh to a high of 77 per cent in Inverleith.

The council has said that questions, which were asked by an external research company and not its own employees, have not changed over the years. As a statistically representative sample of each ward is selected for interview, the survey has a margin of error of less that 1.5 per cent on a city-wide level, it is claimed.

Those taking part were read a statement and asked to respond with a number from one to six, indicating their level of agreement or disagreement.

Deputy city leader Steve Cardownie said: “Our recent budget clearly shows we have listened to residents, with an extra £12 million going into doubling the budget for fixing potholes and pavements, as well as investment in other facilities and services that the public value.

“The continued improvements also underline the fact that we have been responding to concerns, but we will make sure that we also tackle the areas where the survey shows we need to do more. That’s essential for the people who live and work here, but also for maintaining our reputation as a world-class capital city.”

As the Evening News also reveals today, the council has been urged to slash staffing costs after it emerged that 390 staff members earn at least £50,000 – more than at any other local authority in Scotland – prompting criticism from Taxpayers Scotland.

But according to the council-funded research, which cost £45,935 excluding VAT to carry out, 60 per cent believe the authority offers “good value for money for its citizens”.

Again, the number of satisfied residents in the area almost doubled, from 31 per cent in 2011, and is 18 per cent above the previous five-year high. Across the city, 39 per cent said the council “displays sound financial management”, representing another record.

Residents in Inverleith are the least satisfied, with 86 per cent expressing content with their neighbourhood. The happiest area, according to the poll, is the south-west, with 98 per cent 

The most divisive part of the Capital was shown to be western Edinburgh, where just 81 per cent believe people with different backgrounds can get on well together, while the most harmonious is the city centre, where a 95 per cent rating was recorded.

But among the most unhappy with the services on offer from the council appear to be the city’s pensioners.Just 34 per cent believe there are enough facilities for older people, with the rate dropping to a low of a quarter in Craigentinny/

Satisfaction with city schools improved, with Portobello/Craigmillar – which has become a battleground over the controversial bid to build a new school to replace crumbling Portobello High on parkland – recording a surge in satisfaction over secondary schools in the area by 21 per cent in 12 months to 94 per cent.

‘There’s a lot of dog mess which is a problem’

CRAIGENTINNY has an expanding primary school and one of the city’s leading bowls clubs but scored just 17 per cent for dog fouling – the lowest in the city.

On refuse collection and graffiti/vandalism, the area scored 79 per cent. Full-time mum Cherisse Wilson, 24, and daughter, Kayla, four, above, said: “There is a lot of dog mess around the place, which is a real problem when you’ve got young kids. Owners should be made more aware that they need to pick up after their dogs. The bin collections are terrible in this area. They’re every two weeks and now the council plan to fine those whose bins are overflowing but some weeks you can’t help it.”

Last year, we revealed how a crackdown on litter and dog owners in the area saw people fined almost £1500.

‘We are very spoiled here in Craiglockhart’

Last year, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation declared Craiglockhart the top neighbourhood to live in in Scotland.

The affluent suburb, within the South West ward, scored highly in this survey, with 98 per cent of those quizzed claiming they are happy with their neighbourhood and 97 per cent content to live in the city. But the area scored only 74 per cent satisfaction with refuse collection.

Mum Christine Horsch, 44, left, who was taking her son swimming, spoke to us in Colinton Road. She said: “I think we are very spoiled here in Craiglockhart. The refuse collections are fine. There’s a bit of an issue surrounding dog fouling down on the canal path, but on the main footpaths there is very little.”