Council accused of misleading the public over Edinburgh's Spaces for People programme

Edinburgh City Council has been accused of misleading the public after saying it has received just two complaints over its controversial Spaces for People programme.
'Every effort to listen' -  Councillor Lesley Macinnes'Every effort to listen' -  Councillor Lesley Macinnes
'Every effort to listen' - Councillor Lesley Macinnes

In May 2020 the Scottish government announced funding for Spaces for People programmes, which aimed to provide safe options for essential journeys during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since April, the council has used the £5m it received from the Scottish government to introduce various road closures and temporary traffic measures using emergency coronavirus powers.

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Some of these measures have proved incredibly controversial, with several sparking community campaigns against them.

This week, in response to a freedom of request by the Edinburgh Evening News, the council claimed that it had received only two complaints over the scheme since it was launched.

The council insist it only provided information on ‘official’ complaints, as per the exact wording of the freedom of information request.

Campaign groups have reacted with anger at the suggestion that thousands of emails, calls and letters objecting to the proposals have not been formally logged by the council.

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David Hunter, chair of Get Edinburgh Moving, said: “The council has quite simply misled the public with its response to the freedom of information request regarding official complaints.

“Let’s set aside the 400-plus objections received by Spaces for People by email, the 2,650 petition signatories, and the hundreds of complaint emails to councillors – and all of these only in relation to East Craigs.

“To be absolutely clear, there are many more than two people in the East Craigs community alone that have evidence of acknowledgment emails from the council in response to their complaints lodged via the council’s official complaints webforms portal.

“In many cases, we have reference numbers for the complaint, in some cases only the auto-generated acknowledgment email because a reference email was never sent.

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“It seems to be a common theme that no substantive responses to the complaints have been received beyond initial confirmation of receipt – one particular highlight was a response from customer care asking if the complainant could confirm what they meant by a ‘LTN’.

“I would suggest it’s time for the council to go back to their own portal and check again, and then apologise for misleading the public. Then, they should apologise for the lack of action on the significant number of official complaints that have been made, and tell us when they will be dealt with.

“I’m afraid once again this underlines the arrogance with which our council treats its residents and taxpayers.

“Time and again, they prioritise unlawful vanity schemes over desperately needed basics.”

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Transport committee convener, Lesley Macinnes, said: “We have been clear that, while the number of official complaints, which was what was requested through Freedom of Information, is just two, we have had significant correspondence via other channels.

“This includes through ward councillors and officers.

“We have made every effort to listen to complaints and comments on Spaces for People measures, and have responded to these directly, in many cases making changes to designs.

“We continue to consider public feedback as we progress with new schemes, and on existing measures, taking comments into account as part of our review process.

“The results of that listening can be seen in the design changes that we have incorporated across many of the schemes.”

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