In councils, just as in government, an administration tends to run out of steam after a while. The ideas are used up, alternatives are unpalatable because they’ve already been publicly rejected, and the difficult areas of performance become a millstone.
In councils, just as in government, an administration tends to run out of steam after a while. The ideas are used up, alternatives are unpalatable because they have already been publicly rejected, and the difficult areas of performance become a millstone.
After six years of SNP and Labour in coalition in Edinburgh, all these issues are evident. But if you attended the recent council meeting, or watched the webcast later, you would see that this administration’s approach is to ignore the issues around them.
Instead of concentrating on what the council can control, we see diversionary tactics. Given the chance to raise issues, the SNP were keen to talk about action films that were shot in Edinburgh – very nice but not filmed by the council. Or broadband fibre rollout – again not the council. Meanwhile they wanted to avoid discussing the task force that their own SNP Government has sent in to sort out the council’s shambolic building control department.
This lack of focus culminated in the same way it does at Holyrood. The SNP spent their time, aided by the coalition friendly Greens, attacking the UK Conservative Government. It seems their mission, aside from independence, is to shout “evil Tories” as often and as loudly as they can in the hope the slur will stick.
But the truth was there for all to see in the subsequent agenda. Once again, my Conservative colleagues in the council had tabled many questions and motions seeking action and calling the administration to account. These ranged over issues showing care and compassion and all aimed at ensuring that our services work well for local people.
The key focus was on what Edinburgh council can do for all the communities living here.
My colleagues ensured that the needs of disabled people were raised and also highlighted what the council could do to combat anti-semitism. We asked the council to consider the power of pets as a therapeutic aid in workplaces and championed a successful social enterprise. On performance, we sought to ensure the council’s strategic investment fund is properly managed, that the council caps overly excessive staff redundancy payments and sought improvements in the availability of British Sign Language interpreting. Hardly the actions of the “evil”.
Sadly, our council is currently lumbered with a rudderless SNP-led administration that only has one big policy idea – extending the tram line. They ignore the problems with bins, potholes, graffiti and the now-returning weed infestation. They are propped up by a Labour group that sits idly by considering the trappings of power more important than achieving anything.
I used to believe that everyone in politics was there because they wanted to make things better for their community. We might all have different methods and perspectives, but the aim was the same – to improve public services and peoples’ lives. Instead, and perhaps because of a lack of competence on the basics, we are now seeing an increasingly shrill debate that is all about defining the “other” so that it can be vilified. In this case “the Tories” and “Westminster”.
I want a council that is competent, a council that uses its power properly to make things better in Edinburgh and lives up to its responsibilities. If those in positions of power agree with me on that, my message to them is that it’s time to get back to the day job.