Andrew Burns: Survey helps city put people's priorities first

WHILE 96% of residents are satisfied with life in the Capital, improving frontline services is top of the council's agenda, says Andrew Burns

Monday, 11th April 2016, 10:13 am
Updated Monday, 11th April 2016, 10:14 am
88 per cent of residents are satisfied with the city's public transport. File picture: Ian Georgeson

No-one doubts that all councils are currently under financial pressure – and here in Edinburgh we’ve not only got a reducing budget, but have to manage that against a backdrop of increasing demand for local services.

I’m certainly not complaining about that increasing demand for services – it’s most definitely a positive that more and more people are living longer and many thus require access to elderly care services; and also a positive that more and more children are living in the city and in need of access to education and early-years services.

These are but two of the most obvious – and high priority – areas where the demand for council services is growing fast.

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And for some nine years now the council – importantly, via an independent market research company – has undertaken a wide-ranging Edinburgh People Survey (EPS) to gauge the feelings of residents by asking questions about local government services, quality of life issues, and perceptions of the council.

The survey measures satisfaction with the council and its services, identifying areas for improvement and gathering information about residents which is not available through other sources. The survey is undertaken through face-to-face interviews with around 5100 residents each year. The EPS is the largest face-to-face survey undertaken by any UK local authority.

And, while we’re encouraged by many of the results this year, there is no denying there is work to be done. Of course, it’s very reassuring that 96 per cent of respondents to the survey said they were satisfied with life in Edinburgh; and that two-thirds of respondents are happy with the way the council is managing the city – this does show that we’re moving in the right direction.

Detailed figures from the study also highlight a sense of inclusion and security across our neighbourhoods, with 83 per cent of people agreeing people of different backgrounds get along, while 84 per cent report that they feel safe after dark in their local area.

Reflecting the council’s concerted effort to lower emissions and encourage sustainable lifestyles, 72 per cent of participants agree that the council cares about the environment, which is no doubt bolstered by our excellent public transport services, with which 88 per cent are satisfied. Findings also reveal that, for the first time, more people are getting in contact with us using our website than by phone, demonstrating the impact of our digital channel shift campaign.

But while these positive figures are certainly promising, we have to take stock of the areas performing less well, such as the state of our roads and refuse collection, so that we can focus on improving service delivery.

In light of the current financial climate and an increasing population, this is no easy task. Satisfaction with roads and footpath maintenance has declined to 51 per cent and 53 per cent respectively, while fewer people are happy with refuse collection – 70 per cent, down from 83 per cent five years ago.

The public’s top priorities for improvement also include tackling dog fouling, street cleansing and recycling. But they can rest assured that these are our priorities, too, and each year as we set our budget we endeavour to protect and improve on the frontline services that matter the most.

And it’s thanks to our extensive budget consultation feedback, alongside the results of the EPS, that we are able to make informed and rounded decisions for the coming year.

As council leader, I feel this kind of insight is essential for making our city the best it can be for residents, as well as promoting transparency throughout all the work we do; and we will be making use of the results – positive and negative – for years to come.

• Councillor Andrew Burns is leader of Edinburgh City Council