Edinburgh is a stunning, world-class city but we all know that if we don’t get the basics right, it will impact on this deserved reputation.
As we move into the digital age, it’s easier than ever for residents to let us know about the issues that matter the most to them, and it’s bin collections and the condition of our roads that always top the list.
And with freezing temperatures bearing down on the Capital, it’s more evident than ever how important these kinds of services are to the public. Keeping our roads safe and usable is one of our top priorities and we’ve been pulling out the stops this week to make sure ice and snow doesn’t hinder the public.
It’s no secret that, in these trying financial times, we face a multitude of challenges balancing the needs of everyone who lives in, works in and visits this historic and densely populated city.
But we are listening. I am well aware of the frustration voiced by road users each time they encounter roads, pavements or cycle paths affected by potholes and cracks. Just last week, we committed almost £1 million of additional investment into the maintenance of our roads, pavement and street lighting as part of the 2018/19 budget, on top of an existing £3.2m spend and capital budget of £14.805m for renewals of roads, pavements, street lighting and traffic signals.
And we’re already making headway to address these issues. Approved in August, our Roads Services Improvement Plan set out a series of actions to improve the quality of the roads network, including the set-up of working groups and changes to the inspection process, and by the end of last year we were beginning to see improvements.
It’s worth noting that the vast majority of defects on our roads are down to historical sub-standard repairs by utilities companies and that’s something we really need to address. We currently inspect 100 per cent of road reinstatements by utilities, instructing companies to carry out repairs where needed and issuing fixed penalty notices when they don’t give us the correct information to co-ordinate roadworks.
There’s still plenty of work to be done though. But our work on the Roads Services Improvement Plan is just beginning and I’m confident that, as we continue to achieve the actions within, paired with our new, preventative approach to repairs, we’ll begin to see the effects.
As we press ahead with these efforts a similar project, to tackle issues across the waste and cleansing service, is about to come to a close, with a series of actions achieved or under way.
The Waste and Cleansing Improvement Plan has seen changes across the service – from improved training for staff to reviews of cleansing routes and a new charging structure for special uplifts – and the impact is clear. Missed bin complaints are down – their lowest in four years – street cleansing complaints have dropped and more people are requesting special uplifts for bulky items, leading to a reduction in fly-tipping.
While the project is coming to a close, governance has been put in place to ensure new working practices continue to benefit the city. What’s more, we’ve committed to invest an extra £1m to keep every ward clean for all those who live, visit and work there, and the redesign of our communal bin service, made possible by an additional £2.5m, aims to cut down on missed collections, fly-tipping and unsightly overflowing bins.
It’s not an easy task, but keeping Edinburgh moving, maintaining its beautiful, welcoming atmosphere and delivering essential services to our residents is a responsibility we take incredibly seriously. I know that we’re moving in the right direction and, as we continue to roll out improvements, we will make Edinburgh the city it deserves to be.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes is transport and environment convener at Edinburgh City Council