As cost of living soars, Edinburgh Council needs to get the basics right – Robert Aldridge

A key priority for the city must be to tackle poverty. The cost of living is rocketing because of Brexit, because of tax increases by the Conservative government and partly because of global events.
More should be done to tackle air pollution in Edinburgh (Picture: Jon Savage)More should be done to tackle air pollution in Edinburgh (Picture: Jon Savage)
More should be done to tackle air pollution in Edinburgh (Picture: Jon Savage)

Around two thirds of people living in poverty in Edinburgh are scattered throughout the city, with the remainder in more concentrated areas of poverty.

Being poor in Morningside is just as hard as being poor in Muirhouse. The council in the next years must focus on doing all we can to help people facing the worst drop in living standards wherever they live in the city.

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As money gets tighter for individuals and for the council, Liberal Democrats believe we have to focus on getting the basics right, whether in education, social care, or in essential services like road and pavement maintenance, recycling, and our parks and greenspaces.

We know that there is tremendous goodwill and energy in all our communities. This was clear in the magnificent efforts made during the Covid emergency.

But to make it work well we need a council that really listens and that works with local people who know what is best for them and their area. We have seen too many recent examples of a ‘council knows best’ attitude riding roughshod over local residents.

Air pollution in the city caused by congestion has been less obvious during the period of Covid restrictions. But as traffic returns to normal, congestion is starting to increase and air pollution is reverting to the unacceptable levels previously seen on arterial corridors like St John’s Road and Queensferry Road, with all the serious health risks that involves.

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It was disappointing (but not surprising) that the SNP-led council with their loyal Green supporters voted for a small low-emission zone (LEZ) only to operate in the city centre.

Inevitably this will push air pollution and congestion onto the streets surrounding the city centre LEZ area and do nothing to reduce air pollution in the most polluted streets of the city. Simply shifting pollution onto surrounding streets is not a solution.

But the refusal to tackle congestion does not stop there. They voted against a Park-and-Ride scheme at Lothianburn to reduce congestion in the south of the city and have done nothing about extending Ingliston’s Park-and-Ride to reduce congestion in the west of the city by linking with the efficient tram service to the city centre.

And talking of trams, it is now eight years since the tram inquiry was set up by Alex Salmond. It has lasted even longer than the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war and has cost more. The tram extension is well underway but without the benefit of the recommendations from the inquiry.

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The people have already spent millions of pounds on this report. They should expect to see it. The silence from the report is deafening and the delay producing it is mystifying.

The council can and must do better, and it should start by really listening.

Robert Aldridge is the Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle and his party’s group leader

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