Edinburgh Council elections 2022: Councillors now need to make listening to the public a priority – Robert Aldridge

As the dust settles on the local council elections, a number of things have become clear.
Edinburgh's voters may have spoken, but councillors will need to keep listening to their views (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)Edinburgh's voters may have spoken, but councillors will need to keep listening to their views (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Edinburgh's voters may have spoken, but councillors will need to keep listening to their views (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

The Liberal Democrats had a great result, increasing the size of our group substantially and giving more communities the chance to experience hard-working local Lib Dem champions.

Unsurprisingly the Conservatives had a terrible result. They suffered a perfect storm of a Boris Johnson-led government in chaos at Westminster and poor leadership in Scotland, combined with inaction over the cost-of-living crisis.

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It is always the case in elections that some people who have worked really hard, regardless of party, lose out or stand down, and there has been a huge change at the council.

These councillors often don’t get the thanks they deserve, but I know that they all tried their hardest to improve the city. Many had different views from me about how to achieve it but they worked hard.

The changes at the council as a result of the elections offer a real opportunity to hear new perspectives, ideas and solutions. It is a chance for the administration to change direction. Time and time again on the doorsteps, people said that, despite consultations, the council just didn’t listen.

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Nowhere was the more apparent than in relation to some of the temporary (and now permanent) Spaces for People projects. Many were sensible, but there was no real listening to constructive opposition from people in communities affected by the most controversial schemes.

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The time for slogans and election leaflets is past and it’s now time for the city council to get on with the job of providing the best quality services with the best value for money, and to listen to the priorities of the electorate.

Whatever the shape of the new ruling administration of the council, it should learn the lessons of the past few years. It needs to focus on getting basic services to the public right. We have all heard the regular and repeated pleas to fix our paths, pavements and potholes – and now we need to get on with it.

It needs renewed vigour in challenging the Scottish Government to fund Scotland’s Capital fairly, and also to recognise the special additional expenses it faces as a Capital city and the need for additional funding.

From the Lib Dem point of view, the council needs to have trust in its local communities to make decisions which affect them, working with the voluntary and volunteer sectors.

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We know the incredible energy and commitment in our localities, which was so evident during the Covid pandemic. I hope the new intake of councillors will build on that energy to ensure our communities are at the heart of getting real change and making real progress on the priorities which they identify.

So, as the council hands out the jotters and pencils to the new intake, I hope we will be able to work together with fresh energy to improve the city and show that we have listened to their votes.

Robert Aldridge is Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle and his party’s group leader on Edinburgh City Council