Edinburgh Council needs to return to better monitoring of public satisfaction – John McLellan

Residents only contact councillors when something goes wrong, not to tell us how well their bins have been emptied or how nicely their street is lit.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 12:30 pm
The public usually contact councillors to complain about issues like public toilet closures, rather than to offer praise (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Yes, they are always grateful when problems are solved, but rueful they arose in the first place.

My casebook this week has included ropey pavement resurfacing, public toilet closures, communal bins obstructing disabled parking, and a resident who spent three hours on the phone trying to make a council tax query. Nothing unusual.

But without monitoring and measuring satisfaction or otherwise, the council won’t know how well it’s doing to meet residents’ expectations for the council tax they pay.

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Until the pandemic struck, Edinburgh Council published an annual People Survey, a detailed analysis of public attitudes towards the different services they receive with a useful ward-by-ward comparison, based on 5,000 face-to-face interviews.

This year it had to be replaced by 1,000 telephone interviews, too small to analyse by wards, and it only asked a general question about general satisfaction, not individual functions.

It was good that 80 per cent of people were happy, but as a document designed to help inform the authority about where improvement is needed most it was next to useless, and if anything risked complacency.

However, of those who contacted the council, a third were dissatisfied with the response they received, which indicated that when things do go wrong, the council must work a lot harder to fix them.

Those people who contacted me this week would wholeheartedly agree, and the sooner the more comprehensive survey returns the better.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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