In July last year, I wrote the first of these columns wondering what the summer influx of tourists would think of our city. I highlighted the failures of the council to deliver high-quality, basic services and how at least some of that would be visible to those tourists.
The weeds are still there this year but luckily the long dry spell – and not the council – has kept some of them smaller. Our Third World roads and pavements remain and are further blighted by the ill-managed roadworks that seem to be everywhere, especially in July. And our bins are still regularly collected late despite promises of improvement – it happened again to me this week.
The tourists descending upon us, a real blessing when it comes to jobs and investment, must think we are daft letting one of the most beautiful cities in the world look and feel shambolic because we can’t manage the basics. And it’s quite a difference from the look and feel of our twin cities, Florence and Munich, as reported by two colleagues who visited them this summer.
As an opposition, we Conservatives have spent the last year exposing the facts and calling for improvements – not least the need for a council performance system that lets the public see how we are doing on the basics and how we compare with other places (on which we have been outvoted).
Rather than fixing these issues, we have seen a council administration that wants to deny and divert. But the diversions don’t work. On their flagship issue, we see the SNP part of the coalition slapped down by their own Government over their tourist tax plan.
It is a proposal that in truth would bring in little financially, would largely be spent on unneeded tourist promotion and is opposed by the businesses they would be burdening and who bring jobs to residents.
Likewise, we find that when they build a new school to try to make up for neglecting maintenance for 30 years, it is too small and the taxpayer will have to pay again. And in the meantime, I have highlighted in this column that our social care crisis has got worse rather than better.
The SNP/Labour answer to our problems was a budget that introduced their “garden tax”, a scheme we now find is befuddled by chaotic bureaucracy and will leave us paying more for a service that is no better and that still doesn’t deliver as promised.
And as the deadline for that approaches, their budget decision-making has fallen apart with an expensive U-turn on the cost of school sports facilities.
The chaos has continued this week with a third defection to the Independent benches from the SNP. They are so devoid of ideas that all these defections appear to be about personal animosity rather than policy fall-outs. I must conclude that the SNP in the City Chambers care more about who they like and dislike in their own party, than about working out how to provide a good service to the taxpayer and holding our officers to account for delivery.
It really is time for some change to get back to the day job. Like last year, I won’t be holding my breath while waiting, but if others in the Chambers care about our city and the services the council provides they might want to talk to us about how they can join with the biggest party on the council to bring that about and benefit the people we serve.