Iain Whyte: SNP leader’s vanity takes precedence over services

Oxgangs Primary wall collapse exposed dangers of failing to oversee building projects properly (Picture: Toby Williams)
Oxgangs Primary wall collapse exposed dangers of failing to oversee building projects properly (Picture: Toby Williams)
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Council’s disdain for tax-payers is highlighted by ‘compost tax’ and poor recycling record, among other issues, says Tory leader Iain Whyte.

The last few weeks have seen news reports that make grim reading for our SNP/Labour council about significant service failures. Bad enough for the politicians but much worse for Edinburgh’s public who are left with the consequences.

Cllr Iain Whyte is the Conservative group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Cllr Iain Whyte is the Conservative group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Audit Scotland has reminded us of the widespread failure of the council to properly procure and oversee building projects. This was exposed when a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary School and only by luck of timing were death and serious injury avoided.

Residents’ groups in the Old Town highlighted their dirty, cluttered and uncared-for environment that the council sees as a tourist playground except that it fails to meet the necessary standards and ignores the needs of locals.

The SNP and Labour’s disdain for the council tax-payer was shown with the imposition of a “compost tax” on the homes that pay the most for what benchmarks as an increasingly expensive bin collection service that fails its recycling targets.

Meanwhile the incompetence of thought of the council’s war on the motorist has led to the absurd situation where a parking ticket is cheaper than paying for pay and display all day in the city centre.

The lack of supervision of council building projects leads on to questions about the effectiveness of our planning and building control functions. Is there any proper checking of building safety when the backlog of building warrants means it can take over six months just to get the initial permission to start?

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And how are we addressing heritage when it takes about six months for a basic planning application to get to committee? The knock-on effect of these sclerotic processes means we are slower to address our need for new housing and new businesses look elsewhere.

The SNP response was to add £100,000 to the budget for planning and building control, but that is only two people. Hardly the way to restore confidence in a system that is vital for public safety and economic growth. And all of this when the SNP part of the administration has told us for six years that economic development and housing were their priorities. What was our SNP council leader doing while all this was going on in the background? Why, he was chasing headlines by visiting a potential development site for a Gleneagles Hotel offshoot in Edinburgh. The investment is very welcome but linking himself to this project smacks of personal vanity when he ignores poor council performance. For those who want to know, the Gleneagles bed-and-breakfast rate starts at £325 a night – somewhat at odds with the left-wing principles the SNP often espouse in the council. Like the race to build more tram tracks rather than sort the traffic congestion that holds up our buses. Or the £80,000 on a light show when we can’t maintain the streets. Or the promotion of the Old Town to tourists while failing to deal with the problems this creates, this council is about the headline and not day-to-day delivery.

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I am happy that we get tourism investment but not if it means contempt for the needs of tax-paying residents. We Conservatives believe it’s time to change direction. We should start by providing decent services for the people who live here and pay for the privilege.

Iain Whyte, who represents Inverleith, is leader of the Conservative group on the city council