Iain Whyte: Why won’t our council at least try to raise its game?

Public satisfaction with road repairs in Edinburgh is low. Picture: PA
Public satisfaction with road repairs in Edinburgh is low. Picture: PA
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Are you ambitious for Edinburgh? Do you want a council that provides decent quality services? Do you want your council to perform well compared to others? Do you want value for money for the tax the council spends on your behalf?

These are rhetorical questions. The answer should always be yes. And from the letters page and online comments from readers in the Evening News these are regular themes.

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

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

But politics is a funny business and it seems the people in the SNP and Labour who lead our council at present, and the Greens who side with them on almost anything, have different priorities.

At the council meeting last week we had a report on the council’s performance in 2017/18. Some of the results were shocking. On measures where it set its own target the council missed two thirds – often by a distance. In comparison with Scotland’s other council’s our capital city is in the bottom half for almost half of the time.

The council ranks poorest of all on measures relating to public satisfaction. Putting aside two unusual exceptions the council ranking out of 32 across a range of satisfaction measures is 29, 25, 21, 32, 32 and 29. It is probably not a surprise that these rankings cover things like road repairs, street cleaning and bin collection.

READ MORE: Edinburgh residents have their say on city’s ‘rubbish’ bin collections

But it is not just the daily annoyances for residents that are the problem. It is things that have a major effect on people’s lives. It also covers care at home for our most vulnerable and, shockingly, we are worst in Scotland for satisfaction with our schools.

The story is no better on real hard measures of performance. Edinburgh has seen its social care system get worse since the damning inspection last year that was universally seen as a crisis. Many more people are waiting unnecessarily for discharge in hospital. The attainment levels of the poorest school pupils compare badly with the rest of Scotland and the length of time people remain in our homelessness system has grown dramatically, even though the numbers coming forward have dropped.

And the measures of efficiency show us spending much more on admin than most other councils and almost double the average amount per kilometre of roads. Not exactly excusable given the potholes and cracked pavements we all endure.

At the council meeting I called for a comprehensive plan to make our services better. Initially, with the low aim of bringing us into the top half of councils in Scotland for all these measures. I want the chief executive and his team to be charged with a realistic plan and timescales to make that possible. But even this was rejected.

The SNP/Labour administration had nothing to say. They just wanted to note the report, and eventually voted through some mealy-mouthed words from their Green friends that mean no action and no change.

I want our council to be the best in Scotland in what it delivers on a day-to-day basis for Edinburgh residents. As a capital city we have a large-scale council with plenty of scope for change and plenty of resource, even in difficult financial times. We should seek and implement the best ways of doing things and seek to be the best. It is a mystery to me why others would seek election who wont commit to that aim.

Iain Whyte is the Conservative Group leader at Edinburgh City Council