Joanna Mowat: Transport department must be open

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The Evening News has revealed that there is a culture of secrecy operating in the city’s transport department.

It is truly shocking that a wide-ranging review of the service has been undertaken which has not been shared with those who have responsibility for scrutinising the performance and efficiency of the department on behalf of the people of Edinburgh. What is even more shocking is that having been asked to share the findings of this report, no response from the political or administrative leadership has been forthcoming.

The most important improvement required is increased transparency so the public can have confidence that decisions made by this department are necessary and affordable. Improved reporting to the transport and environment committee is vital to ensure the council is delivering best value and that this is being done in an open and transparent manner.

The council’s transport convener has indicated that the significant trading operation will continue with a new name – a rebranding is no substitute for root and branch reform which this operation urgently needs as it is significantly more expensive to have repairs carried out using this service than contracting out work. The council has wasted money using this service and this cannot be allowed to go on. If this service is to continue to be provided in-house it must be rigorously market tested on a regular basis – for quality and price – to allow the public to have confidence that their money is spent in the most effective way and that the maximum amount of work to repair and maintain Edinburgh’s roads is being achieved.

It remains to be seen whether rejigging the reporting lines will strengthen the department but I find it telling that the convener and vice convenor have consulted with the unions and management but not with other elected representatives. It is difficult to have confidence that the culture of openness and accountability which the council leader says he is committed to will prevail given what looks like an attempt to cover up a poorly performing department. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant – it is time to let the sunlight flood in to disinfect this department from the canker of secrecy that has let poor performance remain hidden for so long.

• Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for City Centre Ward