Robert Aldridge: Keep it local and focus on the day job on May 4

It's time to work together for the good of the city writes Robert Aldridge.
It's time to work together for the good of the city writes Robert Aldridge.
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Let’s be clear. The council elections are not about Brexit. They’re not about indyref2 or, indeed, about how Scottish anyone is. They are about how our magnificent city will be run for the next five years.

While many parties will use any excuse for a constitutional rammy to avoid talking about their plans for Edinburgh, we should all be focusing on the day job – and there’s a huge job to be done. We need to move away from the division of the two bruising referendums and work together for the good of the city.

Councillor Robert Aldridge

Councillor Robert Aldridge

The chances are that the city will be run by a combination of parties as a result of the proportional representation system which Lib Dems achieved when in government in the Scottish Parliament.

That forces parties to act more co-operatively, which can only be for the good of the city.

Of course, that has been made far harder by the Scottish Government failing to make any meaningful reforms to the council tax, despite their promises to do so, and failing to use their tax levying powers to help councils.

They have also refused to allow the city to levy a small hotel bed tax on tourists to let them contribute to meeting the costs of tourism to the city. As a result of their lack of action the council will have to continue cutting some of its services.

But there is a real need to focus on getting the basics right. It is a sign of how far things have slipped that the council was forced to bring in a 65- point improvement plan for refuse collection services last year. How do you let a service fall so far that it needs a 65-point action plan to put it right?

When Lib Dems led the council from 2007-2012, Edinburgh moved from being the second worst local authority in Scotland for potholes and road maintenance to 11th place (out of 32). Since 2012 the council has fallen back again. That is why we need a real focus on getting the basics right. People rightly expect that services they pay for through council tax are well run and reliable.

It’s time to put a focus on that.

And let’s be prepared to look at doing things differently, maximising the work we can do jointly with the voluntary sector, putting the quality of the service first, rather than being hidebound by how it’s always been done. Let’s make sure our services are available for people when they need them and are easily accessible. And let’s give more control locally for services, so that the council provides services people really want and need locally.

It’s also time to talk up our city. I’ve always been conscious that Glaswegians get behind their city in any ambitious bid they make, while in Edinburgh we often look for the downside. Let’s be ambitious for Edinburgh’s future as a major international, outward looking, capital city, maintaining and enhancing its World Heritage status, ensuring it remains the world capital for festivals and a fantastic place to do business, study in, work in and visit.

So rather than ask about party labels (as Frank Ross suggested) I suggest you ask who is ambitious for Edinburgh, who will put Edinburgh and their community first and who is prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with the day job.

n Cllr Robert Aldridge is LibDem councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle ward