Robert Aldridge: Shuffling the deckchairs will not be good enough

The Care Inspectorate has criticised the council for its failures in services to older people. Picture: John Devlin
The Care Inspectorate has criticised the council for its failures in services to older people. Picture: John Devlin
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After six weeks of dithering, at last the council has got a coalition together to run the city – and it’s the same as last time. Instead of Labour and SNP we have SNP and Labour. We can only hope that the new council administration amounts to more than shuffling the deckchairs and will change direction on serious problems facing the city.

During the courtship period before the parties renewed their vows the council received a damning report from the Care Inspectorate on its failures in services to older people. The inspection report was one of the most critical of any I have seen.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Lib Dem group leader

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Lib Dem group leader

As our population ages and more people become reliant on services it is vital that we have a high quality service in which people have confidence. Yet the report talked of weak political leadership and elements which were poor or at best “adequate”.

It does not fill me with confidence that the new “improved” council coalition has put the same councillor in charge of this service whose political leadership was described as weak in the report. A first test of the new council is whether it can transform this vital service. The problem doesn’t lie with the staff, the vast majority of whom care deeply. The fundamentals are there. The council needs to get the service right.

It is an interesting side issue that the council coalition is very happy to have services for older people provided by organisations which are not directly run by the council, but goes apoplectic if you suggest the same could happen with bin collections! A weird sense of priorities.

This is especially true when you consider we have a bin collection service which is (literally) a number of drivers short of the full service. Garden refuse collections – already reduced in frequency – are now being collected late; food waste collections delayed and regular reports of missed bin collections across the city. It’s a sad story which has been going on for years. So far the much heralded 65-point improvement plan appears to be taking some time to take effect! Shouldn’t we at least take a look at other ways of making the service work?

The agonising decision of what is best for Charlie Gard has dominated the media in recent weeks. A heartbreaking case where all sides genuinely believe they are acting in the best interests of the child. I have the greatest admiration for those working in child protection in the city, who have to make similar complex judgements balancing the rights of parents and the best interests of children every day. It’s a sign of their dedication and professionalism that we very rarely hear of decisions going wrong.

As the festivals season hits us let’s take a little time to look afresh at our city through the eyes of visitors. We are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful, compact, safe and exciting cities in the world. It is a city which always rises to the occasion of its annual festivals party, mentioned affectionately by everyone who comes here. It gives us a great opportunity to mingle with people from all over the world and to reinforce Edinburgh as an outward looking dynamic European capital city welcoming to all. The city really comes into its own, letting its hair down and showing that we really know how host the best party in the world.

So like any city we have big challenges to sort out. But given our unique assets we have few excuses when we get it wrong.

Councillor Robert Aldridge is leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Edinburgh City Council