As Christmas approaches, so does the Edinburgh council budget with the prospect of yet more SNP cuts to important services.
It’s all very well them trying to blame someone else, but the SNP have been in power in Holyrood for 10 years and for a similar amount of time in the council. It is their priorities and their cuts to important services that we are suffering.
Most worrying is their inability to even get the basics right. A simple repair to a street light now takes about a month. It used to be two or three days. Bin collections continue to be unreliable at best and among the most expensive in Scotland.
To add insult to injury they are even suggesting people should pay twice for garden waste collections – once through council tax and an additional £25 just because they think they can get away with it! Having cut the service from every fortnight to every three weeks, they pretend it will be some great improvement to restore the service to a fortnightly collection, if you pay the extra tax. And politicians wonder why people are so cynical about local politics!
They seem to have abandoned permanent repairs to potholes and instead quickly drop dollops of cold tar into the holes which get scooped out at the first sign of rain or frost. Whatever happened to getting it “right first time” which the council trumpeted a few years ago – fewer potholes filled but done properly.
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But the biggest failure has to be how we treat vulnerable people. Edinburgh’s health and social care convenor in this paper confessed that Edinburgh is in a care crisis and that people are stuck in hospital because we can’t organise a care package for them to live at home in parts of the city. The Care Inspectorate, in one of its most damning reports, accused the council of weak political leadership and delivering poor or at best adequate services. Our social care budget for years has been overspent and has not fully met people’s needs. We simply can’t go on letting down our most vulnerable people.
There is even a rumour that they will be reducing the number of litter bins around the city because they can’t properly empty the ones they’ve got.
When the current SNP council leader took over, he said that with SNP in charge in both Edinburgh and Holyrood we would get a better deal. It’s now time to cut the rhetoric and for both to focus on the day job and for a New Year’s resolution to get the basics right. And if it isn’t a good deal, we know who to blame.
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One way of getting more cash for council services would be a small hotel bed tax which many European cities charge. The obstinate refusal of the SNP Government to let Edinburgh go ahead with this and let our tourists make a small contribution to paying for services simply means we will face cuts in important services which we don’t need to suffer.
Another would be to think about putting our refuse collection services out to tender to see if we could guarantee a better service more cheaply. It would do no harm to test the market again and perhaps generate savings which could be put into vital services like those for our older and more vulnerable citizens.
The council’s consultation on the SNP/Lab proposals for budget cuts is still open. Please make your views known. The fantastic campaign by the City of Edinburgh Music School shows you can make a difference and at least some of us are listening.
Councillor Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem Group leader at Edinburgh City Council