Steve Cardownie: Tories poised to pull the plug on IT trip invite

Joanna Mowat is one of two councillors to be invited on a fact-finding mission to California and Canada
Joanna Mowat is one of two councillors to be invited on a fact-finding mission to California and Canada
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The Conservative Group on Edinburgh Council met last night to determine its response to an invitation from the company CGI, which provides IT services to the council and which has been the subject of some criticism, with its performance coming under under intense scrutiny by councillors and officials.

The company’s response was to extend an invitation to two councillors and three officials on an all-expenses paid trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and Montreal to witness their operations, which it believes will demonstrate just how much success the company enjoys.

This has immediately raised questions (and some hackles) about a possible conflict of interest, in that how can the public expect members of the delegation to deal with the company objectively having just returned from California and Canada at the very same company’s expense?

What has to be borne in mind is that one of the councillors invited to go on the trip is Joanna Mowat of the Conservative Group, who also convenes the very committee that was set up (amongst other things) to monitor the performance of such companies and the service they provide to ensure that the council receives best value.

READ MORE: Council bosses criticised over US trip paid for by supplier behind troubled tech revamp

So the Conservative Group has to decide whether it should turn down the invite, which may then lead to the visit being cancelled, or whether to accept and allow Joanna to go.

I have no doubt that the councillors would be scrupulous in their dealings with CGI on their return but that may not be the perception of the public, who could be forgiven for thinking that this is no more than an attempt by CGI to buy off its critics.

The Conservatives, as the main opposition to the administration, had to examine the issue carefully as many of its members will see this as a test of their credibility.

By the time you have read this they will have made their minds up. My money is on thanks but no thanks!

Get on board with transport plans

Tomorrow the council’s transport committee will formally endorse the proposal to submit its plans for the future direction of travel for the city’s transport strategy for public consultation.

As a former councillor, pedestrian, public transport user, cyclist and car driver I think that I have most bases covered with this issue, which promises to exercise the minds of all stakeholders for some time to come.

Although I have a keen interest from a travel perspective, I am also concerned about the future of the city’s general wellbeing with regard to employment, housing, education, social deprivation, capital investment, culture and tourism – all of which have to be borne in mind when discussing the city’s travel plans and the ability of citizens and visitors alike to move about freely, efficiently and safely.

It is because of the effect plans like these have on the city’s population from all walks of life (forgive the pun) that it is of paramount importance that the council gets it right, as we will have to live by its decisions for generations to come. Responses to this consultation exercise cannot just be left to academics, vested interests, transport zealots and such like. The programme for consultation is wide ranging with in-depth analysis presentations and online information to help recipients reach an informed opinion.

All of the city’s population will be affected by the outcome of this exercise and initiatives that spawn from its conclusions.

It is imperative that as many people participate so that the council can also make informed decisions and must not be allowed to impose its vision on a populace that is not on board!