Visitor verdict on council performance - rubbish

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As the main Festival season approaches in Edinburgh and we are about to welcome thousands of tourists to our city you do have to wonder what they will think of us.

As they look around they will see weed-infested pavements and road surfaces fit for the third world. If they stay longer than a day or two they may discover the joys we all experience when our bins go uncollected and remain outside blocking the way for passers by.

And then there are the endless roadworks diversions and seemingly deliberately created traffic jams.

If our visitors take the time to chat to locals or read the Evening News they will hear the council has big plans for events and major projects. And that will make them wonder why it has no plans to fix the basics. They will also hear plenty of gripes from a public fed up with being unable even to complain to the council because no one will answer the phone.

Most surprising for visitors will be the news that we had a council election this year because they will wonder why there wasn’t a democratic revolution in the City Chambers – the old guard thrown out and a new council in place ready to deliver change.

Of course, there was change, but just not enough. We Conservatives went from 11 to 18 seats and won the popular vote. That we didn’t have the most seats was down to the vagaries of our STV electoral system. That we are not part of changing the council for the better and concentrating on delivering the basics is down to deal between the SNP and Labour who are clinging to power as a minority.

The fact they can’t or won’t publish the basis of this deal makes it look like power for the responsibility payments and nothing more.

For us residents this is all an embarrassment. And it is an expensive one for many who have seen their council tax rocket while their services deteriorate.

As residents, we should consider how things are done elsewhere - ask those visitors you meet whether their town or city has the same problems. Look around when you visit other places, both in the UK and abroad. I bet you will find the grass is greener on the other side.

Your Conservative councillors won a fine victory back in May and I want to thank every voter who put their trust in our new group who will put local people’s needs for high quality services first. But we now know that wasn’t enough as we have been frozen out of power.

If we want real change, whether by the time of the Festivals in 2018 or by the next council elections, I know my new team have a job to do. And we are determined to do it when council committees finally start to meet in August.

We will spend our time exposing the failures and wasted money. We will research and promote better ways of doing things. We will demand proper performance information to see where our council tax money is being badly spent. We will publicise the need for change and I hope build on the trust we already have with a growing number of the Edinburgh public.

I want an Edinburgh I can be as proud of as I am of our Festivals when visitors come calling.

If we all keep at it, maybe we can get a council that delivers on the basics rather than embarrasses us. I hope so, but I am not holding my breath while waiting.

n Cllr Iain Whyte is Tory group leader on City of Edinburgh Council