Other cities seem to be able to collect rubbish efficiently, so why can’t Edinburgh, particularly when we have rats who can carry life-threatening diseases, asks Joanna Mowat.
Summer holidays are not only an opportunity to recharge the batteries but a chance to get out of Edinburgh and look at how other places manage their visitors, transport and services and to bring back some ideas about where we could improve.
Previous holidays have been interrupted by a phone call from the Evening News asking for comment about overflowing bins in the centre of town. Usually this call is taken in a European city which, whilst attracting large numbers of visitors, manages its waste efficiently.
This year was different. Not only was the family holiday taken outwith Europe, with a trip to New York and Canada, but the phone call didn’t come. Perhaps this meant that – at last – the bins were not overflowing and the waste was being managed efficiently. Alas, this was not the case – Twitter and my inbox on my return proved that Edinburgh is still failing to pick up the trash and the empty the garbage. What will it take for the city to manage this basic service efficiently? Lack of opposition cannot be blamed – this is repeatedly raised as a problem by opposition councillors of all colours and in the last council meeting before the summer recess contributed to a record five defeats of the administration.
Lessons from abroad would seem to show that where uncollected waste attracts scavengers who can kill you, compliance with putting out waste and street cleanliness is close to 100 per cent. Perhaps I am drawing the wrong conclusions from the presence of bears, who hang out at the dump, the clean streets, with the non-overflowing litter bins having special bear-proof handles, and the care our host took over making sure the rubbish went out at exactly the right time to ensure that bears weren’t attracted to the rubbish. Far from concluding that the introduction of bears is the answer to better management of the waste in Edinburgh – perhaps a campaign against our own life-threatening vermin would be more productive.
We know that poorly managed waste attracts vermin – rats and mice and that these spread disease which can be life-threatening. You may not have an opportunity to practise your Jiu Jitsu against a rat or mouse (as not recommended in the US when confronted by a hungry bear) and they certainly aren’t as cute as a bear but they are a very real problem.
I have seen a steady uptick in the number of complaints about rat sightings in the city centre, coupled with complete denials from the politicians in charge that there is an increase because they only use one measure – calls to Environmental Services. This despite the fact that a few calls to local pest control services will all get the same response – they are busier than they have ever been.
I don’t know about councillors in the city’s administration, but one of the most common complaints we hear in the Conservative Group from constituents is how difficult it is to contact the council since the introduction of the new telephone service with its multiple choices. It was only at the last council meeting in June that the council leader said we would now be measuring dropped calls.
I had hoped that this holiday piece could be a light-hearted one about what we can learn from our holidays, but I am afraid that the message remains the same – this administration is failing to deliver on basic services and Edinburgh remains unable to pick up the trash and empty the garbage.
Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for the city centre ward