Edinburgh Council forced to rewrite 'misleading' progress report as coalition loses five votes

City council leaders have been forced to draw up a “more accurate evaluation” of their progress after opponents branded the picture painted in an official document “a work of fiction”.

Friday, 28th June 2019, 1:06 pm
Edinburgh City Chambers

The defeat for the SNP-Labour administration was one of five votes lost by the minority coalition in a single meeting as Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens “ganged up” against them.

Councillors voted 33-26 in favour of a joint addendum by the three opposition groups, which means officers will have to rewrite a coalition commitment update report – after the original document suggested that 35 out of the 52 coalition commitments agreed by both the SNP and Labour groups, are “on track”, only four have “work required” and 13 are “making progress” ahead of the 2022 deadline.

The report said that the tram extension to Newhaven being delivered by 2022 was on track, despite it not being timetabled for completion until 2023 – while a pledge to give communities the right to planning appeals was deemed on track, despite MSPs voting down proposals earlier this month.

Opponents also pointed to a pledge to set up four locality committees being on track as inaccurate after coalition councillors voted to abolish them earlier this year. The final agreement between the three opposition groups blasted the assessment of 23 of the 52 commitments.

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Council leader Cllr Adam McVey said the coalition set a “bold five-year programme” in 2017 and is “making substantial progress”.

But Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, labelled the report “potentially misleading and confusing”.

He added: “We should have an honest review of performance that then allows us to improve. There are many commitments that don’t have measures, metrics or targets yet – two years in, and that renders them meaningless.

“We have to be honest and if things need improving, we should say so.”

Green Cllr Chas Booth said the report, drawn up by officers, was “a work of fiction that Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky would be proud of” – while Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Robert Aldridge said it is “one of the most misleading reports I have seen at the council”.

The council’s code of conducts states that “councillors should not raise matters relating to the conduct of capability of employees in public”. Cllr Aldridge later apologised for his comments.

He said: “It had been interpreted by some people that I had been questioning the integrity of officers. That was never my intention whatsoever and I apologise if that was the impression that was given.”

The administration front bench hit back at opposition groups.

SNP Cllr Kate Campbell said: “The only work of fiction is from the opposition, desperately trying to create a narrative while the administration gets on and delivers policies that improve lives and make sure everyone can share in Edinburgh’s success.”

But Labour Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron admitted that describing the report as misleading and inaccurate was “correct in part” and that the coalition “has to accept those criticisms”.

The council leader, Cllr McVey, said: “They have picked and chosen the statistics in this report and replaced them with whatever clambered statistics they can find. We have set it up to deliver by the end of this administration.”

He added: “The opposition seem determined to find any excuse to point to our pledges not being delivered and ganged up against us.

“What they have missed is this is a five-year programme – we are not saying that ‘s all delivered yet. They were trying to find anything that agrees with their negative view of the world.”