Iain Whyte: No change to failing core services from '˜new' council

LAST week this newspaper highlighted the fact that the Council Administration formed, eventually, after the election in May, was 100 days old.

Monday, 9th October 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 2:09 am
street talk: Homelessness and rough sleeper numbers are rising

In modern politics this is always seen as a line to gauge what changes those newly in power have made, or are set to make.

Here in Edinburgh it seems that change is minuscule. The “wins” being trumpeted are the continuation of work started years before and are mostly reliant on central government inducement.

This is probably no surprise as the same political parties are in power and the agenda is the same. The sad thing is that means no change to our failing core services. Instead the big achievement of the once “anti-tram” SNP is to carry on spending on the completion of trams to Newhaven when we haven’t even heard the lessons we need to learn from Lord Hardie’s inquiry. This is either foolish or arrogant.

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The starkest example of this lack of change is in the care of our older people. Having failed to bring any governance or improvement for the last five years the same councillor remains in charge of this area as part of the re-jigged SNP-Labour administration. As the truth of worsening services becomes clear since May as demonstrated by the appalling report from the Care Commission, along with the £6 million projected overspend three months into the financial year with no plans in place to meet the original savings targets. This was exposed by questioning from me at the Finance and Resources Committee. The council leader has tried to deny that the service is in crisis and his Labour Health and Social Care colleague has been invisible.

On bins, litter and weeds the coalition bickers on Twitter but takes no action to improve matters. It also rejects the new ideas my colleagues have put forward that would have achieved change and real improvements.

On street homelessness and rough sleeping – ended in the 1990s thanks to the Conservative Grant initiative – we see increasing numbers. The administration’s response is a “Champion” and a talking shop yet to be set up, rather than action. We argued (in vain) against delay of a much needed housing development; delay seems to be in the DNA of this administration when what we really need as a matter of urgency is more housing.

We proposed a graffiti task force before the summer to respond to the epidemic of “tags” and vandalism. At the same time the obvious problem of weeds disfiguring our pavements has been crying out for simple treatment.

In contrast to the paralysis of the first hundred days my Conservative colleagues have been pushing forward with constructive suggestions and highlighting areas which need focus to improve services and conditions for the people of Edinburgh. We desperately need a change in focus from the administration and to see them concentrate on delivery.

The first 100 days show only inaction and failure from the same coalition partners who are unwilling to hold our services to account.

We Conservatives will keep pressing for that change and new ideas and more efficient delivery. I hope some of them will start listening.

Iain Whyte is the Conservative Group leader at Edinburgh City Council