It’s not just the trams

Alan Cochrane (Telegraph, 16th April) calls it “the policy that dare not speak its name”, “the shambolic farce” – the trams. He asks

And so, with local elections looming who is to blame for this fiasco and who should be punished in the polling booth?

and his answer is:

If I know my local politicians they’ll all say, in relation to The Trams fiasco: “It wasnae me.” But it was them – all of them, who’ve served on that council in recent years. So let’s get rid of the lot.

Least culpable, I suppose, are the SNP representatives. That party has always been against the project and, to be fair to them, Alex Salmond and John Swinney, his finance minister, tried to axe it when they first came to power in 2007. However, in those days they were outvoted by Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Those three parties, in both Holyrood and the City Chambers, are most to blame and while they all now try to heap all the ordure on each other, the voters are entitled to apportion responsibility for the foul-up fairly evenly.

That said, 2007 also saw SNP councillors going into partnership to run Edinburgh – voluntarily, it must be said – with the Lib Dems and they must surely accept a share of the blame, therefore, for the appalling descent into even greater chaos.

Astonishingly, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP have all published Edinburgh council election “manifestoes” and none have even mentioned The Trams. Incredible. To me that is proof positive of their collective and individual guilt.

National politics played out in Edinburgh have brought national shame upon our City.  As far as the trams are concerned, a laughing stock rather than a rolling stock.  We are also lagging behind in delivery of basic, fundamental services  – take home care for the elderly as one example.  Edinburgh is in 7th place out of 10 Councils. Too much time spent by the present incumbents on vanity projects, embroidering party rosettes and climbing the greasy party political pole and not enough time representing the people of Edinburgh – time for a new broom to sweep health care for the elderly into perfect shape and sweep incompetent, scandalous waste into history.

The trams are the most visible sign of this council’s failure. But the statutory repairs scandal, though invisible to most visitors to the Capital, will prove even more damaging in the long run.

Today in the Scotsman auditor Deloitte reports that the IT system at the centre of the statutory repairs scandal was “so bad a child could get into it”. The system held sensitive contract information. Insiders reported the passwords had not been changed since 2005 and were posted on walls around the department.

It is understood the Deloitte report confirms the security set-up was so simplistic and flawed that it could have been accessed by “a child”.

Meanwhile, a report by Audit Scotland has revealed that taxpayers’ cash paid out by the council that has not been recovered stands at more than £39 million.

About £30m has been paid out to contractors, but has not yet been billed to home- owners, and a further £9m of outstanding bills that homeowners have refused to pay has gone uncollected since March 2011.

In June 2000, a young Australian with a summer’s job in Ryan’s Bar at the West End was tragically killed when a lump of masonry fell: then the latest and most tragic of in a string of similar incidents. After Christine Foster’s death it was announced there would be a complete overhaul of the capital’s historic buildings. In January this year Hurricane Bawbag closed Great Junction Street completely after masonry from the Old Leith Co-op building fell into the street.

In 2005 councillors were stripped of their role in overseeing the statutory repairs system: the costs were then 9.2 million each year.

Fast forward to 2010, when the local authority agreed to an internal audit under pressure from local politicians, it emerged that the bill had soared to £30m.

That was only the beginning. Since then, more than 870 complaints over the service have emerged, surrounding 550 repair jobs. There have been claims customers may have been over-charged by as much as £13.5m for repairs.

But under the council’s system for carrying out such repairs, an even bigger sum has already been paid out by the council to contractors, to the tune of £30m.

Just one substantial report on the investigations – which are costing the taxpayer at least £1.8m – has been produced by the city council, in October last year, by which time it emerged more than 513 formal complaints were being pursued against the authority.

Edinburgh Council has only £1.25 million provision for bad debts. How many of the historic buildings that need repair are still waiting?

The Trams have caused havoc in our streets and closed down businesses at enormous personal cost and disruption to so many.  Visitors must wonder what’s in the water here that this fiasco was allowed to happen. Buildings down Leith Walk have also been damaged. But thankfully there are no fatalities.

Christine Foster, 26, had been living in Edinburgh, although she is from the Kalgoorlie goldfields area of Western Australia.

Her flatmate, Todd James, said: “Christine was loving Edinburgh, she really enjoyed being here. It puts a perspective on everything that everyone does when one minute she was here the next she was gone.”

The masonry, which tumbled onto an area of seating outside Ryan’s Bar, left five other people injured. (BBC, 30 June 2000)

I have been helping many hundreds of Edinburgh citizens whose lives have been so deeply affected by the disgraceful Statutory Notices Scandal. Whilst the cost to Council Taxpayers could easily rocket through £200m, the human cost is beyond value.  So many lives ruined.

There is a protest outside the City Chambers on 26th April at 10:30 to coincide with the last full council meeting – lest they forget!

Vote for Gordon Murdie

4 Responses to “It’s not just the trams”

  1. Why I’m backing Gordon Murdie | Edinburgh Eye Says:

    […] I met Gordon Murdie over coffee and sandwiches in Eteaket earlier this week, and I was impressed. If he gets elected – and I hope he does – I doubt he’ll vote how I would if I were a councillor (Me “Well, I’m a lefty feminist gay rights activist.” Murdie: “Well… I’m not!”): but perhaps more important than one vote on a council of 58, I think he’d be someone who’d ask solid questions when presented with the kind of glossy sell that dismissed people’s concerns about the trams and privatisation and a rising, rising statutory repairs bill. […]

  2. Argungu Says:

    PLEASE vote for Gordon Murdie, Independent. I would if I lived in the Southside/Newington Ward 15 just to make sure that the architect of the latest Edinburgh disgrace called tram, Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, was kicked out of office and out of the Council Chamber.

  3. Insult to Injury | Edinburgh Eye Says:

    […] in Southside/Newington is a man with the right skill set, and though his focus has been on the statutory notices scandal, Gordon Murdie admits: I wish I could have seen what the councillors saw five years ago. Not the […]

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