Council services: 'What do we want and how much to pay?'

Share this article

like most political slogans, David Cameron's "Big Society" is meaningless fluff which is vague enough to appeal and antagonise in equal measure.

If anything, it resonates least well in Scotland, where we have tended to accept a bigger role for government and the need for appropriately-funded public services.

The problem, though, is that "appropriate funding" is itself a point of contention, with cuts at Westminster, Holyrood and now the council.

The News revealed the size of the City Chamber's axe last week. Today we outline what some cuts will actually mean, in terms of bin deliveries, parking charges and public loos.

&#149 What do you think of the prospect of fewer bin collections in Edinburgh? Vote here

Frankly, it isn't a pretty picture. There's something for everyone to hate, and the ruling Lib Dems and SNP must be fearful that they will face their own death by a thousand cuts in next year's election.

But what would the other parties - or indeed any of us - have done? The council's grant from government is down 3.1 per cent, while other incomes have collapsed and the black hole over three years is 90 million.

This is why it is time to look behind Cameron's Big Society gimmick and ask fundamental questions about what government, especially at a local level, should actually do.

Critics who suggest the Big Society is in fact just a cover to soften the Westminster coalition cuts programme have a point.

And most reasonable people would agree that councils must continue to play a key role, to ensure the common good and to protect the vulnerable.

But in past times of plenty, with burgeoning budgets, money was simply wasted on the peripheral and vainglorious, like Edinburgh's Outlook propaganda sheet.

We now need to have a real debate about what we want local authorities to do, and the city council itself must take the lead in asking residents what they need and how much they are willing to pay in future.

Important though public services will continue to be, the starting point has to be "less".

Danny's the boy

many people have been labelled "ambassadors" for Scotland and for Edinburgh.

But is there a better one than a daring guy in his 20s who can do some neat tricks on a bike?

Danny MacAskill is an internet phenomenon. A film of him performing stunts in a beautifully portrayed Edinburgh has more than 23 million hits, and a follow-up on the road to Skye will be just as successful.

VisitScotland and the city authorities should sign him up now. He'll bring in more tourists than shots of the Castle set to moody music.

Back to the top of the page