Monday 18th January 2021,
North Edinburgh Community News

Council accused of misleading public over Spaces for People complaints

Edinburgh City Council has been accused of misleading the public after saying it has received just two complaints over its controversial Spaces for People programme.

In May 2020 the Scottish Government announced funding for Spaces for People programmes, which aimed to provide safe options for essential journeys during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since April, the council has used the £5m it received from the Scottish Government to introduce various road closures and temporary traffic measures using emergency coronavirus powers.

Some of these measures have proved incredibly controversial, with several sparking community campaigns against them.

This week, in response to a freedom of information request the council claimed that it had received only two complaints over the scheme since it was launched.

Edinburgh City Council is arguing semantics, saying it only provided information on ‘official’ complaints, as per the exact wording of the freedom of information request.

Campaign groups opposing the implementation of the various traffic schemes have reacted with anger at the suggestion that thousands of emails, calls and letters objecting to the proposals have not been formally logged by the council.

David Hunter, chair of Get Edinburgh Moving, says that the council’s semantic gymnastics still do not account for such a low number of complaints, as many members of his organisation have email complaint receipts from the council.

Mr Hunter said: “The council has quite simply misled the public with its response to the freedom of information request regarding official complaints.

“Let’s set aside the 400-plus objections received by Spaces for People by email, the 2,650 petition signatories, and the hundreds of complaint emails to councillors – and all of these only in relation to East Craigs.

“To be absolutely clear, there are many more than two people in the East Craigs community alone that have evidence of acknowledgment emails from the council in response to their complaints lodged via the council’s official complaints webforms portal.

“In many cases, we have reference numbers for the complaint, in some cases only the auto-generated acknowledgment email because a reference email was never sent.

“It seems to be a common theme that no substantive responses to the complaints have been received beyond initial confirmation of receipt – one particular highlight was a response from customer care asking if the complainant could confirm what they meant by a ‘LTN’.

“I would suggest it’s time for the council to go back to their own portal and check again, and then apologise for misleading the public. Then, they should apologise for the lack of action on the significant number of official complaints that have been made, and tell us when they will be dealt with.

“I’m afraid once again this underlines the arrogance with which our council treats its residents and taxpayers.

“Time and again, they prioritise unlawful vanity schemes over desperately needed basics.”

Liberton and Gilmerton councillor, and convener of the council’s transport committee, Lesley Macinnes, said: “We have been clear that, while the number of official complaints, which was what was requested through Freedom of Information, is just two, we have had significant correspondence via other channels.

“This includes through ward councillors and officers.

“We have made every effort to listen to complaints and comments on Spaces for People measures, and have responded to these directly, in many cases making changes to designs.

“We continue to consider public feedback as we progress with new schemes, and on existing measures, taking comments into account as part of our review process.

“The results of that listening can be seen in the design changes that we have incorporated across many of the schemes.”

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