It saddens me when I go up town and approach St Andrews Square Park. I tend to use it a lot for a shortcut although it’s nice to walk through generally and if the weather is good you can have a nice coffee or just sit on the wall, eat your lunch and watch the world go by. In summer it’s popular with Mums with small children. Lunchtimes it’s very busy with people from the offices all around the area.
It’s an amenity right in the centre of the City. Not as big as a lot of the squares and parks in London but no less enjoyable. It’s quieter than you’d imagine too, despite having traffic on all fours sides. As is the case with many of these parks it belongs to the people who own the buildings, which surround it. It’s good that the public have been provided with access. It adds a wee bit more to Edinburgh.
Now though, it saddens me to go there. The Occupy Edinburgh movement have set up camp and now it has an altogether different feel to it. It is no longer inviting. It has become a place to avoid. At weekends it tends to be full of people who are protesting, as is their right. A lot of them are secondary school age. Indoctrination comes to mind. There’s a different feel to the park now. Much less inviting. I went up one morning last week to try to speak to people from the movement so I could understand it properly. I was there around 11:00 o’clock and there were only a couple of people about. I’ll try again this week.
In Edinburgh our council has just, very publicly, backed the Occupy Edinburgh protest, the first in the world to do so. I don’t remember them asking the Council Tax payers and voters for our views on that one. Ironically, one of the comments on the Occupy Edinburgh website piece which covered the council meeting where the decision was made stated, “There was a common element which was to ask Councillors to listen to their electorate.” No one asked for the opinion of the electorate before they endorsed the Occupy movement.
The Occupy people have a slogan “we are the 99%” derived from a statistic which states that 1% of the population have 99% of the wealth albeit that this was derived from the USA. Senior council officers would probably fit within the 1% in this statistic.
They are also protesting at the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor has risen significantly and of course they are pretty ticked off at the bankers and the whole credit crunch saga. Edinburgh Council, along with the majority of councils in the UK are guilty of significantly increasing the number and amounts of any charges they can possibly levy on the people in their area. Cuts they’ll say. If it weren’t for the Tory cuts we wouldn’t have to do this. Nonsense. Sure the cuts have had an impact but this could be mitigated to a degree by using council reserves. They could also be further mitigated by council officers finding real efficiencies and using the money saved from implementation to better effect.
Councillors have just saddled the Edinburgh people with an enormous debt, which will take years to pay off, all for a vanity tram project. This will adversely affect the money people have in the future. This will add to the wealth gap as the council taxpayers, including the elderly and the not very well off will have to pay more over a long period of time
At the same meeting which the Council was busily endorsing Occupy Edinburgh, the decision was taken to stick with the in-house refuse and recycling team. This will cost more than the preferred bid recommended by council officers. The way it is now means that more taxpayer’s money will be spent than should have been. It’s okay though because Edinburgh Council is a world leader. In what? Endorsing the Occupy movement? Again, did no one remind them to adhere to their lofty intent at the same meeting – “There was a common element which was to ask Councillors to listen to their electorate.”
Edinburgh Council is not there to be a “world leader”. It is there to deliver the services which council taxpayers and the electorate require at the lowest possible cost.
Few people will argue that the gap between rich and poor is unacceptable, although quite how that gets sorted out is a mute point. What is certain however is that all councils and government departments/organisations and quangos, should get their houses in order PDQ. They need to demonstrate to everyone concerned how efficient and effective they are and how they are also swimming against the tidal wave which is the EU and try to deliver true intelligent democracy.
Most of all councils should stop exploiting, in the worst possible ways, the people whom they are there to serve. Yes serve! A concept lost due to arrogance and self-interest. Put the taxpayer first. Spend the taxpayer’s money only if it is absolutely necessary and make sure that the value gained far and away exceeds the actual monetary cost.