EVERYTHING local authorities do they tend to do badly - and expensively. In an otherwise handsome city, the really grotty bits of Edinburgh are created by our local authority. The two obvious examples are the soul-crushing council estates and the blight of planning by which large parts of the city are kept in squalor.
My ideal local authority would have no more than three employees: A manager to put everything out to tender; a lawyer to check the contract details and a book-keeper to pay the dividend out to every citizen.
There may be a few core functions that the City would retain, but even ceremonial ones seem better organised by anyone other than the city fathers. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Hogmanay Party are now world famous, but were created in the teeth of opposition from the then- councillors. They even objected to the Edinburgh Festival, complaining of the nudity and the extra queues for the trams.
Almost every municipal service could be provided far more efficiently if it was delivered by competitive tendering. Refuse collection is far better done by contractors at street level, not via a mega-monopoly, city-wide contract. Refuse is highly valuable if graded and recycling helps us make our environment better. Municipal Man treats it just as waste and takes it far out to the sea off the Firth of Forth.
Some services that feature under local authority logos are, in reality funded by national government. Edinburghâs schools are nominally run by the council, but the cash comes the Treasury in London. The council creams off swathes of this for pointless and unnecessary roles, currently said to be eating up Â£1 billion by Tory leader David McLetchie.
Edinburgh City Council has a vast property portfolio, but it is ill-managed and often merely left to rot. It should be sold off - but to enhance its value, the crushing planning restrictions must be lifted. Edinburgh City depletes or neuters much of its own property values by wrong-headed planning. Bulldozers may do more good than a posse of social workers (Â£800,000 extra for them this year).
The city council owns all the street and road space, including pavements. These represent huge revenue potential. Instead, all we have is paltry parking meters in the busier city centre streets. Road pricing should be applied throughout Edinburgh. Truly residential streets might opt out and become the joint property of the householders, just as the New Townâs communal gardens are already.
All the trul