When I was first persuaded some six years ago to let my name go forward for election as Chair of Merchiston Community Council, I wasn’t at all sure what this would entail. People warned that, as most local residents had never even heard of community councils, nobody would be asking us to get involved with local issues or contacting us for help and advice.
This has turned out to be not quite the case! It is true hat we still need to work on promoting our services, but our new website at http://www.merchistoncc.org.uk/ has been visited by hundreds of people, and moves on the part of the City Council to give community councils more decision-making powers (through the new neighbourhood Partnerships) are undoubtedly helping to raise our profile. As regards being contacted by local people, this seems to be working well.
Our strapline is ‘Speaking up for the People of Merchiston’ and, at the request of local residents, we have done so in connection with a wide range of issues. Many of these relate to services directly provided by the City Council and this at least means that we know where to go to get things sorted out or explained. At our monthly public meetings there are usually several local ward councillors present and their involvement in the resolution of problems is often key. But we are not afraid of grilling them relentlessly about contentious policies and practices, such as the granting of extended licensing hours for pubs in residential areas, what we see as unsympathetic building plans, the state of our roads and pavements, and their timetable for refurbishment of local schools.
But there have been some issues for which no single individual or agency appears to have responsibility and which fall into “black holes”. These include inadequate drainage systems, which the City Council says are the responsibility of Scottish Water – but Scottish Water says the Council is responsible. We regularly get complaints about customers leaving pubs in the wee small hours and disturbing people living nearby; the pubs deny responsibility because the revellers have left their premises and the police do not have enough manpower to deal with things like this – which hardly constitutes as Anti Social Behaviour.
Graffiti is another source of complaints. The City Council will arrange for the removal of graffiti that is of a sexually or racially offensive nature (and they normally do this very speedily) – but, if it is on private property, then the Council will not take action. It has to be said that the Police are actively compiling a database of the offending “tags” or graffiti signatures and have had some success in arresting the perpetrators.
MCC receives an ever increasing number of complaints about low-flying helicopters especially during the summer months. These are run by tourist companies, mostly based in West Lothian – ie outwith the jurisdiction of Edinburgh City Council and we are told that, accordingly, nothing can be done about them.
Noisy seagulls are another problem for which nobody wants to take responsibility. Wherever possible, we identify the bodies responsible for problems and let them know of our disquiet, lobbying them and even calling on newspapers for support.
Bridget Stevens is Chair of Merchiston Community Council
For more details about Merchiston Community Council please check with our website which is www.merchistoncc.org.uk
Please also see the Community Section for more information on Merchiston Community Council