Briefing – Notification of potential national industrial action in Local Authorities

Below is a Council briefing following the vote of UNISON, Unite and GMB trade union members to reject a pay offer from the Scottish Government. This follows claims that SNP ministers dismissed council workers as ‘not on par‘ with health workers in pay talks. Indeed, SNP Councillors across Scotland are great at paying lip service to the work Council staff have undertaken throughout the pandemic, but when push came to shove at COSLA in May they voted AGAINST a fair pay rise for staffthey put party loyalty before teachers and other Council staff.

The SNP/Green Government need to engage with trade unions in good faith and negotiate a fair pay deal.

The purpose of this briefing is to update members on the current status of national pay negotiations for local government employees and the possibility of industrial action arising from this. 

The joint trade unions for local government employees (UNISON, GMB and Unite the Union) recently voted to reject the revised national pay offer presented by CoSLA on behalf of Local Authorities.

Whilst negotiations are continuing, Unite the Union and the GMB are currently undertaking consultative ballots with their members and, as of 23 August 2021, we have received formal notification from UNISON that they are intending to issue voting papers to their members on
1 September 2021 to ballot them on whether or not they are prepared to take part in strike action. 

Main Points

  • The joint trade unions for local government employees (UNISON, GMB and Unite the Union) recently voted to reject the revised national pay offer presented by CoSLA. Whilst negotiations are continuing, in the absence of an agreement the joint unions are undertaking ballots with their members.
  • UNISON will be issuing a ballot to their members on 1 September 2021 balloting members on whether they are prepared to take part in strike action (yes/no answer). This ballot will close on 22 September 2021. The period during which any strike action can take place covers from 6 October 2021 to 21 March 2022. The UNISON ballot for strike action also specifies that the members they are specifically seeking to involve in the proposed action would cover employees working in school cleaning, school catering and waste and cleansing services.
  • Both Unite the Union and the GMB are currently undertaking a consultative ballot with their members as to whether or not the pay offer should be accepted. The result of this will determine their next steps and whether they too issue a ballot for strike action.
  • Before any industrial action can be taken, certain ballot thresholds need to be met to comply with employment law provisions:
    1. At least 50% of members covered by the ballot need to vote;
    2. A simple majority of those who voted must be in favour of industrial action; and,
    3. In certain important public services, the level of support required must be at least 40% of total members entitled to vote.
  • If certain Council employees were to strike this could seriously and adversely affect vulnerable children and adults, or anyone receiving certain key public services. Trade unions are required to provide lists of categories of employees whom they reasonably believe will be asked to take part in any proposed industrial action.
  • As an employer, we are collating a list of roles we believe should be exempted from participating in industrial action and if agreed, the unions can grant ‘life and limb’ exemptions from strike action. Simple ‘inconvenience’ is not an acceptable reason for requesting exemptions, but rather where there is genuine concern surrounding risk to vulnerable service users or critical public services. “Life and limb” cover would typically include areas such as residential homes for children and the elderly, emergency duty social work, etc.
  • A cross organisational working group of officers led by the Service Director: Human Resources has been established to ensure we have resilience and communication plans in place to respond accordingly.
  • Discussions with the City of Edinburgh Council Trade Unions Branches and relevant Regional Officials locally will be continuing. However, member attention is drawn to the fact that, as a result of the current national position, the City of Edinburgh Council UNISON Branch has withdrawn from local discussions which were underway to explore opportunities for reform and change in respect of pay and terms and conditions of service, following the successful consolidation of Scottish Local Government Living Wage earlier this year.
  • CoSLA Leaders will meet next on 27 August where the position on the national pay negotiations will be discussed further.
  • Further briefing notes will be provided to elected members to update on this situation as it develops.

Council Briefing – Ongoing response to George IV Bridge fire

(Image from Edinburgh Live)

Below is a briefing from the Council on todays fire on George IV Bridge. I hope the Firefighter makes a full and rapid recovery, but my thoughts are also with those that live and work in the area.

Council Briefing
As you will probably be aware from local media, fire fighters have spent much of today tackling a large blaze on George IV Bridge.

It is believed to have begun in the Patisserie Valerie café early this morning and at least one of the floors in the building has collapsed as a result.

Regrettably, one firefighter from the scene was hospitalised, although we have subsequently been updated that they are okay.

Council officers continue to work closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, along with Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, to respond and to minimise any disruption.

Roads officers have put a safety cordon around the affected areas and effected necessary road closures, which are likely to remain in force for the remainder of today and are likely to continue into tomorrow. 

The closures are as follows:

  • George IV Bridge from junction with Royal Mile to junction with Chambers Street
  • Chambers Street to Guthrie Street
  • Victoria Street
  • Candlemaker Row
  • Merchant Street

Unfortunately, the Central Library will remain closed for as long as the cordon is in place.

The Resilience and Communications teams are continuing to liaise with the relevant agencies and Shared Repairs officers are on site to offer structural engineering advice. 

There has been no request to open a rest centre and we are advised that the residential lets affected by the cordon have now been reallocated to alternative properties via the lettings agent.

Group Leaders and City Centre Ward Councillors have been kept updated on the incident.

Resettlement of Afghan Refugees in Edinburgh

(Image from here)

Below is a briefing from the Council on plans that are being drawn up to accommodate Afghan refugees in Edinburgh. I am mindful that military personnel based in my Ward served in Afghanistan, and some gave their lives (there is a memorial inside Dreghorn Barracks). These service men and women may well have worked with the refugees previously employed by the British Services detailed below. Helping these families is the very least we can do.

Members will be aware of the recent deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan and press reports of the various ways in which the UK Government is responding to its humanitarian implications.

Officers are in regular contact with both the UK and Scottish Governments to develop plans for how best the Council and our partners can offer support and housing to as many Afghan refugees as possible.

Two options are currently being progressed:

  1. Permanent resettlement for a cohort of Afghans (and their families) previously employed by the British Services in Afghanistan is being explored. They would be housed in surplus MOD property. Agreement on leasing from the MOD is still to be reached but is being progressed as a matter of urgency.
  2. The Home Office has indicated (via COSLA) that, due to the pressure of numbers now being resettled, it intends to move forward with plans to procure hotel accommodation in Edinburgh.

Due to the speed with which plans are being developed, details – including exact numbers and locations – are still to be confirmed.

Work will continue with the Home Office and partners and particularly services such as education and health to coordinate arrival and support planning.

We’ll provide a further update once more details become available.

Wearing a cycle helmet – it makes sense!

(image adapted from

I cycled a lot as a child after learning to ride on a friend’s Raleigh Chopper. This was mainly with a second hand bike an auntie obtained from her neighbour, but then a Raleigh Grifter (my brother’s) and a Halford’s Vitesse road bike. By the time I left Kirkcaldy for university in Dundee in 1987, however, these bikes were past their best and replacements were unaffordable.

Once I started my PhD in 1992, I bought a bike – a Diamondback Curaca. What had changed in the intervening 5 years was that cycle helmets had become more common. I bought one with my new bike as it made sense, but found it was not unusual to be pointed at by pedestrians in Dundee where I lived. We moved to Edinburgh in 1996 and I found that cycle helmets were more common (and the drivers were less aggressive).

I have cycled a lot since then – mostly commuting, but I have toured Scotland (inc the Outer Hebrides), England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The vast majority of the time (99.9%) I wore a helmet because it still made sense to me, and when my kids came along they wore them too.

Since 1992 I think I’ve had 6 proper accidents on my bike: two due to ice, one in my drive, two with cars (their fault, one driver was charged) and one on the canal towpath in Edinburgh. I don’t think my helmet was damaged in any of these, but there was one broken arm and a few scraped knees. Nonetheless I was glad I was wearing it.

On the 10th of August 2021 I spotted this tweet:

I saw this and thought of a recent incident in my Ward where a SUV driver had pulled out in front of cyclist using a Spaces for People lane (the junction has now been made safer). The cyclist’s bike was destroyed but a trip to A&E showed that he had been relatively lucky in terms of physical injuries. Like Storm Huntly above, he was clear that he thought his helmet had saved him – an uncontroversial observation which I accepted. In responses to Storm Huntly’s tweet, I retold his story on Twitter and encouraged people to wear a helmet – “Wear a helmet!” I said.

I did not get quite the response I expected. Three replies stand out:

  • “As there are, overall, many more pedestrian, car driver and bath/shower user injuries do you recommend helmet wearing for them too Scott?” Cllr David Key
  • I’m in the business of selling helmets and I don’t recommend wearing a helmet. It’s a personal choice. I doubt this ‘saved Storm’s life’. Probably saved a bump or an abrasion, though.” – Hart’s Cyclery
  • There is no evidence that cycle hats reduce either mortality or morbidity for transport cyclists. This is due to risk compensation by riders, increased aggression from motorists and a few cases where a cycle hat causes injury in a fall. Hats are not the answer – segregation is.” – Overlander

Now, it is important to note that none of these people are saying that people should not wear helmets. They are however trying to say that the risk of an accident while cycling is low compared to other everyday activities, and that investing in cycle lanes is the best way to reduce the risks associated with cycling. Nonetheless, I found the scepticism about the benefits of wearing a helmet interesting.

Of course, it is possible to argue for changes to road network which reduce the likelihood of incidents whilst also making the case for measures which reduce their consequences. Indeed, this is entirely sensible as we know that around 16% of fatal / serious cyclist incidents reported to the police do not involve a collision with another
vehicle, but are caused by the rider losing control of their bicycle. Furthermore, peer reviewed research has concluded that helmet wearing is beneficial “especially in situations with an increased risk of single bicycle crashes, such as on slippery or icy roads”.

Indeed, in many places in the UK we are a million years away from having safe cycling networks to get us from A to B. Even where they so exist they tend to make the safest section safer, but offer little support at junctions (see Lanark Road).

I think RoSPA sums up my feelings pretty well:

In 2018, 99 cyclists were killed, 4,106 were seriously injured and 13,345* were slightly injured on Great Britain’s roads. Although cyclists suffer a number of different types of injury during accidents, head injury has been identified as an important cause of death and serious injury in cycling collisions. One way in which cyclists can prevent or reduce the extent of a head injury in a cycle accident is to wear a cycle helmet… …we strongly recommend that cyclists wear a cycle helmet. However, it is important to remember that cycle helmets do not prevent crashes from happening. It is therefore vital that through infrastructure improvements, supported by education and training that we reduce the primary risk factors.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Of course, we live in an era where we have instant access to information and misinformation. If you don’t believe the earth is spherical, the Covid-19 vaccines are safe or the the Climate Emergency is real there are websites which will cater for your views. The debate about cycling helmets is no different, but is based on the perceived uncertainty regarding the benefits of wearing a helmet rather than conspiracy theories.

A quick look at Google Scholar suggests that there is a fair bit of work being undertaken in this area. I searched for “cycle helmet” from 2000 – 2021 and ranked the return by relevance, and these were the top 20 results:

  1. Non‐legislative interventions for the promotion of cycle helmet wearing by children – This observed that “helmets reduce bicycle‐related head injuries, particularly in single vehicle crashes and those where the head strikes the ground”, and that “non‐legislative interventions appear to be effective in increasing observed helmet use, particularly community‐based interventions and those providing free helmets”.
  2. The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries in New South Wales, Australia – This concluded “we have identified evidence of a positive effect of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries at a population level such that repealing the law cannot be justified”. 
  3. Emotional reactions to cycle helmet use – This found that “cycling with a helmet did not lead to increased speed, or to changes in emotional reactions as would have been expected from a risk compensation perspective”, but did note “those who use helmets often cycle more slowly when not wearing a helmet“.
  4. Performance analysis of motor cycle helmet under static and dynamic loading – Not relevant.
  5. The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries in New South Wales, Australia: A rejoinder – This paper challenges the conclusion of Paper 2 above and suggests the helmets “protect at best 10%-15% of cycling related head injuries”, and concludes “Bicycle helmets may provide a small benefit for some types of low speed crashes, but the conclusion that there needs to be mandatory helmet legislation for all adults and children is not justified”.
  6. Cycle helmet ownership and use; a cluster randomised controlled trial in primary school children in deprived areas – This observes that “bicycle helmets afford protection against head and brain injuries to wearers of all ages involved in all types of crash, whether or not another vehicle is involved. Although childhood cycle injuries appear to be reducing in incidence, there were still more than 7500 children under 16 admitted to NHS hospitals between 1991 and 1995 with bicycle related head injuries… There is a steep social class gradient in mortality from pedal cycle injury, with children from social class V having a mortality rate four times higher than children from social class I.”. This paper concludes that “an educational pack plus a form to order a free cycle helmet is an effective way of increasing bicycle helmet ownership and use and reduces inequalities in helmet ownership among children in deprived areas”.
  7. Demographic, socioeconomic, and attitudinal associations with children’s cycle-helmet use in the absence of legislation – Behind paywall.
  8. Inequalities in cycle helmet use: cross sectional survey in schools in deprived areas of Nottingham – This concludes that “programmes aimed at preventing head injury among child cyclists will need to address the inequality in helmet ownership that exists between children residing in deprived and non-deprived areas”.
  9. Cycle helmet wearing in 2002 – See Paper 10.
  10. Cycle helmet wearing in 2004 – This is a regular report which has been published since 1994. It shows that cycling helmet usage has been increasing amongst adults, but less so with children.
  11. Increasing cycle helmet use in school-age cyclists: an intervention based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour – This observed that “helmets reduced the risk of head and brain injury by 63%-88%” and studied measure to increase the numbers of children wearing helmets.
  12. Systematic reviews of bicycle helmet research – This article concluded that “there is good evidence that bicycle helmets are effective in reducing head and facial injury in the event of a crash, and that helmet legislation is also likely to be effective at a population level, although high quality controlled research must continue. We know that non-legislative interventions are effective in increasing helmet wearing rates in children, particularly community-based programs that provide free helmets.”
  13. Changes in head injury with the New Zealand bicycle helmet law – This questions the efficacy of making helmets compulsory at a time when the number of people wearing helmets is increasing. It concludes that “the large increases in wearing with helmet laws have not resulted in any obvious change over and above existing trends, helmet laws and major helmet promotion campaigns are likely to prove less beneficial and less cost effective than proven road-safety measures, such as enforcement of speed limits and drink-driving laws, education of motorists and cyclists and treatment of accident black spots and known hazards for cyclists.”
  14. Cycle Helmet Performance in the Real World – Not peer reviewed(?) and contains no references. It concludes that the “clearest outcome of promoting helmet use has been to increase the public’s perception of cycling as a dangerous activity, leading many people to forego the overall health benefits they might otherwise enjoy. Research has shown that helmet promotion campaigns are linked strongly to a decrease in the number of people cycling”.
  15. Head injuries to bicyclists and the New Zealand bicycle helmet law – This paper concludes that “the helmet law has been an effective road safety intervention that has lead to a 19% reduction in head injury to cyclists over its first 3 years.”
  16. The impact of mandatory helmet-use legislation on the frequency of cycling to school and helmet use among adolescents – This concludes that “the implementation of the helmet-use law did not have a negative impact on the frequency of cycling to school.”
  17. A computational simulation study of the influence of helmet wearing on head injury risk in adult cyclists – This paper concludes that “bicycle helmets are effective in reducing the severity of head injuries sustained in common accidents.” and that helmets were effective over the entire range of cycle speeds studies, up to and including 14 m/s (31.2 mph)”.
  18. The impact of mandatory helmet law on the outcome of maxillo facial trauma: a comparative study in Kerala – Not relevant.
  19. Application of Reverse Engineering and Impact Analysis of Motor Cycle Helmet – Not relevant.
  20. MADYMO simulation of children in cycle accidents: A novel approach in risk assessment – This paper concluded that “wearing a cycle helmet was found to reduce the probability of head injuries, reducing the average probability of fatality over the scenarios studied from 40% to 0.3%.”

I then searched for “bicycle helmet” from 2000 – 2021 and ranked the return by relevance, and these were the top 20 results:

  1. The risk compensation theory and bicycle helmets – This paper suggest that when wearing a helmet cyclists may take more risk. The paper explains why this may be the case, but offers no empirical evidence. The authors note “The empirical difficulty with establishing the relevance of risk compensation to cycle helmets is that, compared with other activities such as motoring, there is a shortage of reliable data.”
  2. Effect of legislation on the use of bicycle helmets – This paper documents how in Canada the “rate of helmet use rose dramatically after legislation was enacted” in 1997 and that the “proportion of injured cyclists with head injuries in 1998/99 was half that in 1995/96”
  3. Risk compensation and bicycle helmets – These researchers observed 35 volunteers cycling down a short hill with and without helmets. They found that “routine helmet users reported higher experienced risk and cycled slower when they did not wear their helmet“. However, for “cyclists not accustomed to helmets, there were no changes in speed, perceived risk, or any other measures when cycling with versus without a helmet“. The paper concludes that the “findings are consistent with the notion that those who use helmets routinely perceive reduced risk when wearing a helmet, and compensate by cycling faster”.
  4. Oblique impact testing of bicycle helmets – This paper concluded that the “current helmet designs provide adequate protection for typical oblique impacts onto a road surface, in terms of the peak linear and rotational head accelerations“.
  5. Bicycle helmets–A case of risk compensation? – This paper is from the same authors as Paper 3 in the first list and Paper 3 in this list. The researchers conclude: “The results give less support to a risk-compensation explanation, in particular because the speeding behaviour of the speed-happy group is more connected to other types of equipment than to bicycle helmets. The helmet is more or less just one element in the total equipment package. So it is not because of the helmet that these cyclists ride fast; they use all the equipment (including helmets) because they want to ride fast.”
  6. Bicycle helmets–To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries – There are three key conclusions here – (1) Bicycle helmets reduce head injury by 48% and serious head injury by 60%; (2) Bicycle helmets reduce face injury by 23% and do not increase cervical spine injury; and, (3) Bicycle helmet effects are larger in single bicycle crashes than in collisions. The final sentence in the paper – “Thus, for an individual cyclist, the results suggest that wearing a helmet can be recommended, especially in situations with an increased risk of single bicycle crashes, such as on slippery or icy roads.”
  7. Bicycle helmets – Behind a paywall, but the abstract notes “the bicycle helmet is a very effective device that can prevent the occurrence of up to 88% of serious brain injuries.”
  8. Bicycle helmets work when it matters the most – This paper concludes that “injury prevention programs should advocate the use of helmets in bicycle riders especially in the teenage group where least compliance with bicycle helmet use was observed.”
  9. Protective effect of different types of bicycle helmets – This is behind a paywall but recommends the use of hard shell helmets over foam ones.
  10. The efficacy of bicycle helmets against brain injury – this paper re-analysed data from 1987–1998 which was used by a separate study to conclude that cycle helmets prevent serious injury to the brain. This paper concluded that the “analysis does not provide scientific evidence that bicycle helmets, not being tested for capacity to mitigate the main factors that cause serious injury to the brain, do reduce it” and that “the Australian policy of compulsory wearing of helmets lacks a basis of verified efficacy against brain injury”.
  11. Bicycle helmets and risky behaviour: A systematic review – this paper built on the the work of Paper 3 and 5 in this first list, and Paper 3 the first list. The researchers conclude: “review found little to no support for the hypothesis bicycle helmet use is associated with engaging in risky behaviour”.
  12. The Cochrane Collaboration and bicycle helmets – This is from the same researcher as Paper 10 and again critiques the work of others. This time it is noted that the Cochrane review Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists took no account of the “scientific knowledge of types and mechanisms of brain injury”.
  13. Differences in impact performance of bicycle helmets during oblique impacts – This research evaluated 10 helmet designs and noted significant variations in performance.
  14. Heat transfer variations of bicycle helmets – Not relevant.
  15. Increasing the use of bicycle helmets: lessons from behavioral science – This paper focused on measurers to encourage younger people to wear cycle helmets.
  16. Protection performance of bicycle helmets – This study presents a helmet test method that considers oblique impact in addition to drop tests, as well as brain tolerance limits based on recent biomechanical research.
  17. Bicycle helmets: a review of their effectiveness: a critical review of the literature – This is a DoT report which considered the case for making cycle helmets mandatory. It made this observation – “There is now a considerable amount of scientific evidence that bicycle helmets have been found to be effective at reducing head, brain and upper facial injury in bicyclists. Such health gains are apparent for all ages, though particularly for child populations.
  18. Bicycle helmets and the law – Behind a paywall.
  19. Testing of bicycle helmets for preadolescents – This is not peer reviewed(?). This study aims to provide guidelines for a helmet testing procedure especially designed for preadolescents.
  20. Nonuse of bicycle helmets and risk of fatal head injury: a proportional mortality, case–control study – This study concludes that “not wearing a helmet while cycling is associated with an increased risk of sustaining a fatal head injury. Policy changes and educational programs that increase the use of helmets while cycling may prevent deaths.”

So what do these 40 papers tell us? Firstly, it is broadly accepted cycle helmets are effective at reducing the likelihood of death or head, brain and upper facial injury – this makes sense. This finding fuelled studies considering how to increase the the number of children using helmets, particularly from more deprived areas. It also appears that the cyclists wearing helmets tend not to take more risks – i.e. there is scepticism about the “risk compensation”.

The main controversary in the field appears to be whether not making helmets mandatory is justified. This issue is that it makes it is just another barrier to people starting to cycle (some studies contradict this). This is understandable as most novice cyclists will buy a cheap bike, and then are stung for the extras – lights, lock & helmet. At a minimum, this will come in at £50, but could easily be double that.

I guess the other question is how dangerous is cycling really? Is cycling really safer than driving as some suggest? In 2019 alone, 100 pedal cyclists were killed, 4,333 seriously injured and 12,451 slightly injured in the UK (2020 was far higher). However, based on time spent travelling a cyclist is 500% more likely to have a fatal accident than a car driver – they are vulnerable road users. However, that’s still only one fatality every 9,000,000 bike rides and let’s not forget that for individuals shifting from cars to bicycles the estimated beneficial effects of increased physical activity are “substantially larger than potential mortality due to increased air pollution exposure and traffic accidents“.

Is cycling more dangerous that walking? This is an odd question as pedestrian already have the segregated lanes cyclists want (i.e footpaths!). FullFact looked at this, and concluded: “The overall and KSI casualty rate per billion kilometres travelled is greater for cycling than walking, suggesting that the former is more dangerous on this measure”.

Cycling being more dangerous than walking and driving is why we need to invest in well designed and maintained cycling infrastructure in the UK and elsewhere. We have seen progress on this in recent years in Edinburgh, but the flawed approach since Covid-19 has polarised the debate here.

There is a also a growing case for for 20mph schemes in the UK. The European Transport Safety Council notes“At speeds of below 30 km/h, cyclists can mix with motor vehicles in relative safety.” and that “Traffic calming measures in 30 km/h zones are essential to discourage drivers from exceeding the speed limit.”

We also should not pretend that investing in cycling infrastructure can lead to a situation where we have no incidents . In the Netherland where levels of cycling are far higher than the UK and the infrastructure is far better, the number of cyclists being killed there is very similar to here despite that country only having about a third of the population. The story is worse for for Denmark. Indeed, in the Netherlands and Denmark 5-6 people per million each year when cycling (in the UK it is 1.6 people per million), and most of these deaths are due to collisions with vehicles (see the chart at the bottom of this page). The higher number of deaths is explained by the fact that people cycle far more in these countries – the death rate per kilometre cycled is 50% higher in the UK.

Nonetheless, the Dutch Road Safety Research Foundation (in a report commissioned by the Dutch Transport Ministry) predicts that if cyclists in the Netherlands always wore a helmet, there would be 85 fewer road deaths a year.

This means that whilst improving the safety for cyclists in the UK is essential, even when we achieve the level of the Netherlands and Denmark incidents will still occur. It is therefore important that we think about how we reduce the impact of the incidents that will continue to occur with or without a step change in the provision of high quality cycling infrastructure in the UK. This is why it makes sense to wear a helmet.

Image adapted from ETSC.

What Next for the Comiston/Braid Road Spaces for People Scheme?

After a bit of pestering, the Council are about to start a mini-consultation on the future of the Comiston and Braid Road Spaces for People schemes. They have also agreed to my request to consider this as one interconnected transport corridor rather than repeating the mistake of viewing it as two independent schemes. Just like the Lanrak Road mini-consultation, the methodology will comprise a meeting with Community Councils which will inform the development of an engagement process with the local community (I have asked about what area this will cover). Below is the statement issued to Community Councils.

Notification of further engagement on Braid Road/Comiston Road Spaces for People Measures
As you will be aware we recently completed a consultation exercise on the potential retention of Spaces for People measures. This was followed by the publication of the report on keeping these measures, which was considered at the meeting of the city’s Transport and Environment Committee on 17 June. The decision to retain or remove measures was based on consultation results, independent market research, a review by technical officers and consideration of how well such changes fit with the Council’s long-term transport policy objectives.

At this meeting it was agreed that a final decision on moving forward with the schemes should be made at the 24 June meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council

Council motion
The Council voted to approve the report, with requests from Councillors to consider further options for:

  • Reopening Braid Road in both directions
  • Improving transport connectivity on Comiston Road and reduce impacts on local residents

You can read the full motion here.

Invitation to meeting on Wednesday 25 August
Council officers are now developing options to address concerns that have been raised regarding these roads.  We are keen to discuss these proposals with you and would like to invite two representatives from the community council to attend an online discussion forum.

Next steps
Following engagement with the community, we would like to reconvene with you to take you through the feedback and outline officers’ proposals prior to submitting the report to the Transport and Environment Committee on 14 October. We will circulate an invite nearer the time.

Seeing RED – Spaces for People Internal Audit

The Council’s Internal Auditors had given the Spaces for People Programme in Edinburgh a RED rating. This means “Significant Improvement Required” (See Appendix 13 of this report) . This is the second worst rating it can give.

Specifically, they conclude “Significant and / or numerous control weaknesses were identified, in the design and / or effectiveness of the control environment and / or governance and risk management frameworks. Consequently, only limited assurance can be provided that risks are being managed and that the Council’s objectives should be achieved.”

The auditors noted the context of the Covid-19 crisis but conclude that “proposals are not appropriately prioritised for approval, and the rationale supporting decisions is not recorded” and that these schemes “were largely based on professional judgement with limited justification available to support prioritisation outcomes…”

They also stated there was a “public perception that feedback provided through the Commonplace survey was not considered in relation to ongoing schemes.”

These conclusions are not a surprise, as I know many residents raised these concerns with myself,  and the Transport Convener often justified the approach taken when questioned.

Based on work they did in October 2020, the Auditor recommended the Council should:

  1. ensure that prioritisation outcomes and supporting rationale are clearly documented.
  2. publish the outcomes of a retrospective prioritisation process.
  3. consider whether any changes to either completed or initiatives in progress are required based on public feedback.

The Auditors said that where possible there was a “need to align proposals with public feedback and opinion” but found that “where public feedback was incorporated into projects, no audit trail was available to confirm that this was completed”. Again, myself and local residents have been calling for greater public engagement since summer 2020!

In terms of project delivery, the Auditors said “no risk management process was implemented to support identification, assessment, and management of programme delivery risks.”, and that “no assessment has been performed to confirm that expected benefits have been realised”.

In terms of the Commonplace survey used to collect feedback early in the SfP Programme, the Auditors say “data controller responsibilities have not been clarified between the Council and the application provider”.

On removing or retaining the scheme the Auditors say “there is currently no clear strategy for determining the potential exit costs associated with reversing individual projects, or transitioning them into permanent solutions, and it is currently unclear how any significant exit costs will be funded”. They say £175,000 has been retained to complete a review of programme benefits by an external consultant, but no “supporting rationale for this retention value” and that “Management has advised that this budget allocation was defined following detailed engagement with Sustrans, however no evidence has been provided to support this”.

Although it is a little dated now, this is a damning report. It does, however, explain why the Spaces for People Programme has been so controversial in Edinburgh. Many of the points identified by the Auditor have been raised by the public many times. Whether people love Spaces for People or hate it, there can be no doubt that this damning Internal Audit judgment could have been avoided if residents were listened to.  No only were the expectations of people in Edinburgh not met, the Council did not even comply with the community engagement guidance set by Sustrans.

Comsiton Farmhouse Sale – 3rd Time Lucky?

Next week the Council will try for a third time to sell Comsiton Farmhouse (83 Pentland View, Edinburgh EH10 6PT). This saga began well before I was elected, but I hope this time it will happen and the future of this local landmark will be secured.

A number of bids were received, with “Burgh Developments” coming out on top with a bid of £1,350,000. They propose to retain the main farmhouse building and convert it into 3 flats. In addition, 6 mews style properties will be developed in the grounds to the rear (see plan). All this would be subject to planning permission.

The 5th ranked bid was for £1,001,001 and this came from – Cohousing in Southern Scotland (CHOISS). This group, which has some local support, proposed that the Farmhouse will be developed into “communal accommodation consisting of living/dining areas, kitchen and visitors’ bedrooms”. To the rear a main accommodation block would be developed in a range of accommodation and sizes with around ten dwellings envisaged.

The Council say – “The offer submitted by CHOISS is subject to a number of conditions, including potential deductions for adverse ground conditions, including if a culvert needs relocated (£150,000) and the condition of the farmhouse. In addition, the offer is subject to funding. The offer is therefore subject to a degree of risk whereby the headline price could be reduced further as the conditions are purified. These risks are greater when compared to Bid 1, which does not propose deductions for abnormal costs nor is it subject to funding.”

I am open to the CHOISS bid, *BUT* I would have to be assured that the total benefits it provides exceed that of Burgh Developments and that they have a firm timeline for progressing the development. So far this is not clear, so I feel the Committee should support a sale to Burgh Developments. I think this is the quickest are surest way of bringing the site back into use.

CHOISS’s offer does, however, have value and I am hopeful they can learn from this and find an alternative property to progress their plans.

What Next for the Lanark Road Spaces for People Scheme?

Today a mini-engagement activity gets underway which will help define the future of the Lanark Road Spaces for people scheme. This is happening because a recent consultation indicated that there was widespread opposition to the scheme, and that the main issue was safety.

To date, the public debate has been dominated by those who either strongly oppose or strongly support the scheme, and many people have been stuck in the middle. The polarisation of the debate in this way is partly due to the Council’s unwillingness to work with the local community to define the aims of the scheme, and co-design the response. The binary nature of the debate means often it can appear that we have to choose between the safety of cyclists and that of vulnerable pedestrians. The reality is that we should be focused on a scheme that treats everyone’s safety as equally important.

We should be aiming for zero accidents, rather than transferring the risk from one group to another (e.g. via floating bus stops!). For this to happen, however, those who either strongly oppose or strongly support the existing setup will have to compromise.

Having looked at the options the Council is using as a starting point (which were approved by Labour, Green, SNP, Independent, Lib Dem and Tory Councillors), the key one impacting on my Ward is just east of Gillespie Crossroads – a short section on the north side of the road between number 432 and Spylaw Park. The concern here is that there is a conflict between parents children accessing Cranley Nursery and passing cyclists. The Council is suggesting the existing lane is retained and floating parking spaces are removed (or vice versa). The existing setup is shown below.

Removing a short section of cycle lane here to reduce the conflict between children and cyclists has been described by one opponent as “ripping out protected cycle space in SW Edinburgh for extra on-street parking“. This is not correct as this is not a protected cycle lane (there are no bollards etc) and there will be no increase in parking. The Council’s argument for removing this short section of cycle lane is “anyone cycling on this section is likely to have cycled in from Lanark Road West and will thus likely be capable of cycling around the parking area”. There is some logic in this argument, but it clearly needs to be explored and challenged as part of the consultation.

A second issue which the mini-engagement activity will consider is the ‘floating parking’ on downhill sections of the route. This is were the kerb and parking spaces are separated by a cycle lane (see image below). The issue here is that on the downhill sections of Lanark Road there is a risk that somebody alighting from a vehicle may be struck by a cyclist. I rode this section today, and was able to reach 24.4 mph with no real effort. The combination of my momentum and the poor running surface is potentially deadly – and there has already been an accident involving a toddler and an adult cyclist. I have spoken to the wife of the cyclist, and I understand he is strongly opposed to floating parking after his experience. It therefore appears correct, if the lanes are to stay, to consult on moving the parking to the uphill side of the road.

I spent 2 hours (and cycled 30km) looking at the Lanark Road and Water of Leith Walkway today from Inglis Green to Balerno. There’s lots of debate about the future of both, but I hope everyone can agree the running surface on the Lanark Rd cycle lanes is abysmal! Even if the Lanark Road scheme was perfect, however, its success will always be limited.

At its west end the Lanark Road SfP scheme terminates just short of Gillespie Crossroads. The westward Lanark Road is too narrow to include any sort of protected feeder cycle lane (but the footpaths do need widened in places), and is not a comfortable cycling experience (see video – speeded up & normal speed). Those that proposed the scheme believed that cyclists would switch from the Water of Leith Path to the Lanark Road SfP scheme at Colinton. This probably looks great on Google Earth in some distance consultant’s office, but the hill makes it an unlikely proposition in the real world.

At the east end of the scheme, cyclists are dumped into the Inglis Green Road/Lanark Road/Slateford Road/Craig Lockhart Avenue interchange. This is not fun – CrashMap reports 125 accidents involving personal injuries over the past 22 years (see below).

These connectivity problems to the east and west are perhaps why the strongest supporters of the Lanark Road SfP refuse to say what level of usage would mean it could be called a ‘success’. Of course, there are other ways of measuring success (e.g. accident reduction) – this is something the local community should consider as part of the consultation. Indeed, a longer term plan and timeline from the Council on how Lanark Road SfP can be part of a larger cycle network would also be useful.

Opponents of the Lanark Road SfP will point to the Union Canal Towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway as alternatives for cyclists. My view is that the Union Canal Towpath east of Meggetland should be avoided as it is at capacity. When not busy, however, it is a great route. The Water of Leith Walkway between the Union Canal and Balerno (NCR75) is good but a bell is needed (see video – speeded up & normal speed), and will get better if the plans to improve the surface are realised. Its main drawback is the lack of lighting (not easy to fix), so it does not work as a commuting route over the winter. Indeed, lone cyclists/walkers may not feel safe at any time of day/year.

So if there are limitations on cycling on the broad Lanark Road corridor, how do we cut congestion and reduce emissions along the route? The answer here, as for most of suburban Edinburgh, is public transport. I’d love it if people in Balerno & Currie had a safe cycling route into the city and other places of employment etc, but the reality is that if we are to tackle the climate emergency we have to look to making public transport more attractive. Once the future of Lanark Road SfP is settled, we need to give the same energy to improving public transport.

Notification of further engagement on Lanark Road Spaces for People measures

Below is an update from Council Officers on what’s planned next for Lanark Road. I am concerned that CEC proposes presenting solutions to Community Councils and residents with the aim of gaining feedback. I feel a better process would be to engage with residents/businesses to understand what they feel the challenges/opportunities are, and then use the outputs to generate designs for feedback.

I have also raised concerns as it appears that only those residents living on the Lanark Road will have a say. I feel this should be expanded to include businesses and addresses on adjacent streets.

Update – At the foot of this blog is a Q&A section on this briefing.

Update – At the foot of this blog (after the Q&A section) I have included the slide pack that will be the “starting point” for discussions with Community Councils.


As you will be aware we recently completed a consultation exercise on the potential retention of Spaces for People measures. This was followed by the publication of the report on keeping these measures, which was considered at the meeting of the city’s Transport and Environment Committee on 17 June. The decision to retain or remove measures was based on consultation results, independent market research, a review by technical officers and consideration of how well such changes fit with the Council’s long-term transport policy objectives.

At this meeting it was agreed that a final decision on moving forward with the schemes should be made at the 24 June meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council.

Council motion on Lanark Road
The Council voted to approve the report, with requests from Councillors to revisit the infrastructure and design of the Lanark Road corridor. Officers have been asked to engage with Lanark Road residents and local Community Councils to:

  • achieve cycle speed mitigation measures
  • reconsider parking provision where parking spaces sit outside protected cycle lanes, with a view to mitigating potential conflict and safety concerns as soon as practicable on the ground

To help us make more informed decisions, we are also currently monitoring traffic through the area, using cross-modal counters. You can read the full motion here.

We are now commencing with the required engagement with Community Councils and Local Residents – this engagement will take place over the coming weeks through the following means.

Meeting with Community Councils
Council officers are now developing proposed revisions to the cycle lanes on Lanark Road which aim to address concerns regarding cycle speed, and conflict at floating parking bays. We will discuss these proposals with representatives from the relevant Community Councils and have invited two representatives from each to attend an online discussion forum next week. At this meeting we will present a number of proposed changes and seek feedback and input on cycle speed mitigation and parking provision.

Residents’ survey
The outcomes of this meeting in terms of proposals will be detailed in a survey on the Council’s website, which will be circulated to residents on Lanark Road via letter drop. This will allow us to gather a good sample of opinion in the local area in relation to the changes proposed.

The results of survey will help us to mitigate the concerns which have been voiced regarding this scheme and will sit alongside the results from the previous consultation when elected members decide on whether this scheme should be retained in the longer term.

Follow up meeting with Community Councils
Ahead of the publication of the report in early September, and following the resident survey, we will reconvene the same group of Community Councils to discuss the findings from the survey. At this meeting officers will present a summary of the feedback from the Survey and outline officers proposals to be considered at the September meeting of the Transport and Environment Committee.

We hope that you find this information useful, please let us know if you have any questions.

Questions and Answers

Q. I am concerned that CEC proposes presenting solutions to Community Councils and residents with the aim of gaining feeding. Would a better process not be to engage with residents/businesses to understand what they feel the challenges/opportunities are, and then use the outputs to generate designs for feedback?

A. The officers will be presenting options within the parameters of the approved motion to generate discussion. This is not a definitive or closed option list but provides ideas of what could be changed to address the points in the motion. Following the Community Council meeting and resident survey the information gathered can be considered and proposals changed.

Q. It also appears that only those residents living on the Lanark Road will have a say. Can this be expanded to include businesses and addresses on adjacent streets?

A. This will include businesses within the attached plan. This has been expanded from the original letter drop area.

Q. Please could you confirm with which Community Councils you are engaging and will elected members receive the final summary and feedback in advance as well as the CCs?

A. We have invited the following Community Councils: Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green and Baberton Mains, Colinton, Craiglockhart and Longstone. So far we have received confirmation that Juniper Green and Baberton Mains CC and Longstone CC will be in attendance. Elected members will receive the full summary in advance of the TEC.

Q. Is the letter drop to the same addresses that received notification of the initial works?

A. We are increasing the letter drop area as per the attached plan. This adds in adjacent streets up to 100-150m from Lanark Road and streets that can only be accessed from Lanark Road such as Hailes Grove.

Q. And, so I am clear, is the survey both postal and electronic through website?

A. The letter that will be sent out will provide details of how people can request a paper copy of the survey so it is accessible to people who do not have the internet or who are not familiar or do not like using web based surveys.  

Q. Is the survey subject to market research or any weighting and is it all “in-house” or are other agencies involved?

A. The survey is not subject to market research but is to inform officer and councillors of the residents opinions on the measures regarding the specific points of the motion and is all “in-house”.

Slide Pack for Community Council Meetings

Briefing – 21/22 Edinburgh Garden Waste Registration

Below is a briefing from the Council on the “Garden Tax”. The key change is a 40% price hike, but the exemptions I argued for have been retained. There will also be more flexibility for some people on how registration works. Promoting the scheme as outlined in Section 5 will cost £70,000.

Edinburgh Garden Waste Collection Briefing 2021/22

1.0 Introduction
The paid garden waste collection service is approaching its fourth year, with the main registration window opening on 22 July. This briefing note provides background on the service, the registration window, how we are communicating with customers and the key dates around this.

2.0 Key Dates

2021/22 Main registration opens22 July at 10am (runs for 6 weeks)
2021/22 Main registration closes1 September at 2pm
Letter, with permit and calendar, landBetween 25 October and 3 November
Current 2020/21 collection year ends7 November
New 2021/22 collection year starts8 November
Missing letters (permits) to be reportedAs soon as possible after 3 November and before 3 December
Mid-year window opens 1 December at 10am
Service suspended From 20 December until 16 January
Mid-year registrations processedMonthly (see section 4 below for more details)
Mid-year registration closesAt least 31 May 2022 (longer is being investigated, see section 4 below for more details)
2021/22 collection year ends6 November 2022

3.0 The Service
Any residential household within Edinburgh can register for the garden waste service during the registration windows.

Customers who sign up receive a fortnightly collection. The service runs from 8 November 2021 until 6 November 2022, with no collections between 20 December and 16 January. The festive break in service allows us to divert resources to other recycling and waste streams during the busy festive period.  

The cost of the service is £35 per bin. This is a price increase from the previous £25. This is the first price increase since the charge was introduced in 2018 and is required to ensure the Council can cover its costs for delivering this collection service. The price increase was approved at Council in February 2021.

A customer can sign up during the mid-year registration window however the cost will remain at £35 and the permit will run until the end of this service year, which is 6 November 2022.

3.1 Exemptions
Exemptions from paying were established at the introduction of the charge and these continue. A customer can request an exemption if they receive Council Tax Reduction (formerly called Council Tax Benefit) or are classed, or live with someone who has been classed as, severely mentally impaired. Other council tax discounts, such as single occupancy or disabled person discount, don’t qualify for this reduction. Households that pay for garden aid are not exempt from paying for the service.

If a customer is eligible for an exemption they must still register during the sign up windows in order to receive the service. Exemption eligibility is checked before the subscription is progressed, if this check highlights that the customer doesn’t qualify the registration is cancelled and the customer is contacted advising them of this and how to pay if they still want to receive the service. Where this happens close to the registration closing, the customer is given a short extension to call and pay over the phone.

3.2 Permits
Once the registration window closes, and the required eligibility and data quality checks are complete, the registrations are processed onto the waste collection systems and new routes are created.

During the two weeks ahead of the service commencing the customer will receive a letter, with an attached permit sticker (and additional permit stickers if more than one bin has been registered for the property), and the collection calendar for the garden waste service address. The customer’s name will also be added to the letter where it is feasible to do so. 

From this year, customers will now have the opportunity to select whether they want this letter to be sent to their home address or their garden waste service address if they are registering for a different property. This has been a highly requested option from customers, in particular those supporting individuals with care needs and landlords registering their properties.

Customers are advised that if they do not receive the permit by a specific date, they should report this as soon as possible, and no later than 28 days after this date. For those registering in the main window, this would be if it has not arrived by 3 November and should be reported no later than 3 December.

Customers are advised to attach the permit to a clean and clear part of the bin below the handles; this allows the collection crews a quick way of confirming registered bins as the colour of the permit changes each year. If the bin does not have the permit attached it will not be emptied.

The permit is a tamper-proof permit meaning that, if a permit was to be ripped off the bin, it would leave behind evidence the customer had paid for that year’s collections and the part taken off becomes void.

3.3 Tiphereth Customers
Tiphereth undertake garden waste collections in the Colinton area of Edinburgh through a long-running agreement. Customers on the streets serviced by Tiphereth would still register for the service via the Council however they would receive a weekly bag collection carried out by Tiphereth.

3.4 Internal site and other organisations
We don’t offer a commercial garden waste service however internal Council sites, and a limited number of other organisations (namely bowling clubs, lawn tennis courts, and croquet clubs), can register for the garden waste service. 

The charge remains the same as residential customers, and the registration process and timescales also remain the same. 

The key difference for these sites is that a Waste Transfer Note (WTN) covering the collection year must also be signed before the permit is sent out and the details of this are outlined at the point of registering. The WTN is a legal requirement to ensure the Council and the business is compliant with their duty of care. Where it has not been possible to get a signed WTN back within the deadline the subscription is cancelled and the business is refunded, it is possible for them to sign up again in the next registration window.

4.0 How to Register
The quickest and easiest way to register and pay is on our website at

Signing in to a MyGov account is now optional in order to make the process easier, however registering without signing in will mean the customer will not see the history of their garden waste subscription on their account.

Residents can ask a family member, friend or neighbour to register and pay on their behalf online if they’re unable to do it themselves.

Customers eligible for an exemption can register using the online form, or by using the phone number below if they don’t have access to the internet or someone who can register on their behalf.

Anyone without access to the internet can call us on 0131 357 2800. Phone lines are open Monday to Thursday between 10am – 4pm and Friday 10am – 3.40pm. 

It’s not possible for a resident to register in person at one of our locality offices.  They will need to register online or by telephone instead. 

A one-off payment of £35 (per brown bin) will be taken by debit or credit card. There is no limit to how many garden waste bins a property can have but there will be a charge of £35 per bin.

Aligning to corporate policy, we don’t accept cheques or cash payments. 

Residents can share a bin with their neighbours, but they’ll need to agree on one resident acting as the lead for booking and paying for the service against their property. If there are any service issues with the shared bin (e.g. a missed collection), then this must be reported against the property with the permit.

Residents are encouraged to sign up early once the registration window is opened.

Registrations cannot be made outside of the sign-up windows.

4.1 Main Registration Window
To receive the service for the full collection year, (and have a continuous service if they are already a customer) residents must register during the main registration window using the method outlined above. This window runs from 10am on 22 July until 2pm on 1 September.

4.2 Mid-Year Registration Window
If a customer moves into the area after the main windows closes (or they changed their mind or missed the summer window), we operate a mid-year registration window. Previously this was two weeks held around January/February, however as of this year this window will be greatly expanded opening from 1 December 2021.

The approach to the mid-year window was approved at Transport and Environment Committee in June 2021, with an amendment to continue the mid-year window beyond 31 May 2022 (the originally proposed close date for the mid-year window) with details of this to be reported to Transport and Environment Committee in March 2022.

Similar to previous years, a further Members Briefing will be circulated ahead of the mid-year window opening with specific details on this registration process.

5.0 Communication
A comprehensive communications campaign is being implemented to raise awareness of garden waste registration and to encourage sign up during the main registration window (between 22 July and 1 September).  

The communications approach is using multiple channels to raise awareness to as many residents as possible and encourage sign up. The following communication channels are being used: 

  • Lamppost wraps – targeted at areas people visit regularly such as supermarket
  • Radio/Spotify adverts o Social media posts (including sponsored adverts)
  • Press (press releases and reactive press statements as required)
  • Council website
  • Adverts in supermarkets
  • Billboards on key arterial routes
  • Mailing to existing customers and those that have registered an interest for this registration window, to advise of the registration window.
  • Customers who we have an email address for, will be sent emails from 22 July and those without email addresses will receive a letter.  Both the email and letter will explain to customers what they need to do and about the rate change.

6.0 Summary of Key Points
The main registration window opens at 10am on 22 July closing at 2pm on 1 September. Registrations after this time will not be processed.

The rate will now be £35 per bin, as approved by Council, to ensure full cost recovery of the collection and subscription management service.

The registration window will be supported by a multi-channel, comprehensive, communication campaign.

Residents are encouraged to register online (or have a family member, friend or neighbour register on their behalf). The other option to register is via phone. 

Residents cannot register in person at one of our locality offices, and cheque/cash payment will not be accepted.

The mid-year registration will open from 1 December; however, the charge will remain at £35 and the service year ends 6 November 2022.

Details of the full terms and conditions can be found here: