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What Edinburgh can learn from Somerset, Staffordshire, Rochdale ---- and Abraham Lincoln


In Somerset, Lord (Chris) Smith is  learning a lesson that box ticking bureaucrats learned in Mid Staffs and former prime Minister Gordon Brown learned in Rochdale after talking to 'some bigoted woman'..... as Abraham Lincoln said: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time--but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

He didn't add, but could have, that the longer you try and fool all of the people all the time, usually the worse the smash up when the fooling has to stop.

What connects these three examples from the recent past, and our mounting problems in Edinburgh with health threatening traffic mismanagement, is the common thread of people, all supposedly serving the public, who came to see the public as the problem in, not the point of, their own jobs and careers.

Gordon Brown treating a reasonable woman making reasonable points about the real world in a moderate way, as a bigot to be placated and ignored:  Lord Smith heading an agency seemingly more concerned with some private vision of encouraging nature, or biodiversity as we now call it, and trumpeting in media release, about how well they were doing, rather than doing the basics such as dredging rivers and water courses---which amazingly now after earlier attempts at denial, we find them saying WOULD have helped in some way to get more water away---who would have thought that? 

Mid Staffs NHS Trust where box ticking bureaucrats were for years issuing self congratulatory Press releases about how well they were doing, not only while people were dying of thirst and starvation in their hospitals, but also working strenuously to discredit the people trying to bring these unbelievable failings to their attention.

In Edinburgh the same theme is apparent of administrators and politicans getting themseves hopelessly lost in a hermetically sealed world of their own. A world sealed off from reality where obvious facts are treated as debatable, and members of the public seen as troublesome agitators getting in the way of their own 'big vision' projects.

Elsewhere on this site we have many dozens of documents detailing the willed bureaucratic blindness within Edinburgh Council to some basic and obvious flaws in their linked tram and general transport policies---as well as other areas of planning, such as the current controversial Caltongate project .

If all this website was about was that a council that had wasted a billion pounds plus on completing half a tram 'system', it would be hardly worth continuing.

But the way the council stayed blind to failings within the project,within their own council owned 'private' arms length company Tie, and associated weaknesses within their own administration and structure, became summed up by the mantra  'on time and within budget' repeated blandly in response to any criticism, almost until the very hour it collapsed in ruins.

And they remain in the same state of denial, but now instead of it being just about the money being wasted it is about the far more serious issues around the various effects of traffic, it's congestion, noise and pollution--on people's health

  • The council and everybody in the world know that traffic created pollution and noise is a clear, significant and unarguable public health threat.
  • They know the way they designed the tram project, to save money, would increase pollution in the city.
  • They know this because they knew the routes they chose to send the tram down made it inevitable displaced traffic would seep like flooding water across the city, spreading so widely that two thirds of the streets where people live across the city would see traffic get worse BECAUSE of the tram , NOT better.
  • They know they had and continue to have, no realistic plan, and really no possibility of a plan, to alleviate this.
  • They even know that the INCREASES in traffic congestion in formerly quiet or quieter residential streets, would EXCEED the decrease they can forecast from any congestion scheme that could be created, short of decimating employment and commercial prospects for the city centre.

In Edinburgh, we'll predict that the next trick of our administration is going to be to present the tram as causing a few teething troubles with traffic.

In a year or so these will suddenly becomesomething a bit more than teething troubles.

They will then be discovered to be troubles needing radical action, but something to be blamed on the traffic itself, not their own decades long botched handling of it.

Sadly, we are then likely to discover the city's immediate ability to do anything is likely to be constrained by these enormous issues requiring the usual careful investigation, no doubt, and (don't laugh), involving lengthy 'consultation' and 'engagement with communities'.

But of course financial constraints will also regretably come into play --- a major one no doubt being the £25M a year financing costs for the next 30 years that the council have to repay for the 'Payday style' loan needed to finish off the half track line in the first place.

But above all they will blame 'the traffic', not their own decade long mishandling of it, as if traffic is an act of God beyond their ken or control in any way.

Just as the Environment Agency bunglers have now donned their wellies to splash around in the inland sea in order to try to blame the water--not their own decade long failure to dredge the watercources by which the water escaped to the sea for centuries.

And just like the Environmental Agency are presently finding out, however much you try and ignore them, sooner or later the facts will out --- and then you find you can no longer fool any of the people for any of the time.