From Wester Hill to Wester Hailes

Green councillor Gavin Corbett, describes a day in the life…

I’ve had a couple of queries recently asking me to describe a typical day as a councillor. I usually reply that there is no such thing. Nevertheless, the day described below (yesterday), while not typical in the sense that every day is like it, does illustrate the variety of work.

Last week was budget week at the council. As finance lead for the Green Group, a lot of my time has been buried in spreadsheets recently, so it is time to get back out and about.

The day starts with me dropping off notes to each house at Wester Hill about a home security event later this week. Wester Hill is always a pleasure to visit, nestled on the side of Wester Craiglockhart Hill, with great views across Merchants golf course. That task done, it’s back on the bike and out to Wester Hailes. I love using my bike for all my councillor work, as it allows me to see so much en route. So today, I take the chance to go along the path from Wester Hill to Firrhill High School, which has become clogged with leaves and rubbish recently (I make note to ask the school if it is something they could take on as a local project). I’m also able to go down Craiglockhart Avenue and look at the roadworks which have resulted in complaints from residents over the weekend (a quick call to the local roads manager and we agree on the need for better signage further back warning that the road is closed one way).

At Wester Hailes Education Centre I’m there in my capacity as transport and environment convenor of the south west neighbourhood partnership to say a few words to launch a week-long exhibition on the evolving locality improvement plan. It’s good to chat to so many people who are committed to improving the neighbourhood. Do please go along to the exhibition which is upstairs at the WHEC until Friday 17 February and also get along to the workshop at the WHEC on Wednesday 15 February 6-8pm.

After leaving the WHEC it is into the teeth of the east wind along the canal to see a resident at her home about a matter she has raised with me. Unlike some other councillors I don’t do fixed place surgeries. I prefer to meet people at their home, if that is what they want or some other venue. Many issues are related to the immediate environment in which people live so it is good to discuss it on the spot.

Back on the bike and down past St Brides Centre community café for a plate of soup and to check emails and then I am meeting Scottish Canals and Media Education at 1pm to discuss a potential joint project for a community-led film about the canal towpath as a shared place. Not so much today, as it is SO cold, but the towpath is becoming increasingly busy and occasionally there is conflict between different users.  So the film, if it comes off, is about re-inforcing mutually respectful behaviour.

This is not just any day or any year. Council elections are in less than 3 months so, alongside routine business, I also need to be talking to lots of residents about why I want to continue in the role and understanding what they’d like me to focus on.  Part of that is also visual so for an hour I’ve arranged to meet a neighbour who is a photographer to take some pictures at parts of the ward where I can point to some visible evidence of where I’ve made a difference. It’s still cold and the light is very flat today but we get some decent pictures.

Today is one of those days where I am only in the city chambers for an hour or so, between 4.30 and 5.30, to meet with colleagues and a senior council officer about some long term options for issues like transport, land-use, waste and energy. And to warm up.

By this time it is bike-light time, to get home and feed tea to my hungry sons before going round to another resident’s house at 6.30pm who has asked for some advice about a planning issue.

The final stop of the day is the monthly meeting of Hutchison-Chesser Community Council, at which both and I and fellow ward councillor Andrew Burns are both present. It is a good turn out tonight and there is an extra bonus of coconut cake from one of the residents from the high-rise flats. I leave with a longish list of things needing sorted, to follow up in various ways. The local community police officer is there and he has to field some questions about what appears to be the murder of a young woman by her partner at the weekend on a flat on Hutchison Road.  This is a very tragic incident and very unusual for the area.

And that’s it. Is this a typical day? No, all of the things that have come up today are typical of the kinds of things that councillors do, although rarely all condensed in one day.  I’m lucky in representing a ward that is easily traversable by bike and indeed it is pleasure to do so.

But roll on the spring weather. Please!

About Gavin Corbett

Gavin Corbett is the Green councillor for Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart ward, and an active member of his local community. You can follow Gavin on twitter @GavinCorbett.