What a difference a year makes

Cllr Alys Mumford points out the real, noticeable changes for the people of Edinburgh that their 10 Green councillors have made.

When I was running to be a local councillor, the most frequent piece of advice I received was “Don’t expect to change things straight away”. One-year in from the local government elections, I’m having to conclude that, while well-meant, this advice was wrong.

Yes, council processes can sometimes be painfully slow – generally the first step councillors can take towards change is to ask for a report, then wait, sometimes for months, before voting on whether we should actually take action. Sometimes we must wait for the end of a previous delivery plan to come around before we can change direction, or (rightly!) wait for consultations to be done to get to the best outcome.

It’s frustrating to have to tell constituents that you have raised the issue they contacted you about, but they might need to wait another few months or even years before they see the change appear in their park, school or pavement.

But we’ve also been able to make the most of the fact that, in Edinburgh, Labour are still clinging on to power with their 12 councillors and their Tory backing singers. This precarious position means our group of 10 Green councillors have been able to secure policy wins that will have real, noticeable changes for the people of Edinburgh.

We’ve wiped out school meal debt and introduced an amnesty on library fines, meaning that lack of money isn’t a barrier to learning. We’re cracking down on dodgy landlords by getting clear guidance on short term lets – protecting tenants and Edinburgh’s future housing. We’ve uncovered vital information about the city’s care homes – and taken action against future privatisation of care, meaning stronger rights for workers, and better lives for residents.

We’ve also set things in motion that will benefit Edinburgh for years to come. Declaring a nature emergency will supercharge protection for our green spaces and pollinators, helping the climate and enhancing our mental health. Moving towards a feminist planning system will mean that our city is built in a way that benefits all of us. And, despite the accusations from some other parties in the chamber that we are engaging in ‘student politics’, the motions we have passed at Full Council will see serious action taken towards trans rights, welcoming migrants, and upholding democracy.

There are just some of the Green successes since last May – and it’s not just in Edinburgh. As part of a Scottish network of local Green Councillors, we also hear about the changes that our colleagues across the country are making. Sometimes as the only green voice in a local authority, our councillors are making their voice count – taking action for coastal protection, making roads safer with 20mph limits, standing up against fossil fuel giants, and challenging cuts to services.

The next four years will see big changes for Edinburgh – and whether those will be in the leadership of the council remains to be seen. But one thing will stay the same; in opposition or leadership, Green councillors will continue to use all our influence and power to demand the changes we know will improve the lives of our constituents while fighting the ever-increasing climate emergency. Even if that means having to wait for yet another report first.

Alys Mumford is Green councillor for Portobello / Craigmillar and Co-Convenor of the Edinburgh Green councillors group