Community survey concerns played down

Midlothian council leader Cath Johnstone
Midlothian council leader Cath Johnstone

Midlothian Council has defended its latest community consultation following concerns that it wasn’t promoted enough.

The local authority’s ‘Shaping our future’ consultation began in February and will run until at least January 2017.

Julie Read, a strong opponent of previous council plans to close Newtongrange Library, is worried that not enough local people know about this latest survey.

She said: “I only know about this exercise as my attention has been drawn to it in my role of chairwoman at Newtongrange Library User Group.

“My concern lies in that the council are asking people to complete postcards that are in the library or email the Council, message via Twitter etc. However, the posters are nondescript and ineffective in catching your attention and I doubt many people in Midlothian know that their opinions are being sought.

“Asking people to email their comments doesn’t really give contributors a good picture of what areas of the local services they want feedback on. Surely a questionnaire and a higher profile campaign is warranted given its importance in shaping our communities?

“It’s my concern that there will be so little feedback and they go ahead and make changes we know nothing about.

“I would like to bring the communities attention to this consultation in the hope that more people will ‘have their say’.”

The council’s chief executive, Kenneth Lawrie said: “The first phase of the Shaping our Future consultation received prominent coverage. Consultation meetings have also been held or are planned with the Federation of Community Councils, the Midlothian neighbourhood planning umbrella group, the Midlothian People’s Equality Group and other organisations.

“Ms Read makes a fair point however, that a higher profile campaign with a questionnaire is likely to encourage a greater level of engagement with local residents. With this in mind, we have been working on a series of options aimed at changing the way a number of services are currently delivered and to make the financial savings which are now needed.

“These will form the second phase of the consultation, which will be launched later this month and will run until mid October.

“The public consultation findings will then be taken into account by councillors in their discussions leading up to council budget decisions towards the end of 2016.”

More details of the new consultation will appear soon but anyone wanting to leave a comment in the meantime can email HaveYourSay@midlothian.gov.uk, fill out a comment card available in local libraries or council reception areas, or write to Have your Say, Midlothian Council, Midlothian House, Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith EH22 1DN. More information is also available on the council website at www.midlothian.gov.uk/shapingourfuture