'Waste' claims as council letter sent by post 'along the corridor'
Green councillor Alison Johnstone received the letter – which cost the taxpayer 1.11 – from the legal services department in the City Chambers, which is "along the corridor" from her own office.
She said the authority had to be taken to task over its inefficiency and adopt a more "commonsense" approach in a bid to save money as it is faced with making savings of more than 90 million over the next three years.
The recorded delivery letter was a response to an objection she had made to an HMO licensing application in her Meadows and Morningside ward.
She said: "For some reason I was sent a response by recorded delivery from someone along the corridor.
"I know they might have wanted to be sure that I received the response but we have to use common sense.
"That is just complete thoughtlessness which should not be allowed. If mail can be delivered internally, it absolutely must be.
"If they are determined that a signature is needed, they can ask a member of staff to sign for it.
"We can't have taxpayers paying for recorded delivery letters which just travel along the corridor. It's absurd.
"I'm absolutely convinced that we could be more efficient than we are."
Cllr Johnstone revealed that the council uses eight miles of paper in a year during a public meeting organised by parents on education in the 21st century.
She cited that and the letter as examples of areas the council should be looking at to save money, particularly when current money-saving plans include a proposal to close four city primary schools. She said: "I started by looking at the simple cuts we can make in terms of efficiency.
"You can walk into any office and see the amount of paper floating around. A paperless office is never going to be possible, but do we need all the paper that we have, or all the stationery? It's something the audit committee needs to look at very carefully."
Council chiefs say Cllr Johnstone's mail was sent by recorded delivery for "legal reasons".
Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "A small amount of mail has to be sent recorded delivery for legal reasons.
"Finding smarter ways of working is a top priority for this council, as we are facing extremely difficult financial times.
"Earlier this year over 5,000 staff switched to paperless payslips and a programme to cut down on wasted paper is on schedule to deliver significant savings.
"By moving to double-sided documents and a communications campaign to help staff cut down on paper wastage, we project to save 407,000-550,000 per annum, which equates to 27 million bits of paper by 2010/11."
NHS bureaucrats and council bosses beware: Waste Watch is back. We are reintroducing our campaign to uncover poor uses of taxpayers' money.
Two years ago we exposed such farces as the council's 36,000 electric dust carts which couldn't cope with the city's hills. In these days of unprecedented pressure on the public purse, we are determined to ensure a fair deal for council taxpayers – but we need your help.
Do you know of an example of public money being wasted? If so, call city council reporter Michael Blackley on 620 8742 or e-mail mblackley@edinburgh news.com.