EDINBURGH, in common with other local authorities, has a substantial challenge to meet in setting a balanced budget.
The population of the city is rising, the birth rate has also gone up and there are more older people needing social care. This places an ever-increasing demand on council services against a financial background of reductions in government funding and a rising cost in service provision. It is no surprise that the Westminster government’s reduction in the Scottish block grant has been reflected in the financial settlement for Scottish local authorities.
Next week, we will set a budget for 2016-17 that aims to make savings of more than £85m, which is probably the most difficult this council has ever had to set. Whilst making these savings, the last thing we want to do is reduce the frontline services that matter most to Edinburgh’s citizens.
Instead, we want to find efficient and effective ways of delivering them. We will continue to give priority to health, social care and education. We will actually be increasing our spend on schools by £1.8m annually to meet rising pupil numbers and working closely with health and social care partners to deliver a seamless, more efficient service through the newly established integrated joint board, a partnership between the council and the NHS.
One of the most important aspects of the budget process has been our consultation to find out where you the residents want us to spend and save.
As a result of our budget engagement, more than 4000 of you have told us what you think through a range of channels, including an online budget planner and dialogue page, this has allowed us to make changes to the final budget that reflect the public’s needs.
By listening to you, we have rejected proposals to reduce funding for music tuition in schools and to redesign day care services for adults with learning disabilities.
Thank you to all those who took the time to have your say, all these views have helped us develop a budget that better takes into account what matters to you.
• Alasdair Rankin is Finance convener for Edinburgh City Council