Budget cut puts flood plan at risk

Councillors fear future Water of Leith flood defences may be jeopardised

Councillors fear future Water of Leith flood defences may be jeopardised

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MAJOR projects such as the next phase of the Water of Leith flood defences could be at risk because of Scottish Government budget cuts, city council chiefs fear.

Budget plans unveiled by Finance Secretary John Swinney yesterday include a cut of £200 million in capital funding for councils across the country over the next two years.

He has told local authorities they should use their borrowing powers to pay for projects which the government cannot fund during that time.

But Labour said with a massive existing debt and another £231m to borrow for the tram project, Edinburgh could not afford any more loans.

Edinburgh’s Liberal Democrat finance convener Phil Wheeler admitted some projects could be at risk if there was not enough cash coming from the government.

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “If councils don’t have the money in the bank, the government is asking them to put it on their credit card – but Edinburgh’s credit card is maxed out.”

She voiced fears that plans to ugprade Boroughmuir High could be at risk. However, Mr Swinney insisted since it was part of the government’s schools programme, it was safe.

Councillor Wheeler said Mr Swinney’s budget left “a number of question marks” over revenue and capital spending.

He pointed to the long-delayed building of flood defences along the Water of Leith as an example of a project where the government had not yet committed cash.

He said: “I would hope the next phase of the Water of Leith flood prevention works are not jeopardised. We have no confirmation on that.”

Mr Swinney said Boroughmuir would not be affected, but on the Water of Leith he said: “The city council has made commitments on trams and all the rest of it. They have got to make a judgement about what it’s possible to do in terms of other capital projects. That’s not a decision for me.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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