Council land sale to fund new jobs

City economy convener Councillor Frank Ross. Picture: Jane Barlow
City economy convener Councillor Frank Ross. Picture: Jane Barlow
0
Have your say

Huge swathes of land and buildings are to be sold off to create a fighting fund for new jobs.

City leaders hope their £7.5 million super sale will finance a new investment fund to further boost the city’s economic recovery.

Money raised from the sale of surplus ground, offices and other buildings will be used to unlock development projects and bring employment to the city.

City chiefs are being tight lipped as to exactly which buildings are to be included in the sale. But the plan comes at a time of optimism for the Capital – following a recent glowing health check of the hotel and tourism sector – and with the trams project finally nearing completion.

As the council prepares to set its budget for 2014-15, economy convener Frank Ross said Edinburgh wasdoing well, but but still needed to focus on employment.

He said: “Job creation is still our number one priority. Latest statistics rate us first in the UK for job creation. But our forecasts tell us the population growth is such that we still need to create more jobs.”

The new seven-figure strategic investment fund is designed to provide crucial extra help to ensure hoped-for developments materialise.

Councillor Ross said: “It will be targeted at areas where perhaps the deal isn’t quite happening and it needs some oil to make it happen.

“We’re looking at the International Business Gateway area out at the airport which is ripe for development and there’s a fair bit of activity there but there is a need for infrastructure – roads, drainage, power.

“In past times, the council would just have spent that money and put that in place. What we would like the strategic investment fund to do is say ‘We’ll put that in place, but we want to be part of an investment here. You need that infrastructure to make this development work, we’re happy to be involved in a joint venture, but we want to get our investment back and go and use it somewhere else’.

“They understand where we are coming from and the are happy to have that discussion with us, but it’s at an early stage.”

Other areas which could benefit from such investment include Craigmillar, which is getting its own town centre; the Waterfront, where the council is anxious to get development under way again after it was more or less halted by the recession; and Fountain Quay, where a masterplan for the area has been submitted.

Cllr Ross said Fountain Quay exemplified the council’s new approach of maintaining a stake in developments and securing an ongoing financial return. He said: “The strategic change there is that in the past we might just have sold it off to the highest bidder for developers to do, but now we’re much more conscious of place-making in Edinburgh. The general direction of travel is retained ownership and income streams rather than selling off the family silver.

“As successes in Craigmillar and these other places generate revenues, we can redirect those somewhere else.”

He said the imminent launch of the trams was already providing a boost in demand for office space along the route. “We’re already seeing significant improvements, even though the trams are still a couple of months away, especially out in West Edinburgh.

“In Edinburgh Park we’re seeing the take-up of office space moving significantly ahead and we’re starting to see significant growth in rental.”

He said a vacant 32-acre site there had been sold to a London-based developer who was keen to develop it as office space.

“They see the strength of the Edinburgh market as being such that speculative build is something they are interested in.”

On the jobs front, the Edinburgh Guarantee – that all sectors of the city will work together to ensure every school-leaver has the choice of a job, training or further education – has helped bring about a big improvement in the proportion of people leaving school with a “positive destination”.

Cllr Ross said: “Two years ago the Edinburgh Guarantee was a one-year funding programme. Last year we managed to get it extended for a second year. Now it is in the mainstream budget. That’s a recognition of the success we’ve had, moving us up to 91.4 per cent of all school-leavers going into a positive destination.

“If you look two or three years ago we were down about 75-76 per cent.

“Everyone recognises that if people have a positive destination as their first experience of leaving school they are more likely to become a productive citizen.

“Two or three years ago a quarter of our kids were giving up or we were giving up on them, depending on how you look at it.”

The figures now put Edinburgh on a par with the Scottish average for school-leavers going into jobs or training. But now the council wants to strengthen links with local employers who could offer apprenticeships or other training to youngsters, particularly from schools which still have disappointing figures.

Cllr Ross said: “We will drive that forward to move our percentages up as much as possible. This year we will focus on those schools with the lower percentages and see how we can tie in with local businesses.

“Perhaps we need to be encouraging local businesses to liaise with these schools.”

Cllr Ross said the council was on schedule for its target of helping to create 20,000 jobs in the city between 2012 and 2017 and safeguarding 10,000. So far, he said, the council had created or safeguarded 4213 jobs.

The Caltongate development, recently given the go-ahead by city planners, is expected to bring 2000 jobs and the new business district set to be developed at Haymarket has the potential for up to 3500.

UP THEY GO . .

A SWATHE of price rises are set to be introduced across all city departments – including increased costs for school milk and cremations.

The News previously revealed a double-whammy of fee increases for motorists who face paying an extra 20p at the meter and inflated charges for parking permits across the board.

But the price of schools meals is also to rise by 10p from £1.80 on August 1, while school milk will increase by a penny to 15p.

Rental of all-weather football pitches will rise from £58 per hour to £59.15 and the cost of a commemorative bench will escalate from £1550 to £1600.

Fines per day for overdue library books will increase by a penny to 16p and hiring the main room at the Central Reference Library will rise from £110 to £150.

With charges slightly rising across all services “from cradle to grave”, it has emerged burial fees will also increase, with double interments on Sundays experiencing the biggest increase from £1882 to £1938. Cremations will now also cost £664, from £645, and a headstone £103, from £100.

Housing of multiple occupancy rates for properties with more than five residents are set to rise from £585 to £602.55.

Pest services will also increase charges marginally, with wasp nest removal up from £53 to £55.08, and eradication of bedbugs increasing by £2 to £102.

‘This will help city prosper’

By Frank Ross

Economy convener, Edinburgh City Council

EDINBURGH’S economy has proved remarkably resilient since the banking crisis, and I’m confident that, with sustained investment and the support of our public, private and third sector partners, the council’s Strategy for Jobs will continue to bear fruit and the city will continue to prosper.

We have targeted the creation of 20,000 jobs by 2017 and are on track to achieve this. Since May 2012, we have created or safeguarded more than 4000 jobs while also supporting almost 4500 people into work or learning.

Figures released recently by the Centre for Cities showed Edinburgh enjoyed the greatest percentage growth in jobs anywhere in the UK for the period 2010-12. This is in no small part to our highly educated workforce and Edinburgh being an attractive location in which to invest, but also due to initiatives such as the Edinburgh Guarantee, which seeks to increase the number of job, education or training opportunities available to young people.

The success rate of school-leavers in Edinburgh achieving and sustaining a positive destination is continuing to rise and is at its highest rate – now standing at 91.4 per cent, up 3.1 per cent on this time last year. This success is exactly why we have maintained the £1 million funding for the Edinburgh Guarantee as ensuring that Edinburgh’s young people have opportunities is vital for the economic success of our city.

The council has played its part by creating 140 places for Edinburgh’s next generation of workers, which equates to more than one per cent of full-time equivalents at the council. And just last week, we announced the appointment of the first Buchanan Scholars in memory of the late Councillor Tom Buchanan. The scholarship programme aims to add value to existing support for the career aspirations of young people.

Unlocking development opportunities across the city can also drive jobs growth.

We are concentrating on 12 key sites that have the potential to generate more than £2 billion worth of development value and create an additional 28,000 jobs for the city.

One example of this is Haymarket where, in January, pre-development works started and this alone will support almost 2000 jobs.

Jobs creation remains my top priority and we will continue to work closely with key partners across the city to ensure that all citizens can benefit from Edinburgh’s prosperity.