Council runs out of cash for new projects

The new Portobello High will not be affected by the black hole. Picture: Kate Chandler
The new Portobello High will not be affected by the black hole. Picture: Kate Chandler
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CASH to maintain city roads, schools and care homes is so stretched there is no funding left for new projects, a finance report has revealed.

A budget blueprint paints a bleak picture for Capital spending in the coming years with the current £41 million-a-year investment pledge failing to “guarantee that the council’s infrastructure remains fit for purpose”.

Projects already promised funding – like a new Portobello High School and Water of Leith flood prevention – are expected to go ahead as planned.

But projects where money has not already been allocated could face major challenges securing cash as the city faces up to a £120m budget shortfall, reduced Scottish Government handouts and the pressure of welfare reform.

Priority areas – such as maintenance of pavements, schools and flood prevention – will continue to receive annual funding deemed “affordable” based on the city’s level of resources.

But the report – written by director of corporate governance Alastair Maclean – suggests “a higher level of investment will be required to ensure that the infrastructure meets the council’s and stakeholders’ needs and is fit for purpose”.

And it continues: “In particular, there remains a general pressure to fund continued city-wide investment in schools, care homes, roads and pavements, sports facilities and flood prevention works.”

Councillor Gavin Corbett, finance spokesman for Edinburgh Greens, said that a failure to invest now will “store up even greater spending pressures in the future”. He said: “Our city’s basic assets need investment. From schools to care homes and from pavements to playparks, we are simply not spending enough even to tread water. As a city we need to ask ourselves whether this failure of investment is what we want our children and grandchildren to inherit. Whether they will thank us for yet more crumbling assets and all for a few pounds off council tax bills?”

But city finance convener Cllr Alasdair Rankin, left, said the council’s budget was an “evolving process”.

He said: “This council is committed to delivering high-quality public services and to protecting frontline services. The budget approved in February 2013 provided for additional capital investment of £28.5m, over a four-year period, in such areas as roads and education. In fact, the current capital programme provides £94m for five new replacement schools.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS . .

PRESSURES on the Capital’s budget means levels of investment could be capped unless alternative revenue streams can be secured.

In years to come, pothole and pavements repairs may struggle for funding while – in the current climate – the revamp of Meadowbank Stadium has been described as “aspirational” by one source.

Cash to build a new high school in Craigmillar – by 2020 – is also far from secured. But ring-fenced projects such as the long-awaited Portobello High School should not be affected.