Andrew Burns: Council relishing seeing through the promises made last May

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2013 may be considered an unlucky year by some but I think it holds much promise for both the council and the city as a whole, and it will be the Capital coalition’s first full year in which to deliver on the promises we made to the people of Edinburgh.

2013 may be considered an unlucky year by some but I think it holds much promise for both the council and the city as a whole, and it will be the Capital coalition’s first full year in which to deliver on the promises we made to the people of Edinburgh.

Managing our money

2013 will see our first budget, set in February, in which we fully intend to show how we have listened to the comments we received before and since the council election last May.

Of course, there’s no escaping that the economy continues to really struggle across the UK and further afield. There was always going to be a long-term impact on the public sector from the banking crisis and recession that began in 2008, but the slow recovery makes it even harder. While this will be difficult, we do still spend the best part of £1 billion in 
Edinburgh each year and we have to focus on getting the best possible outcomes for that.

Edinburgh’s Economy

One small, but very significant, contribution the council has made towards supporting people in tough economic times is the introduction of the Living Wage for 2000 of our lower-paid staff. We’ll be looking at ways of extending this to people who work for other organisations that provide services on behalf of the council and hope that our lead will encourage other employers to do the right thing.

We will also continue the success of the Edinburgh Guarantee, which has been helping to get school leavers into work, training or further education. Edinburgh has not done well compared with other areas in making sure young people have a “positive destination” after school. While our partnership with local employers and others has paid dividends so far, this remains a priority.

Two exciting developments to look forward to in the spring are the opening of the EICC extension and the “Atria” high-quality office development next door. Both will play an important role in keeping Edinburgh’s economy buoyant.

Local involvement

Whether in difficult times or not, a good local authority must show that it is listening to the views of its citizens in how it delivers services. We have already improved how the council goes about making decisions, including the new petitions committee, which provides an excellent way to influence what we talk about based on community support for an issue.

While there is much good about our system of Neighbourhood Partnerships, we think this can be strengthened to give local people a louder voice in how services in their areas are provided. We’ll be talking more about this in April when we’re due to get the recommendations on how the partnerships can be improved.

Further tram progress

In 2012 the tram project continued to make good progress in its revised timetable and budget. I expect this to continue in 2013. Please be assured that we do not underestimate the strength of feeling about this project and the problems it has caused. But I firmly believe that the best course of action is to finish it for the sake of Edinburgh’s economy and transport network.

Property

conservation

The council has long played a role in helping to look after the maintenance of the city’s shared properties, such as tenements. But we know some changes are required there and next year we’ll have a new service.

As I write, councillors are considering what they think this should look like, with the changes beginning in the spring.

Reasons to be cheerful..?

Overall, I’m approaching 2013 with a cautious optimism. If nothing else, it would be good to have a better summer to bring us all some cheer!

More seriously, we at the council will be working really hard to make it an excellent year for Edinburgh, regardless of the challenges we face. There will be regular reports on how we are doing in meeting the pledges we set out last May. In the meantime, I wish you and yours all the very best for the year ahead.