Back in November 2016, Edinburgh Labour launched a draft manifesto consultation process, to which we subsequently received over 1000 responses from members of the public.
And just last week, we became the first political party in Edinburgh to launch our finalised vision for the Capital which is now available at www.edinburghlabour.com.
Edinburgh prides itself on being a fantastic place to live in, to work in and to visit.
And over the years, Labour-led councils in our city have used their powers to help create a dynamic economy that generates jobs, encourages innovation and fosters new business.
Twenty years ago, a Labour council was far-sighted enough to nurture what is now Edinburgh Park. Over the coming decade we need to work closely with our three city universities and new technology firms to create similar opportunities for our children and grandchildren.
However, with success come challenges – and our vision for the Capital attempts to address the four main challenges facing our city.
The Challenge of Growth – Edinburgh’s population is over 500,000 and growing rapidly. It is predicted to become Scotland’s largest city by the mid 2030s. So we do need to plan for more homes and schools; better transport links; more skills training and jobs; and increased levels of services.
The Funding Challenge – the funding the Scottish Government receives from the UK Treasury has increased over the last few years, but during that time the SNP Scottish Government has cut the grants it gives to councils. Edinburgh suffers more than most. It gets the lowest grant of all Scottish councils - £1928 per head against a Scottish average of £2232.
The Challenge of Increasing Centralisation – the SNP Government keeps trying to get moreand more control by centralising services. Police Scotland, which has neither saved money nor improved services, shows this does not work. In contrast Edinburgh Labour has consistently devolved power and decision making to local people..
The Challenge of Poverty and Inequality – we need to ensure that all our citizens can share in the city’s success. Just under a sixth of the population (79,550) live in households whose income falls below the poverty threshold. More than half of these are in work. Many are in jobs which are minimum wage, short term or have zero hour contracts. High house prices and rents make living in the city very hard for many. And there are also significant health inequalities across the city.
Our vision for the Capital provides specific action to address these four challenges - I’ll mention a few here:
– We will build a minimum of 16,000 low cost homes for rent and sale over the next 10 years, through the council and our partner housing associations and cooperatives.
– We will improve access to health and care services by creating eight local centres where people can work on solutions to their needs with health and care professionals and voluntary groups.
– We will build new primary schools at St John’s Portobello, Morningside, St Crispin’s, Broomhills, Gilmerton Station Road, Leith Waterfront, Granton Waterfront, Maybury, Brunstane & Queensferry, and new High Schools for Castlebrae and in West Edinburgh.
– We will increase spending on roads and pavements to a minimum of £20m per year, and give local communities more say on where work is done. And we will also maintain spending on cycling at 10% of our transport budget.
– We will continue to support the city’s major festivals which generate jobs and boost local business but, side by side with this increase the funding for local festivals and events..
– And we will campaign for an overhaul of the planning appeal system to make it shorter, more independent and give communities the right of appeal.
Edinburgh Labour believes the mark of a civilised society is how it looks after its young and vulnerable citizens – and the proposals outlined in our vision for the Capital will help do just that.
Cllr Andrew Burns is Labour group leader and leader of City of Edinburgh Council