Comment: Some difficult decisions have to be made

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it has been difficult to put any kind of positive spin on council budgets in recent years.

Faced with a never-ending demand for cuts across the board, it has all been about preserving frontline services rather than channelling investment.

Today, we have detail of more proposed cost savings, cuts and fee increases as the city seeks to balance its books.

Motorists being hit again will do nothing to dispel the feeling many hold – with some justification – that they are being unfairly used as a cash cow. Increases in charges for care homes and homecare services will never play well.

But there is also a pledge today for badly needed investment in 
education and roads.

This is the incredibly difficult balancing act which the council faces.

While we wait to see the full detail of the impact and many of the proposed price rises will be fiercely resisted, no-one will be able to argue against investment in the school estate in Edinburgh.

The problems were clear even before the tragedy at Liberton High brought the issue into sharp focus.

Money needs to be spent and that will mean that something has to give.

The reality is that with the ongoing council tax freeze, the only source of funding for work like this or for investing in the road network is either direct from the Scottish Government or from savings and revenue raising 
elsewhere.

That ultimately means difficult decisions will have to be made. The key for the council will be trying to ensure the cuts can be absorbed in as painless a way as possible; that those who can pay more do pay more, and services for our most vulnerable are protected.

Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen. Today is only the beginning. There’s a lot of talking, horse-trading and spinning to be done before the budget is signed off.