Helen Martin: Council’s cuts, paid for by us

Edinburgh City Council are looking to make 'savings'. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh City Council are looking to make 'savings'. Picture: TSPL
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IN the world of local authority double-speak, Edinburgh City Council’s proposals to make “savings” of £28.5 million for 2015-16, actually amounts to citizens picking up much of that tab on top of paying council tax.

Care for the elderly, the actual service that is, won’t be “cut”, it’s just that the elderly will pay more for it. Drivers will pay more – yes, even more – to park their cars. The disabled will pay more for taxis.

There will be real cuts too – fewer staff in disabled day centres, less going in grants to community groups, reduced opening hours for toilets and libraries, less spent on Christmas trees, lights and baubles, and less on community policing etc.

There is, strangely enough, no mention of cutting down the number of council admin employees and officials, reducing the allowances or expenses councillors can claim, or streamlining the bureaucratic, top-heavy, overpaid and duplicated local authority machine.

Round about now, most of us would like to see some serious apology from the council for lavish spending in the past and a pledge that there will be no more political vanity projects such as trams, without our permission.

In fact let’s broaden that pledge to include all major projects driven by vanity or not.

There are already rumours of a return to the possibility of congestion charging, booted out by the Capital’s citizens when it was first mooted. The council will be right up for that now because it could be yet another way to milk money out of us.

That is the fundamental problem with the public sector. The money at their disposal never actually runs out because they can always charge us more.

For a comparatively small city, Edinburgh is a hugely expensive place to live. The price of property or rented accommodation is ridiculously high and thus, so is the council tax. We can have ­bitterly cold and gale-lashed winters so fuel costs are high.

Even for the more comfortably off, it has a peculiarly solid tradition of independent schooling. Middle-income families who, in any other city would never dream of sending their kids to private school, will squeeze themselves into borderline poverty to meet the fees.

You can say “more fool them” but they are only trying to give their children the best they can (or can’t) afford.

Sooner or later the council must understand that only the seriously rich in the city can afford to pay more. The rest are skint.

The referendum highlighted our discontent, particularly with the UK government and a sorry mess of 
political parties who were focused on the south-east and had too little understanding of poverty in “the regions”. As a result, the emphasis is on constitutional change and allegedly, a new people-powered style of government.

I’ve admitted I voted “Yes” and we were gubbed. But if there’s one thing I fear more than being run by the Bullingdon Club it’s the prospect of power-boosted local authorities representing the people.

If they could spend a billion on a one-track tram system before, what will they be like when they are free to make even more sweeping and costly decisions, supposedly on our behalf?

Oil be a cynic

YES I’m a cynic. But I’m still trying to weigh up whether air strike action is really all about the “psychopathic murderers”

of IS or whether it could just be the tiniest bit to do with oil?

Let’s chip away at this danger for guide dogs

REGULAR readers will know I love dogs. Bad dogs are the result of bad people. There’s now a serious problem in the UK because every single month, ten guide dogs for the blind are being violently attacked, some torn apart, by other dogs.

They are sitting ducks, trained to behave, stay with their owners and be their eyes. When other dogs attack, they are helpless, contained in their harness.

Their blind owner is hardly in a position to defend them and it is horribly tragic and traumatic for both human and dog. Doubly tragic is that many of these guide dogs (each costing £35,000 to train) can never work again. Their confidence and calmness is forever shattered.

It’s bad enough when any well-behaved dog is attacked but even more sickening when it’s a guide dog. Money to treat the injured and train more is always needed. But so too are stricter penalties for owners who let their dogs roam free off the lead and out of control. That’s why we do need microchipping, licensing and proportionate penalties for the owners of dogs who attack other dogs, as well as for those who attack and maul humans.