Ricky Henderson: Where should council priorities lie?

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The City of Edinburgh Council is in the middle of gathering opinions on what its spending priorities for 2016/17 should be and, once again, the public are at the heart of this.

Last year saw the launch of the council’s most far-reaching budget consultation, and it was inundated with suggestions from residents about what they felt was important, what should be prioritised, and where money could be saved.

You said, we did – protecting care for the elderly was identified by those who responded as a priority. In fact, protecting the most vulnerable residents and making sure those who are most at need of care receive what they need is the main focus of the health and social care department.

Health and social care are hugely important services, and it’s the council’s duty to provide them to the best of its ability. Whilst the council budgets are being challenged, a vital step in the future of care in the Capital occurred this year when many of the care services provided by the council and NHS Lothian joined together. With a budget of around £560m, the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board will allow services to be streamlined, improve health and reduce inequalities.

Despite constraints including a budget over-spend, which I’m pleased to report we are making good progress towards balancing, the department has still spent money from the budget to make improvements.

Work began on our latest care home, the new Royston Care Home in Granton, as part of the council’s strategic plan 2012-17. Modern, fit-for-purpose facilities will help to give the best care possible to the elderly. We’re continuing with a recruitment drive to find more care home workers, and have increased the pay which they receive, in a bid to attract and retain good quality staff.

In terms of housing, we continue to make in-roads to tackle the city’s shortage of affordable and high- quality homes, and this month pledged to increase the number we are building from 3000 to 8000.

The increase in council housing rent, which was the lowest it had been for a decade, allows us to make improvements to housing stock. An average of £8000 has been spent on each home in the past five years, and work has included more than 6500 new kitchens and bathrooms, new boilers, heating systems and windows.

In order to make sure that we keep looking after residents to the best of our abilities, we need to hear from you – take part in the budget consultation today at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget. Or take part in our budget question time debate with conveners like myself on November 23 – keep an eye on the council’s Twitter and Facebook accounts for more details.

Councillor Ricky Henderson is health, social care and housing committee convener at the city council