£10m new savings after ‘worst settlement since devolution’

Andrew Burns says Edinburgh will have �37 million less to spend on services than last year.
Andrew Burns says Edinburgh will have �37 million less to spend on services than last year.
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CITY bosses will have to find a further £10 million savings thanks to what council leader Andrew Burns says is the worst funding settlement for local government since devolution.

The council has already budgeted for a three per cent council tax increase, reduced hours in libraries and an ongoing programme of job cuts.

But Councillor Burns said last week’s Scottish Government budget and a mistake in the original figures issued by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay meant Edinburgh would now have to find extra savings.

Officials are now working to identify options ahead of the council setting its own budget on February 9.

Cllr Burns launched his attack on the funding announcement in a blog.

He wrote: “Having first been elected on Thursday, May 6, 1999, I’ve actually witnessed every single local government budget settlement since devolution from very close quarters.

“I think it’s also fair to say that I’m not exactly someone who can very easily be categorised as unnecessarily, politically-tribal in my outlook – epitomised by my current leadership of the only two-party Labour/SNP coalition across the whole of Scottish local government.

“But, tragically, the undeniable conclusion that I’ve regrettably come to is that, for the City of Edinburgh Council, this is the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999.

“As things stand at the moment; year-on-year, we’ve got some £37m less revenue from the Scottish Government this year, than last, to spend on services. That’s on top of recent, and recurring, revenue reductions all of which has led to the council having well over 1300 fewer people in employment than two years ago.

“And this is all against a backdrop of the Scottish Government actually receiving, year-on-year, more revenue this year than last, from the Westminster Government.”

Tory group leader Cameron Rose said the funding reduction would hit Edinburgh hard, but accused the Labour-SNP coalition of “pouring money down the drain”.

He said the city had missed out on “tens of millions” of potential savings in waste collection and opportunities to do road maintenance “better and cheaper” had been passed up.

He said: “This settlement is an opportunity to deal with ingrained waste rather than cutting public services.”

Green finance spokesman Gavin Corbett said all efforts at the council should be directed at the Scottish Government and making sure Edinburgh got a good deal.

But he added: “There is also the vexed question of council powers to raise income.

“A tourist tax alone would more than bridge the possible funding gap, if only the Scottish Government would allow it to happen.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com