Consultation on Edinburgh’s £21m budget cuts halted

Edinburgh council HQ at Waverley Court.
Edinburgh council HQ at Waverley Court.
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CONTROVERSIAL proposals to slash £21 million from Edinburgh’s budget next year have been dealt a major blow after the city’s finance committee refused to put them out to consultation.

Opposition councillors insisted they needed more details about the plans for spending cuts and increased charges before allowing them to go any further.

The budget package includes dispersing the Capital’s specialist music school, cutting funding for Edinburgh Leisure, introducing a new £25-a-year charge for garden waste collections and a five per cent increase in parking permit prices.

The finance committee was asked to approve releasing the proposals for public consultation from Monday.

But Tory, Green and Lib Dem councillors complained they had been given only one-line headings for each of the planned measures with no further details.

And the committee voted 6-5 to delay the consultation so they could be given proper information on of the proposals and their impact at their next meeting on November 7.

It was the second defeat in two days for the city’s minority SNP-Labour administration after opposition parties combined at the full council on Thursday to stop the coalition appointing the chairs of the locality committees being set up in different parts of the city.

At yesterday’s finance committee. Tory group leader Iain Whyte complained about the lack of information on the proposed cuts. “We have a list of items and some figures against them as savings. We don’t know what else might be out there as alternatives.”

Fellow Tory Andrew Johnston said it was clear officials had more detail of the proposals because they were consulting papers before answering councillors’ queries. He asked: “Why weren’t we given the detail?”

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said after the consultation process the administration would take all views into account and consider whether to press ahead with all the proposals.

“If necessary we will come forward with alternative proposals where there appears to be a strong case to change something.”

But opposition councillors remained unhappy with the process and voted to delay the consultation.

Green councillor Claire Miller said: “The council administration was seeking approval to consult on £21m of potential budget cuts with only a bare single line describing each cut and leaving it unclear what the actual cut was.

“That’s close to asking opposition members to sign off a blank cheque and is no way to run public services. By delaying 11 days, the full detail can be available before the consultation is signed off.”

Cllr Rankin said: “It is disappointing that the budget consultation will not go ahead on Monday. We will be working hard between now and November 7 to ensure that we have a set of detailed proposals to ensure that a meaningful consultation takes place with the people of Edinburgh.”