Edinburgh’s City Deal delayed yet again

Council Leader
 Adam McVey outside the City Chambers. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Council Leader Adam McVey outside the City Chambers. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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THE Capital’s £1 billion-plus City Region Deal has been delayed yet again.

Council leader Adam McVey told councillors the investment package funded jointly by the UK and Scottish governments is now expected to be confirmed “in the next few weeks”.

It was originally due to be unveiled by the end of March or early April, but the local elections in May forced the launch to be postponed until the end of June.

However, the deal – which includes the other Lothian councils, Fife and Borders – was not ready for approval at yesterday’s council meeting.

Quizzed about when an announcement could be expected, Cllr McVey said: “The City Region Deal will probably be announced in the next few weeks. The exact timing is not within our gift, but I will be meeting with representatives of both governments and counterpart council leaders to take things forward.”

Green councillor Steve Burgess said the deal had been subject to repeated delays, adding: “At times it seems as if it is vanishing over the horizon.” And he asked if the deal was at risk from the “current chaos engulfing the Westminster parliament”.

Cllr McVey said: “I think there is always an element of risk and we’re trying to minimise the risk by making sure our offer is as professional and nailed down as possible.”

It is understood that despite prolonged discussions, the figures involved in the package are still not finalised and council leaders are working to maximise the totals involved.

One senior source suggested the UK government was offering a lower amount, with the Scottish Government under pressure to commit more.

“City Deals were George Osborne’s pet project when he was chancellor, but Philip Hammond is not so keen. They have moved onto a different model for future funding,” the source said.

“And the confused situation at Westminster since the general election hasn’t helped.”

Another insider claimed there were problems at Scottish Government level with no single minister responsible for the deal and rival departments seeking to make changes.

“There’s nobody leading it from the Scottish Government side and there are too many different people chipping in, wanting different 
things.

“The longer things drag on, the more risk there is that it won’t happen as planned.”

Former council leader Andrew Burns said in April that talks on the deal were “in the endgame” with civil servants sorting out the details and only minor tweaks expected.

A full list of the projects covered by the deal has never been published, but it is widely expected to include major housebuilding investment, tourism and culture projects and funding for innovation, as well as the power to introduce a tourist levy.

The Evening News revealed last month that the deal would not include any money to help pay for an extension of the tramline, but other transport projects could be included.

Once the package is settled, it must be formally endorsed by all six of the local authorities involved at private sessions of the council. A ceremonial signing is then expected to take place in Edinburgh.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com