Trams: Labour pledge to extend line to Newhaven

Edinburgh's Labour group
Edinburgh's Labour group
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EDINBURGH Labour has pledged to extend the trams down into Newhaven as part of the ambitious multi-billion-pound City Deal programme.

The long-awaited deal – worth more than £4 billion in public and private sector cash – will see investment from the Scottish and UK governments used to kickstart infrastructure projects, and is set to be finalised in next year’s budget.

Launching its draft manifesto ahead of May’s local elections, Labour renewed its commitment to the beleaguered tram system – and also vowed to “protect” the future expansion of the line to Granton.

Other key policies included keeping Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams in public ownership and prioritising house building on brown-field sites such as those by the Waterfront. The party also vowed to provide more specialist facilities in schools, emulating schemes such as Leith Academy’s Mandarin language hub and Broughton’s music and dance school.

And it committed to delivering eight “health and social care community hubs” across the Capital, offering a one-stop shop where residents can get direct access to professionals.

It promised to press the Scottish Government to devolve more powers to councils, abandon the council tax freeze, hand full control of business rates to local authorities – and allow city leaders to introduce a “tourist tax” in a bid to raise more than £4 million a year.

Council leader Andrew Burns, who isn’t standing for re-election, said the Capital currently had control over just 20 per cent of its budget.

He said councils should be able to raise council tax “to whatever level they want, and if they make a mess of it they get kicked out [at election].”

He added: “It’s just not acceptable that we’ve only got control of 20 per cent of our own finances. That’s got to change.

“I think – the Edinburgh Labour group thinks – this is a radical, bold set of proposals. We will deliver, because we’ve proven we can deliver in the last five years. We will deliver on all these things.”

Addressing party activists yesterday, he said: “We need to get out there and sell this to members of the public.

“To sell it as robustly and positively as we can. Lets be upbeat about what we’ve achieved in the last five years, and be positive about what we can and will achieve in the next five years.”

Edinburgh Labour has been the majority party in a coalition with the SNP since May 2012, and hopes to maintain its lead in the polls at next year’s local elections despite waning national support.

Among its achievements over the last five years, Councillor Burns highlighted rising education standards, advancements in sustainable transport, the construction of affordable homes and new school buildings and the delivery of the tram project.

And he said he was “very, very proud” of introducing the living wage for all council employees “almost immediately [after] we came into power”.

Edinburgh Labour will launch its final manifesto in March, ahead of the local elections on May 4.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk