£41m slashed from Edinburgh Council budget as 300 jobs set to go

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Museums, public toilets and residential care are among services set for the axe to cut £41 million from the council’s budget next year – as 300 jobs could also be in the firing line.

Around 80 proposals have been drawn up by council leaders, including cutting £1.5m from economic development services, “a number of organisational reviews of staff”, combining services including museums into fewer buildings and creating “wider pools of headteachers and teachers” for nurseries. As part of a review to cultural services, almost £3m could be saved over four years by creating a new museum and gallery, meaning the existing council-run City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood and Museum of Edinburgh could be “consolidated” into fewer buildings.

The Museum of Childhood could be affected by the cuts

The Museum of Childhood could be affected by the cuts

If the proposals are agreed, public toilets would see maintenance rotas changed to part time instead of full time to cut £250,000 from next year’s budget.

More than £500,000 could be saved from “reducing additional contributions to Police Scotland” for some community officers, but some funding will remain in place.

Edinburgh Leisure, which runs many of the city’s sports centres, is set to be hit hard – potentially losing £350,000 next year – followed by three years of £1m being cut.

Conservative opponents labelled the proposals “spectacularly light on detail” as it is not yet known specifically where some of the savings will come from.

The council hopes to receive more funding from the Scottish Government when Holyrood’s budget is agreed by the end of the month - and it is thought this would go towards health and social care.

Council leader Cllr Adam McVey insisted the authority’s no compulsory redundancy policy would continue, despite the threat to 300 posts.

He said: “This is very much 300 posts – some will be moved somewhere else, some of it will be managed vacancies where some people might retire and those posts managed out.

“There will be no compulsory redundancies, based on these plans. With 300 posts, we hope we can manage as much of that through natural terms.

“This is an uncomfortable position for us to be in. We would welcome additional resource. It’s not a pain-free budget and if we had more resource I think we could take out some of the edges. I’m hoping and anticipating additional resources.”

Around £12m of cuts will be made from “operational efficiencies”, including renegotiating IT contracts and cutting staff development and training budgets. An overall efficiency target of between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent will save £9.5m in 2019/20.

Savings from “corporate and capitalised budgets” will include additional income from council tax due to the city’s growing population, savings in borrowing costs and moving money between capital and revenue expenditure.

Cuts to community police officers appear not to have gone as far as feared.

It had earlier been warned the council might end alltogether the £2.6m a year funding injection given to Police Scotland to pay for 54 additional community-based officers in the Capital.

Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “These are the deepest budget cuts I’ve seen in my time as a councillor. Some of the ideas have been trailed already – reduced police funding, fewer nursery teachers and public toilet closures, for example.

“But others are new, such as reduced funding for Edinburgh Leisure for swimming pools and sports facilities, or reduced grants for local voluntary organisations.

And, for the first time, the number of job cuts – at 300 next year – is given. “While councillors have to wrestle with the cold reality of cuts, all eyes now turn to the Scottish Government and its budget statement on 31 January.

“It is vital that councils which are SNP-led, including Edinburgh, flex a bit of muscle and demand a fair and proper settlement for local services, coupled with proper reform in future years on how councils are funded.”

An overhaul of the council’s workforce is hoped to cut £2.4m from next year’s budget, including £1.4m in back office support.

Economic development will also see £1.5m cut next year and again in 2020/21 from the existing £9m budget.

The council’s proposed offer to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board for 2019/20 for health and social care means the service will “require total savings of £19.4m to be identified”, according to council officers.

Proposals to change staffing in early years nurseries include “wider pools” of head teachers as well as qualified teachers not attached to specific schools.

The council says this would be managed by an increase of early years practitioners “permanently attached to each nursery”. The early years proposals would lead to a £350,000 saving in next year’s budget.

Parks are set for a £150,000 budget saving next year through “increasing incomes” from events, but specific areas where cutbacks would be made, such as in maintenance or staffing levels, were not identfied in the report.

A further £510,000 will be saved from residential care partly through losing two beds from third-party providers.

The council’s finance and resources committee will approve the draft proposals on 1 February following a public consultation.