If you look across Edinburgh’s skyline, you can’t fail to notice the number of cranes on the horizon.
Development in Edinburgh is booming and has been for several years now. The Capital remains the most prosperous UK city outside London, which is testament to the success of our economic strategy which has driven growth for the last five years
The time has come, however, to take a good look at why there are still people living in Edinburgh who are not sharing in this prosperity and ensure that we have good growth that works for everyone. It’s clear that more needs to be done to build on this success and so our Economy Strategy for the next five years, will be considered by councillors tomorrow.
This is an important shift in the focus of our work. The economy is going from strength to strength in Edinburgh and has shown great resilience during tough economic times but we need to be fairer to everyone in terms of wages, opportunity, access to housing, education and good careers if we are to help it to grow further.
It was clear from all political parties, businesses and the third sector that we need to look wider than job creation and inspiring innovation and that more should also be done to ensure that the benefits of prosperity are accessible to all residents across the city. The strategy recognises that jobs growth alone has not been sufficient to deliver sustained improvements in living standards for everyone.
Work has already started on this through our commitment to build 20,000 new affordable homes in the city and the £1.1bn Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region deal, which will provide £300m for world leading data innovation centres, £25m for regional skills programme to support improved career opportunities for disadvantaged groups and £65m of new funding for housing to unlock strategic development sites.
The strategy has been created around three themes – innovation, inclusion and collaboration and includes ten steps to achieve this goal. The council alone cannot achieve this and needs ownership and leadership from other city partners such as the Edinburgh Partnership and Edinburgh Business Forum.
One of our top priorities is to establish Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe to transform the region into a digital powerhouse and to develop Edinburgh as a city of resilient businesses with the space to grow. We need to create a step change in the growth of green and socially responsible business in Edinburgh and build affordable places for people to live and work.
Preparing our young people for the work place is also key to our success and we need to improve attainment in schools, create regional employment and skills programmes that cater for specific needs and improve how we share knowledge to deliver maximum impact from our resources. Deepening our relationship with employers to unlock good career opportunities is also essential to this work.
Finally, our culture and tourism sectors need to be nurtured and closely monitored to preserve and enhance our city. We recognise that the quality of life of residents and the character of the city are essential, and are inseparable from the long-term success of business and enterprise. No economic success is possible without ensuring Edinburgh is an excellent place to live and visit; quality of life cannot be improved unless the city can support, attract and sustain profitable businesses.
Councillor Gavin Barrie is housing and economy convener at Edinburgh City Council.