Last Thursday’s council meeting required stamina. Thirty-one council questions and 20 motions – with councillors debating topics ranging from taking dogs to work to ‘No ball games’ signs.
While there wasn’t consensus on all there was universal condemnation of anti-semitism and all forms of racism – and on giving our full support to commemorations marking the centenary of the first votes for women (taking place on 10 June).
The chamber also united behind a motion of no confidence in Edinburgh Schools Partnership’s handling of maintenance at Oxgangs Primary School and particularly their failure to attend a meeting with parents last Wednesday.
Whilst I welcome ESP’s statement promising enhanced monitoring and independent inspections in future, their absence is unacceptable as is their failure to speak to parents in person, the very least the parents deserve. It’s important to say that where they have failed, the council is stepping in – overseeing works and rechecking buildings to make sure our buildings are safe.
I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that we are considering taking trams to Newhaven. I’m delighted with the response we’ve had to our six-week consultation, which ended last week, with more than 3,000 contributions.
I’ve been slightly alarmed by some of commentary around the nature of process, which gives the impression that we’re simply going through the motions. That is not the case. We’ve put together an extensive, open consultation process providing many opportunities for thousands of individuals, businesses and organisations to feed their views, ideas and concerns into the design and development process.
Interestingly, the majority of those attending the consultation events have expressed support for the project, echoing the results of the recent ‘I Love Leith’ Facebook poll, which (although not a scientific sample) found that 71 per cent of the 1,200 members who took part to be in favour.
I believe the tram will bring real, lasting benefits to residents and businesses of North Edinburgh. That isn’t to say the project will proceed at any cost. We’ve set our clear criteria which the project must attain before we move ahead.
On Thursday, I welcomed funding from the Scottish Government to the tune of £480,000, which we’ll use (in its entirety) to help fix our roads. I also announced that we intend to match this figure, taking the additional investment to just under £1m – on top of the £25m for roads, pavements and streetlighting already approved in this year’s budget. We are already progressing a £100m road repairs programme, the biggest in our city’s history and we’re also changing the way we carry out repairs allowing the investments we are making to go further pound for pound. However we, like the Scottish Government, recognise that last winter’s snow will have a big impact on our condition and so we’re trying to mitigate this as much as possible with this additional funding.
With a year to go until Brexit, the UK Government’s negotiations continue without providing certainty to our citizens, our message to EU nationals remains the same: “DON’T ‘go home’; you are home!” As I said in response to Cllr Cammy Day’s question in council, I’m delighted that so many people from across our continent have moved here to live and work – everyone in this city is valued and everyone is part of our growing success. I’ve already written to the UK Government on behalf of the council to make the case for the rights of EU nationals and will continue to do so.
Finally, I was delighted to be the first to donate to Cllr Louise Young’s collection for Kira Noble, the incredibly brave Firhill schoolgirl desperately in need of life-saving cancer treatment in the US. While doing so, I paid tribute to the remarkable fundraising efforts taking place in schools and communities across the city. It really does show our capital at its absolute best.