Tomorrow the council’s Finance and Resources Committee will consider our plans to engage with city residents on developing a four-year strategy to meet the changing demands of the city and its services.
Our new approach looks to develop a broadly-based plan that will see us through from now until 2022/23. Engaging with residents at every stage will be key as we gather your views on what our priorities and approach should be.
We expect to need to find £106 million between now and 2022/23. To do this we need to plan and change the way we do things.
We will be looking to deliver all services as efficiently as possible and explore ways of delivering some differently.
Our draft strategy – “Planning for Change and Delivering Services” – outlines some initial ideas for service reforms, potential financial savings and generating new income but we want to hear from you about what you think ahead of the budget being set in February.
This is the first stage of our strategy and is about asking for your views on the big issues and choices facing this council. Our story is not new; the demand for our services continues to rise against a backdrop of tight finances and a growing, ageing population. It is projected that our population will grow by 24,000 by 2023 and there will be 4000 more children in our schools and 11,000 more over-65s. Budget planning can’t just be about managing the now, we must plan and invest for the future.
Meeting these challenges will require tough choices, which is why we need to embrace a forward-thinking and ambitious change strategy.
If approved, the engagement will last for ten weeks and you can get involved online by completing a survey or using the budget simulator. Returning this year following its success in 2015, you can use the simulator to better understand the consequences of making savings decisions. When we used the simulator in 2015, it was more successful at reaching different age groups than online surveys and was especially successful in encouraging participation amongst younger age groups, normally less interested in council budgets.
This year will also see a direct engagement which presents an opportunity to involve community groups throughout the city in workshops. Participants will see the costs and budgets for services and in groups will be able to discuss and agree their spending priorities for their area. This discussion process, and the principles and values reflected, are just as important to the engagement as the actual choices made.
These interactive approaches to communicating serious messages attract the attention of those who would not otherwise take part in the conversation, and I believe it will make clear the breadth of services the council provides.
I encourage everyone to get involved in the process again this year and put forward their views whether by using our online planner, online survey, phone, letter, social media, or speaking with their local councillor. All your responses will be considered as part of the budget process and will inform our next step..
Councillor Alasdair Rankin is convener of the Finance and Resources Committee at Edinburgh City Council