MSPs must press the Government to hand over £150 million to councils, says city Labour leader Cammy Day.
I was pleased we were able to agree a fair and balanced budget for Edinburgh for the year ahead.
This includes significant investment to fund much-needed maintenance and upgrades across the council estate – particularly schools. This investment is long overdue and I was pleased to see that all the political parties represented on the council put forward similar proposals.
In my own ward, the focus will be on Trinity Academy and, elsewhere in the city, we have to progress plans for Castlebrae and Liberton High Schools while developing a solution for schools in the south-west once our consultation is complete.
These can only progress if the Scottish Government announce Wave 4 funding plans with immediate effect. I call on the city’s MSPs to play their part and insist that the Government release the £150m of capital grant support for councils previously held back to meet other Scottish Government priorities to allow investment in the schools required. How else can our capital city be “fit for the future”?
Related to that investment, I was pleased that the council last week backed my motion to develop a Construction Charter calling on employers to adhere to health and safety standards, to protect workers’ rights and to ensure fair pay.
All too often substantial publicly funded contracts are being awarded through the procurement process to the “best” bidder – only to see that bidder fail, or go bankrupt. The recent Cole Report makes many recommendations to the construction industry, and I hope this charter will show that we are doing all we can to help.
My colleagues Cllr Mandy Watt and Cllr Gordon Munro have worked with me, alongside our colleagues in Unite and others, to bring this forward.
Developers in the city also need to play their part to ensure contractors and sub-contractors respect workers’ rights. The legislation on procurement does nothing to help us run a fair city.
Our budget also delivered capital funding to support the redevelopment of Leith Theatre and the King’s Theatre, just as the Museum of Childhood opened its doors to the public following a £200,000 refurbishment.
And just last week, the city’s International Festival launched its 2018 programme, involving 2750 artists from 31 nations, demonstrating the continued expansion of the city’s cultural offering. I hope that, this year, some of our festival offerings branch out further into local communities.
Of course, all of this is even more reason for the city to push ahead with our plans for a tourist levy!
Finally, I want to add my thanks to the many who went well beyond the call of duty during the recent bad weather. To the care workers who managed to get out to help older people, to our tram and bus drivers who kept us going, to the many officers who kept the city functioning and to local people who helped clear paths and provide support within their local communities – thank you!