City needs funds to tackle homelessness and other problems, writes Labour group leader Cammy Day.
Happy new year. Again, our capital city has seen hugely successful Christmas and New Year celebrations, and I wish you all the very best for 2018.
Edinburgh Labour will continue to focus on delivering positive outcomes for the citizens of Edinburgh, despite the many challenges facing the city. The council leader and I will soon announce the Coalition’s key priorities for the next 12 months.
This year, with our Labour colleagues in Holyrood, we will accelerate our campaign to bring a tourist tax to Edinburgh, ensuring that our residents benefit from the mass tourism that Edinburgh enjoys. This could potentially provide £15 million of income to the city – but requires the Scottish Government’s consent – which has so far been refused thanks to lobbying from large, multinational hotel chains.
Evidence suggests the introduction of a tourist tax would have no detrimental impact on tourism. I was pleased that my fellow councillor, John McLellan, seems to have persuaded the Conservatives that this is right for Edinburgh, as with many other European cities. I look forward to their support in our campaign.
Meanwhile, recently I represented the Labour Group on Edinburgh’s Homelessness Task Force, a cross-party group set up by the Coalition. Its membership includes experienced members and officers who will engage with a number of excellent projects and individuals to learn how we can help end homelessness and improve the experience of homeless people in our city. This is the right way to try to address the many issues affecting those who are homelesss and to learn from the many agencies with experience of supporting people in that situation, like the Cyrenians, the Bethany Trust and Streetwork.
We will use all of the powers that are available to us, and will have a proper discussion on the use of properties in Edinburgh, including Airbnb and private landlords. I was disgusted to read of Conservative councillors in London wishing to cleanse the streets of homeless people.
Perhaps if they joined the campaign to end the pointless and damaging benefit caps and welfare reform, there might not be as many people living in poverty, experiencing homelessness and having a really difficult time.
It’s not about hiding them from tourists or the more privileged, it’s about accepting there is a real issue and we all need to play our part to bring about change.
I’d also like to thank the many people who took part in our budget consultations. Your views will inform the priorities we need to deliver in the city. Our budget will deliver, among many other things, investment in education, care for older people and improved transport. Many people will have read the draft budget settlement from the SNP Finance Secretary which, while not as bad as expected, will still mean Edinburgh is one if the three hardest-hit councils in Scotland (again). This means the council will have to find millions of pounds of savings. Edinburgh will set its budget on February 22, only a few days after the Scottish Government informs us of the final settlement.
I only hope the SNP Finance Secretary listens to trade Unions like Unite and Unison who have lobbied for proper funding of local services and also works with Parliamentary Labour and Green groups who will look to improve the settlement for local authorities. Edinburgh Labour will continue to play our part in delivering the best we can for the citizens of Edinburgh.