With benefit caps from the Tories at Westminster hitting people hard and, in many cases, leading to evictions of families, Edinburgh should do more to stand up to austerity and help those most in need.
Increasingly, working families are finding themselves relying on the rising number of food banks here in the Capital. Despite huge efforts by the council and our many partners in homelessness support, the demand continues to grow.
I’m pleased to see some of our leading local partners in housing and homelessness – Cyrenians, Hillcrest, Link Housing and Dunedin Canmore, Castle Rock and Port of Leith, to name but a few – joining together to support the work we do, and new initiatives such as the Social Bite Village at Granton Waterfront. Perhaps more of the city’s wealthy and corporate organisations can play their part in making our city more equal and affordable.
Linked to these issues, Edinburgh’s housing mix has over 44,000 private landlords, many of them delivering good quality housing. However, we must see changes in legislation that allows us to respond to those landlords who do not provide anywhere near the decent warm, acceptable standard of housing that their tenants are entitled to expect. Our own council homes must meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standards but the same legislation does not apply to landlords – why not? Council tenants must keep their property and gardens in an acceptable order, but private landlords don’t have to – why not?
We need the power to make these changes to achieve a higher standard of housing, and more vibrant communities where everyone, including landlords, play their part.
It is essential that local government gets a fair deal in our settlements from central government. The capital city is a beacon for people to visit, to work, to celebrate and to call home. All of this is accompanied by the need to support essential services to help areas like adult social care, investing in education and supporting communities to grow. The council has gone through very challenging budget rounds and we will again lobby our politicians at Holyrood to secure the best deal we can for the city.
Edinburgh needs a Transient Visitor Levy (tourist tax) to help support our infrastructure, contribute to the cultural vibrancy and bring much- needed additional resources to the city. We will be looking to our many partners in culture, in business and, most importantly, our communities to join us in our ask of the Scottish Government to deliver a TVL for Edinburgh.
Finally, I was pleased to see the council agree to investigate the possibility of becoming a Basic Income Pilot area. I will take forward this work, linked to the work of our Edinburgh Poverty Challenge, which will look at a range of issues impacting on poverty in the city and how the city can best respond to these challenges.
As we get ever closer to our budget planning, we want to hear from local communities on their priorities. For me and the Labour Group, this must be about protecting services for the most vulnerable and providing opportunity for all, not just for the few.
Cammy Day is Labour Group leader at Edinburgh City Council