Despite disappointing budget result, Edinburgh Council is pressing ahead with priorities like social housing – Cammy Day
Despite the unique demands of a capital city, Edinburgh continues to receive the worst grant funding per head of any local authority in Scotland – and I can only hope that the current shenanigans of the SNP leadership contest bring better support for local government.
Years of local government cuts have now come to a head, forcing us to find £76 million of savings this year – on top of the hundreds of millions we’ve made already. That was the backdrop for our budget deliberations last month and, while I was obviously disappointed by the result and the way it came about, I remain determined to continue working with other groups to find a way forward that best meets our priorities as a council and as a city.
I was pleased, of course, that councillors agreed to allocate substantial additional money to improve roads, paths and pavements and that additional funding will be made available for the city’s parks and green spaces. I was pleased too that we found the funding to save the King’s Theatre (more on that later).
Just last week, we agreed a major spending programme for council housing. We’re investing £173m over the next 12 months bringing new life into old council homes, adapting them to be warmer, better places to live. We’ll continue to build much-needed new social housing, adapt homes to better meet people’s health needs, and bring void properties back into use for people currently without a home.
Of course, supporting people who are homeless involves colleagues from across the council working hard to deliver services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The same can be said for the rest of our teams and, over the past few months, I’ve met nearly 1,000 people from right across the 700 services we deliver – most recently our waste and recycling teams at Bankhead depot, whom I visited on Friday.
It’s been a real pleasure to be able to thank colleagues in person for their commitment and hard work over the past few challenging years – and to reassure them that they’re truly valued.
Gorgie Farm on a firmer footing
I’m delighted that the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC) is on board to lead on establishing a community-led, collaborative and financially sustainable future for Gorgie City Farm. The work by the campaign groups, volunteers and other partners has been really impressive and shows the strength of support for the farm. I want to thank everyone who is working very hard – both publicly and behind the scenes – to find a solution. It’s a vital community asset, not just for the local area but everyone across the city.
The Old Lady lives on
Finally, I’m delighted that the King's Theatre will return better than ever following the confirmation that the funding target has been met to complete the redevelopment and reopen her doors. Our increased investment pledge as part of the budget, plus that of the Scottish Government and additional fundraising since January, accounts for the majority of the £8.9m funding gap which emerged last summer due to rising costs.
The King's is a treasured piece of our history and this project will make sure it is preserved as a world-class venue which is accessible to all.
Cammy Day is Edinburgh City Council leader and Labour councillor for Forth