Edinburgh Council budget: I was elected as a Labour councillor. Here's why I now think the party administration should fall – Ross McKenzie

Shortly after ‘shenanigans’ forced him to make a choice between an SNP/Green budget that satisfied all of Labour’s key manifesto pledges, and a Lib Dem budget which breached their only red lines, Councillor Scott Arthur accused the Greens of “playing politics with people’s lives”.
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In his day job, Councillor Arthur is a professor of civil engineering, an expert in sewers, and given the behaviour of Edinburgh Labour recently, he’d be well placed to write another PhD – on “playing politics with people’s lives” and the political sewers in which his administration operates.

There are countless examples, and here are just a few. When officers published proposals for savage cuts to school budgets on February 1, Labour councillors were silent. As workers and trade unions rallied round trying to explain what the consequences of the cuts would be, Labour failed to engage and most of the cuts were part of Labour’s budget motion on Thursday.

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However, I suspect that they never had any intention of actually making those cuts and that it was a carefully crafted piece of political theatre designed to allow the Lib Dems to ride to the rescue with an amendment that maintained current spending levels, thus solidifying the arrangement that keeps Labour in power.

For three weeks, school staff wrote to councillors worried they would lose their jobs and the administration said nothing. That’s what I call playing politics with people’s lives.

Of course, we’ve been here before. When Labour and Tory councillors joined forces on the regulatory committee to try and close down sexual entertainment venues, they knew that the policy did not have majority support of the full council. They took advantage of the numbers on the committee that day, and have spent the past year (and significant sums of money) defending a policy that we now know is illegal.

Again, the affected workers and trade unions organised but were ignored by Labour councillors, who were, unquestionably, playing politics with their lives.

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In fact, the whole process of ‘running’ the council with just 12 out of the 63 councillors is just an elaborate political game. After the election, the Labour group did a comparator analysis of the five manifestoes represented on the council and found that Labour policies had most in common with those of the Greens, followed by the SNP.

Councillor Ross McKenzie quit the Labour party last weekCouncillor Ross McKenzie quit the Labour party last week
Councillor Ross McKenzie quit the Labour party last week

When Labour’s Glasgow head office ruled out any arrangement with the SNP, and no formal written agreement with any party, there was a desperate scramble to make a deal with anyone who was willing to enter into backroom horse-trading, which turned out to be Tories and Lib Dems.

“Playing politics with people’s lives” is exactly how we ended up with a council leader who instructed his party group to vote for a budget that he admits he hadn’t read, a budget that rips up Labour’s manifesto and throws workers and trade unions under the bus. You don’t need to be professor of civil engineering to see that this administration is going down the drain, and Edinburgh will be better for its demise.

Ross McKenzie is a councillor for Sighthill/Gorgie

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