Edinburgh is a fantastic city despite SNP-Labour council coalition, not because of it – John McLellan

The Conservatives would limit the Council Tax rise to 1.5 per cent, while spending £5m on tackling potholes and road improvements (Picture: Ian Rutherford)The Conservatives would limit the Council Tax rise to 1.5 per cent, while spending £5m on tackling potholes and road improvements (Picture: Ian Rutherford)
The Conservatives would limit the Council Tax rise to 1.5 per cent, while spending £5m on tackling potholes and road improvements (Picture: Ian Rutherford)
As your latest Council Tax bill lands, think back to 2017 and ask yourself a few questions.

Are your streets cleaner, are the roads in a better state of repair, is it easier to get around town, do you see enough police in your area, are local sports and leisure facilities better? How much has my Council Tax gone up in that time?

Unless you are an ardent supporter of the council’s SNP-Labour coalition, I’ll take a wild guess and presume that the answers are no, no, no, no, no and, oh, I’ve not worked that out. Well, the answer after today will be 14.5 per cent, and if you think the further three per cent increase to your bill will result in a dramatic improvement in local services then think again.

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This year's local government grant from the Scottish government is indeed better than recent years, but that’s nothing to crow about after years of the slow strangulation of council finance by the SNP, and the local government garotte will continue to tighten with Edinburgh Council facing a £60m chasm next year.

And while today’s council debate will no doubt come with the usual lazy London Tory bashing, the statistics tell a different story because the block grant from the UK government to the Scottish government in 2017-18 was £17.8 billion but by next year it will have risen to £29.4bn.

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Even considering the boost to deal with the pandemic, an increase of over 60 per cent is still staggering, so again, look around you and ask why, with that level of investment, your district isn’t in a much better condition than it is.

It goes further. Why are basic literacy and numeracy standards in Scottish schools continuing to fall? Why are waiting times in Scottish hospitals only lengthening, and why does every answer to these problems seem to involve us paying more money to one authority or another for no visible improvements?

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The council budgeting process is not easy because of the Scottish government’s continued squeeze, but the Conservative group has found a way to limit the Council Tax increase to 1.5 per cent, to save residents £1.8m by scrapping the Garden Tax but also finding an extra £5m to improve our roads and fix the pothole plague which makes cycling so hazardous, and a further £2.5m to deal with graffiti and litter.

The next questions are why won’t the other parties do the same, and what has that 14.5 per cent increase achieved in five years? For one thing, it has gone on three miles of a £200m-plus tram completion project which looks like making Leith Walk a game of chance for pedestrians and cyclists and a transport plan which threatens the future viability of Lothian Buses.

Promise after promise has been broken while the organisation charged with keeping Edinburgh a globally competitive destination has been thrown to the dogs.

Sure, Edinburgh remains a fantastic place to live and work, but it’s because of the things for which Edinburgh Council is not responsible: university education, technology-driven innovation and financial services to name but three.

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Edinburgh is a success despite the council, not because of it and where it has control ─ housing, social care and transport ─ there is failure everywhere, and you are paying the price.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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