Council service cuts - ‘This is merely a deferral of future pain’

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At first glance it might seem that there is very little to celebrate in the news that Edinburgh faces another £5.5 million in cuts next year.

But the proposals put before city councillors today are much less drastic than many observers expected.

Faced with a funding black hole which at one point topped £90m, councillors had already approved £18m of cuts this year and it had been assumed another £22m would follow for 2012-13.

There are three reasons for this huge turnaround, the most notable being the SNP’s honouring of a pre-election commitment that no council’s grant from central funds should amount to less than 85 per cent of the average. That will boost the city’s coffers by about £22m for each of the next three years.

The second reason for the improving position is that there has been a welcome efficiency drive under council chief executive Sue Bruce, who has merged departments and high-salary positions and tasked managers with finding long-term savings.

The third driving force is old- fashioned pragmatic politics. With a local election looming in May, this would be a bad time for the administration to be seen wielding the axe.

To be fair, no politicians of any party want a fight over cuts, which is one reason why the budget proposals are likely to go through with little of the fury that has marked similar debates in the past.

If the proposals are to be criticised it is perhaps that the £5.5m identified is a little unambitious, given that the funding gap will still be at least £30m in three years’ time.

Many council staff and Capital residents will be glad to see next year’s cuts reduced, but we must all be aware that this is merely a deferral of future pain.

Santa’s cause

As we count down the days to Christmas, it is great to know that some of the city’s most unfortunate youngsters will enjoy a slightly brighter Christmas – thanks to your generosity.

Santa Claus delivered sackfuls of presents donated by Evening News readers to the Sick Kids yesterday, to the delight of children who face spending the festive season on the wards.

What’s more, the travelling grotto which we took around the city with Lothian Buses helped spread the joy of Christmas to every corner of Edinburgh. Visitors to the grotto also dug deep to donate £500 to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.

Putting a smile on hundreds of children’s faces and giving the Sick Kids a helping hand at the same time has got to be a great result.