Edinburgh is UK’s greenest city, but we can’t rest on our laurels – Adam McVey
Two years after forming the council coalition we’re working to get the basics right while pursuing our ambitious programme, says Adam McVey.
Since forming the SNP-Labour coalition two years ago, we’ve worked extremely hard to ensure that all residents can share in Edinburgh’s success.
Building thousands of new affordable homes, opening outstanding new schools and supporting hundreds of young apprentices each year are just some of the ways in which we are ensuring everyone has the best chance to benefit from all our Capital has to offer.
Our five-year programme remains a bold one but we’ve made great progress since 2017. We have enormous ambition for our city and in the past two years Edinburgh has demonstrated leadership on major policy debates and taken sometimes difficult decisions to build a more sustainable future – Whether it’s our vision for putting people at the heart of our places, our pioneering open streets events, our bold 2030 carbon neutral target or our push for both a tourist tax and tighter regulation of short-term lets.
The climate emergency and, crucially, the impact of worsening air quality on our health are a critical focus and its driving action like a proposed citywide low emissions zone and a more people-centred (rather than traffic-centred) city centre.
Taking trams to Newhaven is about future-proofing our transport network to manage population growth by doubling passenger numbers in the first year to 16 million, bringing economic, social and environmental benefits to the city – without diverting money from other services.
We’ve secured the transformational £1.3Bn city region deal, bringing investment in housing, culture and transport and well as linking more people with jobs and creating a world-leading centre of innovation over the next 15 years.
We’re already the UK’s greenest city, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We recently secured nearly £900k in funding to ensure our parks and greenspaces continue to thrive. This goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to looking after our green spaces and planting more trees – with more than 12,000 new trees planted in the last two years.
Of course, all this effort and ambition would be pointless if we weren’t also addressing some of the issues with basic council services. I’m pleased to see significant improvements in the services that matter most to many of our residents.
We experienced a bumpy period when we introduced waste collection changes but, in recent months, complaints have fallen to their lowest level in five years and were now taking forward even more actions to drive standards up even further.
Our Roads Improvement Plan is already paying dividends in improving the condition of roads and footways across the city. We’re investing £120m over the life of this administration and, just last month, we learned that our road quality score is now at its highest level since 2012 having achieved the biggest year-on-year improvement in a decade– a great result for all road users and were determined to sustain this progress.
We’ve put extra resources into preventing homelessness and have developed initiatives to support people into secure tenancies too.
We’re leading the most ambitious council-led housebuilding programmes in the UK, committing to build 20,000 new affordable homes over the next ten years. Over the last two years we’ve built over 2000 affordable homes with our partners and the council alone has another 3000 under construction or design.
Investment in education remains a priority for us, with Boroughmuir and St John’s both having opened their doors, and work on a new Queensferry High well under way. Planning permission has now been granted for a new St Crispin’s and a new Castlebrae is being planned. After the classroom, we’re now seeing a record number of our young people going into work, further education or training demonstrating significant progress in our commitment to ensure all our citizens have access to the opportunities in Edinburgh.
In social care, we’ve seen significant improvements: the number of people waiting for care in their home has halved in the past year, while the number of people delayed from leaving hospital has dropped by more than a third.
Our programme is a five year programme. We have a lot of work still to do. But the reforms we’re delivering have already seen services improve, and we have refused to give up on our ambition for Edinburgh. We have three years until the next council elections, you can be assured that we will work extremely hard over that time not only to deliver our programme, but to meet the aspirations of the people of our city.
Adam McVey is the leader of Edinbugh Cith Council