As the Capital faces up to the realities of balancing its books, it is more important than ever that the council provides better value for your, the taxpayers’ money. There is, frankly, far more that the council can do to provide better services at a lower cost than it is doing right now.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
• Reinstate the more than £60m savings previously not taken, following the rejection of private sector partnerships in 2011 – partnerships that were providing guaranteed better services;
• Boost city centre businesses with a freeze on pay and display and permit parking charges;
• Allocate extra resources for care of the elderly to kick-start a proper partnership with the NHS;
• Trial powered compacting bins, which can take six to eight times as much rubbish as standard bins;
• Increase our reserves to address the huge financial risks the council faces;
• Spend more and introduce better methods for repairing our roads;
Many of these things are measures for the coming year but the key is to set out a major change in the way the council works towards delivering them over the next few years. This is essential to allow us to meet increasing demands for services like care for the elderly, while addressing the need to cut the amount we spend.
The council budget is set to reduce by over £100m in the next five years. So the failure to act is becoming criminal and risking the very services the administration claims it wishes to protect. The council’s change plan at best will only save £49m – about half of what is required.
We Conservatives would make far greater change and free up resource to maintain frontline services and make service improvements. We want to see even more service interactions go online and new working practices with a more customer-based approach. And if the private or voluntary sectors can provide services better and cheaper then we should give them the chance.
The council workforce is also too big and has too many middle managers. There has been a failure since 2007 to implement a workforce plan as Audit Scotland recommended. We should tackle this issue even if that ultimately means we have to reverse the current “no compulsory redundancies” policy.
In recent years successive administrations have wasted millions and stuck to a blinkered, dogmatic approach to service delivery. Many of these policies, often designed to appease the trade unions, actively work against a slimmer, better- equipped workforce and improved service standards. What is needed is a set of actions to solve the whole problem – not just half – and the determination to see it through.
• Iain Whyte is finance spokesman for the Conservative group on Edinburgh City Council