John McLellan: Break-up of Broughton High's music school and '˜garden tax' look dead in water

Only six months have passed since the council election narrowly put the SNP in charge and already it's not just the shine that's coming off the new administration but the wheels.

Thursday, 2nd November 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:00 am
City of Edinburgh Music School pupils Esme McBride-Stewart, Ross Dickson, Hanna Brooks, Harry Noble, Harmony Rose-Bremner and Sean Hughes welcome parents to an open day last year. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The budget process is falling apart even before the consultation gets off the ground, not least because the minority administration thought it could brief the Evening News about its proposals, but not bother keeping councillors properly informed about its options.

Now, according to reports, it is in the embarrassing position of being slapped down by the Scottish Government over its most controversial proposal, the break-up of Broughton High’s specialist music school.

With the likes of jazz giant Tommy Smith and Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner weighing in to support the school, it’s publicity the SNP, already under sustained attack for its poor education record, could do without, so the plan now looks dead in the water.

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Wisely, Inverleith SNP councillor Gavin Barrie has been quick to distance himself from the idea, but given funding for the music school comes from the Scottish Government perhaps the problems could have been foreseen.

As for the “garden tax” proposal to charge £25 a year to empty brown bins, the probability that the result will be more fly-tipping and landfill bins being used for garden rubbish has united the non-administration parties, so that could end up in the dump too.

Then there is the reorganisation of community services from neighbourhood partnerships to four localities, which is understood by fewer people than the Schleswig-Holstein Question of Victorian diplomacy fame. The minority administration thought it could simply install its placemen as locality conveners to oversee the new system, but the plan was successfully overturned by a Conservative motion last week.

And the folding up of its arms-length development company EDI has been left up in the air because the administration tried to slip through significant changes to the development of India Quay in Fountainbridge on the nod, even though the financial implications for the city had not been fully explained. The issue divided the economy convener and vice-convener, both of whom sit on the EDI board, and remains unresolved.

Back down the canal, the opening of the new Boroughmuir High School has been delayed again, this time until February to allow senior pupils to complete their prelims without the disruption of a flit. With external cladding still being fitted this week, maybe that’s just as well.

Meanwhile, the new social care system bringing council and NHS services together through the new Integration Joint Board is in meltdown, with its chief officer resigning while hundreds of people are kept waiting because the demand can’t be met.

And, as if all this wasn’t enough, the emergency brakes have been applied to the remodeling of the Picardy Place junction because the minority administration is running scared of the cycling lobby and the Greens, without whose support their programme will come to nothing. The running theme here is this is a minority administration. A big authority is always going to hit problems but Edinburgh seems to have more than its fair share and, without co-operation and consensus, it’s going to be a long five years.