Steve Cardownie: Edinburgh council’s budget wars begin amid suspicion and mistrust

Council will be looking at parking zones and charges to get extra cash for services. Picture: Greg Macvean
Council will be looking at parking zones and charges to get extra cash for services. Picture: Greg Macvean
Have your say

As if the council’s coalition doesn’t have enough to deal with at the moment, it now faces the worrying prospect that confidential reports may be printed in the media before discussions are completed and decisions taken.

The leaking of the budget proposals to the press may not be that significant in itself, as many of them were common knowledge, but if the coalition is to be effective both partners, SNP and Labour, must have sufficient trust in each other when sharing information.

Of course, the source of the leak will never identify themselves but ­educated guesses are already being made as to their identity, which will only serve to foster an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust within the coalition ranks. This was probably the real motive behind the leak as the document was earmarked for imminent publication and public consultation.

The document itself does not make good reading as the coalition grapples with the task of finding £21 million of savings which will affect, one way or another, everyone who lives in the city. The prospective council tax rise is already known about and this will help improve the overall financial position of the council, but cuts will still have to be made.

Some proposals seek to raise ­revenue and the move to consider the introduction of advertising may well be approved. Understandably some concerns have been raised about safety issues of adverts on roundabouts but we already have some spectacular flowerbeds and nobody yet has cited them as the cause of a ­traffic accident. Some other cities in the UK have already adopted this practice and, if properly handled, it should get the green light.

The proposed increase in parking zones has, of course, everything to do with money and very little to do with parking problems. Some residents may agree that it is a price worth paying and their support of any additional zones will be required.

Bus lane enforcement is long overdue and the introduction of parking charges on a Sunday was inevitable. Churches will obviously have a say in the matter but, apart from religious services, Sundays are no different from any other day of the week with bars, restaurants, shops and cinemas all open to the public.

The scrapping of the night team that deals with complaints of out-of-hours, anti-social behaviour merits some reflection. If complaints are to be directed to the already overstretched police, problems may take longer to be dealt with or even not be dealt with at all. That could lead to some disgruntled residents taking the matter in to their own hands.

Given the most common complaints revolve around late-night parties where the consumption of alcohol is to be expected, matters can easily escalate and the police might find that they are being called to a far more serious incident than just noisy revellers. Edinburgh Leisure may be hit by increased charges or closures – or indeed both. Given the significance the Scottish Government attaches to the health of the nation and the fight against obesity, that would appear to be self-defeating.

We know what the city administration’s thinking is on the budget but what of the other parties? Would it not be beneficial during this consultation exercise to see how they would tackle the issue? At least the public would be able to contrast and compare when responding to the proposals which would lead to a more informed ­decision being taken.