The city council’s public consultation programme on its proposed budget has stalled until next month. The proposals have been worked up by council officials with the more unpalatable suggestions being rejected at an earlier stage, which must mean that those that are left are potentially acceptable to the coalition administration.
Although not all coalition members might agree with them (and we have seen evidence of this already), the fact that they are to be presented to the public is an obvious indication that collectively, both the SNP and Labour Groups do not regard them as unthinkable.
As a veteran of many a budget-setting session, I am acutely aware of the strains and stresses that will be endured by councillors when setting a budget which contains considerable cut-backs but all of the current crop of councillors knew what they were getting themselves into when they stood for election. If any maintain they didn’t, then they are either, at best, incredibly naive or, at worst, incredibly disingenuous.
The exact details of the cuts may have not been known but the fact that cuts would have to be made was. Members of the public will now get the opportunity to make their views known and councillors will already be aware that battle lines are being drawn and campaign plans are beginning to form. The more support that can be garnered against a particular proposal, the better chance it will have of being rejected and it does no harm to have celebrity endorsement too as we have seen regarding the plans to disperse the City of Edinburgh Music School.
Social media will obviously play an important role but there is no substitute for the physical presence of deputations or demonstrations. They can be so effective.
The council must set a legal budget in February and so the timing of the consultation leaves little room for flexibility with the onset of the festive season not far away. Hopefully the public will not be too distracted and will participate in considerable numbers, thereby ensuring that when councillors make their final decision, it is an informed one!