City deal to be signed within weeks

EDINBURGH'S City Deal - handing the Capital and surrounding councils more than £1 billion worth of powers and infrastructure funding from central government - is expected to be signed off within weeks.

Thursday, 9th March 2017, 2:02 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:54 am
City Chambers - a signing ceremony could take place within weeks

City council leader Andrew Burns said negotiations were now at “the endgame stage”.

The official documents backing up yesterday’s UK Government Budget said “good progress” was being made towards a city deal for Edinburgh.

And today Cllr Burns said: “There are very detailed negotiations going on between the two governments and the city region partners and we’re cautiously optimistic we will see very significant progress literally within a couple of weeks.”

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As well as the Capital, the deal involves the three Lothian authorities, Fife and the Scottish Borders, along with universities and the business sector. The expected £1 billion funding would come equally from the UK and Scottish governments and would be expected to draw in around £3bn of further private investment to help boost the economy.

A full list of projects under discussion has never been revealed, but the deal could include cash for new roads, the tram extension to Newhaven, and investment in research, education, tourism and culture, as well as addressing the wealth gap between communities.

New powers for the councils could include a tourist tax to be levied on hotel guests and a land commission to co-ordinate publicly-owned sites to help tackle the housing shortage.

The deal will need to be approved by all six councils involved before it can be announced.

Cllr Burns said in Edinburgh a special full council meeting could be called late March or early April and the other councils would meet around the same time.

But discussion of the deal will take place behind closed doors.

Cllr Burns said: “There is a degree of opaqueness because there has to be that privacy about the final discussions in terms of the detail.”

He said a signing ceremony was likely to be held in Edinburgh two or three days after all the councils had approved the package.