Edinburgh council has extra £9.3 million after Scottish Government budget boost
Extra cash could be spent on pothole repairs, park improvements or anti-terrorist barriers, among other priorities, after Edinburgh was handed a budget boost from the Scottish Government.
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The Capital will have an additional £9.3 million to spend in the new financial year following Finance Secretary Kate Forbes' announcement of more money for local authorities.
In a briefing to councillors, officials warn the extra funding is one-off so should not be used in a way that commits the council to ongoing expenditure.
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And they outline a number of possible options, including:
– £2m towards upgrade of the council’s HR system as recommended by the independent whistleblowing review
– £1.2m to implement a permanent solution to stabilisation of the Calton Hill rockface
– additional spend on roads and footpaths
– additional spend on parks and greenspace
– purchase of permanent anti-terrorist barriers
– up to £2m to reduce pressures in children’s services
But the officials also add that in view of expected reductions in government funding in future years, councillors should also consider transferring some or all of the money to reserves.
And they warn using the cash to reduce a council tax increase would lead to bigger increases being needed in future.
Council leader Adam McVey said: “We're having detailed conversations on some priority areas for the city – improving core services, tackling climate change, reducing poverty and trying to deal with the Tory cost-of-living crisis which is hitting people enormously hard.
“When we got additional money last May, we put another £4m into parks and another £6m into roads, so we absolutely recognise that we need to invest in these core service areas.
"There's no getting away from it, it will not stretch to infinity – we will have to make difficult decisions about what we prioritise.”
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has repeatedly called for better funding for councils.
He said: “I’ve been steadfast in my support of Cosla's work in trying to get the overall envelope for local government increased. But there are some Edinburgh-specific aspects that need to be raised directly as well and we did that – areas like under-22 tram tickets and the housing grant funding and how that's apportioned: we think Edinburgh should be getting far, far more of that funding.”
Opposition councillors, however, were sceptical about the extra cash.
Tory finance spokesman Andrew Johnston said: “Since the last local government elections in 2017 Edinburgh has suffered chronic under-funding at the hands of the Scottish Government, leaving council finances in a grim position.
“Three months before an election and to the surprise of no one, the Scottish Government has conjured up a small amount of cash, which whilst welcome, goes nowhere near far enough in addressing the long-term financial challenges facing Scotland's capital city.
“With the council now expected to prop up the trams to the tune of £9m a year and serious financial challenges facing the care service, the Scottish Government must listen to not only the Conservative group but also the voice of Cosla, which represents all councils in Scotland and provide long term, sustainable funding.”