Edinburgh's new council faces big challenges on net-zero and finances

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Edinburgh has to move “at least twice as fast” to reduce its emissions compared to the last decade, according to the council’s chief executive.

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But with funding pressures of around £380 million over the next five years, Andrew Kerr said ensuring the Capital’s ambitious goal of being a net-zero city by 2030 will mean “deprioritising other things” in the council.

“We’ve approved a balanced budget for this financial year but we’ve got significant financial pressures coming from 2023/24 onwards,” Mr Kerr said. “There’s going to have to be some decisions made quite early on in the term to allow us to start make savings.”

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Updating councillors on the future direction of the local authority and the “difficult” financial challenges likely to impact policy delivery and local services, he said: “There’s pressure on housing, transport, education, health and all other infrastructure around the net-zero agenda which we’re going to have to address and we’re hard at work working with the rest of the city.

Edinburgh needs to move at least twice as fast on reducing emissions every year than we’ve done so far in the past decade.

“We have to decide how to do that within limited resources and that will mean change.”

Mr Kerr also warned the rising price of energy could cost the council “something up to £10 million a year more” than is currently budgeted.

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Andrew Kerr said some decisions on savings would need to be made early.Andrew Kerr said some decisions on savings would need to be made early.
Andrew Kerr said some decisions on savings would need to be made early.

“There’s other inflationary pressures which are obviously coming to everyone, we’ve got pressures on homelessness, a decrease in school contact times, our ICT requirements and our need to invest in technology as we go forward is quite high, but there’s a worsening general fiscal UK-wide outlook and the budgeting both at the UK and Scottish Government is going to have an effect on how we go forward,” he said.

He was addressing members at Tuesday’s policy and sustainability committee, the first since the election last month, which resulted in Labour taking control of the council as a minority administration with 13 councillors.

Cammy Day, who was chairing the meeting for the first time as the new council leader, was asked by Greens co-convenor Steve Burgess when people would be told what the new administration’s priorities are.

Councillor Burgess said: “I’m not aware of any political priorities having been set by the new administration, so it seems to be at the moment the council business plan you outlined is taking the place of a lack of a political programme.”

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Councillor Day replied the Labour group “put our manifesto to the public” which he said will form the basis of the council’s priorities for the next five years.

“We will bring forward a document over the next month that starts that discussion,” he added.

The council leader reiterated his desire to work with “all political parties” in the chamber in drawing up plans, particularly on ending poverty and tackling climate change.

“I will be in touch with leaders this week to get together on how we can agree a joint delivery plan for the city.”

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