Time to scrap garden waste collection charge, say Edinburgh Tories

Tories will propose limiting Edinburgh's council tax increase to 1.5 per cent – just half of the expected three per cent rise – when councillors set next year's budget on Thursday.

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The party says it would also scrap the £35 annual garden waste collection charge, invest £10 million in roads and potholes and give extra support to children after a tough time during Covid.

Finance spokesman Andrew Johnston said although the council had been given an extra £9m in Scottish Government funding for 2022/23, it still faced a funding gap of £60m in 2023/24.

The city council will set its 2022/23 budget on Thursday. Picture: Neil Hanna

But he said it was unfair to ask residents to pay an extra three per cent in council tax, the level of increase assumed in budget planning by officials.

"This is a really challenging time for everyone with the cost of living and fuel and that's why we think 1.5 per cent is fair for the people of Edinburgh who have been paying more for less for the last five years."

Keeping the rise down to 1.5 per cent would cost £1.6m, said Cllr Johnston.

And he said the Tories would have proposed an even lower increase if Edinburgh had managed to recoup an estimated £9m which it has missed out on compared with Glasgow because Glasgow has delegated work on homelessness to its integration joint board (IJB) while Edinburgh has not.

Cllr Johnston said: "We would have gone further had it not been for the Scottish Government refusing to give us the homelessness money and the failure of the SNP council leadership to lobby them effectively on it."

The Tories would use £1.2m to scrap the controversial garden waste charge.

Cllr Johnston said: "It has been hugely unpopular. It wasn’t in the SNP or Labour manifestos, so it was quite undemocratic the way they brought it in, and we want to encourage people to recycle as much as possible."

He said the Tories would also propose lower rises than the six per cent put forward by officials on charges for school milk and burials.

And the Tory budget plan includes capital investment of £10m in roads and potholes and improving the appearance of the city.

"We feel the city has really deteriorated in its appearance over the past five years, so we would invest in roads and potholes and also a spring clean to remove a lot of graffiti across the city and generally make it look a lot more attractive. We have to encourage tourists to come back to Edinburgh because we all know the impact on the economy of Covid."

There would also be around £2m for the children and families department. "It has been a particularly tough time for children in the past two years so we want to put in extra money to support them."

And the party wants to put £2m into reserves in view of the problems with the finances of the tram extension, which was meant to be funded by a dividend from Lothian Buses and fare revenues.

"There’s been no dividend in the last three years so that's an £18m problem already and they've said the projected ticket income is way below expectations so we have to be careful and put money into reserves."

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