Edinburgh council in denial over housing and homelessness – John McLellan

I have pointed out several times in this column how Edinburgh City Council remains in denial about its ability to meet its housing targets and yet another official council document has illustrated the point, writes John McLellan.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 11:45 am
Not enough land is available to build the number of homes we need

An internal audit of the Homelessness Service discussed at last week’s housing committee says there is a “high unmet need” in the local housing market “which has a significant impact on the ability to rehouse homeless households” and it is “expected to be under increasing pressure as the city grows at a faster pace than elsewhere in Scotland”.

The most recent housing land audit says there was room for 22,153 new homes on land free of all constraints and at March 2018 6445 were already under construction. Yet the new Homelessness Service audit says that “demand for new homes in Edinburgh is between 38,000 and 46,000 over the next ten years, of which over 60 per cent needs to be affordable”.

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So while the coalition continues to witter on about how ambitious they are in setting a target of building 20,000 new affordable homes by 2027, they do not address the basic fact that not enough land is available.

No doubt this is all supposed to be tackled in guidelines for the new local development plan (LDP) which is in the earliest stages of preparation, but the outline contained in the regional plan for the whole of South East Scotland was rejected by the Scottish Government because there was not enough attention to transport infrastructure.

They’re gonna need a bigger drawing board.

Out-of-date data on economy’s unhelpful

The latest edition of Edinburgh Council’s Economy Watch shows again that despite political uncertainty, the number of people in work continues to grow, with 377,000 people employed in Edinburgh by March this year.

An increase of 4.9 per cent in two years is remarkable in a sluggish Scottish economy growing at 1.4 per cent compared to the UK’s 1.8. Unemployment actually rose in the past year, by 1000 to 11,000, or 3.8 per cent of the economically active population, but out-of-work benefits claimants at 1.7 per cent suggests two per cent are unable to work.

The number of failed businesses increased with business “deaths” almost overtaking the 2,495 start-ups for the first time since the 2009 financial crash, but the latest data is for 2017 so booming employment figures since then might be mirrored in fewer failures. More up-to-date data is a must.

Cammy’s role is clear as Day

He’s the leader, he’s the one who gets to say go . . . A helpful note from Edinburgh Council chief executive Andrew Kerr this week points out the obvious, that Labour leader Cammy Day is acting council leader during SNP leader Adam McVey’s adoption leave.

According to Mr Kerr, Cllr Ellie Bird, who the SNP insisted was a joint leader, is simply a “senior councillor to work with Councillor Day on carrying out the duties associated with the Council Leader and Depute Leader roles.”

Reassuringly, they will “work together to lead the organisation”. Glad that’s been cleared up . . . but no word about the responsibility payments.

A kick in the grass

Full marks to the Evening News for its new sports campaign, particularly the demand that when council staff mow playing fields, they can be played on.

The crews will know what they leave behind is unusable but even so young players, parents and coaches turn up every weekend to find unmarked fields strewn with cut grass where there used to be pitches. If the grass can’t be collected and pitches re-lined, they might as well not bother.

On the wrong track

You have to admire the tenacity of Borders Rail supporters, now fund-raising to pay for a feasibility study into extending the single track line to Hawick and Carlisle. But when the Edinburgh-Glasgow line can be severed by heavy rain, Edinburgh Gateway station remains the palest of pachyderms, it takes longer to get from Edinburgh to Perth by train than it did in Victorian times and there is no station in St Andrews, is it really a priority?