Edinburgh's City Deal set for summer signing
THE Capital's long-awaited Â£1 billion-plus City Region Deal is expected to be signed by the end of June.
City council leader Andrew Burns rejected suggestions that final agreement on the package would be delayed by the general election.
The deal – which will see cash from both UK and Scottish governments help to fund infrastructure projects in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and the Borders – was originally due to be concluded by the end of March or early April. But then it was delayed until after the council elections on May 4.
Earlier this week, East Lothian SNP MP George Kerevan voiced fears in the Commons that it could be further held up following Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election on June 8.
But Councillor Burns said he did not believe there would be any further postponement.
He said: “Behind the scenes it is progressing just as we anticipated.”
He said since it had become clear the deal would not be finalised before the local elections, council officials had been working with civil servants from the UK and Scottish governments to get the final deal ready to be put to the six councils for approval as soon as possible after the elections.
He acknowledged the dissolution of the UK parliament on May 3 would mean a period of “purdah” for the UK government, when any major announcements are suspended.
“There will be a period of five weeks when the UK civil servants will be in a purdah period. In causes a slight issue in that regard but in the greater scheme of things we are not anticipating any further delay.
“We are working to get it to the full council meetings of the six authorities as quickly as possible after the local government elections.”
A full city council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 29. Cllr Burns and deputy leader Councillor Frank Ross said the aim was to approve the City Deal at that meeting.
And Cllr Burns insisted he was “pretty confident” a new government would not mean the deal would be up for discussion again.
He said: “This has been ongoing for two-and-a-half years. There has been loads of detailed discussions, numerous iterations of the proposals. I’m fairly confident it won’t be reopened.
“It is in the endgame of civil servants sorting out the details. The detail will be tweaked, but the overall structure of the package is not going to radically alter.”
The councils have never disclosed a full list of the projects they want covered by the deal.
But it is likely to include major housebuilding investment, cash for new roads, and investment in research, education, tourism and culture.
The package is also expected to hand new powers to councils, including the right to introduce a tourist tax to be levied on hotel guests and earmarked for cultural spending, and the setting up of a land commission to co-ordinate publicly-owned sites to help tackle the housing shortage.