Fears over new charges for council services in Edinburgh

COUNCIL bosses have sparked fears that new charges could be introduced for some services in a bid to beat funding shortages.

Friday, 24th May 2019, 5:09 pm
A new "income maximisation champion" could be appointed at the council

Plans have emerged to appoint a councillor as “income maximisation champion” to oversee a “more commercially-focused approach” to council services.

Just last week, the SNP-Labour administration suffered an embarrassing defeat when the transport and environment committee voted to scrap the controversial £25 annual charge for garden waste collection introduced a year ago. The administration is expected to try to reverse the decision.

But now the proposed new “champion” appointment has prompted concern that with financial pressures increasing, the council could introduce similar charges for other services, such as music tuition or entry to museums.

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One City Chambers insider said: “Most people agree the council could make better use of its assets. However, there is a stark difference between that and viewing everything as an income generating opportunity.

“Charging for garden waste and the over-exploitation of Princes Street Gardens has been hugely damaging for the council and the city.

“Rather than dreaming about how much can be raised from things like music tuition and museum entry, the council leader needs to think longer about the value providing these for free gives to some of the most vulnerable people in our city.”

Another source said little detail had been given of the proposed new role and no case had been made for the new appointment.

“Where has this come from? Who is pushing it and why?

“It sounds as if it’s about charging for things that we already provide. No parameters have been set - everything is up for grabs.”

The source added that although other champion posts at the council - covering cycling, equalities, homelessness, Gaelic and more - did not carry any financial reward it had not been made clear whether the income maximisation champion would be a paid post.

Last year the council caused controversy by advertising a newly-created post of commercial and procurement director to find new ways to raise money. The job was expected to carry a salary of over £100,000,

The post has not been filled but council leader Adam McVey said someone was being seconded from outside the council to work with a similar remit.

He said nothing had been decided on the champion appointment but insisted it would not carry a special responsibility allowance.

He suggested an example of maximising income might be using City Chambers more for weddings.

Asked about the possibility of new charges for council services, Cllr McVey said: “That’s not the purpose of the role.”