Proposals for residents to veto certain council policies rejected

A call for Edinburgh residents to be able to veto certain budget policies by the council in return for a council tax reduction has been rejected by the administration.

Monday, 10th September 2018, 10:23 am
Updated Monday, 10th September 2018, 10:25 am
Calls for a veto of certain council policies has been rejected.

Ahead of next year’s budget, the council is aiming to give residents a say over what some money should be spent on through participatory budgeting.

The concept was first touted in Brazil and has been used in New York and Paris. The council wants more than one per cent of next year’s budget to be decided through participatory budgeting. The scheme would be done through the council’s four locality teams, allowing residents a greater say over how money is spent on a local level.

Conservative Cllr Jim Campbell wants the public to have the choice to reject all options and instead have the proposed funding used to take a slice off residents’ council tax charge.

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The council administration said it was vital for funding to be spent on essential services.

Cllr Campbell said: “It is essentially there to give the citizens the chance to say they don’t particularly like any of the options that have been presented to them. When we give our citizens the chance to spend, we should also give them the chance, if they don’t like those spending choices, to be able to save. They may choose never to use that option, but it forces a discipline on the process that is otherwise absent. It forces a real choice and I think it would improve this process for that reason.”

But the Labour-SNP administration halted any calls for policies to be vetoed by the public.

Finance and Resources Convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, labelled the idea a “quite extraordinary motion” and said it would be impractical to have the four quarters of the city charged different rates of council tax.

He said: “I would give it a little credit for inventiveness, but not for a great deal more. Its intentions cut across my view of the spirit and the objectives of participatory budgeting. The aim of participatory budgeting is to give local communities the opportunity to participate in decisions about spending on projects that they value for their own areas.

“The prospect that they will come up with nothing seems to me, remote, but we are asked to give communities an option to say, no we want to return that funding to the central budget, earmarked for a reduction in council tax.”

He added: “I’m tempted to say, how very Tory. Those who depend most on public services and facilities would stand to get nothing.” Labour Cllr Marion Donaldson, Finance and Resources Vice Convener, labelled the proposal “a gimmick”.