Urgent school repairs top Labour’s city budget plans

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MILLIONS of pounds should be invested in urgent upgrades to crumbling schools, according to the city’s main opposition group.

Edinburgh’s Labour group has proposed a £3.1 million investment in repairs to school buildings and improvements to school toilets.

It also wants previously agreed cuts to sports budgets, community groups and libraries to be reversed.

It plans to help fund the work by carrying out a management shake-up, reducing back office education roles and cutting back on council magazines, brochures and pamphlets.

Details of the proposals were contained in its opposition budget published today, one week ahead of a meeting where the final council budget will be thrashed out.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the finance spokesman for the Labour group, said: “There are ageing school buildings throughout the city crying out for some TLC. This money would go towards repairing toilets and school buildings.”

Last year, the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration set a two-year budget, with many of the decisions made last year still to be implemented in 2012-13.

But Labour is proposing reversing a series of these cuts and reinstating funding.

Under its proposals, Edinburgh Leisure would receive another £740,000 – effectively protecting all sports centres from the threat of closure – while voluntary sector grants would be maintained at current levels instead of suffering a cut of £826,000. The threat of a reduction in library opening hours would be removed by reinstating a £550,000 cut due to come into force in April.

Gavin Corbett, chairman of Craiglockhart Primary’s parent council, said: “Day-to-day stuff that frustrates parents – toilets, playgrounds and heating – are not expensive to maintain and improve, but it makes a big difference to the overall experience of children.”

Labour is again proposing to introduce a “living wage” of £7.20 an hour and wants to set a principle that the highest-paid council employee would not be paid any more than 12 times the rate of the lowest paid. At present, only chief executive Sue Bruce would be in breach of this – by just over £2000.

Another proposal is to double the £1.2m fund allocated to Neighbourhood Partnerships.

Administration councillors are drawing up their own proposals, which they are likely to present at next Thursday’s meeting, while the other opposition groups will also present fully costed proposals. The groups will then try to persuade Lib Dem/SNP councillors to incorporate some of their proposals into the final budget.

Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group, said: “The involvement of the public is very weak, with everything tabled at the last minute. It is not good for democratic scrutiny of the administration’s budget.”