Warning Edinburgh could end up with only basic fire services
CONTROVERSIAL cuts proposed by Edinburgh's SNP-Labour coalition could lead to two-tier public services in the Capital, it was claimed today.
The warning came from one of the administration’s own backbenchers, Labour councillor Scott Arthur, who said if the cuts continued it would end with the council providing only a basic service and people being expected to pay for anything more.
The budget proposals, which aim to save £21 million next year, include introducing a £25 annual charge for garden waste collections, a £420,000 cut in funding for Edinburgh Leisure, reduced library opening hours and a five per cent increase in the price of parking permits.
In a blog, Cllr Scott claimed the cuts would have been worse without Labour’s influence.
He wrote: “Whilst as much as possible we argued to protect services used by the vulnerable and those who need a helping hand, these cuts have sacrificed non-statutory services to protect what we are legally obliged to deliver. Notwithstanding this, everything from waste collection to education is being cut.
“The good news is that if you can afford it, you can pay to have your garden waste collected. If you are on a low income, the story is a little different however.”
And he warned: “Be in no doubt, this is just the start. If continued, the council will only provide basic statutory services and those who want something better will have to pay.”
Kevin Lang criticised both coalition partners. “The real question is whether the Labour group who were elected on a commitment of opposing cuts like this will now facilitate them or stay true to their manifesto and oppose them.
“If this is the stage the council has got to, the SNP council leader should be going to the SNP First Minister and saying ‘Enough is enough, we cannot deliver these kind of cuts because they are so damaging’.”
Labour group leader Cammy Day said the administration wanted to hear what the public thought of the budget proposals. He said: “The continued erosion of local government funding is having an impact on our ability to deliver services.
“And if that continues we will need to have a serious discussion about what services we can continue to provide.
“If we’re going to lose another £140m over the next few years we will get to the point there is no fat to scrape from the services we provide. We have a statutory duty to do certain things, like pay teachers and provide social work services, but other things come under considerable pressure.”
He said it was wrong for any party to claim cuts could be avoided when there was less money available.
But he added: “We will continue to campaign to protect frontline services and proper funding for local government.”
SNP council leader Adam McVey said the council did not yet know how much it would get from the Scottish Government and added he was engaging with the government to get a fair deal.
He said: “I’m working to ensure the deal is as good for local government as possible. We are trying to plan for what we expect, but within that we still hope for the best.
“I don’t think anyone would say local government should be 100 per cent protected if it comes at a cost to the police, the NHS or education.
“People want us to make a robust representation and that’s what we’re doing, but it’s in the context of a Scottish budget still far too dependent on UK government decisions.”