Services cut as Edinburgh seeks £70m saving

Lollypop men and women could be cut as part of the proposals. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Lollypop men and women could be cut as part of the proposals. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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A NEW round of council cuts has been unveiled, including scrapping lunchtime lollipop patrols, another increase in parking charges, reducing recycling collections and slashing funding for community policing.

The latest batch of proposals – which will save almost £70 million – also includes withdrawing the night noise team, stopping repair and maintenance of stair lighting in tenements and carrying out a review of libraries.

Recycling collections could also be affected. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Recycling collections could also be affected. Picture: Ian Georgeson

City leaders are already consulting on plans for a swathe of cuts, including 2000 job losses, as part of the city’s budget for the next four years.

They say the extra measures will take them close to the target of £126 million savings by 2020.

The council wants to withdraw the school crossing patrol service at lunchtimes at 75 primary schools across the city, saying traffic is less busy and few, if any, pupils go home for lunch.

But one lollipop lady, with 14 years’ service, said the move would inevitably put children’s safety at risk.

She said: “If they are withdrawing the lunchtime stint they are endangering children’s lives.

“Some drivers are terrible and the only deterrent is the lollipop stick. The council is taking a big risk doing this. If a child gets knocked down, how are they going to feel?”

She said some lollipop guides might quit because they could not afford the loss of £120 a month in their pay.

“Lollipops are the lowest-paid people in the council. They need to save money at the top, not the bottom of the pile.

“They’re going to spend millions taking the tram down to Leith, but they take this away from people who look after children’s safety.”

The budget proposals published in September included an increase of up to a third in pay-and-display parking charges, including a jump from £2.60 to £3 an hour in areas such as the Old Town and West End.

Now the council wants to bring in a further rise of 4.5 per cent per year rise for the next four years. But officials said it had not been decided whether this would affect the same zones or other areas not covered by the existing proposals.

The council said the proposed £500,000 cut in its £2.6m funding for community policing and the violence reduction unit comes after negotiations with Police Scotland.

Council cash currently pays for 44 community constables and 12 city centre officers. Last year the council dropped a threat to cut the contribution after it won assurances from police chiefs that officers would not be switched from their community role to other duties.

The latest cuts proposals also envisage £1.15m savings from changes to waste services.

Garden waste collections would move to every three weeks and glass recycling collections to every four weeks.

Trade waste services would not be provided for non-council buildings; and commercial waste would no longer be accepted at community recycling centres.

The council plans to save another £200,000 by scrapping the night noise team, which currently deals with complaints into the small hours from Thursday to Sunday. Calls about antisocial behaviour noise would instead have to be directed to the police, as already happens on other nights.

Another £1m would be saved by withdrawing repair and maintenance of stair lighting in around 70,000 tenement properties built before the 1980s.

Edinburgh is currently the only local authority in Scotland to provide this service.

And the council wants to save £2.8m through a review of the city’s library service, which it says could include the closure of some existing buildings.

The proposal says: “There will be a rationalisation of libraries to meet the needs of local communities. Some libraries will continue to be stand-alone, others combined with community centres and some run by local communities.”

The school music service would be reviewed to explore the potential for it to be self-funded, for example through the creation of a social enterprise model.

The proposal says: “A service will be created where the quality of provision will be maintained; however, there will be a contribution for music tuition, based on the ability to pay.”

The council said 25 per cent of the £2.2m music budget would be retained to support children from poorer families.

Other cuts would include reduced maintenance of parks and greater community management of green spaces.

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “These new proposals have been developed since September and will allow us to make significant savings.

“We really want to hear what people think of these proposals, and how they want us to invest and save generally, so we’ve added an extra week to the engagement process to allow people to give us their feedback.

“We will listen to people’s views before the council makes the final budget decisions, as we did last year.”