Opposition parties have their say on city budget

Opposition have outlined how they feel funding should be handled.
Opposition have outlined how they feel funding should be handled.
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Have your say

As the council agrees spending today, rival politicians have their say on how to revamp services and hand over funding.

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Lib Dems: Council needs to get basic services right

Liberal Democrats have four key aims in our budget – to listen to what Edinburgh citizens are telling us, to get the basic services right, to improve services for our most vulnerable citizens and To make fundamental changes to what we do and the way we do it.

The council’s consultation exercise clearly said massive cuts to Edinburgh Leisure were unacceptable. Lib Dems agree and would give more to Edinburgh Leisure than any other party. It also said, and we agree, that charging for the brown bins would be a bureaucratic nightmare. Lib Dems would keep the free brown bin service. It said the council should keep the night time noise team and the Lib Dems agree.

It also said we should have a tourist tax to help fund the festivals. Lib Dems fully support this and are mystified as to why the SNP government refuses to allow Edinburgh to levy the tax.

The council is failing to get the basics right. Lib Dems believe we should focus on basic services. Repairing roads, pavements and cycle paths is a top priority. The Lib Dem budget puts an extra £3.5 million above the SNP/Labour administration into this basic service – more than any other party. We need cleaner streets – not just in the city centre – and better weed and leaf control. Lib Dems have put an extra £1 million into this basic service. We also need to ensure that our parks and green spaces are well maintained and help people’s physical and mental wellbeing. We are the only party to put extra funding into parks and green spaces.

2018 is the Year of Young People. The Lib Dem budget would give free school lunches throughout the holiday period to all eligible children. It also supports local initiatives to develop and maintain breakfast clubs. For children at special schools, Lib Dems would extend care during the holidays from four weeks to six weeks. Lib Dems are the only party to propose two full time posts devoted to extending the provision of mental health and wellbeing awareness in our schools. The budget includes an extra £1.5 million for looked after children. Lib Dems are the only party to invest in additional school IT equipment.

On top of £4 million to address the backlog in care packages, Lib Dems will put £2 million to invest in preventative health care spending and to fund improvements in mental health care.

Edinburgh needs to address the needs of its homeless population. Lib Dems would invest in Housing First – an approach which works across Europe providing a permanent home with wrap around care for the most vulnerable homeless people.

The council cannot continue trying to do the same things in same way with reducing funds and fewer staff. Lib Dems believe we must shape services to what people need rather than making people’s needs fit our services. We need to make a massive shift in our approach to focus on preventative measures and services centred on citizens. This will need up front funding. Lib Dems will set up a transformation fund by using some of the council’s investment property and instruct the council to commission an investigation into this alternative approach.

Greens: We need to spend £200m to revamp the capital’s secondary schools in next five years and listen to parents’ views

Today is budget day – the single biggest decision the council will take in 2018. At stake is £1 billion of spending on day-to-day services for 2018-19 plus another £2-300 million of investment over the next five years.

Edinburgh’s Green councillors believe that, in the budget, the council must carry the fight on funding to the Scottish Government. I welcome the £12.4m extra for Edinburgh that Green MSPs secured in the national budget negotiation with the Scottish Government, but I also fully agree with those Green MSPs that it is a sticking plaster for a council funding system that is broken and must be reformed.

In our Ambitious for Edinburgh proposals, published on Tuesday, we unveiled a raft of ideas, the highlight of which is almost £200m of investment in new secondary schools over the next five years. This includes borrowing of £84m specifically focused on new or refurbished secondary level education and community hubs in Craigmillar, Trinity, Liberton, Currie, Balerno and Wester Hailes and a new site in west Edinburgh. The agreement would also seek Scottish Government match-funding through its long-awaited new schools programme.

Alongside that programme, we have earmarked money to strengthen the way the council consults with school communities so that, whatever shape these new schools take, it is driven by the views of parents, young people and indeed the whole community.

Crucially, the Green plans can make this investment pledge while also investing in other critical areas for the city such as modern transport, supporting lifeline services for looked after young people and rejecting some of the most damaging cuts and job losses otherwise planned.

On a similar theme, but very different scale, I also propose breaking the deadlock on a potential tourist levy for the Capital, which could raise up to £15m a year, by commissioning a detailed design for how such a levy could work in practice.

Are our plans ambitious? Yes! In light of pressing needs to invest in schools and other public services, it is not enough to wait and see what the Scottish Government might come up with or sit on the sidelines simply complaining about the funding of councils. People elect us to carry the funding fight to the Scottish Government, to take the next big step in providing young people with the schools they need.

That is only a headline among many ideas that Greens are putting forward for the budget debate today:

n £2m to transform

homelessness services, reducing the need for temporary accommodation, especially bed and breakfast hostels

n £1.5m to protect library staff and library hours

n Free bus travel for 16-21 year old care-leavers

n Fully funding school uniform grants for lower income families

n A new programme to replace street trees

n Investing in new equipment for cultural venues

n Tackling empty homes and high private rents

n A package of measures on litter, waste and reducing energy costs

Green plans are ambitious for Edinburgh. I hope other councillors share that ambition.

Cllr Gavin Corbett is Green Finance spokesperson

Conservatives: Funding for potential tram extension should go towards solving roads damage and school repairs

Tomorrow Edinburgh’s SNP-Labour administration will attempt to impose a three per cent Council Tax increase to fund the £164m Leith tram line while failing to tackle the inefficiencies which dog our key

services.

So as Leith Walk gets set to be dug up yet again, the potholes on the rest of the city’s roads go unfilled, schools and other council buildings cry out for urgent repairs, health and social care services are in crisis and homelessness grows.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even though the SNP government is tightening its stranglehold on local government, the budget I will propose of behalf of the Conservative group tomorrow will significantly outstrip the administration’s plans for these four priorities while delivering the transformation the council badly needs without the need for a three per cent Council Tax hike.

This is what we can achieve:

Instead of wasting the £7.2m Lothian Bus dividend on the unwanted tram completion we will re-allocate it to repairing our pothole-ridden roads, fixing problem junctions and expanding the Hermiston Park-and-Ride.

We will boost the health and social care budget by an extra £500,000, on top of the £4m pledged by the administration, to crack inherent inefficiencies which are holding the services back.

We will spend £2.3m on tackling homelessness, over £300,000 more than the SNP-Labour coalition, £1.4m of which will go directly to the Homelessness Task Force to be used to eliminate rough sleeping and the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.

We will limit the Council Tax increase to two per cent, but from 2019/20 every penny from this increase will fund the entire current school rebuilding and refurbishment program, investing some £77m more than the administration over the remaining life of this council.

We will ask for a short pause on approval for new schools until a full strategic review of the council estate is completed, introducing a community hub model with real engagement and ensuring that the council’s buildings are manageable and properly maintained.

Children from less affluent families will benefit from an £85 uniform grant, £13.50 more than the coalition proposes and we will still be able to fund a free meals programme during the school holidays.

The proposed £25 bin tax is a calculated swipe at suburban homeowners who deserted the administration parties in droves last May. We categorically reject the charge, and will restore fortnightly collections.

The innovative approaches we have taken to the city’s budget show what can be achieved with determination, and this was one of the reasons Conservatives topped the first preferences at last May’s council election.

More and more people recognise it’s time for change, but instead the city has been saddled with more of the same, and even withan SNP council leader and an SNP finance convener Edinburgh once again we received the worst settlement of all Scotland’s local authorities.

This is not only an administration seemingly doomed to repeat the failures of its last five-year term, but the Edinburgh SNP leadership is so weak it can’t bring its influence to bear within its own government.

Forget the council’s cack-handed attempt at consultation, tomorrow we will show why the largest number of Edinburgh people voted Conservative.