Budget cuts of £28.5 million could be avoided if Edinburgh had similar powers to councils elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
That’s the stark message from the capital’s six-strong group of Green councillors just over a week before the council is due to set its billion pound budget for 2015-16.
The Greens have published an alternative budget paper which shows how £25.7 million of extra income could be raised by giving the council modest extra powers such as a visitor levy and greater flexibility with council tax.
In turn, say the Greens, this would mean extra priority for care for older people, funding for charities, and community learning as well as new investment in school conditions and sports facilities.
Green Finance Spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett said:
“Less than a year ago the Commission for Local Democracy showed that, across Europe, councils with comparable responsibilities to Edinburgh typically control 50-60% of their income, through local taxes and charges.
“In Edinburgh, those powers have been reduced to almost nothing, with dire consequences for local services. Indeed, the council’s biggest-ever budget consultation exercise showed that residents are well aware of the cuts that come from the council tax freeze and general reduction in council funding.
“So what I propose today is modest and affordable – less than 4% of overall spending – asking for the right to put to Edinburgh residents a choice to raising a bit more income in order to strengthen budgets for swimming pools, care services, community centres, homelessness charities and schools.
“I’m confident that, given that choice, investment in services would come ahead of an austerity-driven race to the bottom.”
The City of Edinburgh Council budget is set on 12 February 2015. A package of £28.5 million of cuts or savings has been proposed from a £962 million budget. Of the£28.5 million package, £5.2 million non-frontline cuts have already been approved last October.
Services under threat include:
– £4.3 million cut to charities and other third party service providers
– Over £5 million cut to health and social care at a time of increasing demand
– £1.4 million cut to Edinburgh Leisure which runs swimming pools and sports facilities.
– £0.6 million cut to community learning and development
As well as a host of others including closure of public toilets, reduction in library hours, nursery and childcare funding.