Green Councillor Steve Burgess previews 2014 in Edinburgh.
I have five capital priorities for 2014.
It is the year of the tram – at long last. Greens support a public inquiry into the shameful mismanagement of the tram project but we also want to see the city reassert its capacity to undertake the projects which are desperately needed: dedicated cycle-ways in the main routes into the city; revamping high streets to unleash the potential of the “pedestrian pound”; a strategic approach to roads and footway maintenance. And is 2014 not the year when car-sharing really takes off?
Jobs are top of the Green agenda – particularly for those shipwrecked by short-term, blinkered austerity cuts. A flourishing, living wage, economy is the best way to ensure that odious welfare cuts like the bedroom tax can be rejected. So we want to see Edinburgh’s vision of a sustainable economy delivered, creating thousands of jobs in transforming homes and buildings, investing in clean green technology, building on our fantastic sector of small businesses and social enterprises.
And harnessing that green potential is not just good for jobs, it’s good for the city’s own besieged budgets. A twin approach of community and publicly-owned energy generation, will challenge the monopoly of private energy companies, tackle fuel poverty and, like other European cities, yield millions for the public purse at a time when vital public services like schools are otherwise being hit.
But Edinburgh is not just a city, it’s a network of neighbourhoods. There’s a creeping trend of centralisation whether in health services or police presence which Greens want to see reversed. New life needs to be breathed into council support for local high streets, matching young innovators up with vacant premises. And there’s absolute political consensus on the blights of dog-fouling and litter – let’s turn that consensus into real progress on these bread and butter concerns.
Finally, it is not just what the city does, it is how. Edinburgh still has a long way to go to transform a “we know best” culture into one which truly listens to citizens. Petitions Committee, webcasting of council meetings and early draft budgets are a good start. But we can go further: handing decisions over local budgets to residents throughout Edinburgh; giving greater support to community councils and other community bodies; involving more residents in the management and improvement of our precious parks and green spaces.
Ambitious? Maybe. But here’s to 2014!