February is always focussed on the budget in Edinburgh Council and as such a lot of councillors’ time is taken up with that, in particular Gavin Corbett‘s as our finance spokesperson. This year we managed to work with other opposition councillors to ensure that rent for residential council properties was frozen for this year, ensuring those on low incomes in council houses – who may have been on furlough and only 80% of their usual income – get a year’s respite from rising rents. Gavin Corbett‘s overall budget was a ‘Green Recovery’ budget which put more into parks and greenspace than any other budget as well as serious investment in the city’s zero-carbon 2030 goal; setting the target line for other parties seeking to prove that their budgets take the climate crisis and other environmental concerns seriously.
At Transport and Environment Committee, Claire Miller tabled a detailed amendment (see p25) to the yearly report on the air quality figures for Edinburgh. The air quality action plan is now 13 years out of date and desperately needs to be rewritten. The city has 5 “air quality management areas” (AQMA) where nitrogen oxides breach the national agreed levels for clean air and a sixth AQMA for small particulates. The amendment passed after a vote, which means that the committee will be prioritising the actions needed to clean up the city’s polluted air.
Steve Burgess represented the Green Group at the All Party Oversight Group on Sustainability & Climate Emergency to discuss council plans for achieving net zero for both the Council and the City. The aim is to get a city-wide net zero strategy in place before the UN climate conference, Cop26 in Glasgow in November.
In Education, Steve‘s question for the Council Leader at this month’s council meeting on the importance of COVID vaccinations for teachers in special schools, may have helped make this happen the next day!
And in the wards…
In the city centre ward, Claire is working with council officers and the developers of the new Filmhouse building on Lothian Road to find ways to link the cycle path at Exchange Crescent and Lothian Road, where there will be infrastructure for cycling created through the City Centre Transformation programme. Currently the Filmhouse has applied to make Festival Square ‘shared use’ for both pedestrians and people on bikes, however a large number of people are expected to use this space, and so a different solution is needed to avoid conflict.
In Southside-Newington ward Steve Burgess has held initial discussions with community development officers about the potential of using COP26 as a springboard to hold events and catalyse local action on climate change.
In Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart, after almost a decade of pressing on dangerous parking and road safety, Gavin Corbett has welcomed the next steps towards controlled parking in his area: Phase 1 Approved!
In Craigentinny & Duddingston Alex Staniforth has learnt that Northfield Allotments will finally have a water supply this April. This is something he has been working on since about a week after he was elected and he is elated that the hard work so many have put into getting it is finally paying off!