from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
Three weeks of the past month have been recess – in theory a time when there is no council business, but in reality almost as busy as always! This included an extraordinary meeting of the Financial & Resources Committee where we had a big success in the fees and charges from the Council – dramatically increasing parking fines in order to freeze the costs of funerals, write off library debt, and create a community cultural fund to help voluntary groups access venue hire. You can see more about this here: https://twitter.com/AlysGreens/status/1641463910820720642
Full Council in May will see motions from our group on disposable vapes, the illegal migration bill, celebrating Europe, Ukrainian solidarity and other things. Looking further ahead, the group are beginning to think about the Green Councillor Group AGM on the 19th June at 1 pm – all branch members are welcome to attend online – and continuing with our overall group strategy. You can see what else the group have been up to below.
Councillor highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
The Portobello and Craigmillar Local Team have been making exciting plans for the year ahead and figuring out how I can best use my position in Council to improve things in the ward, as well as planning our non-coronation celebration on the beach at 7.30 on the 8th May – all welcome!
I was pleased to work with ward colleagues to get cross-party support for a motion to retain a road closure at Canaan Lane to make the area safe for the Primary School, Royal Blind School and local residents. There is still work to be done to make a long-term plan, but I was pleased to raise this on behalf of the Parent Council and see it passed at Transport & Environment Committee.
Recess proved to be quite busy with emergency case work and Ward Walks with the Chief Exec which covered Active Travel Housing, Parks and of course the current state of Leith Walk. There was also a Community Council / RNIB walk to identify snagging issues on Tramworks. Since return to normal services it’s all been about Licencing and Regulatory Committees (3 days this week). Thanks to our Planning reps, the Hearing we called for on the Rosslyn Bowling Green Housing Application was won, preventing precedent for losing green space and we’ve another hearing challenging the student housing on Leith Walk coming soon.
I’ve been taking part in several useful workshops on street space allocation, how we can include trees in the transformation of George Street, and improving active travel access to Craigleith Retail Park. Bringing together different stakeholders in one room has felt really productive and I’m hoping this will help us find solutions to difficult problems.
I enjoyed bringing Edinburgh members to Forth Ward for a walk and roll along the Granton waterfront. Members were able to see the work I will be doing to raise awareness of unsafe and broken pavements and dropped kerbs across North Edinburgh and beyond.
With only one public toilet in the whole ward and the Gorgie public toilet having been demolished to make way for a luxury private housing development, I am working with Living Rent Gorgie Dalry to bringing a public toilet to Gorgie Dalry. I am also continuing to work on the reopening of Gorgie Farm.
As a result of a Green Cllr proposal to develop Learning for Sustainability and the Climate Emergency for Edinburgh schools, a steering group including teacher pioneers met in April. With council spending stretched to breaking, the good news is there may be a small amount funding available to support this work. The steering group is meeting again in May.
At the Integration Board Meeting I had been expecting we would need to set a budget for health & social care for the year and possibly approve cuts to services. However, because I worked with others on the board and raised huge concerns about the lack of impact analysis, we have deferred our decisions and have not yet been able to set a budget. I have written about the budget in a blog – https://www.edinburghgreens.org.uk/blog/health-and-social-care-budget-cuts-need-more-scrutiny/
I successfully secured cross party support for my amendment on Planning Committee to ensure that we get clear and consistent guidance on applications for short term lets. I’m very grateful to Living Rent members who have been in contact with me!
Alongside Alys, I worked on, and successfully passed a joint Green-SNP amendment on fees and charges, which will increase car parking fees by 20% while creating a library book fine amnesty, and a £100k fund for societies that struggle to pay council fees, among other benefits.
Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month
Culture and Communities – A decision in the future delivery of the winter festival events, including whether to In-house them, is coming in May. In addition, a decision on the future of the Filmhouse building from the Filmhouse administrators is likely to be soon.
Regulatory – Ben will be bringing a motion on ethical wildlife management, looking at existing Council strategies for “pest” control and asking officers to review these, including giving consideration of how urban pest control measures impact on biodiversity. Ben is hoping to push the Council to adopt a more “nature friendly” approach through this work. The motion will also ask for officers to report on their response to the avian flu crisis.
Transport and Environment – the City Mobility Plan consultation is now open – we’d love as many members to fill it out as possible! https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/cmp/
Planning – Kayleigh will be bringing a motion on Edinburgh becoming a Feminist City, inspired by Green councillor Holly Bruce in Glasgow.
Health and Social Care – Claire is going to be tabling a motion at the next full council meeting because there have been two care inspections which have reported significant failings in Edinburgh and we need to see urgent reforms and changes.