from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
It’s been another busy month in the Council with lots of activity coming to a head at our Full Council meeting on 15th December, the day before Winter recess began.
At Full Council we had a lengthy debate about the Council’s Business plan – the document which is supposed to guide decisions made in the Council over the next 5 years. Greens brought a substantial amendment to the business plan which made the case for climate and social justice to be embedded as principles throughout the document, as well as the inclusion of specific actions on equality, discrimination and climate skills and capacity-building. Unfortunately, the Labour council administration were not happy to accept most of our amendment but we were still proud to speak to it as a positive alternative to that put forward by others.
Another meaty debate was about the makeup and remit of Committees at the council (called Political Management Arrangements). This has been a long-running and pretty bureaucratic piece of work, and while other parties argued about what various committees should be called, we focused on making sure that the way the Council operates is more inclusive – both to Councillors and the general public. We were really pleased, therefore, that we got cross-party support for a significant chunk of our amendment which called for work looking at culture change across the council, with access and inclusion at its heart.
Otherwise at Full Council, we discussed whether the Council should support a bid for a freeport in the city. Greens argued very strongly against this, stressing the risks of deregulation and subsidising multinationals, also dispelling the absurd claim made by others that a freeport whose beneficiaries include an airport and oil refinery can be considered ‘green’. Unfortunately, Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives again voted together to push forward council support for the Forth Ports Bid. We also received the first report back about the costs of Operation Unicorn following the death of the Queen and are pushing for officers to request that the costs for this are met by the Royal Family and UK / Scottish Governments, not the Council. We also passed amendments to motions put forward by others about energy efficiency, the use of planters in active travel schemes and on the future of the Filmhouse, amongst others.
Highlights from the month
Aside from Full Council we’ve had some good success in other committees:
- At Housing, Homelessness & Fair Work committee, we agreed an amendment setting out a workplan for improving provision of accessible housing in the city
- At Culture and Communities committee we passed a suite of amendments – firstly, about protecting trees during filming events; secondly, for better tree maintenance in the city year-round and, finally, to provide more diverse library resources to meet the needs of different communities in the city, including Ukrainian refugees
- In Health & Social Care we have also been campaigning to bring information to light about the council-owned Drumbrae care home which has been sitting empty since a transfer to the NHS fell through. Greens have been working closely with unions on the issue, including speaking at an Edinburgh TUC panel discussion about the issue – watch Cllr Claire Miller in action at the meeting here.
Looking ahead, the group will be focusing on budget plans. Following an amendment passed by Greens at Policy & Sustainability committee in November, all groups have been provided with a template document to complete which will enable groups to complete a climate impact assessment of budget proposals they are putting forward. This is a significant win for us after years of pushing for the council to take account of climate change in all of its spending decisions, and demonstrates the importance of having green voices in the room. As we develop our own budget, we are looking forward to using this template to demonstrate how our budget will be the strongest put forward for people and planet, despite challenging circumstances.