from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
It has been an unusual month to report back on as the Council has been in recess since our last report, and Councillors have been taking the opportunity to take some time off! Since returning from recess, we’ve been spending time thinking about our group strategy and developing this in line with the branch and “Association of Scottish Green Councillor” strategies too. We have held two strategy days over the course of the month which focused on portfolio and manifesto development, and we’re excited to build on this work over the term.
We were pleased to join Green MSPs and activists at the Rally for Trans Equality at the end of the month and will continue to do all we can to support our trans siblings and constituents, raising the issue of trans rights wherever we can in the Council.
Looking forward, it will be budget, budget, budget until February Full Council meetings, and we’re looking forward to seeing lots of branch members at our event discussing this on the 30th January – details have been sent out in the branch newsletter.
Highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
“A small win with a big impact – after being broken since before Christmas, the lift in a tower block in Coillesdene is finally being fixed! I was able to use work done by Ben and Susan on the issue of lift maintenance in Housing Committee back in Summer 2022 to push for action on this.”
“I’ve been asking lots of questions to officers about the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route, including seeking information about the public consultation which is now live. You can read the questions (and answers!) I’ve been asking here.”
“I was pleased to speak in favour of unions and against the Tories attempting to restrict Council staff’s union activities in Policy and Sustainability Committee, asking Labour to support us in putting trade unionism above unionism.”
“I got some media coverage over Christmas about the Council’s failure to follow its own policy over investigating the cost of bilingual Gaelic/English signage whenever new signage is installed.”
“With the contentious planning application for a student accommodation at Eyre Place coming to committee, I worked with the Canonmills community to secure a hearing. This will now allow the community to properly make the case for why the development is inappropriate for the site.”
“Gorgie Farm, in my ward, which announced its closure on 30th December, has been taking up much of my Council time. I have been working hard to convey to the Council the incredible importance of the Farm to Gorgie, and to ensure a new, not-for-profit, operator takes over and maintains its many valuable volunteer and support programmes, and the free entry. I worked successfully with my 3 ward colleagues and Green and SNP colleagues on the Policy and Sustainability Committee to make the case to retain staff and animals on the site.”
“In December the Education committee held a workshop on Learning for Sustainability and the Climate Emergency and off the back of that I have drafted a motion calling for a report on how the Council can develop its approach as a key educational priority.”
“I went to a half-day workshop about creating a trauma-informed city, which spanned lots of different public sector and third sector services. I’ve agreed to become an ambassador for the trauma-informed approach within the Council, in order to promote and provide leadership on this issue.”
Other committee activity and things to look out for in the coming month
Policy & Sustainability — at Policy and Sustainability committee in January we had lots of great wins – amongst others, we got agreement for the Council to endorse the Plant Based Treaty as the first capital city in Europe (and gained a good amount of media coverage for this), we made progress on building support for a strategic approach to making the Council’s energy company “Energy for Edinburgh” an active enterprise, we strengthened plans for a work programme designed to improve access to elected office and passed various reports / motions strengthening trade union voices — read Alys’ Twitter thread to find out more!
Education, Children & Families – in the Autumn, Steve Burgess got backing of the Education committee for a report on Outdoor Learning in Edinburgh. The report is out and will be discussed at the upcoming committee meeting. If there are any outdoor learning experts out there, Steve would be pleased to hear from you!
Planning — National Planning Framework 4 has been approved by Parliament, which means it becomes a significant material consideration for planning decisions. This might make a difference in areas such as climate impact, certain transport impacts and short term lets.
Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (Health & Social Care) – Claire Miller has been participating in budgeting workshops to look at how health and social care services can be provided within the expected revenue levels for the coming year, and discussing the negative consequences of any service reductions which may have to be made as a result of budgets. The EIJB will set a budget in March.
Culture & Communities — Dan Heap is looking into options for the renovation of King’s Theatre which is now £9m short of funding due to inflation. Capital Theatre Trust is now asking the Council, Scottish Government and UK Government for additional funding.
Full Council – Ben Parker is excited to be bringing a motion forward looking to declare a Nature Emergency following the COP15 conference in Montreal and launch of the new (draft) Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, and Dan Heap plans to bring forward an idea for a free and reduced tickets scheme.