from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
We’ve had a busy month back since recess with a flurry of Council committees keeping us all busy. As well as key updates from all of these committees covered below, the focus has been on the Council’s budget which is decided at a special Council meeting on 22nd February.
The financial settlement from the national government to local authorities is extremely challenging and we are grappling with some very difficult decisions which have already been well covered in the press, as well as considering the best “tactics” for achieving change after last year’s budget “shenanigans”. If you want to hear more about the budget and our current thinking / approach, do join us for the next monthly Member-Cllr forum on 5th February (7.30 pm) which will have a special budget focus.
Outside the budget we’ve had some pleasing wins on making Council decision-making processes more accessible. Having spent 18 months appealing to other Parties that we should change the deadlines associated with Council reports and motions to give Cllrs more time to consider them, we will see this introduced later this year. Whilst this might seem like a small win, this represents a huge shift in approach and understanding from other Parties and is something which we hope to build on. There are lots of ways in which the Council is inaccessible and we are doing our best to chip away at this over the 5-year term!
Councillor highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
Alys kicked off the year with a Policy & Sustainability committee on the second day back – see her thread about what happened here – and locally has been meeting with officers to make sure the Pavement Parking ban has a positive impact in Portobello.
Ben was pleased to see the approval of an Action Plan addressing the Council’s endorsement of the “Plant-Based Treaty” which was agreed following a Green motion last year – sadly, other groups didn’t support his amendment calling for councillors to eat plant-based at Full Council meetings but there was some good press coverage of the story.
Susan is looking forward to the Leith Chooses action day on 27th January – the first in-person voting event since Covid-times – see the projects here.
Jule valiantly fought for an alignment of the Council’s Transport Asset Management Plan (covering roads, pavements, flood defences, etc) to its traffic reduction targets and climate strategies, but sadly was outvoted.
Kayleigh has welcomed the Council’s pavement parking ban and is working with the convenor and officers to ensure the enforcement is effective city-wide. She continues to work on climate mitigation plans for Granton Harbour.
Steve’s initiative on the future of the former bowling green at Prestonfield has taken a step forward with the community consultation by Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust, generating around 300 responses and mostly in favour of creating a community growing space!
Claire raised concerns about weaknesses in the council’s procurement processes while reviewing a report on the Millerhill incinerator heat from energy unit, which has increased in cost from an initial £4.16m to the current approved spend of £6.32m – see her comments on the webcast here.
In Policy and Sustainability Committee Alex managed to further progress the appointment of a night-time coordinator with a final decision to be made at Finance and Resources Committee later this month.
In planning, Chas pushed a developer to deliver part of the waterfront promenade as part of redevelopment plans for Ocean Terminal in Leith.
Under questioning by Dan at the GRBV Committee, Council officials have admitted they cannot guarantee money invested in banks and financial instruments is not subsequently invested in fossil fuels – watch the exchange on the webcast here.
Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month
Policy and Sustainability
At our last meeting, Greens secured a big win for accessibility as part of the Council’s “Corporate Property Strategy,” securing regular investment in accessibility improvements for the Council’s estate which were previously missing from Council plans. The investment amounts to a £1.2m initial pot of funding and £400k approved year on year thereafter.
Education, Children and Families
A long agenda this month which includes reports on promoting equality, revenue monitoring, budget proposals, additional support for learning (ASL), asylum-seeking children and school placements or appeals. Crucially the committee will be considering whether to approve a budget cut removing the teacher Sustainability Champions in every school, won by Greens last year.
Finance & Resources
Good news for F&R fans; there are two Committee meetings in February – one explicitly focused on the budget, and one on other things (but with everyone using it to talk about the budget)
Transport & Environment
“TEC” is getting the first review of the City Mobility Plan and a new Future Streets Framework. This is super exciting as these are *the* two major strategy documents that will determine how we allocate street space and deliver better active travel and public transport in the coming years!