from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
It’s now been a year since we elected 10 Greens to the Council! It has been a very busy year, fraught with “shenanigans” and politics but, throughout the chaos, Greens have been able to secure a number of policy wins for people and planet and have been leading the conversation on a number of issues in the Council too. Read this article from Alys in the Evening News reflecting on our first year in office.
We have also continued to press issues in the Council this month. At our last Full Council meeting alone we passed motions on feminist town planning, calling for a ban on disposable vapes, standing up for migrants and against the UK government’s illegal immigration bill, providing greater scrutiny to Care Inspection reports which were published recently, and we seconded a motion from independent Councillor Ross McKenzie about strengthening community right of appeal in the planning process. We also brought a motion calling on the Council to not recognise the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh which was ultimately defeated but received a good amount of coverage and reception, including at the Our Republic rally on Coronation Day which many members attended – watch a video about the motion here, and read coverage about it here.
We have also been having some good engagement with unions in recent months and we will continue to work closely with them going forward.
Councillor highlights from the month
Alys has been working with communities in Bingham and Magdalene to challenge proposed changes to bus routes which would leave them cut off from shops and services. She also met with Green Cllr for Musselburgh Shona McIntosh to talk about some joined-up campaigning to protect our coastline.
Ben was pleased to pass an amendment at the recent Culture and Communities meeting pushing for greater oversight of failures to protect trees in Princes Street Gardens during the Christmas events last year, and to call for proactive action to protect trees for events happening in the park this year. This forms part of a wider piece of work looking at trees / tree protection in the Council, but you can read more about this specific amendment here.
Alex put forward an amendment to Finance & Resources committee that ensured once the current contract for mid-market rental properties expires, officers will have worked on an option to bring these in-house to the council. Alex also passed an amendment at Culture & Communities committee that ensured parks not in the top 10 choices for new lighting in the city could still expect to be given additional lighting in the future.
Susan set up a meeting with Ben and a student campaign for action on homelessness to discuss how the Council can support students who are struggling to find accommodation for the next academic year.
Chas has been working to support the council’s roll-out of the Leith low traffic neighbourhood, which has been progressing over the last month, and has been responding to many constituent inquiries about the extension of the controlled parking zone to Leith.
Kayleigh’s motion on proposing Edinburgh as the country’s next Feminist City was passed meaning that future guidance, review of process and planning updates will include an intersectional gendered lens. This work was inspired by Green Cllr. Holly Bruce in Glasgow.
Jule has been exploring how the Council could make secure bike storage more affordable as the popular scheme is being rolled out across the city. At Transport and Environment Committee, she was delighted to win support for her proposal that bike parking charges should not exceed car parking charges and the Council should explore bringing the scheme in-house to reduce the cost.
Dan successfully brought a motion to Culture and Communities Committee to mandate the Council to work with the owners of the under-threat Dalry West Park Place Studios and the resident artists there to keep the studios open. He also had approved the plans he tabled for tennis ball recycling at Council tennis courts and for a feasibility study of a slavery and colonialism audit of the Council Museum collections.
Following a Green proposal to Culture & Communities committee, Steve has ensured that a local consultation for a community growing garden at the former Prestonfield bowling green is being prepared by Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust, to go live later this summer.
Claire secured support from every party in the council for a motion on the recent poor Care Inspections of adult social care and adult protection. Both inspections showed significant failings in adult services and as a result of the motion the council must urgently bring forward improvement plans to councillors for scrutiny.
Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month
Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work – at previous committee meetings Ben and Susan have passed amendments looking at strengthening plans for retrofitting the Council housing estate by incorporating ideas for more sustainable water management, and appealing to the Scottish and UK governments to provide further guidance and advice on what support can be made available to people with no recourse to public funds. In the next couple of committee meetings we expect to see reports returned on these issues and we will be able to make a plan for how we want the Council to progress action.
Transport & Environment – with the new tram route to Newhaven set to open in late June, Transport and Environment will consider what (or rather, where) is next for our tram system.
Education, Children and Families – the Learning for Sustainability working group established by a Green initiative at the Education committee is due to meet to discuss how an input of teacher time can best be used.
Planning – Chas and Kayleigh have been working with Living Rent Edinburgh to discuss how to strengthen the Council’s approach to enforcement of holiday lets, and we’re hoping to bring a motion to Council shortly on this.
Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (Health & Social Care) – following the March meeting where members of the board decided not to pass the budget due to a lack of information about the detrimental impact of cuts, the June meeting of the board will be looking at a recovery plan and a medium-term financial plan. This will involve a great deal of cost saving, because there is a large budget deficit for health & social care services. There is also going to be a consultation considering the future of the Council’s residential care homes and there is a risk of some care home closures without a plan to rebuild new homes. This may become an emotive campaign, especially in the neighbourhoods involved (Clovenstone, Chesser, Bingham, Leith). Claire is working with the trade unions and residents who may be impacted.