from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
The past month has seen lots of political shenanigans in the Council as parties discuss the administration’s “Business Plan”. This document is supposed to guide decisions in the Council for the next 5 years, identifying areas of work which will be prioritised in the budget, given the difficult financial circumstances the Council faces. The Labour administration has attempted to badge this as a Business Plan which is agreed by all parties, but our group has taken the view that a Business Plan which claims to unite Conservative and Green councillors has little value and will fail to make the case for the radical and urgent action we need to tackle the climate emergency and cost of living crisis. Accordingly, our position has been to engage with officers and put forward alternative plans to those suggested by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour. That will be the crux of our position at December’s Full Council meeting where the plan will be discussed.
Outwith the Business Plan, we have seen a significant amount of activity on climate as we received the first annual reports against the Council’s key climate strategies. These reports explain that though some progress has been made, the Council is behind its targets and that the main reason why we have seen reduction in emissions is due to the pandemic. In Committee where the reports were discussed, Greens were the only party to submit amendments to report recommendations instructing action and requesting further information, all of which were adopted.
Full Council on Thursday 24th will see lots of Green Party motions including marking Trans Day of Remembrance, pushing for more support for Bike Bus initiatives, and seeking a report on our manifesto pledge of a night-time coordinator for the city.
Highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 (!) highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
Alys Mumford (Portobello & Craigmillar) secured a summit on long-term solutions to the cost of living/energy crisis with 3rd sector organisations, and a report from officers on the impacts of poverty on women and girls in Edinburgh.
Ben Parker (Morningside) passed a series of amendments at Policy & Sustainability committee which strengthened the Council’s key climate policies and workstreams – from securing agreement that all parties would submit a climate impact assessment alongside budget plans in February, to ensuring that climate justice is embedded in adaptation planning by requesting that specific detail about how climate change will impact different demographics differently is included in action plans going forward.
Alex Staniforth (Craigentinny/Duddingston) spoke against ‘Green’ Freeports in Policy & Sustainability Committee – saying that if we sell our city cheaply to business we will regret it in the long term as cities that have indulged similar ideas in the past always have.
Kayleigh O’Neill (Forth) has been helping constituents with referrals to adult service placements with help of Young Adult Disability Services.
Jule Bandel (Inverleith) advocated for the inclusion of streets trees in the new design for George Street to future-proof our public realm and won support for further discussions about how they could be included between heritage organisations, Edinburgh residents, and other stakeholders.
Dan Heap (Sighthill/Gorgie) has brought two of the Green motions to full council this month – one on a council social security strategy, and one to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Susan Rae (Leith Walk) has been continuing to engage with women working in sexual entertainment venues and advocating for their right to organise, arguing strongly that it is not the role of councillors or the council to tell women what they can and cannot do as their work.
Steve Burgess (Southside/Newington) Took part in an eco sustainability day at Hope Cottage Nursery in his ward to support spreading of good practice in reducing the use of single-use plastics in schools – as a result he’s raised with council officers the challenge for schools of procuring sustainable goods.
Claire Miller (City Centre) identified a fault in the rules for public procurement which meant that the Council wasn’t able to interrogate Angel Events about their abnormally high bid for the Christmas events contract, which then they were not able to deliver only a few months later. She has been successful in getting the Council to formally write to the minister about this procurement regulation problem and will be pressing for changes.
Chas Booth (Leith) has been handling press inquiries for the group and securing coverage for lots of our motions and amendments.
As well as the Council’s Business Plan and Budget discussions, there are some other things to keep your eyes on in the months ahead:
Health & social care in Edinburgh is running a deficit budget, and is facing into the winter where the need for care will be more than can be provided. Claire Miller is our rep on the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board and will be investigating the ways in which social care can be changed in order to make sure everyone is safely looked after, and how much is needed in the coming budget to make this financially sustainable.
A series of papers are coming to housing committee in December which look at housing demand and supply. As part of this work, the findings of the Council’s commissioned Accessible Housing study will be published. This is a report which Greens have requested a briefing on, and from which we anticipate gaining some ground in delivering aspects of our manifesto from the election. The planning committee will also be scrutinising the roll out of accessible housing in the city and how accessibility is considered across all tenures and developments.
As a result of a Green proposal at the Education committee, the Gaelic Implementation Group will be re-convened before the end of the year to discuss the Gaelic High School, or lack of one, in Edinburgh. And finally, due to a stooshie about Free Ports at Policy and Sustainability Committee which saw the Council Leader forced to write to the Scottish and UK Governments to withdraw council support for the bid (because he had acted against the will of the Council), we now have another opportunity to voice our opposition at Full Council in December.