Councillor report

Green Councillors’ report for Nov 2023

Speaking out on the siege of Gaza, wins on a host of things from pavement parking to free tickets, and a lot more this month.

This month we held our first member-councillor forum – thank you so much to those of you who came. We mainly chatted about housing this month, as Edinburgh Council has just declared a housing emergency. Some of the ideas which came from members are already being taken forward by councillors, and we found it super helpful to get insights and questions from you all – meeting with Greens is always a good antidote to Council business which can sometimes be less than inspiring! The next one is on December 4th – see you there?

In other news, we’ve had a Full Council meeting, as well as meetings of all our major committees where we’ve made wins on a whole host of things from pavement parking to free tickets – see some highlights from each of the group below.

Of course, the siege of Gaza has filled our hearts and minds this month as we’re sure it has for all of you as well. While this isn’t a Council issue directly (as people are quick to point out!), we believe we have a responsibility to speak out. We successfully pushed the Council Leader to back a ceasefire, spoke at solidarity rallies (see videos of Alys and Susan here) and have coordinated a joint letter for councillors from other parties to sign. Please do write to your non-Green councillors asking them to sign up!

Finally, we hope to see as many of you as possible at our party on December 8th where we’ll be saying thank you to staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to support us all year. Details about the party are here>

Alys and Ben (Green Group Co-Conveners)

Councillor highlights from the month

Asked to pick one highlight from the month, our councillors said:

Alys Mumford – Alys has been leading the group’s response on Palestinian solidarity this month, while also keeping very busy with COSLA negotiations around local government pay settlements, and the Council’s budget process.

Ben Parker – The latest Policy & Sustainability committee contained a number of key reports on climate, including the latest emissions data which showed that the Council is behind on its target to meet net zero. Ben was able to bring an amendment requesting that a clear financial strategy be developed in the Council to leverage investment to deliver projects required to meet net zero. Whilst it’s clear that this will be very difficult as public spending is under severe pressure, even the development of a financial plan and a reframing of the Council’s approach to the budget setting process is a welcome step change.

Susan Rae – Licencing has been particularly heavy this month, with multiple hearings around SEVs, training on STL Regulations and briefings Regulatory Protocol. The Council have declared a Housing Emergency so Ben and Susan are involved on multiple fronts engaging with everyone to influence a response that is actually an emergency response, and not business as usual.
Leith Chooses participatory budgeting projects are at the scrutiny stage of the process and have a community event back for January 2023.

Jule Bandel – Jule has been taking some time off to complete her Masters dissertation on participatory budgeting which she hopes will support future work in the council on advancing radical democracy.

Kayleigh O’Neill – Kayleigh has taken part in briefings and workshops around barriers to elected office, gender budgeting and corporate parenting which have massively inspired her to keep pushing for change within the Council. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, but she is feeling very hopeful!

Steve Burgess – Steve had the Pensions Committee agree to a formal report on Lothian Pensions Fund’s holdings in oil and gas and also that fund officers consider research by the Faculty of Actuaries that pension funds are not fully taking on board risks from climate change. Steve also facilitated a talk by Mark Campanale of Carbon Tracker for Pensions committee and board members and LPF officers

Claire Miller – The Council has brought in a new policy in which we will now provide visa sponsorship for non-UK national workers, rather than only employing people who already have an entitlement to work e.g. through student or spousal visas. This was as a result of work Claire did during the transfer of two care homes from a private company into the council, challenging the council’s stance and linking it to the difficulties we have faced in recruiting enough staff in the care sector.

Alex Staniforth – During October recess and afterwards Alex worked with Alys on a plan to spend the Council’s underspend and address the overspend of the Integrated Joint Board. He focussed on pressing for the abolition of cuts to Education Welfare Officers at last full council; at time of writing a report is coming to Finance & Resources committee which says there will be no cuts to EWOs this year.

Chas Booth – At planning committee, Greens successfully brought an amendment to a report on affordable housing ‘commuted sums’ which developers sometimes pay instead of providing on-site affordable homes. Our amendment, which was proposed by a member at the first Councillor/Member Update Meeting, asked officers to consider using commuted sums to bring existing affordable empty homes back into use.

Dan Heap – At November Full Council, Dan challenged the Council Leader to support his plans for a benefit take-up strategy, after research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that around 2000 households in Edinburgh face destitution.
Dan has been working on issues with the Gorgie Controlled Parking Zone roll-out, to ensure individual problems don’t undermine the whole project, which is needed to tackle parking congestion in the area, and promote active travel and public transport use. Dan also seconded Kayleigh’s Full Council motion on donating mobility aids to conflict zones.

Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month

Policy and Sustainability – There are two big reports coming to Policy & Sustainability committee in December: one which focuses on the city’s climate adaptation plans, the other on the Council’s Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy, both of which will go out to public consultation, if approved. These are two reports which have been eagerly awaited and once published, will be a key focus for Greens over the coming months and years.

Housing, Homelessness and Fair work – Inspired by conversations at our last branch meet, at housing committee, Ben plans to bring a motion to look at the Council’s Community Gardening Framework and Environment Improvement Programme to see how this can be reshaped to deliver better outcomes for nature.

Planning – The West Edinburgh Masterplan, which has significant implications for transport infrastructure and future growth to the west of the city, will be coming to Planning Committee in December.

Culture and Communities – Dan previously won a session at C&C on Gorgie Farm, to check up on progress, and this will come to Committee in December. Dan will also be bringing a motion on Little Free Libraries

Transport & Environment – Edinburgh will be one of the first councils in the country to implement the long-awaited Pavement Parking ban. Kayleigh has been pushing on this since before the election alongside RNIB, Living Streets and other disability rights campaigners. We are so pleased that there will be no further exemptions and enforcement is ready for the new year. Our next committee will look at bike hire, incorrect parking on the tram route, school travel plans and reviewing speed limits at 20mph!