from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
It was quite a quiet Full Council for us this month, but we still managed to win most of our proposals; see the update thread here to see what we got up to or watch this wee video we made after the meeting was finished. We hope you enjoy this report showing what Green Councillors in Edinburgh have been up to this month – from pedestrianising the City Chambers quadrangle to pushing for democracy in pensions and scrutinising health and social care budgets – it shows the varied things we all get up to.
We’re looking forward to seeing lots of you at SGP Conference at the end of the month, and we hope you will all put 8th December in your diaries for the annual Green Councillor party at the City Chambers – more details coming soon!
Councillor highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
The theme of the month has been ‘underspend’ – where we were told the council had £13.7m to spend, and then quickly told that it actually didn’t. This has seen lots of forensic examination of budgets with Ben, Claire and Alex to explore where the money is, and how it should best be spent.
At Housing, Homelessness & Fair Work committee this month I brought a number of amendments and motions. These included getting a commitment to a just transition employability programme, measures to embed the circular economy into council repairs and a promise to look at a fairer model for funding investment in Council housing stock – lots of things to build on in the future!
Primarily been working on Housing, Homeless & Fair Work Committee on issues around the Housing Revenue Account, scrutiny on empty houses, etc. & funding external organisations – there’s also work to be done as we absorb the Family Household Support Team (Antisocial Behaviour Unit) into the Housing portfolio.
Jule is continuing to object to the never-ending nightmare that is the proposal for student housing at Eyre Place. After having their planning application refused back in June, the developer has come back with a nearly identical proposal that addresses few of the previous concerns.
Sneaking an amendment past Labour’s Transport lead to look at banning the Lord Provost’s car from the City Chambers quadrangle – which Greens have been pushing to pedestrianise for a while!
Green councillors pushed for the council to lobby the Scottish Government about siting a Gaelic High School at the RAAC-affected and soon to be vacated, Police Scotland Fettes HQ. This was rejected by all the other parties and ended up with a grumpy Cllr Burgess on the front page of the Evening News. https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/education/edinburghs-fettes-police-station-councils-missed-opportunity-over-sites-potential-for-gaelic-high-school-4362243
Carried out detailed scrutiny of the health & social care financial figures showing where the service is currently over and under budget for the year. Both the Council and NHS Lothian are overspending the budget allocated to them, and in addition to this we also have a budget gap and need to find additional revenue urgently. You can watch Claire contributing on this item at the Integration Joint Board via the webcast here.
Apart from working with Alys on the potential underspend discussion, I have been trying to get better signage for the road closures outside Parsons Green Primary School.
In planning committee, we successfully brought amendments strengthening the Council’s response to the nature emergency and establishing a working group to look at the impact of construction sites on neighbouring communities.
Passed two further motions on free tickets, part of his ongoing campaign to democratising culture in the city. One requires officers to negotiate with large events providers with a view to providing more free tickets for residents and the other looks at how these tickets are distributed around the city.
Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month
Policy and Sustainability
Two key climate reports will be coming to Policy & Sustainability committee this month, including reports about whether we are on track to meet our net zero targets – spoiler, we’re not!
Health and Social Care
Edinburgh’s health & social care services are currently overspending and there is a significant funding gap which urgently needs to be resolved. The board which oversees this, the Integration Joint Board, will meet in November and may need to put in place what’s called a “recovery plan” which means emergency measures to ensure that the budget balances by the end of the financial year. This will mean the board considering extremely unpalatable cuts to services unless there is additional funding provided by the government, the Council or the NHS or a combination of these partners.
City Plan 2030, which includes many policies Greens support such as a higher affordable housing target and greater support for 20 minute neighbourhoods, has been delayed and is now unlikely to be approved until Spring 2024.
The licensing board’s new statement of policy is currently out for consultation and will be returning to the board in the next month or so. There are some public health gains in the new policy, and we’ll be looking to strengthen these.
The Pensions Committee have voted to cease ‘Project Forth’ – a proposal to merge with Falkirk’s fund and replace the Pensions committee with a company board – after the outgoing Chief Finance Officer of Lothian Pension Fund (LPF) raised serious concerns. However the Pensions Board have refused to accept the decision and have called for a review.
Finance and Resources
The budget discussions Alys mentions above will come to a special F&R meeting on October 23rd, and in November we will get first sight of Budget proposals for the year to come.