from Alys Mumford and Ben Parker (Green group Co-Conveners)
We’re into the second year for our group of ten Green Councillors and things are as busy as ever. As well as our local ward work supporting constituents and trying to make change, we all sit on lots of committees looking at city-wide issues. You can see the thread of our Full Council successes here on Twitter (or X, whatever…)
Pleasingly, this month has begun to see some of the changes we have been pushing for behind the scenes come to pass:
- We have a new budget process which builds in public consultation.
- The Standing Orders of the council are changing to make sure there is more time for scrutiny and proper impact assessments.
- We are finally getting some movement on making the council a more accessible workplace for Councillors and staff.
There is still a long way to go, but we wanted to share this good news with you as a reminder that we can all fight for change in lots of different ways!
Councillor highlights from the month
Asked to pick 1 highlight from the month, our Councillors said:
At Finance and Resources Committee this month, I made the case that we should be using the council’s £13.7m underspend on measures to support health and social care, alleviate poverty for the most vulnerable, and take action for climate justice. The final decision on how to use the money will be decided at a special meeting in October.
At Policy & Sustainability committee, I was pleased to put forward the Green view on the forthcoming transient visitor levy or “tourist tax” which might be worth up to £37m a year for the Council. Council officer proposals specified a number of portfolios which funds could be spent on including PR and marketing and industry growth. Our amendment can be read here (scroll down to 7.1) – it specified that we didn’t support these areas of spending and instead would want to see money put into:
- city infrastructure (such as public transport or waste / recycling).
- actions to support workers in the tourist industry and activity to democratise the festivals, for example by providing free tickets to people on lower incomes.
Unfortunately, no other Party was happy to support our amendment in full, but we did have some wins and will be closely following this as it develops. Finally, we also secured agreement that officers will explore options for levying additional charges through the bill – in Amsterdam, all holiday rentals and short term lets pay 10% of turnover to the city, for example, and this might be of interest to us here.
On Friday 15th September, I joined the children of Abbeyhill Primary School for the 10th anniversary Abbeyhill’s Artist in Residence program, the only one like it in a state school in the country. As always, the Garden pARTy kicked off the immensely popular Colony of Artists weekend which took place on the 16/17th which many Greens also attended.
Following their Community Conversation Day, Leith Chooses held a six hour information and assistance day focussing on completion of application forms and project presentations.
I have been arguing against proposals to scrap active travel and public realm improvements as part of routine carriageway resurfacing projects and won agreement for an assessment of how much this would impact delivery of active infrastructure.
Continued to represent the Greens in COSLA’s Barriers to Elected Office special interest group – councillors from across the country interested in reducing the barriers that disabled people face during elections, looking at councillor pay and researching why women especially do not stay in politics of all levels.
Following my motion to Culture & Communities committee earlier this year a consultation on a community growing garden at the former bowling green in Prestonfield is set to go live. Edinburgh & Lothian Greenspace Trust will leaflet homes in the area with a questionnaire and hold drop-in sessions until mid-November – firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been working in collaboration with union representatives to get the best possible protections in place for care workers who are on visas which are due to expire soon, advocating for the council to sponsor our employees so that they can provide continuity of care. I spoke on this at full council in August, which you can watch back on the webcast at 2h50m.
At a meeting with Edinburgh College I urged the college to settle their dispute with EIS (their union) and adopt a policy of no compulsory redundancies as well as reemploy the worker at the centre of the dispute.
Both Chas Booth and Dan Heap have taken well-deserved holidays this month (although Chas chose to spend his working hard cycling the Hebridean Way…), alongside their usual important work supporting residents and representing Greens on various committees.
Committee activity and other things to look out for in the coming month
Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee
At the next Housing committee we will be receiving a number of updates about challenges associated with retrofitting the Council housing stock. We have been asking a number of questions about workforce capacity as well as how retrofitting can include work on sustainable water management and improvements for biodiversity so it will be interesting to hear more from officers on that.
Policy and Sustainability Committee
The last Policy and Sustainability meeting was a mammoth one covering the tourist tax, plans for the future of the Council’s estate, work to make a publicly owned energy company in Edinburgh, an update on the Gaelic language plan, an update on funding for community climate action and so much more! You can read a full thread of updates here.
Regulatory and Licencing Committees are increasingly busy, particularly in the run-up to the deadline for registration of Short-Term lets. The challenge to the legislation has continued and been contentious and we expect a flood of applications as we approach the 1st October deadline – partially as an attempt to overload the system.
Work has begun in gathering information for a gender sensitivity audit of Edinburgh Council which will highlight the entrenched inequality that members face.
Health and Social Care (“Integration Joint Board”)
In her role as climate champion for the IJB, Claire Miller has spoken to council officers who are involved in managing the council’s care workforce and commissioning care from the private sector, to have a strategy session with all care providers about reducing the transport emissions associated with going house to house to provide care at home.
Culture and Communities Committee
Work has begun to look into greater support for people leaving prison unexpectedly and planning to provide officers who can ensure ex-prisoner welfare.