Scotland’s capital should lead the country in investing in jobs, training and protecting the most vulnerable from welfare cuts, according to Green councillors in Edinburgh.
In preparing Green proposals for the City Council’s budget tomorrow (7 February) the Greens say they have identified an accumulated fund of almost £14 million in the city’s coffers. This is made up of additional income from council tax on empty and second homes and can only be used for housing. Green councillors want to invest £10 million of that in a Warmer Homes programme targeted on the lowest income households, those most vulnerable to ongoing cuts in welfare budgets.
Green councillors say a programme of this scale would allow the city to take the next step up in improving energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty, at a time when the lowest income households face loss and cuts to housing benefit. At the same time, the programme would support at least 160 new jobs and 10 new apprenticeships for young people.
“The City faces some stark budget choices within a very tight financial straitjacket. The Coalition parties have both signed up nationally to the Council Tax Freeze and locally have rejected innovative income-raising opportunities like the hotel visitor levy.
“That means we need to squeeze every penny of value out of existing funds. That includes the £14 million pot sitting in reserves earmarked for housing projects. I want to see that money put to good use, providing dry warm homes for many of our citizens most at risk of poverty. As benefit cuts bite yet further from this coming April it is important to do what we can in other areas of cost, such as fuel bills. At the same time the programme will support at least 160 new jobs and around 10 new apprenticeships.”
The Greens’ budget proposals also include:
– A package of measures to assist low income and disabled households at a time of welfare cuts
– Investment in town centres and a pledge to keep city centre toilets free of charge
– New funding to improve access to information and trial better participation in council decisions
– £1.5 million extra for school energy improvements, freeing up day-to-day budgets for books and materials; and a new £500,000 playground transformation fund.
– Switching some of the planned £12 million increase in roads investment to boost cycling infrastructure by £1 million.
To pay for the package the Greens propose reducing budgets for consultants, marketing and internal management costs, and reforming parking charges among others.
Finance spokesperson, Gavin Corbett, gives fuller details in his blog.