Green Budget Day

Green Finance spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett previews the council budget today.

Today is budget day – the single biggest decision the council will take in 2018. At stake is £1 billion of spending on day to day services for 2018-19 plus another £2-300 million of investment over the next 5 years.

Edinburgh’s Green councillors believe that, in the budget, the council must carry the fight on funding to the Scottish Government. I welcome the £12.4m extra for Edinburgh that Green MSPs secured in the national budget negotiation with the Scottish Government, but I also fully agree with those Green MSPs that it is a sticking plaster for a council funding system that is broken and must be reformed.

In our Ambitious for Edinburgh proposals, published on Tuesday, we unveiled a raft of ideas, the highlight of which is almost £200m of investment in new secondary schools over the next 5 years. This includes borrowing of £84m specifically focused on new or refurbished secondary level education and community hubs in Craigmillar, Trinity, Liberton, Currie, Balerno and Wester Hailes and a new site in west Edinburgh. The agreement would also seek Scottish Government match-funding through its long-awaited new schools programme.

Alongside that programme, we have earmarked money to strengthen the way the council consults with school communities so that, whatever shape these new schools take, it is driven by the views of parents, young people and indeed the whole community.

Crucially, the Green plans can make this investment pledge while also investing in other critical areas for the city such as modern transport, supporting lifeline services for looked after young people and rejecting some of the most damaging cuts and job losses otherwise planned.

On a similar theme, but very different scale, I also propose breaking the deadlock on a potential tourist levy for the capital, which could raise up to £15m a year, by commissioning a detailed design for how such a levy could work in practice.

Are our plans ambitious? Yes! In light of pressing needs to invest in schools and other public services, it is not enough to wait and see what the Scottish Government might come up with or sit on the side-lines simply complaining about the funding of councils. People elect us to carry the funding fight to the Scottish Government, to take the next big step in providing young people with the schools they need.

That is only a headline among many ideas that Greens are putting forward for the budget debate today:

  • £2 million to transform homelessness services, reducing the need for temporary accommodation, especially bed and breakfast hostels
  • £1.5million to protect library staff and library hours
  • Free bus travel for 16-21 year old care-leavers
  • Fully funding school uniform grants for lower income families
  • A new programme to replace street trees
  • Investing in new equipment for cultural venues
  • Tackling empty homes and high private rents
  • A package of measures on litter, waste and reducing energy costs

Green plans are ambitious for Edinburgh. I hope other councillors share that ambition.

This blog was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News on 22 February