Council Budget and the Holyrood Demonstration
A joint trade union and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) demonstration was held outside Holyrood on 12 December, the day before Full Council, in protest at the cuts faced by all Scottish local authorities.
The draft budget announced that day by the Finance Secretary gave a further cut of £10 million to Edinburgh for 2019/20 on top of the £28 million already to be made. Combined with the existing overspend in Health and Social Care this makes a total of nearly £50 million to be cut from Edinburgh’s budget.
The need for sustainable reform of local taxation and Local Government funding is urgently needed. There is no sign from the Scottish Government that this will happen
Once again in the meeting of Full Council on 13 December I asked the Council Leader how he had worked to make sure Edinburgh was fairly funded. Once again he replied that this had been done directly but did not say how, or if done in conjunction with the Deputy Leader, or through COSLA. In his ‘answer’ there was no reference to what had been said or how successful he had been on behalf of Edinburgh.
I did this while brandishing a placard from the demo outside Holyrood the day before in protest about Council finance. Prior to the next question the Lord Provost rebuked me for brandishing the placard claiming I had ‘disrespected the house’. The placard was a direct response to the Leader’s reply to me the previous month.
The Junction teen health centre celebrated its 13th birthday on 5 December with a keynote speech by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson.
Having played a key role in making The Junction happen, including influencing Forth Ports to fund premises initially and then persuading Port of Leith Housing Association to make the space available for a larger site at their current home due to increased demand, it was rewarding for me to see the initiative into its teenage years.
Financial support is still precarious and has been since the removal of Fairer Scotland funding by the Scottish Government. Nonetheless, the need for the service it provides was brought home by workers and the young folk themselves on the day. Situated in the heart of an area where 27% of all people are in poverty, the need for its services will remain for some time yet.
Spoiler alert – I was delighted to be asked to reprise my role as Santa by Citadel Youth Centre for their Intergenerational Club. This was a real highlight for me and the pleasure of both young and old made the incredible heat I felt wearing that outfit bearable.
I was also there for the Family Day the previous week which saw 94 families receive Christmas parcels thanks to the generosity of a host of local businesses and people who wanted to make sure that those with least were not left out. A real credit to Citadel and Leith.
Wider Community work
The Scottish Government created quango – the Integrated Joint Board – has taken funding decisions based on a decreased budget which have disproportionately impacted on groups in North Edinburgh.
I was part of the protest against this outside the City Chambers on 14 December, whilst at the meeting within, both Malcolm Chisholm and Councillor Cammy Day made eloquent cases for continued funding.
Particular emphasis was given as to the value of the Pilton Community Health Project. The project, which started off as “Barry Grub”, will be a real miss for the community and will impact on other projects if it does not receive the 3 year funding applied for.
Following this, a meeting was held at Muirhouse Millennium Centre to discuss how the groups losing funding fight back. Both Cammy and I made the case that money could be found by the Scottish Government from their record underspend of £453 million, of which £235 million has been set aside with no budget allocation for 2019/20 – funding that could be used in North Edinburgh.
We will continue to work together to prevent a bad decision which will have a real impact in one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh.