One of the few committees to meet in January is Governance, Risk and Best Value on which I serve. It considered two reports that are important for the Council.
The first was Audit Scotland’s report for the Accounts Commission on Council funding in 2017/18.
It reported that:
“In 2017/18, funding from the Scottish Government, councils’ main source of funding, again reduced in real terms.”
This is evidenced by the report pointing out that for Edinburgh in 2017/18 (this is a direct quotation):-
“the Council’s approved budget for 2017/18 was underpinned by £39.5m of savings, equivalent to 4% of its net expenditure“.
For 2018/19 “the Council’s approved budget for 2018/19 includes £36.5m of savings“.
This trend will go on with Edinburgh Council’s draft budget looking at cuts of £34m for 2019/20. This cannot continue and I made the case for real change in Council finances here:
Audit Scotland also points out that another pressure on Councils is the fact that the “majority of Integrated Joint Boards (“IJB’s”) [the bodies tasked with integrating health and social care] have underlying deficit problems, with 11 out of 30 incurring deficits in 2017/18. A further 8 would have incurred deficits without additional (‘deficit’) funding from their partners”.
Edinburgh is one of those Councils in deficit with joint funding of £4m each from the Council and Lothian Health Board needed to cover spend by the IJB in 2017/18.
Holyrood has the powers, the “Just Change” report of 2015 and the ability to improve funding for Councils and IJB’s but chooses not to use them, so cuts will continue.
The other report to committee pointed out that the 6 month position in revenue spending had a gap to close of £12.6m of which nearly half is unrealised savings by the IJB showing that the observations made by Audit Scotland continue into 2018/19.
The first litter pick of 2019 by Leithers Don’t Litter took place in and around Henderson Gardens. In an hour I managed to collect two bags of rubbish, two traffic cones and a discarded street post box which required two of us to carry(!)
Once again in an hour we managed to pick up items discarded proving that Leithers still do litter.
I also went along for the New Year allocation of plots on the Leith Community Croft at Leith Links. It was good to see folks plotting for Spring and beginning to think about what they would plant this year with a healthy bunch of young folk just enjoying playing out in the open.
The Heart of Newhaven was launched at Victoria Primary School on Monday 28 January where a range of ideas were discussed and workshopped on the night.
This is the beginning of plans for a transfer to the community of the old school once the new Victoria Primary is built. This will take time and a real collective effort to make it happen but the prize of a community hub for Newhaven is worth the work.
Save Leith Walk
On 30 January the application to develop on Leith Walk at Stead’s Place was discussed by the Planning Committee. Planners recommended the application to Committee. I added my voice to the objectors and put my case to Committee why they should reject that recommendation.
Several campaigners thanked me for my contribution.
Brilliantly the committee unanimously rejected the advice from planners. The developer now has 3 months to appeal and it would appear they will – so there is still a bit to go with this one yet.
This is a significant victory which has ramifications for future developments in the area.
Congratulations to every single person who took part in the campaign to Save Leith Walk.