Edinburgh City Deal delayed until after May elections

COUNCIL chiefs have admitted Edinburgh's City Deal '“ due to bring £1 billion of investment and new powers to the Capital '“ has been delayed.
The City Deal could be delayed until after the elections. PIcture Steven Scott TaylorThe City Deal could be delayed until after the elections. PIcture Steven Scott Taylor
The City Deal could be delayed until after the elections. PIcture Steven Scott Taylor

Just two weeks ago, it was being predicted the agreement, which involves equal funding from the UK and Scottish governments, could be sealed by the end of this month or early in April.

But now it has been postponed until after the council elections in May.

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Officials said it was not felt appropriate to make large funding announcements so close to the elections. But a senior source said the two governments also had questions they wanted answered about some of the project proposals included in the deal.

The deal covers not only Edinburgh, but also the other three Lothian councils, Fife and Borders.

Earlier this month, city council leader Andrew Burns said the negotiations were at “the end-game stage”. He said at the time: “We’re cautiously optimistic we will see very significant progress literally within a couple of weeks.”

Special council meetings were being organised for THIS week so all six authorities could approve the deal. But the UK and Scottish governments told them at the last minute the final agreement would have to wait.

Edinburgh Conservative group leader Cameron Rose said he was disappointed.

“I think there are potentially significant benefits for the city region from the investment which is on offer,” he said.

“There has been a good degree of co-operation involving the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the six different local authorities.

“It’s always disappointing when something gets delayed and that introduces the possibility of something which might derail it. But I’m told it is only the timescale that has changed, so I’m hopeful it will go ahead.”

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Green economy spokesman Gavin Corbett said: “The City Region Deal is for decades ahead so I am not sure a month or two delay in the final package will matter either way.

“In fact it might be an opportunity to reflect still further on the need for a ‘Green City Deal’ which reaps the harvest of thousands of jobs in low carbon technology which is Edinburgh’s only future.

“And, at the same time, it will give the new councils after May a programme to make their own, rather than inheriting something from the embers of existing administrations.”

The councils have never disclosed a full list of the projects they want included in the deal. But one insider said the two governments were “asking for more information on a number of areas”.

Another source said a change of power following the election in Edinburgh was unlikely to cause problems for the deal because all parties had been involved in developing it. “However there could be a risk if some of the other authorities change administration and decide they don’t like the look of what has been negotiated.”

A spokesman for the city region said: “In announcing the Spring Budget earlier this month, the Chancellor cited the good progress being made towards securing a City Region Deal for Edinburgh and South East Scotland, referencing the constructive discussion with local partners and the Scottish Government to achieve this.

“Scottish and UK governments have now informed the regional partnership that, given we have entered the pre-election period, the deal will be completed as soon as possible after the local government elections in May. An exchange of letters has taken place confirming that commitment.

“We remain focused on delivering greater powers for our region and funding towards strategic housing, transport and infrastructure that will enable the region to become the most connected, creative, inclusive and innovative place in Europe.”

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It is thought the deal will include major housebuilding investment, cash for new roads, and investment in research, education, tourism and culture, and possibly also the power to introduce a tourist tax to be levied on hotel guests.