At last we have an Edinburgh council leader who is willing to stand up to the SNP Scottish Government and lay out to us Edinburgh residents the consequences of savage cuts on our local services. It may only be temporary, as Cammy Day fills in whilst the SNP council leader is on paternity leave, but I hope when he returns he continues in that vein.
It is utterly astonishing that more than £300 million has been slashed from Edinburgh Council’s budget since 2012 with another £33m to cut next year and a further £150m by 2023. The SNP Scottish Government has turned the Edinburgh City Council into nothing more than a vehicle for managing the decline of our local services. It must stop.
To make matters worse, Edinburgh remains the worst-funded local authority in Scotland. This is all on top of residents paying much more in tax with a 4.79 per cent council tax increase in the offing.
I have nothing against higher taxes for measurably better services, but Edinburgh residents are getting very little for it and being asked to pay for the privilege. Services are in decline.
A fortune goes unspent
It’s infuriating when we are being told by Government ministers that all things are rosy in the garden. Examining the current devastation of council services, alongside strains on the NHS, the rise of food banks, and the lack of investment in education, some might think that ministers continually repeating “maximising spending on public services” is a little hollow from an SNP Scottish Government that has an underspend of £450m for the third year in a row.
How about spending that money on removing the pernicious two-child benefit cap or compensating those WASPI women who have lost out on their pensions. They would be two much deserving causes at the top of my list. They have the power and money to do so but remain idle.
But I also want more resources directed to councils and spent on the things that have been promised to local people. I want Edinburgh Council to be properly supported so it can invest in the services that we all cherish and need.
Local people rightly ask me where the money is for the new Liberton High School? Where are the resources for our crumbling infrastructure? Can we have more money for recycling and supporting residents in the fight against climate change? What about the investment required in dementia services and support to get older people the care packages they need to live in their own homes? Why can’t I get a decent affordable home? These issues are just the tip of the iceberg, but all are suffering with current funding levels.
I see the consequences of this managed decline at every single weekly advice session. Local people unable to get the services they pay for and deserve because there is no capacity, or the service simply no longer exists. Local people are being let down by the Scottish Government and it must stop before it is too late.
It should not be the job of councillors to spend month after month, year after year looking at ways to slash their budget on behalf of a Scottish Government that takes no responsibility for anything.
So well done to Councillor Cammy Day for calling this out. I sure hope that when the SNP council leader Adam McVey returns from his paternity leave that he continues in that vain on behalf of all of us Edinburgh residents.
Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South