'City stands strong after four years of investment'
By Jenny Dawe
'Edinburgh is just the best!" Not my words, but those of a recent trade delegation to the city. Edinburgh, named as Europe's Best Small City of the Future, is a fantastic city in which to live, visit, work, invest or study.
Our residents' high quality of life is a factor in their satisfaction with Edinburgh being the highest of any city surveyed by MORI. Edinburgh regularly wins best city awards and has a growing reputation as a successful city with international and domestic appeal as a place to do business. As the Festival City, home to the world's largest summer and winter festivals, Edinburgh is also the gateway to Scotland and the UK's second city for tourism.
The council cannot claim full credit for our city's many accolades but we have played a major part in Edinburgh's successes.
The Lib Dem/SNP coalition administration faced up to the recession by injecting record sums into economic support activity. This has helped more than 7500 of our most disadvantaged residents into jobs, education or training and has supported more than 1400 small and medium enterprises across Edinburgh and the Lothians. Major employers have been attracted to the city, including Amazon, Tesco Bank and Virgin Bank.
Investment in our children and schools has increased significantly since 2007. We have committed 83.5 million to provide better schools, including Boroughmuir, Portobello and James Gillespie's high schools. Reduced class sizes and improved pupil/teacher ratios have been prioritised for our most deprived communities.
We have transformed care and protection for our increasing elderly population and most vulnerable residents. Our award-winning reablement service has helped users to achieve greater independence and to live more confidently and safely in their own homes. Four new care homes have been built since 2007 - with a fifth being developed at Drumbrae - for those for whom that is the best option.
This administration is providing maximum value for money for Edinburgh residents. Council tax has been frozen for four successive years. For the first time in the council's history, all departmental budgets were on, or under, budget in 2009/10. Early analysis shows this has been repeated in 2010/11, with a small surplus secured. In successfully managing the greatest financial challenges to local government in six decades, we are on target to increase the city's unallocated reserve to more than 12m from the paltry 373k inherited in 2007.
We have acted responsibly in the interests of the citizens of Edinburgh. Under this administration, Edinburgh City Council was Scotland's most improved urban authority for two years running.For the first time in a generation, council homes for rent are being built in Edinburgh. Edinburgh was voted the greenest city in Britain. The condition of our roads and pavements has improved significantly.
A new library has opened on Captains Road and work is well under way on the 5.7m Drumbrae library, day centre, adult learning and neighbourhood team hub. We now have a great skatepark at Saughton and an excellent refurbished Royal Commonwealth Pool to reopen next year. Capital city funding status has been secured, worth more than 10m to date.
Though we cannot be complacent, there is much to be proud of. Working in genuine partnership with residents, businesses and organisations that have Edinburgh's best interests at heart, we will ensure that Edinburgh continues under our careful stewardship as the UK's most desirable city at the core of a successful, sustainable and connected city region.
Jenny Dawe is leader of Edinburgh City Council
Capital can't improve if we go on ignoring problems
By Andrew Burns
EDINBURGH remains a great place to live. But all is not well in Edinburgh and the local council has not exactly covered itself in glory in recent years.
The 29 SNP and Liberal-Democrat councillors, who have run the city for more than four years, will quickly tell you what's good about Edinburgh. They won't tell you what's wrong and outline their failure in running the city, failure in the delivery of the most basic council services.
In education, seven primary schools have been closed but not one single brick has been laid for a new school anywhere in the city. There's no sense of a strategy to renew our school estate. Just a programme of closures, driven by budget cuts. And we now face, in August 2011, numerous primary school classes with more than 40 children.
For school leavers, Edinburgh now has the highest percentage of state-educated pupils in Scotland not finding employment, training or further education when they leave school. The figure is more than 17 per cent - that's one in six school leavers failing to find a positive destination. The cumulative damage this is doing to the city is incalculable.
In waste services, there has been a two-year-long industrial dispute with refuse collection staff. It's unacceptable to have allowed a work-to-rule dispute to rumble on for two years and it has led to some appalling levels of service.
And an emerging crisis in housing means that many city residents are in poor accommodation or sharing with family or friends in inappropriate conditions, while government funding changes mean that housing associations are struggling to get much-needed projects off the ground.
These are basics services and no amount of pontificating about the "quality of life" in Edinburgh can hide the fact that its residents have been let down badly over the last four years.
Andrew Burns is leader of the Labour group on Edinburgh City Council