The council has axed proposals for qualified teachers to be removed from nursery schools in a bid to save £350,000, has given Marketing Edinburgh a reprieve on funding cuts and will plough £5.5m of additional funding to help under-pressure health and social care services, dependent on meeting targets.
The city council is having to cut £33m for next year’s budget after receiving less funding in real terms from the Scottish Government. Unions are set to protest outside City Chambers this morning to voice their anger – while eight organisations will address councillors during the meeting.
Council leader, Cllr Adam McVey, said: “Overall we have tried to balance good governance in trying to make the organisation as efficiently-run as possible.
“Our agenda is all about inclusion and trying to get every citizen able to take advantage of the economic opportunities in public services and everything else the city has to offer. What we have put together does that.”
The council leadership is now committing to halt plans to remove qualified teachers from nurseries and “redeploy” them to schools.
Labour councillors had proposed raising council tax by four per cent next year, but it’s believed the SNP group would not agree and the charge is set to be capped at a three per cent increase. That would mean a Band D household will pay £1,277.40 in council tax next year.
Depute council leader, Cllr Cammy Day, said: “The power to increase it by more came late in the day for this year’s consultation, but we will look to consult next year on whether that could go up and importantly what any additional money raised through it will go towards.
“This is still going to lead to 200 job losses, and it still means a £33m cut to the council’s budget. These are 200 equivalent roles and will be predominantly through voluntary redundancies and not filling vacant posts.”
An additional £250,000 will be spent on supported bus services in rural west Edinburgh after Cllr McVey admitted the £100,000 allocated last year “wasn’t enough to identify a carrier such as Lothian Buses to run the services”.
Economic development is set for a £1.2m cut next year and proposals to cut £522,000 from the council’s £2.6m of funding to Police Scotland are set to go ahead. An empty homes officer will be recruited along with four homelessness prevention officers.
Council leaders are proposing to halt a £3m “efficiency” demand of health and social care services – meaning the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) will need to make £16.4m of savings from the council next year – along with an estimated £9m from NHS Lothian. An additional £2.5m will be set aside and handed over to health bosses “based on achievement of prolonged improvements in service outcomes”.
Cllr McVey said: “We have put £3m of additional funding back into the service.
“We have also held back £2.5m which we are hoping to be able to release to the IJB later in the year. What we are hoping for is a properly evidenced and costed plan of how services can be delivered within the budgets that are being set by the council and NHS. Once we are confident of that position, we will release that additional £2.5m to them this year.”
Council leaders have “broadly accepted” a counter demand from Marketing Edinburgh, which will stop plans for a £267,000 cut to its funding this year – “subject to development of a business plan which outlines a detailed strategy for transition to zero funding from the council”. A £62,000 grants fund for disability groups to access sports and well-being services will now not be cut, following a rethink by the coalition. Edinburgh Leisure is still set for a £350,000 cut next year – but no decision will be taken to cut £1m for each of the following three years.
The council has also committed to spending £874m over the next five years to improve standards in current council homes. But council house rents are set to go up by two per cent, which the authority says will “strike the right balance between keeping rents affordable for tenants, ensuring homes are affordable to manage and building more affordable homes”.
The council is set to invest £23.13m in roads and pavements across the city next year while £200,000 will be allocated to helping community health organisations and charities that had funding cut by the IJB last year.
But Conservatives have blasted the plans which were published just 19 hours before the crunch budget meeting.
Conservative finance spokesperson, Cllr Graham Hutchison, said: “I’m astonished at how little they have brought forward – there’s almost no variation from the initial officer proposals.
“Given the 11th hour submission, I’m surprised there’s nothing in it. I think the public will be massively underwhelmed by this proposed budget. I don’t think we can have any confidence in this that they have a handle on the economic situation and future of the city.”
Conservatives have brought forward their own budget proposals which includes cancelling the proposed tram extension in a bid to free up £90m of additional spending. But transport convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes has criticised the proposals.
She said: “Any plans that other parties bring forward should be based on reality and forward thinking, not quickly thought out ideas that don’t stand up to scrutiny.”
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