Edinburgh CC Conservative Group Finance spokesman Cllr Graham Hutchison gives his thoughts on the recent budget presented by the SNP-Labour administration:
On February 22nd Edinburgh’s SNP-Labour administration imposed a 3% council tax increase to fund the £164m Leith tram line while failing to tackle the inefficiencies which dog our key services.
To compound the misery of residents, the administration also chose to press ahead with its massively unpopular ‘Garden Tax’, under which a £25 charge will be made for the collection of brown garden waste bins.
Even though the SNP government is tightening its stranglehold on local government, the alternative budget motion proposed by the Conservative Group significantly outstripped the Administration’s spending plans in priority areas while delivering the transformation the Council badly needs, without the need for a 3% council tax hike.
This is what could have been achieved:
- Instead of wasting the £7.2m Lothian Bus dividend on the unwanted tram completion, we would have re-allocated it to repair our pothole-ridden roads, fix problem junctions and expand the Hermiston Park-and-Ride.
- We would have boosted the health and social care budget by an extra £500,000, on top of the £4m pledged by the administration, to crack inherent inefficiencies which are holding the services back.
- We would have spent an additional £2.3m on tackling homelessness - over £300,000 more than the SNP-Labour coalition - which would have been used to eliminate rough sleeping and the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.
- We would have limited the council tax increase to 2%, but every penny from that increase would have been used to fund the entire current school rebuilding and refurbishment program, investing some £77m more than the Administration over the remaining life of this council.
- Children from less affluent families would have benefited from a £85 uniform grant, £13.50 more than they will receive from the SNP-Labour coalition.
- We would have rejected the £25 brown bin tax while still restoring fortnightly collections.
The innovative approaches we have taken to the city’s budget show what can be achieved with determination, and this was one of the reasons the Conservatives topped the first preferences at last May’s council election.
More and more people recognise it’s time for change, but instead the city has been saddled with more of the same. Even with an SNP council leader and an SNP finance convener, Edinburgh has once again received the worst settlement of all Scotland’s local authorities.
This is not only an Administration seemingly doomed to repeat the failures of its last five-year term, but the SNP leadership in Edinburgh is so weak it can’t bring its influence to bear within its own government.
The Edinburgh Conservatives have shown there is an alternative and a better way forward for our capital city and its residents.