Cuts to come in tough budget

CITY councillors in Edinburgh yesterday (Thursday) were expected to vote through a budget affecting everyone.

Faced with the challenge of making over £90 million savings over three years, the Lib Dem/SNP administration has agreed to enforce £32 million worth of savings over the next two years as part of its £1 billion budget this week.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, convener for finance and resources said: “We are facing the greatest of financial challenges head on. We went out to the community in the largest, most open and transparent budget engagement ever undertaken by the council. We listened to what people said, acted on the call to protect front line services and vulnerable people and have delivered a balanced budget.”

While residents will welcome their Council Tax being frozen for the fourth successive year at £1169 for Edinburgh’s Band D, there are warnings that residents could face an increase next year. And it has also emerged that council employees may face redundancy unless more volunteer to take unpaid career breaks or cut their hours. Over the past year the council reduced its staffing levels by almost 370 (2.3 per cent of its workforce) makings savings of £1.4 million. But it wants to reduce by a further 1200 employees over the next three years.

But the council is investing in children and schools with additional funding of £7 million being made available over the next three years; a further £4 million to support and protect vulnerable children; an additional £8.4 million for people with learning and physical disabilities, and an additional £5.5 million being invested in older people. A further £40 million will utilised to upgrade 1500 council homes with new bathrooms and kitchens while a further 1300 will received inproved heating and double glazing.

But it is services such as wheelie bins collections that will impact more on people with fortnightly collections instead of weekly. Other cuts include the closure of half the public toilets across the city. Queensferry has two public toilets but a decision will be made on which are in the poorest condition and least used in the area.

There had been fears that certain libraries would close but now a review will be carried out to assess the best hours of opening.

Savings in education will also see management and business support staff in secondary schools re-shaped while parking charges are also set to increase but it is uncertain whether payments will increase at the few meters based on Queensferry’s High Street.

The council’s proposal to close the Braehead Recycling Centre at Craigs Road will impact on Queensferry residents wishing to recycle large items. They will now have to travel to Sighthill to do so.

And council house tenants will feel the pinch as they face an increase of 7.6 per in rent. This will take the average rent up from £68.88 to £74.87 per week.