Council budget and housing revenue plans approved in Edinburgh

Council budget and housing revenue plans approved in Edinburgh

Councillors have passed a budget focussed on “getting the basics right” and making Edinburgh a “cleaner and greener city”.

Following a series of votes on Thursday, the Liberal Democrats’ spending proposals for 2023/24 were agreed, as was the Administration’s Housing Budget Strategy.

Noting the impact of two years’ rent freezes and increasing costs and that (based on 3% rent increases over the next ten years) around 86% of existing homes could be brought
up to Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH2) over the lifetime of the business plan and that c.2,400 social rented homes could be delivered, an increase of 3% on council housing rents was agreed. 

A Tenant Hardship Fund will be established to support tenants, including those who cannot access benefits. Further details on the fund will be presented to the housing, homelessness and fair work committee on March 9.

The strategy noted: “A cumulative effect of years of Scottish Government underfunding has resulted in this administration identifying alternative ways to allow us to continue to provide for our citizens.

“A modest rent rise of 3%, following a two-year freeze, will enable us to retrofit more council homes, saving tenants up to 70% on their fuel bills and helping us achieve our net-zero target. This could also improve tenants’ lives by enabling us to further tackle problems of mould and damp by establishing a team to conduct in-depth surveys of the levels of damp and mould in our housing stock and prioritise remedial action.

“This below-inflation rise can also ensure we can continue to make progress on building 25,000 council-owned homes by 2032 whilst helping us achieve our ambition to alleviate poverty by 2030.

“For the first time ever, we are introducing mitigations, in the form of a Tenant Hardship Fund, to support tenants for whom a rent rise, in the current cost-of-living crisis, would result in severe financial difficulty. We present this Fund in confidence that it can reduce the pressure our most vulnerable residents would face resulting from Scottish Government real term cuts.”

While rejecting a series of savings proposals in education and speech and language therapy, councillors agreed to allocate substantial additional money to improve roads, paths and pavements and carry out additional resurfacing works for the long term.

Additional funding will also be made available for the city’s parks and greenspaces, tackling fly tipping, graffiti removal and street sweeping, and additional resource for flood defences and gully cleaning in light of the increasing impacts of climate change.

The Climate and Sustainability Team will also be bolstered, enabling a greater focus on the city’s ambition of becoming net zero by 2030.

As proposed by all political groups, the much-loved King’s Theatre will also benefit from funding to secure its future, with £3m set aside.

Council leader Cammy Day said: “Despite the unique demands of a capital city, Edinburgh continues to receive the worst grant funding of any local authority in Scotland. Years of local government cuts have now come to a head, forcing us to find close to £80m of savings this year – on top of the hundreds of millions we’ve made already. It’s a position none of us wanted to be in and our residents deserve better.

“Despite this, we presented a positive, fair and responsible set of proposals, aimed at protecting vital frontline services on which our communities and residents rightly depend. So, I was deeply disappointed we didn’t secure the backing from other groups, particularly in the manner in which it came about. But, for all that, I remain absolutely committed to leading this council and to working with all other groups to deliver the best for the people of Edinburgh.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Kevin Lang said: “I’m delighted that our budget got support from councillors – and that, in the midst of the cost of living crisis, we’ve been able to limit the rise in council tax to 5% for Edinburgh’s residents. This is a council budget that delivers. A budget that stops £5m of education cuts, injects £11m extra to tackle our broken roads and pavements, more investment for parks and new money for climate change action.

“Despite continued funding cuts from the Scottish Government, residents still rightly expect high quality local services in return for the increasing amounts of council tax they pay each year, which requires a budget which focuses on essential core services, delivered well.”

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