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Fairer, greener, better-connected: Council budget stays true to core priorities for Edinburgh

Posted: 19th February 2021
  • Balanced budget agreed for 2021/22 despite ongoing pressures of Covid response (around £85 million to date)
  • Budget shaped by – and addresses – key priorities of poverty, sustainability and wellbeing
  • Council Tax to be frozen in 2021/22
  • One-year rent freeze for Council house tenants following a joint motion by Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat groups
  • Further revisions to the budget may be made depending on Scottish Government and UK Government budget decisions in March

Councillors in Edinburgh today agreed a new business plan and budget framework to drive the Capital’s recovery from the pandemic in the coming years while tackling key priorities of eradicating poverty, cutting carbon emissions and working for a fairer, more inclusive city where every resident feels valued and empowered.

Despite the ongoing financial pressures brought about by the impact of Covid19 on Council services and communities across the city, a balanced £1 billion-plus budget has also been set for the next financial year (2021/22), with Council Tax frozen at 2020/21 levels to help protect household budgets.

In addition, rents for Council house tenants have been frozen for a year (2021/22) following a joint motion by the Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat groups.

Financial flexibilities already agreed with the Scottish Government have contributed to the balanced budget position for 2021/22, with an acknowledgement that more fundamental service reform, improvement and prioritisation will be required in future years.

At their annual Budget Meeting, elected members also approved a three-year Business Plan setting out how the Council would respond to the need for change, titled Our Future Council, Our Future City.  The Business Plan brings together the Council’s core priorities and seeks to shape a sustainable, fair and thriving future for Edinburgh post-pandemic.

The Business Plan and the priorities it sets shapes the four-year budget framework (2022/23 – 2025/26) also approved today, which sets out the need for broader reforms to reprioritise and potentially redesign services to achieve more than £100 million of savings over the coming years.

Finance and Resources Convener Councillor Rob Munn said:

When we set a three-year balanced budget in February 2020, we had no inkling of the economic and social turmoil the pandemic was about to unleash across the globe. As a city and as individuals, this past year has tested us like no other time in recent memory – and the challenges are ongoing. It’s testament to the dedication, commitment and resilience of all our staff, our services and our city that we’ve been able to agree a new business plan and balanced budget for 2021/22 today.

Helping Edinburgh and our citizens to recover and rebuild after the strains of Covid19 is critical and, as they’ve done throughout, staff in Council services continue to work tirelessly to look after the city and our communities. Guided by our business plan priorities of ending poverty, becoming a net zero city and making sure wellbeing and equalities are enhanced for all we’ve agreed a comprehensive package of additional investments as part of our £1 billion-plus 2021/22 budget, channelling extra funding to where it’s most needed and will have the most meaningful impact.

We want to pay tribute to the outstanding efforts of our residents in helping Edinburgh weather the Covid storm. We have seen communities come together through the hardest of times and they have shown all of what is best about our city. Without the solidarity and resilience of the people of Edinburgh, the financial, social and life cost to our Capital would have been far higher.

Vice Finance and Resources Convener Councillor Joan Griffiths said:

Everyone’s lives have been up-ended by the Coronavirus pandemic. Jobs have been cut, businesses hit, children’s education disrupted, families separated and, tragically, many, many lives have been lost. It’s essential then that we do whatever we can to help our most vulnerable citizens and those who’ve been hardest hit financially, while at the same time making progress with our key ambitions towards a fairer, greener and better-connected Edinburgh.

Make no mistake, tough times lie ahead and we’re going to have to think creatively and courageously in the years ahead to meet the substantial savings required. As we’ve learned during this crisis, however, difficult times can sometimes be a catalyst for lasting, positive change and we’re determined to drive forward our commitments on poverty, cutting carbon emissions and equal opportunities for everyone to access jobs, training and good places to live. Our three-year Business Plan responds to this need for change so that our strategies and approach achieve their ambition of making Edinburgh the best possible place to call home.

The outcome of the Scottish Government’s Local Government Financial Settlement this year has contributed an extra £9 million* to the Council’s budget.

Investment proposals put forward by the SNP/Labour Coalition for the additional £9 million were agreed today as follows:

  • £0.170m to freeze fees and charges of school meals, care at home services, garden aid and library reservation charges and fines;
  • £0.400m in 2021/22 to expand support and advice to help people at risk of homelessness and support those experiencing homelessness into secure tenancies;
  • £1.050m to manage crisis needs, increase funding for direct payments in light of COVID, support food security in the City, embed advice across schools and GP surgeries and expand programmes like Discover!, all to help put millions of pounds extra in the pockets of families who need it the most;
  • £0.500m to support our climate obligations and further decarbonisation of the Council’s estate;
  • £0.300m to support delivery measures for the sustainability plan which will be published in the summer;
  • £0.500 million to enhance our parks, playparks, food growing and urban forests, with £4m of related capital investment
  • £0.250m into setting up a short-term let licensing and enforcement system to move quickly in dealing with the problem;
  • £2.000m extra to accelerate the 1-to-1 digital strategy to help all our school pupils get the equipment they need for their studies;
  • £0.110m to strengthen and support our role as corporate parents by expanding the support team;
  • £0.175m to support expansion of Edinburgh Guarantee in light of the impact COVID has had on jobs;
  • £0.500m investment to take forward Smart City initiatives; and
  • £0.052m to extend the role of the Gaelic Development Officer for one year beyond the end of Scottish Government funding.

Further to this, £2.743m has been allocated to the Council’s unallocated reserves as a contingency against future risks.

Council budget 2021-22

We deliver a vast range of services to people who live and work in Edinburgh.  In 2021/22 we’ll spend over £1 billion on services and investing in our priorities (in addition to the sums listed above):

Reducing poverty

  • £82 million on early years services – 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare by August 2021
  • A £2.8 billion ten-year HRA Capital investment programme to deliver Council commitments, including the delivery of 10,000 new Council-led affordable homes by 2027, the modernisation of existing homes and the commitment to deliver zero carbon emissions by 2030
  • £3.6 million to improve pupil attainment, achievement and attendance, as well as £7 million from Scottish Government Pupil Equity Funding
  • £0.8 million for clothing grants
  • Investing an additional £10m to provide temporary accommodation to address the ongoing impacts of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Providing free school meals to almost 7,700 pupils and all pupils in P1-P3
  • Almost £30 million for people who need help paying their Council Tax

Sustainability – working towards being carbon neutral by 2030

  • Another £8.4 million to finish upgrading our street lighting to energy-efficient LED lights
  • Trams to Newhaven project including £2.4 million to support local businesses
  • £7.6 million to continue to replace more than 200 vehicles with lower emissions ones

Health and Wellbeing

  • £19.7 million to complete Meadowbank Sports Centre
  • £2.3 million for community mental health support and school counselling
  • £3.9 million in grants to improve mental health and wellbeing, learning and development and to support personal and social development

In 2021-22, we’ll also invest

  • £8.5 million on North Bridge
  • £234 million on health and social care services

And over the next ten years, we’ll invest:

  • More than £189 million on roads and pavements, including winter maintenance
  • £68 million on road safety, network, cycling and public transport

NOTES TO EDITORS

* As a result of the Scottish Government’s Local Government Finance Settlement, Edinburgh has been allocated an additional £14.2m in funding for 2021/22. Freezing Council Tax, however, means a net cost of £5.2m, taking this sum down to £9m.  This is because the initial budget framework put forward by officers assumed a 4.79% rise in Council Tax, which would have generated £14.8m, however the Council will receive a share of £9.6m from the Scottish Government’s additional £90m for a Council Tax freeze, which is based on a 3.1% rise.

Council Tax Bands 2021/22

A: £892.39

B: £1,041.13

C: £1,189.86

D: £1,338.59

E: £1,758.76

F: £2,175.21

G: £2,621.41

H: £3,279.55

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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