... this year though, we've decided to put them into the public domain a full week prior to the relevant meeting, which takes place at 10am on Thursday 10th February.
Clearly, there's a bit of a political risk in all of this - all the other Groups will know what we're going to move next week! ... but, frankly, we're all pretty sick-and-tired of (and this criticism includes previous Labour Administrations of which I was part) the way that the Council's annual budget round is being managed.
Each year, we get ourselves into the ludicrous situation of each Party Group not knowing what the other is proposing until we walk into the Council Chamber at 10am on the local Budget Day. And we're not talking a Westminster or Holyrood budget here, but the budget of a medium-sized city ... it just makes no sense to continue like this, especially given the financial constraints currently pressing down on all Local Authorities.
... so, I'm just going to re-produce below (with a couple of links to the actual DRAFT Amendment and DRAFT Summary Sheet) the e-mail message that's just been sent out to all those who have been in touch with us about the 2011/12 Council Budget.
I may well regret this :-(
Many of you have been in touch throughout recent months about the budgetary position facing the Council - and I'm very grateful that several of you managed to attend our recent 'Open-Budget Event' and were able to ensure we heard your views first hand. And, as you know, the Council will now set its 2011/12 Budget at the Full Council Meeting on Thursday 10th February 2011.
As the main Opposition Party on the Council, the Labour Group has listened carefully to the input we've received (from a wide variety of sources) and we have constructed an 'alternative budget' (as per previous years) and are now in a position - as promised - to share the headlines of that process with you.
To that end, I'm attaching a DRAFT version of our actual Budget Amendment (which we may still slightly amend) and which we will table for debate at the Council Meeting on the 10th. I'm also attaching an excel spreadsheet (again a DRAFT which may alter slightly) which summarises the figures behind our budget. This all illustrates we are putting forward a 2-year, balanced budget with the following key components:
- every effort has been made to rationalise back-office functions
- the following specific areas have been identified to deliver significant savings:
a. Rationalisation of Council Training functions
b. Reduction in the use of all external Consultants
c. Reduction in the use of Temporary Contracts and Agency Staff
d. Fully merging the Finance and Corporate Services departments
e. Partially merging the City Development and Services for Communities departments
f. Removal of several (SfC) Heads of Service posts
g. Reduction in the Q.I.O. Teams
h. Reducing the Policy Development function within the Council
i. Reducing the Communications function within the Council
j. Removal of various Council Publications
- thereafter, the prioritisation of available expenditure has been focused on essential front line public services
- the following specific areas of continued investment have been identified:
a. Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Special Schools (esp. devolved school budgets)
b. Health and Social Care Services for the Old and Vulnerable
c. Voluntary Sector, and third-party, grant support (inc. Fairer Scotland Fund projects)
d. Sport and Physical Activity services (Edinburgh Leisure)
e. Neighbourhood Services (inc. school crossing patrols and public conveniences)
- one-year's funding will also remain in place for the Capital City Partnership’s (CCP) employability programmes, thus ensuring continuation of this vitally important area of work during the current economic downturn.
- and one, significant element of new investment has also been identified:
a. A ‘Living Wage’ of £7.15 per hour, for all Council Staff, to be implemented from October 2012.
We will now do our utmost to promote this approach - and the detail therein - as we move towards the actual budget-setting meeting on Thursday 10th February.
Many thanks again for your input to date, and please don't hesitate to get back in touch if you want to discuss anything further.