Thursday, February 02, 2012

Labour Group alternative-budget proposals

Ever since I took over as Edinburgh Labour's Group Leader (back in June 2008) we've enforced a discipline of publishing our budgets just prior to the actual budget-setting meeting of the Council:

- February 2009 budget here
- February 2010 budget here

And last year, we published a full week in advance:

- February 2011 budget here

Well, its Local Government election year! --- and we've had a healthy internal debate about standing by that discipline in 2012 :-)

And, on balance, given all the arguments we've made in recent years about how flawed the Council's budget-setting process is, we concluded it would simply be hypocritical not to publish our budget proposals early again this year.

So, with a week to go - 2012 budget day is Thursday 9th February - the final draft text of our Budget Amendment follows below. There are a few question marks in paragraph 7, but they only relate to 'report numbers' which we don't yet have. And, with seven days to go, it is possible some elements may change slightly.

But, frankly, we continue to be pretty sick-and-tired (and this criticism applies to previous Labour Administrations of which I was part) of the way that the Council's annual budget round is managed.

Every 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.

... so, once again this year I'm just going to re-produce below the final draft text of our Budget Amendment.

This whole approach is also entirely consistent with our Draft Manifesto launch - back in November 2011 - when we put our early manifesto thoughts into the public domain a full six-months prior to the election (more on the manifesto process next week!). Meantime, I hope you'll see those early manifesto thoughts reflected in our budget decisions below?

I do hope this all sends a very clear signal about the style of Council we would help run, if given the opportunity to do so by the electorate on Thursday 3rd May.

We're absolutely prepared to work with any others in sharing our ideas early, and I'll positively welcome any other Group who now adopts the principle tenets of this main Opposition Party Budget.

Please do read the text below, in conjunction with my colleague Ricky Henderson's more general explanation of our thinking, which was published earlier on Tuesday this week - see here and here.


(based on current information as at 02/02/12)

The City of Edinburgh Council
9th February 2012




Council agrees that the protection of front line services remains an important priority, and acknowledges that every effort should be made to rationalise back-office functions.

Council further agrees that economic regeneration is vital to ensuring Edinburgh’s prosperity and future prospects; and recognises the Council’s duty to lead on both issues.

Therefore Council notes:

  • The current budget position as contained within today’s report/s.
  • The imbalance in revenue resources over the next 3 years due to the allocation of funding from the Scottish Government.
  • That future years will be extremely challenging based on current allocations / forecasts.


Council now agrees:

  • That the introduction of the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour for Council workers is necessary to ensure social and economic justice and will also support the local economy.
  • To plan for the payment of the Living Wage to be a condition of future contracts with external suppliers.
  • That in future the highest paid Council employee shall earn no more than 12 times the salary of the lowest paid Council worker.
  • To establish a “PSC / Service Improvement Fund (Spend to Save)” of £11million to develop Council services and achieve efficiency savings; whilst noting that some £4.25million of abortive expenditure, plus extensive internal costs, has been sunk on the abandoned privatisation alternative.
  • To establish a “Co-operative Development Unit” (CDU) with an initial fund of £250,000. This unit will be resourced by the redeployment of senior staff from elements of service restructuring; noting that this restructuring has been called for in the previous 4 Labour Group Budget Amendments.
  • The CDU will work with Council departments, communities and partner organisations to develop sustainable co-operative models which will deliver excellent public services in a cost effective and cooperative manner. (i.e. childcare, renewable energy production, housing)
  • That £3.44million funding in 2012/13 will go towards the ‘Change Funds for Health and Social Care and Early Years’, to support the wider alignment of budgets on a preventative basis, with provision of £6.88million by 2014/15.
  • To reinstate £826,000 of Voluntary Sector funding to ensure that all Voluntary Sector Grants are maintained at current levels, throughout 2012/13.
  • Funding of £740,000 to Edinburgh Leisure for specified works and services.
  • To reinstate £550,000 to the Libraries Service, which would secure existing Sunday opening hours.
  • To allocate £2million towards Employability Services in the city, ensuring that every school-leaver has a positive employment/education destination, and agrees to review the effectiveness and deliverability of these services in view of their importance to jobs and economic success.
  • To call for an urgent report, within 2-cycles, on all potential solutions to provide long-term stability for the funding of these Employability Services/Programmes.
  • That, recognising the need for ongoing schools maintenance, an additional ‘School Fabric Repairs’ fund of £3.1million is established.
  • That an additional investment fund of £1.2million is allocated to Neighbourhood Partnerships (doubling their existing discretionary spend) and those local communities are thus fully consulted on the best use of these one-off resources for infrastructure or community improvements, and also local co-operative developments, such as:
          1. roads and footways improvements (Right First Time [RFT])
          2. expansion of ‘Real Time Information’ for local bus services
          3. cycling infrastructure improvements
          4. local Play facilities
          5. local Sports Pavilions
          6. local Community Centre facilities


Council further agrees to the following areas of significant saving:

a.    Restructuring of Senior Management (Heads of Service) Posts
b.    Reduction in the Q.I.O. Teams
c.    Removal of various Council Publications
d.    Absenteeism management


Council notes this budget allows the following areas of continued investment:

a.    Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Special Schools
b.    Health and Social Care Services for the Old and Vulnerable
c.    Voluntary Sector, and third-party, grant support
d.    Sport and Physical Activity services
e.    Neighbourhood Services and local infrastructure
f.     Libraries


Council notes that the budget process is an internal exercise which culminates in the setting of the Council's budget in mid-February each year. Spending plans are set for at least 12 months and sometimes up to 3 years.

Council agrees to establish a new Council Budget Committee to improve the scrutiny, and effectiveness, of the budget process. The proposed committee would be made up of Councillors and external groups representing wider civic society in the city. Such a dedicated budget committee could radically improve scrutiny and transparency of the budget setting process.


Council thus agrees to develop the concept of a ‘Co-operative Council’, positively promoting local decision-making, and rejecting the now, failed privatisation alternative.

Council thus acknowledges that this budget has focused on proposed areas of targeted savings to enable both continued investment in essential front line public service priorities, and the achievement of longer-term sustainable savings.


Council notes the following:

  1. Report no. CEC/86/11-12/PS and CEC/87/11-12/PS by the Director of Corporate Governance, setting out the overall resources available for revenue expenditure.
  2. Report no. CEC/??? by the Director of Corporate Governance setting out the proposals for funding services from third parties in 2012/13.
  3. Report no. CEC/88/11-12/PS and CEC/??? by the Director of Corporate Governance setting out the overall position on capital resources for the period 2012 - 2016.
  4. A further report will be submitted to seek approval of revised charges for Council services, the outcomes of which are contained in Annex 1 to this amendment.
Council approves the following:

  1. The revenue budget set out in the reports, subject to the adjustments set out in Annex 1 to this amendment.
  2. The 2012 - 2016 capital budget as set out in reports CEC/88/11-12/PS and CEC/??? by the Director of Corporate Governance.
  3. The Council Tax and Rating Resolutions as set out in Annex 2 to this amendment.
  4. The recommendations contained in report CEC/??? by the Director of Services for Communities to increase rents by 7.9% in line with the agreed rent strategy in the HRA approved business plan.

            Signature of Proposer ……………………………………………………

            Signature of Seconder ……………………………………………………

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