Council Leader sets out priorities for next six months

Cllr Adam McVey discusses the coalition’s priorities for the first half of 2018…


On forming the coalition last summer, and laying out our priorities for the five years to 2022, we committed ourselves to improving the quality of life of all residents, enhancing the environment, delivering better infrastructure and building on what is already a fantastic place to live, work and visit. 

I’m pleased with the progress we have made thus far but I want to ensure that we remain a coalition of action and that our commitments remain relevant to the emerging challenges we face as a city. 

So, what are our priorities for the next six months?

You only have to count the number of cranes on our skyline to see that development in Edinburgh is booming – the Capital remains the most prosperous UK city outside London. The time has come, however, to take a good look at why not all of our residents are sharing in this success.

Through the development of a new economy strategy for the city, we will set out an action plan to tackle inequality and poverty to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to benefit from Edinburgh’s prosperity, ensuring that we have inclusive growth that works for everyone. 

We have already established a cross-party homelessness task force who are working closely with stakeholders and experts with a view to developing a long-term strategy. In the short term, they have a specific target of ending the use of B&B accommodation for homeless families, 16 and 17 year-olds and care leavers. 

In support of this aim, we will be investing £1.2bn over the next 10 years to 20,000 new affordable homes. Increasing the housing stock and building homes that are accessible for working people is essential if we are to meet our commitment.

By the summer, we will have approved construction of 1,300 of these new homes, in addition to the 575 affordable homes already built under this administration. Plans are also in place to purchase a major Waterfront site for development of a further 1,500 homes.

Much of our housebuilding aspirations will be made possible by the City Region Deal, delivered with the UK and Scottish governments and regional partners last summer. In April, we will sign off on the various projects that make up the deal, confirming over £1bn of investment in the region and allowing us to push ahead on other core projects around infrastructure, skills and technology and in support of the festivals. 

Alongside this, we remain committed to securing the powers to levy a tourist tax. Edinburgh attracts 4m visitors each year who bring investment, diversity and energy to our city but they also bring a cost in terms of the impact on our core services. In the coming weeks, we will share a business case in support of a levy, encouraging a clear, balanced and thoughtful debate with industry leaders, considering the merits and disadvantages of every option.

In addition, and in recognition of the pressures our residents and services face during the busiest months of the year, we are about to launch a new scorecard approach to monitoring the true impact of increased footfall in the city centre.

More broadly, a huge amount of work is already going into considering the future look, feel and lay-out of our historic city centre. In the months ahead, we will hear the views of thousands of residents on the Central Edinburgh Transformation project, how they want George Street to be in the future, their thoughts on Low Emission Zones in Edinburgh and priorities for transport in the future through the Local Transport Strategy. 

Having done this, we will bring forward proposals to make our city centre more accessible, easier to walk around, more attractive and build on our already excellent public transport system. We took a step closer to this yesterday with the approval of revised plans for Picardy Place, including new public spaces and a transport interchange, and will continue to examine the merits of completing the tram line to Newhaven. 

We recognise that core services are fundamental to the quality of people’s lives. We have already committed £100m to roads and pavements across the next five years and have made significant improvements to the waste service with complaints at their lowest point for four years. That said, residents tell us that communal bins remain an issue for them, which is why we are currently running a trial in Leith with a view to making further improvements to the service.

At the heart of this administration is a passion for improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh and central to this is a need to improve the performance of our Social Care service.  

We are continuing to work closely with the NHS to make integration a reality and will prioritise investment in this area to ensure the service gets the resources it needs, particularly with a view to clearing the backlog of assessment and reviews for packages of care. We will soon be in a position to appoint a permanent Chief Officer and Head of Operations for the IJB, both of whom will oversee a longer-term plan to hit the service standards we all rightly expect. 

As part of our commitment to create a first-class learning environment for our young people, we have begun work on the new Queensferry High School and, next month, will open the doors to the new Boroughmuir High School. Further, through the budget setting process in February, we will prioritise capital and revenue investment in our schools with the longer-term aim of ensuring that all of them are ‘satisfactory’ standard or better.

In the early part of this year, we will complete our review of West and South West schools, recognising that, while we need to work hard to consult with and involve all stakeholders in the process, we must remain focussed on the ultimate aim of improving attainment, the education and life chances of young people across Edinburgh.

This approach is consistent with our ongoing commitment to devolving decision making to our communities.  The establishment of locality committees – meeting for first time next month – is a major first step forward.  Further, we will continue to develop participatory budgeting (our aim is for 1% of our budget to be determined this way) and on our ongoing consultation processes that puts residents’ views at the heart of policy and decision making.

I look forward to continuing the progress we have already made against our commitments and am confident that we can deliver upon the specific actions outlined above. We have huge ambitions for this great city and want to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to share in its success.


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