Finance Convener Cllr Rankin: City's budget is delivering vital services

Finance Convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, writes in today's (27 Feb) Evening News on the budget for 2019/20 and four-year Change Strategy.

Cllr RaningI was pleased to have passed the second council budget of this administration. It will protect frontline services as well as invest in services for young people and the city’s most vulnerable residents as we work towards a fairer and more inclusive future for our Capital.

On Thursday (21 Feb) councillors agreed a £1bn package of spending for the next financial year as part of a four-year Change Strategy – designed to meet the changing demands of the city and its residents, which targets the delivery of high-quality services, while maximising income, invests in prevention and early intervention and ensures sustainable and, most importantly, inclusive growth.

We provide services that touch everyone’s lives; from bin collections to schools and from community centres to care for our elderly and most vulnerable residents. It’s our duty to provide these services as effectively as we can while delivering value for money. In a world of increasing pressures and constraints, this means taking tough choices about the services we provide and how we deliver them.

Whilst we have a strong track record of effective financial management, since 2012/13 we’ve saved more than £250m by working more efficiently and prioritising our services, the need for more savings continues. We have projected that we need to save over £100m by 2022/23 with £33m of savings necessary in 2019/20. Implementing this budget and those of future years will be a substantial challenge not least because of greater economic and political uncertainties.  We must be looking to deliver services both differently and more efficiently. 

Over the next four years we will embrace the opportunities that technology brings - more efficient ways for residents and businesses to interact with the Council will continue and we will grow our use of Intelligent Automation. We will redesign our service delivery and rationalise our estate through expansion of the hub model - allowing a range of services to be delivered from a single site. We’ll continue to implement the Roads Improvement Plan and I’m confident that changes in waste and cleansing, such as routes, depots and new technology will drive service improvements and efficiency. 

In 2019/20 we’re investing well over £100m more in schools and early years and we’ve committed record levels of investment in our roads with £30m earmarked for potholes and resurfacing works in 2019/20. We’ve also allocated up to an additional £16m to address increasing demands on our health and social care services. All means to maximise income will also be explored, such as full cost recovery for major events and generating additional income from the Council’s outdoor advertising contract, including tram stops.

As in previous years, we were keen for residents to engage with the process and have their say – and I’m delighted that so many of you did. As a direct result of this feedback we have restored funding for teachers in nurseries, provided transitional funding for Marketing Edinburgh and will review our proposals for Edinburgh Leisure in future years.

Whilst we have set our one-year budget we are always looking ahead and taking a strategic view in the interests of a growing and successful city. This is a budget that allows us to invest in key frontline services but it also allows us to continue investing in the huge ambition we have for the capital.

Edinburgh is a thriving, successful city – all our residents deserve to share in this success. As a coalition we’re committed to reducing inequality, protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, improving the quality of life of Edinburgh residents, enhancing the environment, delivering better infrastructure and building on what’s already a fantastic place to live, work and visit.

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