Budget engagement is right on track

This article by Finance Convener Councillor Alasdair Rankin appeared in today's Evening News.

Public response to the City of Edinburgh Council’s 2015/16 budget consultation has so far been very promising, and I’d like to thank everyone for their interest.

We have the vital job of making sure that resources are spent as wisely and as fairly as possible while ensuring that frontline services are properly protected.

Once again, we’ve put you, the public, at the heart of the democratic process and asked for your views on how funds are spent.

This year’s budget engagement period, which runs until 19 December 2014, has been supplemented by an interactive online budget planner, the first time such a feature has been used by a major city in Scotland. What is an interactive online planner?

It’s designed to make it as easy as possible for people to take virtual control of the City's finances by using the planner tool to decide how they would balance the budget, discovering how increasing spend in some areas would impact on other areas.

The budget planner, together with a film on the Council's website and YouTube channel, highlights the range of services the Council provides and the challenges it faces over the coming years in deciding which ones to prioritise against a backdrop of rising demand but flat or reducing resources.

There’s been an incredible response, and feedback shows that more than 50,000 people have been reached through social media. Budget information on our website has received over 5,000 hits, and almost 400 people have completed the online planner.

For those residents who aren’t able to get online, we are going to distribute leaflets to over 600 venues across the city, including doctor surgeries and neighbourhood offices, while details have been displayed on plasma screens in Council buildings. E-fliers are being sent to more than 200 organisations this week, while digital adverts and lamp-post wraps are set to be launched.

Despite the increasingly difficult times ahead, the Council’s performance continues to improve, a fact which is borne out by recent research through, for example, the Edinburgh People’s Survey.

Overall expenditure figures for 2013/14, as reported to the City of Edinburgh Council, show an overall under spend of £0.64m, demonstrating that our financial controls have paid dividends over the last financial year. For the fifth successive year, every single Council service has met its budget targets without impacting on the front-line services on which so many people depend.

We are approaching this on the basis of firm economic foundations, and will continue to maintain a sound financial position, including long term financial planning.

As Finance Convener, I am delighted with these results. However, there is no room for complacency. Councillor Cook and I will work tirelessly to ensure that the agenda for effective, efficient local government continues throughout this Administration.

Like all local authorities, we continue to have very real budget pressures and over the coming months and years we will face increasingly difficult choices about how to allocate our resources.

We remain fully committed to protecting frontline services and to maintaining investment in areas which will provide more support for our most vulnerable residents.

We’ll continue to engage with the public about finances and spending over the next couple of months – read what our conveners have to say about their service areas over the coming weeks in the Evening News. We’ll also be taking part in Q&A sessions on Twitter, as well as a live webcast in November.

Please play your part and help us to shape Edinburgh’s future.

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