Have you say on Edinburgh's budget

Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik writes in today's Edinburgh Evening News about the pressures facing the Council.

Everyone is aware of the Council's financial position, and whatever angle you look at it, it is not a pretty picture.  It's clear that the growing need for services set against an inability to raise additional revenue has placed a huge pressure on the city’s finances. With that growing demand for vital statutory services there are tough decisions facing this Council as we look to save over £125m in other areas over the next four years.

The latest figures predict the number of primary school pupils in the city will rise to 31,300 by 2020 and then increase further to 35,400 by 2030. This will begin to have impact on the secondary sector with the number of pupils rising from a projected low of 18,100 in 2016 to 20,900 by 2020 and increasing further to 24,900 by 2030.  Meeting and resourcing that additional demand is a huge challenge especially when you take into account year on year reductions in public spending, the substantial community demands for additional capital funding, and the Scottish Government's Council Tax freeze entering its eighth year, leaving the Council with no real ability to raise substantial funds.

Yet in spite of these clear financial challenges there is progress in improving outcomes for young people. Educational attainment continues to improve on all national measures and latest exam results show Edinburgh’s pupils continuing to perform above the Scottish average. On positive destinations we have risen from last in Scotland just a few years ago, to being significantly above the Scottish average today. Our work on foreign languages and the success of the 1 plus 2 programme has been widely recognised, and the support we have put in place for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing was awarded Educational Initiative of the Year earlier this month.

On school buildings the Capital Coalition ensured the £128m funding package for our 'Wave 3' schools was finally completed, and we look forward to seeing three new high schools, James Gillespie's Boroughmuir and Portobello open next year.  We now have a 'Wave 4' process underway with a possible seven schools identified.And on early years three fantastic new nurseries at Fox Covert, Wardie and Duddingston, were opened this year, delivering a real step-change in the physical standard of our nurseries, and also offering additional hours and wraparound care.  In total we have plans for 11 new and refurbished nurseries across the city, which will make a huge difference to the early years estate.

Repairing and maintaining our existing buildings has been a huge challenge for the council over recent years, but I am clear we need to continue to increase funding and ensure that all our school buildings are rated A or B by the Scottish Government by 2019. There is now a £45m fund to do just that.  Overall, since coming to power in 2012 protecting school based budgets and frontline services for vulnerable children, as far as possible, has been a priority for the Capital Coalition. That commitment to shield services for our youngest and most vulnerable remains, yet it is clear that given the scale of the financial pressure we will need to examine every service and every post if we are to find a way to get the council back on a sound financial footing.

We want your views on our proposals so you have the opportunity to have your say on changes that may affect you.

And we will listen. Last year as a direct result of your feedback on proposals affecting the Children and Families budget we reduced the proposed savings in third party grants by £614,000 to continue support for vulnerable children and ensured proposed reductions in the community learning development service budget didn’t result in the closure of any community centre.

Find out more about the budget, comment on proposals and make use of our budget planner and dialogue tool on the Council website at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget.

Or take part in our budget question time debate with conveners on November 23rd – today’s the last day to register:

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