Preparing the city for tough times ahead

Councillor Phil Wheeler, Convener of the Finance and Resources Committee comments on the budget for 2010/11 and the difficult decisions ahead.

In the last couple of weeks councils up and down the country have faced some of the most difficult financial challenges experienced in living memory as they set their budgets for the coming year.

Edinburgh is no exception to this as £90m of savings have to be made in the next three years.  On Thursday the Council made some extremely hard choices to ensure that we continue to protect frontline services and support the city's most vulnerable citizens. An additional £5.2m has been set aside for school budgets, £3.2m for vulnerable children and £3.7m for services for vulnerable adults.

This Administration's commitment to economic development will ensure Edinburgh's long-term prosperity and help us to exceed the £350m worth of investment that the city attracted last year.

Difficult economic times mean that it is more important than ever for the Council to ensure that we are ready to cope with any unforeseen circumstances such as flooding. For this reason we have put more money aside in the city's reserves in line with recommendations from Audit Scotland.

Fast forward to a year from now and the choices councils have to make are going to get even tougher.

The unheard-of financial situation that the country finds itself in will bring about historic shifts in what public organisations do and how they do it.

In Edinburgh, major service improvements have already been delivered and a record £68m in efficiency savings have been made in the last three years. Working smarter is something we must all do now.

An example of this is investment in this year's budget for schools to join the other 64 Council buildings which benefit from real time management information for energy and water, allowing head teachers to manage their budgets more effectively and deliver savings.

The Council must continue to improve efficiency and productivity across all services and where appropriate look at other ways of delivering them. Sharing services with other local authorities and public bodies is another option we are looking at which could help to modernise the services we provide.

This budget is underpinned by our three corporate values; putting customers first, looking after Edinburgh and becoming a top-performing Council.  A balanced responsible budget will build a platform for a strong, sustained recovery from difficult financial times. We will not plunder the city's reserves nor promote short-term gain over long-term prosperity.


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