Council Leader's Report December 2019

Latest News from Council Leader Adam McVey.

                                     Leader report header

Delivering on our ambitions 

It’s been another big year for Edinburgh and I wanted to take this opportunity to pass on my best wishes for the New Year and to reflect upon a busy and productive 12 months for us.

This month also marks the midway point for this Administration, which I believe is making a real and positive impact on the residents of Edinburgh – giving all of our communities more opportunities to share in Edinburgh’s success. Our policies over the past year have aimed to deliver a better city for everyone and, as we go into 2020, we'll be delivering a whole host more to keep this progress in train. 

Once again, we’ve led the way from a national perspective, driving forward legislative change on the introduction of a tourist tax, workplace parking levy and on better regulation of short-term lets – all of which have been taken forward following our work pushing for change.

And earlier this year we set Edinburgh a massively ambitious target of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030 in response to the terrifying reality of climate change. Achieving carbon neutral status is no mean feat and it's going to involve a Herculean effort by public bodies, the private sector and from residents right across the city. 

In the meantime, as we’re quite rightly planning and investing in our city’s future, we must also keep our eyes on the day job: getting the basics right for the people of Edinburgh. 

Getting the basics right 

We know well from our annual Edinburgh People Survey (the largest of its kind in the UK) and, more recently, from knocking on doors during the election campaign, that residents want their basic services delivered well, whether that be reliable waste collection or investment in our roads and pavements.

A renewed focus on improving waste collection has seen us drive down waste complaints over 2019 to a five-year low. New collection arrangements introduced late last year have now bedded in and our two new transfer stations at Seafield and Bankhead are making a positive difference. These, together with improvements in the special uplift service, are helping us give residents the level of service they deserve.

We're never complacent, though, and we're working very hard to make our recycling and communal bin collections even better. Next year our communal bin review will make it even easier to recycle so that we can make further strides towards our 2030 target.

Meanwhile, thanks to significant investment, conditions on Edinburgh's roads have seen the greatest annual improvement in more than a decade, with their condition at its best level since 2011/12. We’re investing more than £20m for repairs and improvements in 2019/20, with over 100 carriageway and 50 footway surface treatments carried out and a range of schemes to enhance the network already underway – plus a further £11m on upgrading our streetlights. 

Getting around

We want Edinburgh to be pleasant, safe and accessible to get around and spend time in, which is why we’ve embarked on one of the most significant periods of transformation in generations. This is a truly radical rethink of the way we use our public spaces that addresses the twin challenges of our growing population and the urgent need to cut carbon emissions.

We’re investing, or planning to invest, over £400m in our public transport and active travel infrastructure to make it as easy as possible to leave the car at home, helping us tackle congestion and air pollution.

A ten-year City Centre Transformation strategy and delivery plan were approved in September and major projects are already underway, including the City Centre West to East Link, Meadows to George Street and West Edinburgh Link. Earlier in the summer, we were delighted to receive a further £20m from Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone fund towards our transformative reimagination of George Street and the First New Town.

With the green light given to bringing trams back to Leith and Newhaven, the project’s been progressing well since construction began in November. On completion, the route will not only provide a direct link from the north of the city to the centre and out to the airport, it will connect residents and visitors to major employment hubs along the route, as well as creating jobs during and after the project.

To me, opening up the north of the city through a well-planned and self-financing tram route really is a no-brainer. 

Building for the future 

With our city’s undoubted success come the associated pressures on our core services and on the housing market. More and more people are choosing to live and work here and, put simply, they need somewhere affordable to live.

It’s entirely right then that we committed ourselves to an ambitious target to build 20,000 affordable homes over 10 years and I’m pleased to report work is progressing well, with over 2,000 homes currently under construction on over 35 sites across the city.

Such is the success of our work to date, we’ve secured more than £20m of additional grant funding from the Scottish Government, helping towards a number of significant completions over 2019. Residents in areas including Greendykes, North Sighthill, Pennywell, Dumbryden and Royston can now look forward to enjoying their first Christmas in their new homes. Homes they can afford.

We will continue to work closely with the UK and Scottish Governments through the City Region Deal to secure more grant funding and greater certainty to deliver our building plans.

Developing the next generation

It’s been another exciting year for our school estate with our investment plans starting to bear fruit. Queensferry High and the new primary school in Broomhills will soon open their doors. Construction work is well underway on a replacement Castlebrae High School, a new St Crispin’s School and a replacement Victoria Primary School, while planning permission has been granted for a new primary in south Edinburgh.

Add to this Scottish Government funding for a new Currie Community High School and our commitment to replacing six high schools in our Wave 4 programme, it’s clear to see creating a first-class education estate for all our children is a top priority for this Administration.

We’ve also seen huge progress in delivering on our promise to upgrade our playpark facilities throughout the city. In 2019, we saw the completion of our projects in three parks – Saughton, Leith Links and West Pilton – as well as brand new equipment provided in three more – Fernieside Recreation Ground, West Meadows and Ferniehill Community Park – with work about to get underway in nine more across the city.

Improving social care

One of the key challenges facing the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board since it was established has been getting people home quickly and safely from hospital.

Thanks to significant improvements to our approach – almost halving the number of people being delayed – we have seen an improving trend against a national picture of increases across Scotland.

We have a clearly defined programme of work focused on reducing our delays further and we’re seeing those people who are waiting, being delayed for shorter periods of time and getting home - or to a homely setting – much sooner.

Sharing in our success

Looking ahead now, one of the first tasks that awaits us in the New Year will be to set a balanced three-year budget.

With the dates of the UK Government and Scottish Government budgets still to be confirmed, we won’t have as much certainty as we’d normally expect at this stage of the process.

What our residents can be certain of, however, will be our ongoing commitment to prioritising the services that matter most to them – with all decisions taken through the lenses of tackling poverty, encouraging sustainability and promoting wellbeing in communities.

This has been another hugely successful year for Edinburgh and, through our forthcoming budget decisions and everything else we do, we’re clear that all of our residents should have the opportunity to share in that success.

Season’s greetings

I’d like to close by paying tribute to the many Council colleagues who’ll be working tirelessly throughout the festive period to deliver essential core services: our social care services, keeping our roads and pavements open and making sure that the city flows as it always should. 

Wishing you all the very best for a happy and successful 2020.

Published: December 24th 2019