Committee Conveners and Vice Conveners set out their key priorities for 2021.
Council Leader Adam McVey and Depute Leader Cammy Day:
Our first and most pressing task in 2021 is to continue to steer Edinburgh through and – hopefully sooner rather than later - out of the global Covid19 pandemic. There’s no doubt these past nine months have been unbelievably challenging for all of us, and especially so for anyone who’s sadly lost a loved one during the crisis.
As we work with organisations and communities right across the city to help Edinburgh navigate whatever comes next, we’re clear that ‘back to normal’ won’t be good enough – we need to build back better, following the key principles of the Edinburgh 2050 City Vision to achieve a thriving, welcoming, pioneering and fair Capital for now and for future generations.
Our work will be guided and shaped by our core priorities of tackling poverty and inequality, boosting sustainability and promoting wellbeing. We’ll push on with implementing our 10-year End Poverty in Edinburgh plan as well as our Net Zero 2030 ambitions. 2021 is going to be a major and defining year for this incredible city and we’re determined to do Edinburgh proud.
Cllr Rob Munn and Cllr Joan Griffiths, Finance and Resources Convener and Vice Convener:
Our main focus for 2021 is to take the carefully considered decisions about where to prioritise spending for the Council over the next three years and setting a balanced budget that protects our most vulnerable citizens and helps our communities to recover from the pandemic. At the same time, we want to continue to deliver high quality services for Edinburgh.
Our budget process is, as ever, informed by direct feedback from the people of Edinburgh on which services they want to see prioritised and we’re very grateful to the 2000+ people who responded to our budget engagement survey before Christmas. This feedback is invaluable, especially given the exceptionally challenging year 2020 was and the impact that Covid19 has had and will continue to have for us all. It’s crucial we understand how people’s lives have been affected by the impact of the pandemic on our services as we work to steer the Capital towards a sustainable recovery.
Finally, the Council’s core priorities of addressing poverty and inequality, improving sustainability and tackling climate change as well as enhancing wellbeing, based on what people told us was most important to them, will remain at the heart of our budget setting for 2021 and beyond.
Education, Children & Families Convener Cllr Ian Perry and Vice Convener Cllr Alison Dickie:
The ongoing pandemic is having a devastating impact on us all and 2021 will still provide challenges for our education system and young people but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I have to pay tribute to all our dedicated teaching staff and young people who are showing amazing resilience in these challenging times. Even though there will be no exams this year our school staff will ensure pupils get the best teaching possible for their assessments. Our Edinburgh Learns plan will position education as the lever for a fairer, healthier and greener future. The support for our vulnerable young people, especially our Looked After Children, will continue to be a priority.
Our plans to create the very best learning environment for young people will continue with our £500m planned investment over the next 10 years for an ambitious new school building programme with Frogston Primary, Victoria Primary, St Crispin’s opening this year and the new Castlebrae Community Campus in early 2022.
The investment also includes new nurseries with more Forest Kindergartens opening up this month and we’ll be meeting the Scottish Government’s target of 1140 funded early learning and childcare by August this year.
Transport and Environment Vice Convener Cllr Karen Doran:
The events of 2020 have had an unparalleled impact on so many aspects of our lives. How we move around our city has of course been greatly affected.
During lockdown, roads emptied and travel by bike, foot and wheels surged. Our Spaces for People measures saw people take up cycling or walking where they might previously have driven, and we want to keep this momentum up.
In 2021, development of major plans, including the draft City Mobility Plan and Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, will revolutionise the way we interact with the city. Construction will begin on schemes like City Centre West to East Link and design will continue on several exciting projects to improve cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
We’ll move closer to introducing a Low Emissions Zone and Electric Vehicle charging network while Trams to Newhaven will begin to take shape, alongside our excellent existing bus and tram services.
I know we’re on the right track for a sustainable, inclusive, carbon-neutral future for Edinburgh, and 2021 will help get us there.
Councillors Kate Campbell and Mandy Watt, Convener and Vice Convener for Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work:
In 2021, we will build more good quality, energy efficient, affordable homes. They’ll be good places to live, within strong communities. Our new and existing tenants will get the best service possible from us as their landlord; and we’ll make sure our tenants, especially those who may be struggling with the impacts of Covid-19, get the support they need.
We’ll continue work to improve temporary accommodation, reach out to our most vulnerable citizens, prevent homelessness whenever possible and make sure people are able to access the right support when and where they need it.
We want to help our economy to build back better and stronger, putting fair work and sustainability at the heart of our strategy to rebuild. We’ll do that by supporting businesses and, with a view to the long term, we’ll work towards building a wellbeing economy based on good jobs, job security and career progression.
We’ll begin by expanding our existing employability services so that people facing barriers to employment are supported to find work, learn new skills and gain confidence.
Culture and Communities Convener Cllr Donald Wilson and Vice Convener Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan:
We think it would be an understatement to say 2020 was extremely tough for the culture sector. As we look ahead to 2021 we will be doing all we can not just to survive, but to come back better than ever.
Our vibrant cultural heritage and festivals offering is at the heart of what makes Edinburgh unique and we are committed to supporting the sector’s return and future. The return of live audiences next year will be crucial to this recovery. The cultural sector makes a huge contribution to our economy and the quality of life of our communities.
We have made a start though with the City Art Centre reopening in September and we very much look forward to the reopening our other Museums and Galleries as well as opening our doors for performances at the Usher Hall.
So, in 2021, we’ll continue to fight for what we believe in: that it is the city’s duty to continue to nurture Edinburgh’s creative heart. Not just for the huge contributions to our economy but also to the lives of our citizens.
[The above pieces were also published in the January edition of the Edinburgh Reporter newspaper.]