Another Edinburgh Is Possible

Gordon Munro, predicts a record breaking fourth term of prevarication, procrastination and proclamation

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£583. That’s the difference between every man, woman and child in Edinburgh and Glasgow. According to the SNP Scottish Government that is. In this year’s allocation of funding to Councils, Edinburgh was allotted £1568 per citizen and Glasgow £2151.

Of Scotland’s major cities, Edinburgh has the lowest per capita settlement for 3 years in a row - in a city where one in four children are in poverty. A city where the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) updated last year announced that in Edinburgh the Great Junction Street area was the most deprived part of the city, a real shift from other parts of the city, and the 12th most deprived in Scotland.

I know this from my work in Leith where we have child, in work, and pensioner poverty. You will know it from the street, the school, the workplace and your social circle. This is not about Edinburgh versus Glasgow this is about changing how Council’s are funded.

Council’s are funded from the Revenue grant from the Scottish Government. General Revenue Funding – so Holyrood could make a difference there.

The next source of funding is non-domestic rates from business rates collected by the city and given directly to the Scottish Government who then ‘redistribute’ it. The last source is the Council Tax.

This year the General Revenue Grant for all Scotland’s Council’s was down by 2.4% whereas the Scottish Government grant from Westminster was up by 3.1%. A choice was made by Holyrood to cut Council budgets when at a minimum it could have opted for standstill or even given the same rise it received from Westminster. Council’s have been short changed.

The next source of funding that of non-domestic rates is another area where Edinburgh is short changed. A guarantee of a floor of 85% of this funding being returned is set for all council’s as publicly stated.

Except in Edinburgh’s case that is as for the last two years it has been below that level with 79.2% the latest verifiable figure.

The laudable principle of redistribution to more deprived areas is part of the rationale behind why 100% of the rate collected is not returned, but surely when the SIMD and child poverty figures are higher here the gap between Edinburgh and Glasgow needs closed.

Where will this funding come from? Well, in 2017/18 and 2018/19 the Scottish Government accounts show that contributions from Scottish Council’s to Scottish Government saw a surplus of £156m in 17/18 and £165m in 18/19 retained by the Scottish Government. A good chunk of that will have been from Edinburgh some of which could have been used to close the gap. A choice was made and businesses have been short changed.

A change to which the SNP have committed since 2007 was to ‘scrap the unfair Council Tax’, a promise and commitment that is still to be delivered, and unlikely to be, in a record breaking 4th term.

In the first term the Tories supported the SNP budget in return for a freeze on the Council Tax and a guarantee on Police numbers. In their second term and with a majority there was pressure to deliver on their promise. Using a classic Westminster fudge technique a Commission was formed and a Report titled ‘Just Change’ issued in December 2015. Launched by the SNP Minister for Local Government Marco Biagi it presented ‘an unarguable case for change’.

That change was expected in 2016. It did not happen.

Edinburgh provides a good example of how unfair the Council Tax is and why it needs scrapped. Council Tax bands are set at property values if sold on the open market on 1st April 1991. That’s right values from last century and now 30 years old. What does this mean? It means that Band A is for properties valued under £27,000. There are garages in Leith that have sold for more than that, but for the purposes of the Council Tax their 23,667 at that value.

The majority of homes in Edinburgh are at or below Band D which is properties valued between £45,001-£58,000. Even in Gorgie you’d struggle to find homes at that price. But the real scandal of this anachronism is that there are only 3,982 properties in band H the top band, which is for properties above £212,000. In a city where the average house price according to the ESPC is £265,446.

So in a record breaking 4th term you’d expect that your Government would govern and deliver on ‘the unarguable case for change’ of its own report Just Change.

Don’t hold your breath but do expect the cuts by your council to continue in what promises to be a record breaking 4th term of prevarication, procrastination and proclamation.

Of Scotland’s major cities Edinburgh has the lowest per capita settlement for the third year in a row

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