Edinburgh councillor explains why Christmas trees remain on streets three weeks after Christmas

An Edinburgh Councillor has said that the city’s Christmas tree collection issues will continue unless a new system is put in place.

As more and more people opt to display natural Christmas trees as the centrepiece of their home, the struggle for adequate collection increases.

Stripped bare of their twinkling lights and baubles and left on the concrete, the city has become a graveyard of Christmas trees in the weeks after the festive season.

(Credit: EN4 News)

Green Councillor for Edinburgh City Centre, Claire Miller, said that the council have yet to come up with a solution.

“The reason we don’t have something better in place is budget, resources and because it is expensive to employ extra people to go out and collect [abandoned trees] across the whole city in a very short time window,” Miller told EN4 News.

According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), eight million real Christmas trees are sold in Britain each year, more than half a million are purchased in Scotland alone.

City residents have taken to social media to highlight the issue, and mourn the Christmas trees past.

According to Zero Waste Scotland, most Scottish councils offer recycling or compost services to ease the struggle of discarding the trees that aren’t put in our attic for years to come.

The City of Edinburgh Council have written a guide to easily recycling your own Christmas trees with most Household Waste Recycling Centres open seven days a week.

Miller said that she puts her Christmas tree into her garden bin and explained that the trees collected often have the same fate. “They’re used in a really sustainable way. I think what we need to be doing is making sure that all those trees are used for those kinds of purposes and that they are recycled.”

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“A city transformed” Edinburgh Council unveils radical mobility plan

Edinburgh Council has announced a 2030 vision for Edinburgh, as its new City Mobility Plan (CMP) looks to shake up transport in a quest to make the capital carbon neutral by 2030.

A three-stage plan released by the council reveals that the city will become more eco-friendly and efficient as part of its CMP. Priorities of the council include; enhancing public transport, the creation of people-friendly streets, new developments and becoming carbon neutral.

Chamber Street with ‘people friendly’ street change’s (Credit: Edinburgh Council)

The plan outlines three dates which projects are expected to be completed by. The first phase will conclude in 2022, expectations of this phase are that the tram to Newhaven which is currently under development will be largely complete. A systemic review of bus routes and times will come into place.

The introduction of a low emission zone (LEZ) which will help tackle Edinburgh’s congestion and pollution by only granting certain vehicles access to parts of the city.

The second phase in 2025 will see air pollution drop as part of the successful integration of LEZ, as bus congestion will have improved. A transit plan will have been largely agreed by this point. George Street will be completely transformed and discussions regarding Princes Street vehicle access will be addressed.

The new pedestrianised ‘George Street’ (Credit: Edinburgh Council)

 

The third phase, aptly named “A city transformed” shows that the mass tram network will have been finished. Reaching out from the airport to Newbridge, The Royal Infirmary and the waterfront in the north. The city centre “will be largely car-free, with the workplace parking levy reducing in revenue as car use to commute declines.”

Edinburgh Trams (Credit: Edinburgh Council)

And the “Waverly Masterplan” a plan to further develop Edinburgh Waverly will be fully implemented.

Speaking about the plans, Council Leader Adam McVey has said the council was making “great strides towards reducing carbon emissions” and emphasised that now was the time for bolder actions if the city was to achieve this carbon-neutral goal by 2030.

Addressing the major climate concerns Mr McVey said: “I’m confident that we’re doing the right things to help tackle the increasing threat of climate change but it’s clear that we need to act with even greater pace and urgency if we are to protect the city, while creating a greener, healthier, better-connected environment for generations to come.”

In a meeting on Thursday the Transport and Environment Committee met to discuss the draft CMP. Committee member Ian McFarlane said it was “critical that we [the committee] are radical” and that there was no option to “stand still”.

Ewan Kennedy, the Senior Manager of Transport Networks, said that Edinburgh is “undoubtedly one of the best transport cities in the country.” He further alluded to how the council needs to be proactive with the need to tackle climate change and that the committee and council were “committed” to this.

Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland, said that it was “vital” for Edinburgh to match various European capitals in its quest to reduce its emissions. Discussing the increase in pedestrian activity and the reduction of vehicle access Mr Hay said: ”Creating space by removing traffic will need further development of Edinburgh’s well-regarded bus service and more strategic tram routes. Substantial investment is needed, so new funding sources such as the workplace parking levy are vital.”

Claire Miller, Green Councillor for the Edinburgh City Centre, said that optimism is our best bet in completing plans to become carbon neutral on time.

 

The draft will go to public consultation in February for 8 weeks to further develop the CMP.

Scotland split between minimum and maximum Council Tax increase

All Scottish Councils have decided on their 2019/20 council tax increase; Edinburgh is one of 13 councils to decide on keeping a 3% increase, while those living in Midlothian will see a 4.79% increase, the largest allowed by the Scottish Government.

The 2017/18 Local Government Finance settlement included an agreement between the Scottish Government and local government for locally determined Council Tax increases to be capped at 3%. However, this has been increased to 4.79% after debate in the Scottish Parliament.

council tax

(Credit: Ryan Traynor, contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown Copyright and database right)

The split between 3% and 4.79% is relatively even. 13 areas have opted for 3% and 12 for 4.79%, with only a handful of councils choosing a rate in between.

Band D – the average housing type in Scotland – in Midlothian will have the highest increase with £60.62, taking residents’ annual bill to £1344.

Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have all opted to stay at 3%.

Reactions on social media have been mixed with some users saying they felt “betrayed” by the 4.79% maximum. Others thought that local government needed more funding, and were happy to pay more tax. More efficient spending was a concern shared by both sides.

As well as the ability to decide their council tax rates, local authorities will be able to charge a transient visitor levy and workplace parking charge.

Committee discusses draft budget ahead of deadline

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Edinburgh City Chambers (Photo credits: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

The Edinburgh Council Finance and Resources committee met today to discuss the proposed Edinburgh City council budget.

The council must make £33 million in savings next year before the draft budget can be finalised in three weeks. Areas that could be effected are nursery teachers, Council workers, community police officers and leisure with reports in recent weeks of looming job cuts for up to 300 council employees.

Last night the SNP minority government reached a deal with the Greens to get the budget through the Scottish Parliament. For Edinburgh this deal brought the cuts down from £41 million to £33 million.

Councillors are also in discussions to introduce the UK’s first overnight “Tourist Tax”.

Green Councillor for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart,Gavin Corbett, gave his thoughts on the deal and draft budget:

“It doesn’t get round the huge and difficult choices that the city council has, but if you ask me is 33 million better than 41 million of course it is.”

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Gavin Corberr, Green Councillor for Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart (Photo credits: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

Under the draft proposals £350,000 will be cut from Edinburgh Leisure and parks, museums and public toilets would all be effected.

A representative From UNISON said that the spending reductions could see 300 jobs lost a year with 1000 in total by 2022/23.

The Education Institute of Scotland (EIS) warned of a knock on effect to children’s education if full time nursery teachers are cut. Alison Murphy the EIS’s Local Association Secretary warned that Schools would be left playing catch up if early years education is disrupted. However members of the  committee were sceptical and noted that some of the best preforming councils in the country don’t have full time nursery teachers.

Labour Councillor for Portobello and Craigmillar, Maureen Child, was critical of the consultation process and felt it wan’t representative of the Edinburgh Public:

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Maureen Child, Labour Councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar (Photo credits: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

“If your looking after a vulnerable person you don’t have time to take part in consultations.

“We will have to radically change some of these services, and will have to expect more of our citizens to step up.”

City of Edinburgh Council spends £23,000 every day on expert consultants

copyright credit to Martyn Gorman.jpg

Photo credit to Martyn Gorman

Edinburgh council paid £5.6 million to consultants for the running of council services, as well as paying almost £2.8 million to experts for capital projects.

This included the project management and design of new school buildings and the Meadowbank Sports Centre.

The tram extension also received £1.5 million before the plans were given the green light by councillors.

A bonus of almost £2 million was paid to one company for helping the authority achieve savings.

The amount spent on expert consultants dropped from £9.7 million in 2016/17, but opponents have argued against the multi-million-pound price tag on outsourcing jobs.

Green Councillor Gavin Corbett said some of the reasons behind the £8.4 million spending were unclear.

He said: “The amount spent on consultancy is down a bit, which is good news.

“However, at well over £8 million, it is still a hefty budget and every single penny needs to be justified.”

He added: “A large and complex organisation like the council certainly needs outside expertise from time to time, but there is still a way to go in getting it to the right level.”

Conservatives have criticised the spending made by the SNP-Labour administration on the tram extension.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Johnston said; “While I welcome the slight reduction from the previous year, that £5 million of revenue is an awful lot when we are facing another difficult budgeting process for next year”

“It’s completely unreasonable for the council to be taking forward the next stage of the tram extension before the results of the Hardie inquiry are known. It does not make sense to be spending on it before we have a clearer picture.”

SNP Councillor Alasdair Rankin said that the council monitors the consultancy fees “to ensure we get the best value for Edinburgh’s tax payers”.

Transport Scotland Announces £12 Million Cycling Network in Edinburgh

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View from Princess Street

Plans for Multi million pound cycling and walking routes released as part of Transport Scotland’s bid to promote healthier commuting in Scotland’s busiest cities.

Two new cycling routes will be built in the capital. Half of the funding comes from government agency Transport Scotland, with Edinburgh Council footing the rest of the bill. One of the planned routes will go from the Meadows to George Street and the other from Roseburn to Edinburgh Park.

The West Edinburgh network, from Roseburn to Edinburgh park, will cost £8 million. This route takes commuters to the university campuses of Napier and Herriot Watt, passing by the Gyle Shopping and business centre and a host of local communities. These range from Stenhouse and Saughton, to Sighthill and Wester Hailes. Routes will also allow cycle access to the new housing developments in East Craigs and Cammo.

The Meadows / George Street network will cost £4.3 million, taking cyclists through Hanover Street, The Mound, Bank Street, North Bank Street, George IV Bridge and Forrest Road – linking the historic Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

Credit: Edinburgh City Council

Humza Yousaf the Scottish Transport Minister said:

“Through the Community Links Plus award people will be able to enjoy new active travel routes and, whether it is for commuting or leisure, more people across Scotland will be able to enjoy the benefits of greener and healthier modes of transport.”

Deputy director for at Sustrans Scotland, Daisy Narayanan said:

“Funding all five final projects is a bold step towards a healthier, more sustainable and vibrant Scotland which designs places around the needs of people over vehicular access.”
 The two Edinburgh routes were chosen alongside others in Glasgow, Stirling and Inverness as part of Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links Plus competition. The annual competition has offered half of the funding for all shortlisted proposals, a first in their long line of previous projects.

 

 

More public power with £1.5m towards Community Choices Fund

Kevin Stewart,

Kevin Stewart, Local Government and Housing Minister

Communities across Scotland are to benefit from £1.5 million funding which will give people more power to make decisions directly on spending in their local areas.

Targeted at work in deprived areas, community groups as well as public authorities, including local authorities, were able to apply for funding to organize their own Community Choices budgeting events.

Local Government and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Community Choices Fund offers an opportunity for decisions to be made by people in their local communities who are best placed to know what their community needs.”

The fund received over 100 applications with 16 successful community projects and 12 public authorities spanning the breadth of Scotland, including Edinburgh City Council gaining £81,895 to support events on health and hate crime.

Mr Stewart said: “It’s the commitment of this government to give communities more control to shape their futures. I am delighted to see communities applying for Community Choices funding and to read about the innovative and creative ways communities are working to address the issues that are important to the people in their community. It is also pleasing to see that we have engagement with Community Choices right across the country from Shetland to the Scottish Borders.”

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