20 per cent rise in Edinburgh city centre parking charges likely

Thursday February 15th 2024

Edinburgh Parkign Charge

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Edinburgh is set for a 20 per cent rise in city centre parking charges and a freeze on council tax if budget plans tabled by the local authority’s administration are passed next week.

The Labour group is also proposing to increase council tenants’ rent by seven per cent and allocate more funding for public toilets, city parks and improvements to pavements and active travel.

However cuts are unlikely to be avoided in efforts to balance the books – with job vacancies set to be left unfilled and spending on agency workers who help deliver front-line services slashed in a bid to save cash.

And with just 12 out of 63 elected members, the minority administration will still need to make compromises with other political groups in the city chambers to get their budget over the line, after failing to do so last year.

Any additional demands by opposition councillors could force finance chiefs to dip into reserve funding, it was warned.

Council leader Cammy Day said he would accept the £16.1m being offered by the Scottish Government to freeze council tax “because if we didn’t accept that we would be having to put up council tax an even higher amount”.

He said he would “much rather” be given that funding while maintaining the ability to increase council tax, but the government had “forced” him into making a decision between the two.

The Scottish Government said £114m shared between all councils would fund a 5 per cent freeze, however Cllr Day said due to a reduction in the block grant Edinburgh would be left £1.5m short through the scheme.

The council leader said the capital was “already around £500 underfunded per person” as the “lowest funded council in Scotland”.

He said it was “regrettable” parking charges around the city centre would increase by 20 per cent – after motorists were slapped with the same hike last year – but stressed it was one of the only ways the council can raise additional income.

“If you have to drive in the city centre then I think you’ll need to accept that you’ll have to pay higher charges for that,” he said.

But he acknowledged with his administration’s transport policies discouraging people from driving into the city centre and hundreds of parking spaces set to be removed by the George Street pedestrianisation scheme that this income could not be relied on forever.

“Officers are already looking at how we balance that reduced income from parking in the budget going forward because it raises a lot of money,” Cllr Day said. “I’d like to hope people start using the bus and trams more which will increase their profitability which will mean the council will get a dividend again.”

The administration’s plans for the council’s billion-pound budget for 2024/25 also includes £100k for community projects which lost out on funding recently from the authority’s connected communities programme; £600k to improve biodiversity in parks and greenspaces by replacing diesel generators with electric ones; £750k to set up temporary loos at Leith Links, the Meadows and Inverleith Park again this summer, and £750k for flood prevention projects.

Cllr Day said there are also plans to invest £12.5m every year for next three years in “more pavement streetscapes, lighting, roads and active travel-related work”.

To achieve savings the council “won’t recruit and fill posts as quickly as we’d like to” while being “tougher on allowing the appointment of agency workers” but not for social care services.

In addition, contributions to the council’s pension fund will be reduced “with no impact on the beneficiaries” – a move he described as a “godsend” which would save £16m next year but only as a “one year solution”.

He added: “We will by next week, by the time we’ve had time to negotiate with opposition groups, the slippage to accept anything else will be difficult and if there are additional demands put on the council we will have to dip into the council’s reserves this year.

“I think this year, as with most local authorities across Scotland, we’ll be dipping into the council’s unallocated reserves. This is as a result of being the lowest-funded council in Scotland.”

Housing convener Jane Meagher said the administration had settled on a seven per cent rent rise for tenants for 10 years. She said this would get the council’s housebuilding and home insulation programme back on track.

She said: “That will give us an additional 12,400 homes that meet the Scottish Government’s environmental standards and it would also give us 3,560 social rented homes.”

She added: “Around about 75 per cent of our tenants get their rent paid through the benefits system and consequently any increase in their rent is covered through that system.

“That means we’ve got a remainder of people for whom that is not the case. We introduced the tenant hardship fund and that is for those tenants for whom any increase would really put them over the edge in terms of their domestic finances. We’re increasing that fund to match what we anticipate to be the demand as a consequence of a rent rise.”

The council will meet to set its 2024/25 budget on Thursday, February 22.

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