More than a decade of cuts and job losses has left local services in Edinburgh in a dire state. The impact has been greatest on the most vulnerable who have been at the sharp end of cuts in the social security system. The hollowing out of services has been exposed by the onset of Covid 19 with local voluntary and mutual aid groups struggling to fill gaps in basic needs. Unemployment, child poverty and mental distress has increased.
At the same time local government has become a sham. Successive administrations, Labour, SNP and Lib Dems in different combinations have pushed through cuts while focussing on Edinburgh as a city for tourism and big business. Press releases describe a policy world at odds with the lived experience of most Edinburgh residents. Couched in the language of ‘savings’, ‘inclusion’, ‘progress’, ‘just recovery’ and sustainability, they never refer to the growth in inequality that is the consequence of cuts and job losses.
Since 2012/13, Edinburgh City Council budget cuts have amounted to £320 million. At the beginning of this year it was estimated that there would be further cuts of £87.3 million by 2023. However, the Council Finance committee meeting at the end of October 2020 received a report that suggested that the cuts will be even greater. Already the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which administers integrated health and social care, has agreed cuts of £8 million.
The relentless round of cuts has not gone unopposed. Every year there has been action from community organisations and trade unions in opposition to proposed cuts. Sometimes specific cuts have been deflected but the axe has then fallen elsewhere. It would be wrong to say that people are resigned to the cuts but opposition has become defensive and almost ritual.
In the summer, under the backdrop of Covid, the inadequate local response and with more cuts being discussed, activists from the Edinburgh East and North Edinburgh Save Our Services Campaign began to discuss what is to be done. An initial meeting was organised which attracted a diverse range of union and community activists. There was a consensus that simply attempting to mitigate new cuts was no longer an option. Enough is enough. There was agreement that opposing cuts had to be part of arguing for a new approach to local authority funding and provision of jobs and services that met peoples’ needs. Reinstating services that had been lost, thinking about needs that had never been met and should be. Putting democracy at the heart of a new approach to local public provision. The group has continued to meet on a regular basis and now operates under the title of Another Edinburgh is Possible.
Another Edinburgh is Possible illuminated local and national government buildings around the city in advance of November’s Edinburgh City Council Meeting and held a protest at the City Chambers on the day of the meeting itself. It is now conducting a survey of how people feel about council services.
To find out more about the campaign email firstname.lastname@example.org