Edinburgh to freeze council tax and give iPads to school pupils

Council tax is set to freeze and every secondary school pupil in Edinburgh will receive an iPad for home learning as part of an ambitious budget put forward by Edinburgh City Council.

The coronavirus pandemic, and a reduction in income, is expected to cost the council £85m – but despite this, the council is set to post a balanced budget, with the help of additional Scottish Government funding and use of the council’s reserves.

The council was previously considering raising council tax to 4.79% – but has now accepted a £9m grant from the Scottish Government in order to keep the tax at current levels.

However, the grant has left the council £5.2m worse off, as the 4.79% rise would have netted the local authority £14.2m.ADVERT

Part of the council’s budget for 2021/22 will include:

  • Allocating £150,000 to freeze fees and charges on school meals, care at home provision and library charges, targeted at helping low-income families
  • Spending £400,000 on homelessness support and advice
  • Spending £500,000 on hitting the city’s environmental targets
  • And £250,000 to target short term lets through a licensing scheme and enforcement action

Edinburgh City Council has also announced plans to provide every secondary school pupil in the capital with an internet-enabled iPad, as part of a £8m boost for the council’s digital learning scheme.

The council has already bought around 6,000 iPads for pupils, but will spend £2m a year over the next four years buying devices for 39,000 school pupils. The iPads will come with internet access built-in, so families without internet access will benefit.

SNP convener of the finance committee, and councillor for Leith Walk, Rob Munn, said: “The backdrop of this budget is Covid – no one had any concept of what the scale and impact of this would be, and we’ve been dealing with that ever since.

“The coalition has tried to look to our principles that brought us together in coalition, which is how to address poverty, sustainability and the wellbeing of the city.

“We’re putting in £150,000 to freeze fees and charges, that’s targeted at poverty, at encapsulating people who may be in poverty.”

Labour vice convener of the finance committee, and councillor for Craigentinny and Duddingston, Joan Griffiths, said: “We have had decades of underfunding and this year with the pandemic we got some of our costs back – but we still had a £40m gap.

“Despite that, we have managed to have a balanced budget this year. We welcome any money that comes in for the council – so when we got some additional money we were able to start looking at our priorities, which are poverty, sustainability and well-being, and what we could do to assist our citizens.

“People are really struggling – there’s people who have been furloughed, there’s people who have lost their jobs – so we really want to assist our citizens.

“One of the things we’re doing is the £2m for digital learning – our youngsters really struggled over the last month, trying to do home learning, not everyone had iPads, not everyone had an individual device, so as a council we see that as quite a priority.”

Story by local democracy reporter Joseph Anderson