Too many people feel their local council is unaccountable and doesn’t listen to them. It’s time we put Power In Your Hands. East Lothian Greens welcome the steps that have been taken in setting up Area Partnerships, which help decide how small sums of money are spent but we believe much more can be done, including the strengthening of community councils. We want to see participatory budgeting, so everyone gets a real say in how council funds are spent. We want to see versions of the popular Leith Decides model rolled out to East Lothian’s six council ward areas. We also want to see East Lothian Council meetings webcast to make councillors more accountable.
Budget & Council Tax
For years, East Lothian Council’s budget has been unfairly squeezed by the Scottish Government, harming local services. The additional £2.9million secured for East Lothian’s 2017-18 budget by Green MSPs has helped shelve many planned cuts but we must go further and invest in services following years of cutbacks and as demand for services grows.
We believe the Council Tax is discredited and must go. There is an opportunity for political parties to co-operate to find a replacement that is sustainable and fair. In the meantime, Green councillors in East Lothian will look carefully at each year’s budget to decide how best to improve and protect local services.
Education & Childcare
Cuts to education services, particularly Additional Support Needs, have been harmful to our schools. Greens believe more investment is needed at nursery, primary and secondary levels in full-time teaching staff, assistants and supply teachers, to ease workloads and give teachers time to teach. We want more pupil and parent involvement in decisions that affect our schools, and greater links with regional employers, colleges and universities.
East Lothian Greens support the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign, which aims to ensure that all schools offer an LGBTI+ inclusive education.
We also support the Scottish Youth Parliament's Speak Your Mind campaign, which aims to increase young people’s awareness and understanding of the issues associated with mental health.
We believe parents and pupils should have representation on the council’s education committee.
We will encourage greater links between the community and Queen Margaret University to make the most of East Lothian’s seat of higher education.
The proposed expansion of childcare also presents a challenge in terms of facilities and staff and Greens are committed to finding constructive ways to meet this challenge, as affordable, flexible childcare opens up opportunities for employment and learning.
Health & Social Care
Reducing health inequalities in East Lothian is vital, and greater preventative spending would achieve this. It is essential that we make homes warm and energy efficient, protect green spaces, improve rates of pay and build better walking and cycling infrastructure.
Ensuring adequate pay and staffing in social care is essential as we cater for an ageing population with complex care needs. Making care home and care-at-home packages available is key to reducing pressures on acute NHS services. We must ensure that older people are not left stuck in hospital care because of a lack of appropriate options in the community. Greens on East Lothian Council will advocate for more community driven resources, particularly secure funding for day centres and more responsive and robust packages of care. Greens will actively support a dementia friendly East Lothian. Greens will advocate for new housing developments to integrate housing to meet the needs for older people.
We will also encourage collaboration with neighbouring councils to minimise travel for social care employees.
Greens believe housing should be genuinely affordable for all. For too many people, owning a house is unaffordable and renting isn’t any easier. Greens on East Lothian Council will push much harder for more affordable homes within proposed developments and encourage publicly-built homes for low cost ownership and rent. Greens believe vacant and derelict land should be taxed to provide funds for additional housing.
We will also encourage self-builds.
East Lothian has been a testing ground for the Westminster government’s new Universal Credit. Understandably, it has been branded a bad joke by Musselburgh Citizens Advice staff. Far too many people in need of support have been left without, and as a result rent arrears have spiralled. Green councillors on East Lothian Council will be a strong voice for social justice, the restoration of dignity to our social security system, and adequate support for citizens, council staff and agencies such as CAB.
Culture & Leisure
Our libraries, museums and sports centres are seen as a soft option when it comes to cuts but Greens believe access to culture and leisure services is vital for equality. Where buildings have fallen behind the times, we must see investment to provide modern facilities that help develop and active and learning culture in our communities. Greens will be a strong voice against library cuts and closures and will champion high quality, affordable sports and recreation facilities.
We will help promote East Lothian festivals and work with local communities to deliver community-led projects. We will help East Lothian build on its reputation and as a food and drink destination.
The best way to reduce energy bills is to reduce demand. Green councillors will encourage East Lothian to explore ways of generating energy from renewable resources such as hydro, solar and wind so that the benefit of such energy is harnessed for the public good. We will oppose any attempt to allow unconventional oil and gas drilling, such as fracking, coal-bed methane or underground coal gasification.
East Lothian’s licensing board has ignored its own alcohol over-provision policy, which is designed to protect public health. Well-run community pubs and restaurants have a positive role to play in our culture and economy; however the proliferation of supermarkets and shops selling cheap alcohol, especially in deprived areas, is causing concern for public health professionals and should be addressed.
The power to shape development needs to lie in community hands . East Lothian Greens successfully updated Scottish Green Party policy to endorse a multi-criteria approach to planning, so communities decide what is important to them before any planning applications are assessed. The saga over the Cockenzie power station site is an example of how the current developer-led approach to planning fails our communities.
East Lothian has huge potential for jobs and prosperity with the expansion of sectors such as food and drink, creative and digital, construction and manufacturing. Green councillors will champion support for micro, small and medium sized businesses. We will encourage incentives for town centre retail to ensure money spent here circulates here. We will encourage sustainable businesses to relocate here to broaden our business base and help reduce commuting into Edinburgh. With a potential £1billion City Region Deal for Edinburgh and the Lothians, we will advocate investment that reduces inequality and improves sustainability.
Countryside Service & Parks
Public parks, beaches and the great outdoors are a hugely important to quality of life and education in East Lothian. Cuts to this department must be repaired so that communities can enjoy and appreciate their natural and landscaped environment. The loss of biodiversity, wildlife and habitats impoverishes us all. East Lothian is proud to have many protected and special sites. We must steward them well for our future heritage.
Green councillors support Local Nature Reserve status for Levenhall Links & Lagoons.
Transport & Connectivity
Local rail services are over capacity and Green councillors will strengthen the voice of communities in getting longer, more reliable trains. We also want to see East Linton railway station re-opened as soon as possible and support investigations into the possibility of re-opening the branch line to Haddington.
Rural bus services deserve protection. Low emissions from transport through Musselburgh town centre should be a priority, with support for bus operators who improve their fleet and a pro-active approach needed from environmental health officers on private car and HGV emissions.
Green councillors believe in investment in cycling and walking and will push for a greater proportion of the council’s transport budget to be spent on dedicated infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities, both within towns and between rural communities. For example, we support efforts to create a dedicated walking and cycling path between Gullane and Drem.
Roll-out of rural broadband, given its economic and social benefits, will be a priority for Green councillors.
Research by the Scottish Greens shows that East Lothian Council has over £300million of debts with the UK Treasury and private banks, and it spends a third of the money raised in Council Tax each year trying to pay off these loans. Greens believe councils should be focused on using revenue to fund local services and these debts should be written off or at the very least renegotiated.
Greens will work constructively with others on East Lothian Council to improve the lives of the citizens of East Lothian. Too often we hear debates over vital services descending into unhelpful wars of words. Whatever the result of the May 2017 election, we will seek to serve the people we represent and bring together others on the Council to achieve a fairer, greener East Lothian.