City teachers face axe despite 'universal concern among headteachers'
Plus: Record road repairs; concern for bank HQ; and Lyceum's 'terrific' Jekyll & Hyde
Teachers and teaching assistants hired to tackle post-Covid attainment gap targeted in cuts
Dozens of teachers and teaching assistants who help pupils struggling in the wake of the pandemic are facing the axe as part of £50m in council cuts.
The city council has identified £8.2m in savings from school budgets in order to bridge an overall gap of around £50m in its £1.3bn budget. That will mean losing some of the specialist ‘transition’ teachers, who help pupils make the step from primary to secondary school, and teaching assistants working in primary one and two classes.
The Scottish Government has provided extra funding for these posts over the last three years to support pupils who have fallen behind during and after the pandemic. Despite ongoing concern about the extent of the post-Covid attainment gap, the city council says it can no longer afford to fund these posts in the face of wider budget pressures.
Headteachers’ fears: City headteachers are particularly concerned about losing the transition teachers. A report by council officials to the city’s education committee states: “These staff are highly regarded as providing the bridge between cluster primary and secondary schools, ensuring that the curriculum continues across sectors at appropriate levels (no repetition of learning, and support for vulnerable learners). There is universal concern among headteachers at the proposal to remove them, however, they are additional and therefore cannot be protected when there are no other options available.”
Parents protest: The parent councils at Trinity, Bruntsfield and Stockbridge Primaries will join the EIS teaching union to protest against the cuts at a meeting of the council’s education committee tomorrow. A letter to councillors from Trinity’s parent council warns the move will exacerbate existing staffing problems, stating: “The recruitment and retention of teachers and school staff is at an all-time low.”
Desperate time: Labour councillor Joan Griffiths, the city’s education convener, stressed no final decision had been made on the officers’ proposals, saying: “The very fact that we’re even considering these savings shows just how desperate our financial situation is and how difficult our budget decisions will be next month.”
YOUR EDINBURGH BRIEFING
ART BOOST: Plans to create a “world-class” home for more than 120,000 art treasures in Edinburgh have received a boost with the Scottish Government pledging £9million, the Scotsman reports. It is expected that the commitment will help leverage other funding for the National Galleries of Scotland’s The Art Works project, which in turn is seen as a key part of the ongoing £1.3 billion West Granton regeneration. It is hoped work on a combined archive, conservation and research facilitity and visitor attraction will get underway this year.
POTHOLE BLACKHOLE: Sticking with the funding crisis in public services, the city council is on course to repair a record amount of road surface by the end of the financial year, after doubling spending on roads and pavements. Yes, it is hard to believe, but independent auditors have said the overall condition of the city’s roads is improving, albeit from a low base. The bad news is they also say the city will have to continue spending an extra £8-10m a year just to avoid the state of our streets deteriorating again.
NEW FESTIVAL RITUAL: Creative producer Katy Fuller is promising a “visually stunning” opening for the Edinburgh International Festival after being hired to create a “new ritual involving more than 10,000 people”. Her appointment comes thanks to a new Festival sponsorship deal struck with The Macallan. Fuller created well-received “acts of wanton wonder” in various venues across Hull for a mass participation event called Land of Green Ginger to celebrate its time as UK City of Culture.
TOURIST TAX ‘BANDING’: SNP Ministers are said to be actively considering changing its tourist tax legislation to include council tax-style banding with different levels of charge for different types of accommodation. The SNP’s Green coalition partners are pushing for change believing a flat rate charge for every visitor is regressive, reports the Sunday Herald. The city council is advocating a percentage charge which offers an alternative way of making the charge ‘fair’ without the extra bureaucracy involved in a banding system.
HARRY’S HIGH JINKS: Harry Styles proved he can give Bart Simpson a run for his money during a stay at the Caley for his record-breaking concert at Murrayfield. The As It Was singer revealed in an interview that he booked into the Caledonian under the name ‘Oliver Sudden’ to raise a laugh and put any paparazzi off his trail.
PILOT ON TASER CHARGE: A pilot has been arrested and a trans-Atlantic flight cancelled after a taser device was reportedly found during a search at Edinburgh Airport on Saturday morning. A 56-year-old man has been charged with firearm offences following the cancellation of the 9.25am United Airlines flight from Edinburgh to Newark.
TALKING OF CHARGES… Council leader Cammy Day has said another rise in parking charges is on the cards a year after they were increased by 20%. The Labour councillor said it was one of the measures being considered to help balance the books at the local authority.
AND MORE CHARGES (THIS TIME FOR SECOND HOMES)… A double council tax charge for the city’s 1700 second homes, which is expected to generate an additional £3.2 million, is set to be approved by councillors. The Finance and Resources Committee, which meets on Thursday, will decide whether to bring in the charge from 1 April. It is part of a range of measures designed to bring housing back into greater use and follows enabling legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament.
NEW HARBOUR HOMES: A new development of 118 homes within the Western Harbour development could be purchased by City of Edinburgh Council if agreed by the Finance and Resources committee on Thursday. The £30m purchase is subject to gaining almost £10million from the Scottish Government Affordable Housing Supply Programme, and the homes - due for completion in 2025 - are part of a wider masterplan to create 1600 new homes in the area. The city needs between 36,000 and 52,000 new homes between 2021 to 2040; between 24,000 to 35,000 of these homes need to be affordable.
SEWAGE SCANDAL: Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and Edinburgh Western MSP, has repeated calls for the Scottish Government to upgrade the city’s sewage network and ban discharges into bathing waters. He highlighted the 14,000 recorded sewage discharges across Scotland in 2022 alone. The Inquirer revealed last year that the Water of Leith is one of the worst affected rivers in Scotland for sewage dumping.
CONCRETE COSTS: The cost of tackling problems posed by Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in Edinburgh’s council buildings, including schools, is being worked up by the city council. To date, almost £2million has been committed in terms of the essential surveying and initial remediation works, with a further £15 million of roof replacement and repair work required at a number of buildings over the next four years. Longer term costs are to be identified and budgeted later, the city’s Finance and Resources Committee will hear on Thursday.
Concern over future of Edinburgh’s supermarket banking headquarters
Concerns are being raised around jobs in Edinburgh’s financial sector as both Sainsbury’s Bank and Tesco Bank look to reduce or offload their banking operations.
Both supermarket banks are headquartered in Edinburgh, providing many hundreds of jobs. Many big retailers, including the two supermarket giants, entered financial services in the lending boom of the 1990s, but it is not their core business and the current fierce competition in the financial sector has left smaller, non-niche banks struggling to compete.
Sainsbury’s has announced it intends to wind down its banking division in “a phased withdrawal” but said the bank’s 2 million customers would see no immediate changes. Products and services look likely to be outsourced to third-party providers.
The supermarket has said that following a strategic review it intends to focus on retail. The company offered no time frame, and said it planned “business as usual for now.”
However, the company has also reportedly signed a 10-year-lease for a new 19,332 sq ft office on the fourth floor of Parabola Capital’s 1 New Park Square in Edinburgh Park. A significant downsize from the entire 80,000 sq ft of nearby 3 Lochside Avenue they took on a 10-year-lease in 2014.
Retail trade union Usdaw represents members working in Sainsbury’s Bank, and National Officer for the union, Bally Auluk, said members were concerned and confirmed he was seeking clarification meetings with the business.
Meantime, Tesco Bank is reported to be looking to sell its banking business with speculation surrounding possible bidders including HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds. The bank has around 5 million customers and 3500 staff.
SUCCESS STRAIGHT-UP: Edinburgh-based vertical farming technology company Intelligent Growth Solutions enjoyed a noteworthy few days. First, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, officially declared the company’s engineering innovation centre in Inverkeithing open, and the following day saw the announcement of securing £22.5 million in funding for global expansion, driven by existing investors. The investment comes after IGS announced at COP28 last month that it would be joining Dubai-based partner ReFarm to build a 900,000 square foot 'GigaFarm' in the United Arab Emirates, capable of replacing 1% of food imports.
INNOVATION UNDERWAY: The £40 million build of the Edinburgh Innovation Hub is expected to get underway within weeks after HERON Bros was awarded the contract. The joint venture between East Lothian Council and Queen Margaret University, will look to capture, support, and grow innovation-led enterprise. It will offer laboratory, office, meeting and conference spaces for high-growth small-to-medium sized enteprises. The venture is supported by £28.6 million from the UK Government, £1.4 million from the Scottish Government, and £10 million from East Lothian Council as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
HOUSE SHUT: The tough trading conditions continue for our retail businesses. House, a home accessories store in Easter Road, has announced on social media that it will be closing its doors on February 25th.
IMPROVED CONFIDENCE: Retailers and other consumer businesses in Edinburgh will be hoping for better to come, and the Gfk Consumer Confidence index due on Friday may hold a clue for the coming year. Recent months have seen slow but steady improvement in consumer confidence, with last month showing modest improvement despite flat economic growth and reduced disposable income. While sentiment is still negative overall, last month’s headline figure of -22 showed a reasonable leap from the depressed -29 reported in December 2022. Progress of a kind.
‘TERRIFIC’ THEATRE: You’ve got until Saturday to catch Forbes Masson’s star turn as Jekyll & Hyde in Gary McNair’s inventive adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic at the Lyceum. Among the positive reviews has been one from a master of Edinburgh-based thrillers, Ian Rankin tweeted his approval: “Terrific reimagining with a touch of humour and a twist I didn’t see coming…”
PAOLOZZI AT 100: Eduardo Paolozzi, born in Edinburgh in 1924, was brought up in an ice-cream shop run by his Italian immigrant parents. Celebrate the centenary of this most prolific and irrepressibly creative pop artist with a fizzing exhibition of his collages, ceramics and screen prints in his home city. Highlights include his Mickey tapestry made with Dovecot Tapestry Studio and graphic and gold ceramic plate collaborations designed with Wedgwood. Paolozzi at 100 opens on Saturday at the National Galleries’ Modern Two and runs until April 21.
RESPECTABLE IN THE 80S: Fans of 1980s music are spoilt for choice on Friday when ambient heroes The Orb appear at La Belle Angele and Fife’s finest The Skids take to the stage at The Queen’s Hall. Just remember, your old tie-die t-shirts will only be appropriate for one of them!
IT’S A SIN: Scottish chef Tomás Gormley is to open Cardinal, an intimate, fine-dining restaurant on Eyre Place, with a modern tasting menu focusing on fermentation and cooking over fire using a bespoke wood-fired barbecue. The celebrated chef - formerly of Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, 21212 and Le Roi Fou - plans to offer a 13-course tasting menu highlighting the best of Scotland’s natural larder. Talking about his first solo venture, Gormley, who launched Michelin-starred Heron in Leith and Skua in Stockbridge with business partner Sam Yorke, said: “Expect a lot of the same energy you experience at Skua, just in a longer, more detailed tasting menu format”.
FIT FOR THE ROYS: Three things seemed to strike The Times on a visit to the new W Hotel in the St James Quarter: the opulence - “Succession has nothing on this” - the views and the high number of locals checking out what all the fuss is about. For the newspaper’s writer Gabriella Bennett, the bar was the star, however. “This is where the W really comes into its own: set on floor 11, with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows, the W lounge captures Edinburgh’s star attractions at every turn.”
EMPIRES BUILDING: A Turkish restaurant opened its doors in St Mary’s Street at the weekend. Empires Restaurant offers Turkish Mezes from 3pm – 11pm every day in what they call a “bohemian ambience.”
CAFE CLOSURE: A popular vegan cafe in Edinburgh's Easter Road has announced its closure. Despite being busy Plant Bae, which sold sandwiches, toasties and pastries and vegan brownies, blamed issues with the lease, lack of space and long hours for the decision to shut. However, the owners said they were working on a new concept they hoped to open elsewhere in the area.