Sunday, August 28, 2011

Willie Rennie calls for trams rethink

I had a bit of an intemperate rant about Edinburgh City Council's decision, brought about by Labour and Tories siding together while the SNP sheepishly sat on their hands, to terminate the trams line at Haymarket,. As an aside, it really annoys me that journalists are writing that the line will go from the airport to Haymarket. Actually, it'll go from a terminus that is about as close to the  airport as Kensington Palace is to Downing Street. People will need further transport to get to the airport with all their bags. 
Scottish Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie has made some sensible interventions in this over the weekend.
On Friday, he asked the City of Edinburgh Council to review the decision, saying:
"I am deeply concerned that Labour and Conservatives on the council are making a difficult situation worse by combining forces to agree the shorter but more expensive Haymarket option for the trams. This will cost the taxpayers of Edinburgh an extra £6 million each and every year as the Haymarket option will make big losses as a opposed the profitable St. Andrews Square option.   That £6 million bill could result in higher council tax or cuts to schools and social services.
“The SNP group are right to criticise the more expensive Labour and Conservative Haymarket option but if they feel so strongly they should now join with the Liberal Democrats and Greens on the Council to reverse the decision.“By continuing to opt out they will be supporting the decision to waste £6 million every year.  Their referendum proposal has been rejected by the council on every single occasion it has been debated so now the SNP need to choose - are they prepared to shirk on the sidelines or stop Labour and the Conservatives wasting £6million every year?
“I want the council to meet again to revisit the decision – and soon.”

Over the weekend, he's asked John Swinney to intervene as the Council's decision may mean that the project doesn't qualify for the remaining £60 million of Scottish Government investment.

If the line went to the city centre, it would make a profit, thus creating £2.20 for every £1 of public money put in. The Haymarket option actually gives back less money than is put in, making the investment a massive waste of money.

Willie Rennie said:

“The Scottish Government will not want to fund this loss making and low benefit to cost ratio scheme.
 "The Scottish Government should intervene now before it's too late. Their action could help stop the Haymarket scheme and resurrect the profitable St. Andrews Square option. "The Scottish Government must now follow through on their statement yesterday and review the decision made by the council, so that the council can revisit the flawed decision made on Thursday and resurrect the profitable St Andrews Square option. “We now need to see decisive action from the Scottish Government to save this project.” 
If John Swinney were to tell the City of Edinburgh Council - and his own councillors in particular, that there would be no Scottish Government investment if the line did not go to St Andrew's Square, then that would put a great deal of pressure on the Council to reverse the barmy decision it made on Thursday.

Personally, I think Willie has been too easy on the SNP. They are supposed to be running Edinburgh with due responsibility and financial care. How that squares with how they just opted out of the decision on Thursday I can't see. There comes a point where they have to start behaving like grown ups. You expect Labour and the Tories to pull opportunistic stunts like this but parties in administration should have more sense.

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