Drastic cuts to Edinburgh front-line services to pay for Labour-LibDem tram project

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TWO of Scotland’s leading economists warn that Edinburgh council’s decision to continue the tram project may well result in cuts in social care and education because the council’s plans to raise money for the project are unrealistic.

So far £461m has already been spent of the original £500 million allotted for the trams project but the council’s vote means that another £273m has to be found.

Professor Arthur Midwinter of Edinburgh University Business School believes Edinburgh council’s plans to raise a further £173 million are packed full of questionable assumptions and risks. Professor Midwinter believes it’s not at all evident how the £173 million is to be funded without drastic front-line services cuts.

Glasgow University Business School’s Professor Ronald MacDonald’s view is that drastic cuts in frontline services would probably be necessary to pay for the trams fiasco. He is concerned that the LibDem/Labour council decision to proceed with the trams project only highlights the lack of transparency in the spending process and underscores that there is little evidence a proper cost-benefit analysis had been carried out.

The comments were made after Edinburgh City Council discussed a number of different ways to fund the extra money needed, including one plan based on a Government scheme yet to be introduced. Edinburgh council thus suggests £600m has been been identified of the total £773m needed.

At Thursday’s council meeting the 16-strong LibDems beat Labour’s plan to go only as far as Haymarket, which got 15 votes. The city council has until September to find the £273m while also facing continued legal action from contractors Bilfinger Berger and Siemens.