AT the third of our #TwililghtTalks on Tuesday, with representatives of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, three candidates who are currently councillors put forward the Conservative approach to Edinburgh’s Third Sector and responded to a range of issues raised by Third Sector representatives present.
Looking forward to the Council Elections on Thursday 3rd May EVOC published last October the Edinburgh Third Sector Manifesto on behalf of the Edinburgh Third Sector Interface. The series of #TwilightTalks takes forward this work – offering an opportunity for candidates to respond to the challenges within the Manifesto and to ‘set out their stall’ with a Third Sector audience.
On Tuesday 20th March EVOC played host to a panel of three Conservative Councillors – Cameron Rose, Elaine Aitken and group leader Jeremy Balfour.
EVOC Director Ella Simpson welcomed the candidates and invited them to respond to the key challenges within the Third Sector Manifesto.
To recap: Challenges for Candidates from our Manifesto include the following.
- Be Bold – Provide the leadership we deserve. Design and commission services for community benefit;
- Put ‘addressing inequalities’ front and centre of all your policies and strategies;
- Trust the Third Sector’s knowledge, skills and ability;
- Be true to the spirit and reality of Co-Production;
- Focus on increasing fair employment for all;
- Consider the limits of competitive tendering.
Leader of the Conservative Group on the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Jeremy Balfour responded on behalf of the panel. He began by reassuring us that what the candidates heard that evening would influence their thinking over the next five-year term. The Conservative manifesto was nearing completion, we heard, and we will be looking for evidence that an open airing of Third Sector issues will have influenced the party’s thinking.
Cllr Balfour went on to outline the three key points that would shape the party’s approach to Edinburgh’s Third Sector: Zero-based budgeting, Three-year funding, and a Senior Third Sector Champion.
This would mean that Local Authority spending would follow more clearly priorities shared across the whole Council, that Council-funded Third Sector organisations could depend on three-year funding agreements, and that a senior politician (possibly the Deputy Leader or the Deputy Provost) would become a ‘champion’ for the city’s Third Sector and – we were told – a ‘gatekeeper.’ [N.B. the word ‘Czar’ was Not mentioned even once!]
The first questions from the audience centred around the contentious question of Competitive Tendering. It was put to the panel that the Competitive Tendering approach to funding forced service-delivering organisations to cut costs and that services suffered as a result.
Cllr Cameron Rose said that the Conservatives were committed to Competitive Tendering in principle, but recognised that the practice had gone ‘off the rails.’ Cllr Balfour was keen to put his view that competitive tendering helped to deliver Value for Money and that the approach encouraged Third Sector organisations to work cooperatively together.
Although it was clear that there were differences, Cllr Balfour suggested that the party and the Third Sector could disagree ‘as friends.’
The last word from the Conservative Group leader was positive and encouraging. ‘Let’s meet more often,’ he suggested – ‘not just once every five years!’
If you’d like to see what’s in the party’s Edinburgh Manifesto, visit the Local Government pages of the Scottish Conservatives’ website.
Now past the half-way mark in our series of Twilight Talks, we look forward to welcoming the Liberal Democrats next Tuesday, and the Scottish National Party at the final Twilight Talks event on Tuesday 3rd April. For details of the programme and of how to book places, visit EVOC’s Events pages.
If you are not able to attend, or would like to follow the discussion from afar, we will continue to tweet live using the hashtag #TwilightTalks. You can also use that hashtag to tweet us your questions or comments to put to party representatives on the following two Tuesdays.