I completely share your frustration and anger at what's happened to this project over recent years.
But I can only ask you look at all the background reports on the options that were before us at the last Council meeting - the risks associated with pressing on to St. Andrew Square (just now) were monumental and would have seen the Council's debt levels rise to over £1.5billion, requiring over 11% of our annual revenue budget to service that in interest payments alone every year. In addition, cancelling the project would cost the Council hundreds of millions.
Frankly, in the current economic climate, we simply could not support the St. Andrew Square option. It would have meant £15.3million of Council-Tax Payers money being spent on tram interest payments every year for 30-years, instead of on Education, Social Work, Parks, Libraries and all the other services the Council delivers.
We thus considered the Haymarket option was preferable. It was the lesser of several evils that were before us.
We have received a very high level of representations urging that the project budget 'not be extended' simply by dependence on the Council Tax Payer, and at the expense of other Council Services.
We will look at what has changed at the meeting on Friday and base our decision on the information that we are presented with.
Councillor Angela Blacklock
Leith Walk Ward – Labour
I note your preference for a cancellation of the project but will be honest and say that I cannot support a cancellation at this stage, after so much has been spent. I would prefer to spend some more and have something to show for it, rather than cancel the project and still have to find more than £100M to cover all the cancellation costs and refunds of developer contributions. I know that prudential borrowing would commit the council to significant repayments for around 30 years but we would then have a tram line running into the city centre and I hope this will make plans for the extension to the original Newhaven destination all the more possible.
As you rightly point out, I have received a significant number of emails from people still wishing to cancel the project at this stage, but I can honestly say this is closely matched by the emails I receive supporting the St Andrews Square option. Those people are either supporters of the project and accept this as step 1 towards the full line to Newhaven, or are from people who are not particular fans of the scheme but would rather see something for the £700M than nothing.
Would I have started the project knowing what I know now? Perhaps not, but I do have to make a judgement based on where we are today, and as I did with residents who contacted me prior to the June Council meeting, I have been honest in saying I just cannot agree with the rationale behind cancellation at this stage.
When there are different views it is not always easy to reach a decision and whichever way I (and the group) go, some will be satisfied and some will not. I appreciate my response is not necessarily what you want, but I want to be honest about where I stand on this with you, and give a direct reply.
Cllr Louise Lang
Liberal Democrat for Leith Walk ward
Vice-convenor, Regulatory Committee