Friday, 29 February 2008
I would not be so smug if I had had to use tactics like not sending out draft agendas, pushing through privatisation of home-care and two major consultations along with the budget, (unprecedented in many years of budget meetings to have policy papers tagged on to the budget), and having to hide behind the Lord Provosts gavel to over-come unexpected challenges in the chambers.
They may have survived the day of the budget but these things will come back to haunt them
This is great news for the Lochend YWCA as they are a hugely community based organisation doing great work providing a huge variety of activity for local people, especially women. In particular it is a much deserved accolade for Fiona who runs the cafe for her dedication and hard work sometimes in an uphill struggle.
Its the YW that I was able to start the drop in cafe for teenagers that now runs 2 nights a week and it also played host to the Lochend Food co-op which I help found. Its also was the venue for the highly successful women into work courses that I was able to find support for and had two brilliant mornings exploring political life from the womens point of view.
I am a huge fan of Fairtrade. Its amazing that from such a humble start of coffee and chocolate there are now over 3000 Fairtrade products. I remember the early years with Campaign coffee. it was foul tasting stuff sold in packets that burst really easily when you opened them and the stuff would go everywhere and was hellish to get off clothes and worktops. But we stuck with it for the cause!
Times have changes so much that when I was Executive member for Children and families I was able to arrange for every school to be provided with a Fairtrade football. Everything we do can help others if we so choose, even what we by to eat, wear or play with.
Thursday, 28 February 2008
I now know what Denis Healey meant when he said “being attacked by Geoffry Howe is like being savaged by a dead sheep”.
And I am right when I argue that Lib Dems only want to be in power, they don’t have a clue how to use power. As a consequence, in Edinburgh they have lowered themselves to the playground politics of the SNP, who are clearly now leading this Council. To say that the SNP are in charge in Edinburgh is a sad conclusion to come to but its my job to tell the truth about the administration. It was doing just that which probably led to today's personal attack and I guess that there will be more to come.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
"Community Safety officers from the City of Edinburgh Council could shortly be making history if joint patrols with Lothian and Borders Police are given the go-ahead.
If approved by the Council's Health, Social Care and Housing Committee on 4 March, the trailblazing phased initiative would see Community Safety staff being teamed with Police officers to tackle specific 'hotspot' areas for crime and antisocial behaviour.
Starting with a six month-long trial involving Environmental Wardens, this phased programme would be the first initiative of its kind in Scotland to be carried out on this scale."
It went on to say that
"The key benefits of joint patrolling include:
- Increased numbers of officers on the street
- Improved community safety
- An increased response to antisocial behaviour
- Increased public confidence
- Greater visibility of Council and Police resources
- More efficient use of resources in the tackling of common problems
- More effective partnership working at a operational level"
It concluded by saying
"Comprising 84 Council-funded police officers, the new Neighbourhood Action Units (NAUs) have replaced the existing Safer Communities Units and Youth Action Teams. Their work will be intelligence-led and will include high visibility, targeted patrols and initiatives with partner agencies such as City of Edinburgh Council Environmental Wardens. Officers from the NAUs will be on duty seven days a week. Each unit will be responsible for a specific local area and can be contacted by residents by phone or e-mail, details available at www.lbp.police.uk or look out for leaflets distributed locally".
I think this is brilliant news. See, there, I've said it. Its excellent. It was our administration that started the community wardens, the Youth action teams etc and we were heading in this direction but, credit were credit is due, this is good news for the city and I applaud it.
Shame that the Libdems voted against the levels of funding of police officers that we wanted but it is great to see them now seeing the light and overseeing an operational change that is good news to the city. So my well done is to them also. Honest!
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Still at least the Pars won and way from home too which is a wee bonus.
The administration, despite their warm words about consensus, listening and new politics refused to allow any debate other than about their own budget. We were allowed to present an alternative, which we did and you can see here
But as an alternative to the old ways we asked for the opportunity to have a debate about specific items which is allowed under the standing orders. We wanted to have a debate about ideas, not just the usual “we’ve got more than you” type discussion which gets us nowhere.
They refused. They claimed new politics but their words are empty
They claimed they would listen but they simply ignore anyone who disagrees with them
They claimed transparency bit we have been given no idea what deals were done behind the closed doors of their coalition discussions
In their defence I suppose they have been consistent in not practicing what they preached since the election but that is not a compliment.
I hesitate to cast an analogy between the trapped nerve in my neck and the administration but I am sure you get my meaning
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
I could complain about the fact that for the first time as well as a budget proposal, we are being asked to include debate on policy papers which involve major restructuring in the name of savings. I could complain that we were never given a draft agenda, as is the convention, so that we could rasie this issue before the papers went public. I could complain that one of the proposals is two pages long but could be the first step to privatising the home care service but there is so little detail its embarrassing. But I won't.
Instead I will simply suggest you read this link. Its hard evidence that what I have been saying about the concordat and the threat it brings for whole swathes of organisations dependent on public funding for their vital work in public service. Whatever the administration force through tomorrow, the road ahead under this new so called settlement for many folk is bleak and it will only get worse.
As for my first budget in opposition, well its a new experience and we have a couple of we plans to, I hope. liven things up a bit. I will report back on how successful we are.
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
I have never been a fan of the Concordat but this is madness. How can we have the discussion we need to have as a Council to ensure we are signing up to a deal that reflects our local priorities as well as the national ones in six weeks. The administration says there can be slippage until June but thatss only a possibility.
How is this devolving powers to Local Government to make its own decisions if we have to rush through what is touted as the expression of most significant change in our relationship with the Scottish Government.
This is not devolution it is centralisation and it is bad news for local democracy and ultimately the communities we represent as local politicians.
Monday, 18 February 2008
I hear also that disaffection amongst the SNP group with their leadership is growing as public performances are not what is expected nor are the SNP getting it all their own way in the budget talks, which suggests that the Libdems have more backbone than we thought, or maybe it just means neither side can make a decision.
We may be in opposition but we still have a vision for the City that reflects our values and our priorities. We left the present administration an award-winning city of low unemployment, a strong economy, clean streets, successful schools, and with a great record of investment in green spaces, roads, arts, creativity, and services for the vulnerable, the young and the old.
Our alternative budget for Edinburgh would keep that record strong and sustainable. Budgets are about choices. These would be some of our choices.
By cutting waste and reducing bureaucracy at the centre, along with careful use of the resources available, the Edinburgh Labour Budget would provide support for
Our schools, investing in our young people by:
- Preserve school based budgets, not cutting them as the LibDem/SNP administration already have
- Creating ‘School Based Trusts’ to build 5 new schools
- Increasing the money available for school building maintenance
- Increasing support for School and Pupil Councils to £100,000 , not cutting it like the LibDems/SNP
- Continued support for the Youngedinburgh programme
The vulnerable, being there for our citizens in their hour of need by:
- Investing £3m of new money for home helps and other individual care packages
- Restoring the £750,000 of cuts in home care made by the LibDem/SNP administration
- Increasing spending on young people with learning difficulties by £750,000
- Restoring cuts to the voluntary sector grants budget
- Protecting Community Learning and Development from the LibDem/SNP proposed £833,000 of cuts
Our economy, building on the 50,000 jobs we helped create in 10 years by:
- Creating a single ‘Edinburgh Bureau’ for inward investment and marketing
- Creating a ‘Princes Street Trust’ to re–invigorate shopping and bring homes into the many un-used upper floors on Princes Street
- Investing a further £20m in roads and pavements
- Investing in more affordable homes
- Restoring cuts made to supported bus services
- Investing in cycling in the city
- Investing additional money in the International Festival
- Investing in the Kings Theatre
- Refurbishing Glenogle baths
- Investing an additional £19.5m in National and Regional sports facilities and the Royal Commonwealth Pool
And much more beside… we have the vision, the political will, and we have the experience. We know what needs to be done, and how it can be done, to keep Scotland’s Capital strong and safe, caring and creative.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
My son sums it up with his view that "I get to be free there, like you are there but not watching my every move". Its true. We do feel much more able to let him and his wee pals run free there ina way we would not dream of here in the city. But that's quite sad too. Realistic but sad. Something has been lost in urban life that I doubt we will ever get back. No matter the number of police we put on the streets, or publish falling stats. that show falling crime. as it has been for years now, cities by their very nature, feel less safe and the difference between that and rural living is becoming more and more stark.
That's not to idealise the country life. This story from Orkney about car theft a few days ago suggests that some of down sides city life is impinging on the country more and more. The truth is that country living is tough in different ways and there as still many of the issues of social deprivation, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse that we presume are the source of much of the fear of crime in the cities. It just feels different up there and I hope we don't loose that.
Friday, 15 February 2008
Thursday, 14 February 2008
The Concordat has been a success but we need to do more to get the road re-instatements to the standards we all want to see. This team, paid for through the fines now available to us and based on a model devised by Devon County Council, will allow us to inspect more reinstatements and ensure that the few companies still not complying are pushed that bit harder
It is good that 1600 specific inspections will be completed this financial year along with another 1000 cores are being extracted to measure the depth of materials to ensure compliance with the standards. The pass rate for inspections has improved as has the pass rates for coring. It’s important however to keep the pressure up and so we propose to use a model developed in Devon where they use the fines from bad re-instatements to fund an inspection team. We know that progress has been made but it’s important that the citizens know that we are increasing inspections and making sure that those who don’t comply pay so the city as a whole benefits.
“England's towns and cities need more financial powers to improve local transport and housing, according to a think tank survey of business and city leaders.
The Centre for Cities (CfC) survey of council and business leaders showed overwhelming support in every English region for greater financial devolution, with only ten per cent supporting the status quo under which the majority of local funds are raised by central government”.
An interestingly different perspective from the Scottish Government who are taking away our tax raising power but more importantly tried to control what we do from the centre whilst claiming to do the very opposite
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
The first advantage of the Local Trust approach is the ability to introduce a democratic board structure which will involve the local community. Local representatives of the school board, teachers, pupils, community councils and representative neighbourhood organisations as well as local councillors would make up the majority of board members. It is important the board is not only representative – but seen to be representative - with no one organisation or group being in the majority. This arrangement will promote the principle local ownership and allow for local scrutiny at each stage of the school’s development and construction.Other individuals with specific skills and knowledge could also be invited on to the board at the discretion of nominated members. It would also be advantageous to appoint an independent chair to oversee the running of the trust, to ensure its impartiality”.
The board would be responsible for all aspects of the development of the new school. It would specifically be responsible for,
The design of the school
Ensuring the school and the wider community is consulted
Developing and submitting the planning application
Ensuring funding is in place before the start of the construction phase. Funding would be a combination of receipts from sites and developers profit from building on the site, prudential borrowing and support from the Scottish Government as a precursor to the Scottish Futures Trust”
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
What interesting for me is that on the one hand they are saying that there are no proposals for cuts to the voluntary sector and now they are saying that some of the proposals amy be accepted. So which is right. And if there are no proposals, where did the paper proposing them come from; did the officers write it without being asked, or where theyu asked to do something that was never going to be accepted. Just who is in charge here?
Monday, 11 February 2008
I have joined a new organisation that I read about in the local paper. Started by a woman called Francesca Saunders, it is called people against Litter, its a simple one with a simple challenge; to pick up one piece of litter a day. Its website asks:
Are you tired of seeing unsightly litter spoil our towns, cities and countryside? PAL is a group of people founded in Edinburgh, Scotland who are committed to trying to reduce this unsightly problem. We have a simple aim: each member picks up at least one piece of litter per week and asks another person to do the same. By word of mouth the numbers will increase and lead to an improved environment for us all. This can be done in whatever part of the world you live in or are visiting, at no personal cost. There are no fees or meetings, just an individual’s commitment to pick up at least one piece of litter per week, and if possible get one other person to do the same. It really is as simple as that!
I know the Council needs to keep upping its litter cleaning game but if we all take some responsibility for litter, both not dropping it and cleaning some of it then there is no doubt that Edinburgh would be a cleaner place. So I have joined, will you?
We need to change the retail dynamic of that section of Princes street and use the empty space above the shops to much better advantage. The problem at present is that Edinburgh’s iconic street no onger plays to its strengths. It has a brilliant view but you don’t need a view when you are selling trousers. This proposal would open access to the provision of housing and hotel space in that area. It would be a combination of high value and smaller less expensive properties which would offer another alternative to middle income families wanting to stay in the city. We can do this without having, as is being proposed, knock down huge swaths of the present buildings.
This will only happen with political direction and the use of the powers we have to garb hold of the agenda. At present, with over 130 owners, any change will be piecemeal and not take us in the direction we want to go or at the pace we want to see.
The task of the trust would be to combine the Councils CPO powers with the private investment to deliver with two main objectives
To change the use of properties from the Mound to the West end into housing (from first floor upwards) and associated retail use (ie bars,, restuarants, bistros, deli’s etc.)
To keep as many of the present buildings as possible using Partick Geddes idea of “surgical conservation”
A report to Council in June last year estimated an increases in congestion of up to 10%. Commitments were made by both Holyrood and the Council administration to act on this but I see nothing yet and so our lungs and those of our children along with our street-scape and our roads will pay the price of populism. No, today is not a happy day.
Sunday, 10 February 2008
This is based on one experience he had in Ardossan where he is Clerk to the Presbytery, which is kind of secretary to the gathering of ministers and elders who hold power in that area. Apparently he took a funeral where people made noise and didn't pay attention. This, I have to say, is not a new experience. It is simply the reality of folk struggling to cope with grief and death. It is not a reason for the church not offering to service their needs. In fact, it is all the more reason for the church to reach out to serve their needs.
In 7 years in the parish I conducted over 400 funerals, once doing 10 in 7 days and more than once doing 3 in one day. I have seen many folk act in bizarre ways around funerals. Trying to jump in the grave, answer phones in the middle of a service, hanging onto the coffin and refusing to let go, collapsing in the service, laughing out loud at things that weren't funny, drinking cheap fizzy wine at 9 am just to get them through, asking for the wildest of music, getting into fights. I even had a stabbing at the purvey and much more. I know many of my colleagues could tell of even more outlandish happenings
Thats what happens because grief is tough. But the church should not walk away from folk because grief is tough and they are struggling. Its the job of the church to stick with folk at these times, no matter their belief and whether or not those folk would ever darken a church door. Its called sacrificial service and should be the hallmark of the Christian Community.
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Meanwhile its another gubbing for the Pars going down 3-nil to Hamilton Accies. That's 8 goals they have taken off us in two games. On that form my prediction that we would “just miss out on promotion” is way off the mark
Friday, 8 February 2008
I hear is that the SNP group have been told by their Holyrood associates to go in there and bang heads together to ensure that what ever else happens, Portobello High is in the budget even if thats the only school that is funded. If it is the only school on their budget slate then we will know who really is running the coalition and its neither of the groups that purport to be in charge...
Thursday, 7 February 2008
It’s a huge achievement and whilst it may not be to everyones taste aesthetically, (I won’t say I liked it all myself), but what it will do will be to revitalise a part of Edinburgh that was in danger of missing out on the huge growth and prosperity of the City.
What is interesting is that whilst the Lib Dems actually got it right for once, my mole tells me that this issue exacerbated the splits in the SNP, especially between the populists and those who know that some decisions are not popular but need to be taken. I hear that heavy lobbying and raised voices were the order of the day.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
I am also glad because, despite my horror at many of the SNP policies, I actually think that if they can make a go of minority Government they will be doing the country a favour. I have become convinced that in a context of Proportional Representation, minority government is the only way to grasp the opportunity of new politics and if the SNP can help lead the way, it might in part anyway, make up for the damage they are inflicting on us in other ways.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
Now I have no doubt that Alex Salmond has chosen the timing of his comments very carefully and that it’s everything to do with promoting the SNP and very little to do anything else, but he is right. If he can’t get his budget through he should resign but were he to do so, it would be an act of some integrity and should be seen as such.
Monday, 4 February 2008
My New Year prediction was that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and potential Independent Presidential Candidate would stand. Why? Well because he would see that Barack Obama had captured the mood for change but wouldn’t himself be seen as able to deliver it and Hillary’s past would be seen as a more of the same to a greater extent than her gender would be a change in the White House whilst John McCain would suffer ageism and the anti republican backlash.
It seems he is still not decided but is still asking the question, but that the Super Tuesday result may have the answer for him, especially if whoever wins on the democratic side does not do so decisively.
I think his entrance would be good even though, in the end, I doubt I would have voted for him but anything that challenges the political status quo in the USA elections is a good thing.
Sunday, 3 February 2008
The answer however, is something much more radical than the 6 days of support the Tory’s are suggesting, welcome a recognition of the potential of state influence as it is. The really radical investment would be in extending both maternity and paternity leave. Other countries are much more generous and I would argue for both parents being given up to a years leave which would be taken in sections, concurrently or consecutively until the child is two.
Those that argue that the economy wouldn’t cope miss the point. Happy parents who have had the space and time to bond well with their kids make happier employees. The key years in development are the first two and the more time parents have with their kids over that period the better the bond and so the child's development. Better balanced kids make better citizens and so we all benefit. It is an investment in the long term for all of us.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
I’m told that the Holyrood SNP group have demanded that Portobello HS be “de-coupled” from the other wave three schools (wonder how that will go down with the Libdems who have a big stake in James Gillespies and Boroughmuir in their own patch). They have also accused the Libdem leadership of "havering" when they say there is not enough money for new schools. On this one, I am with the Libdems as there is no money for new schools.
Most interesting is the news that members of the SNP Holyrod group were heard to say that if the Council SNP group don’t “get their act together” members the Holyrood group will be come in and “knock heads together”.
All good knock about stuff then... or is it “welcome to the realities of power" where the shallowness of being a one trick party, free of anything resembling politcial principles or philosphy other than "we only do good news" is not a lot of good when it comes to making tough decisions.
Friday, 1 February 2008
He talked of his anger at the opposition still from some to the "Zero Hunger" programme. "How can they object to a programme that puts food in the mouths of children?" But they do so, he went on to explain, because by its very nature it challenges the system. The Zero hunger programme is not about aid. It gives animals, equipment and support so families can provide for themselves, so they have no need to become cheap labour for some-one elses products. More than that, it is essentially egalitarian saying that all should have some before we see if some can have more. The trouble is, he said, they suffer from the "threat of a good idea!"
I could have listened to him for hours
2nd Wed @ Craigentinny Community Centre, Loaning Rd.
3rd Wed @ Duddingston Primary School, Duddingston Rd.
All 7:15pm -7:45pm
and the last Sat. Lochend YWCA, 198 Restalrig Road South
(no appointment needed, all during school terms)