Monday, September 26, 2016

Sustainable Cities Index

A new report, published last week by Arcadis, looks at an overall 'sustainability index' for the world's 100 leading cities ... Edinburgh features strongly, and I'll replicate some of the headline-text below, with some associated links:

Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index

"Cities are under pressure from all angles; some pressures are easily forecasted while others are more difficult to predict. Balancing the immediate needs of today without compromising the demands of tomorrow is at the heart of sustainability, and of this report. The 2016 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index ranks 100 global cities on three dimensions, or pillars, of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit. These represent social, environmental and economic sustainability to offer an indicative picture of the health and wealth of cities for the present and the future.
Well-established European cities dominate the top of the overall ranking making up 16 of the top 20 positions. They are joined by the advanced Asian cities of Singapore (in second place), Seoul (7th) and Hong Kong (16th) as well as Australia’s capital, Canberra (18th). Cities around the world are living at extremes, not balancing these pillars of sustainability. While taking the lead in some areas, cities often sit lower in one area of sustainability. How can cities do more to ensure that as they develop and implement strategies and policies to address the considerable challenges they face - from environmental to socio-economic – they do so in a way that puts people first and at the forefront of their sustainability?"

Sustainable Cities Index 2016 ranks 100 of the world’s leading cities

sustainable cities index 2016 - overall index rankings - arcadisCities around the world are struggling to achieve a balance in the three pillars of sustainability

The 'Arcadis' published study Sustainable Cities Index 2016, compiled by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), ranks 100 of the world’s leading cities. 

Zurich,Singapore and Stockholm are on the top of the overall Sustainable Cities Index.

Edinburgh features at 13th in the world.


- overall index rankings 2016 (Arcadis)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Allotment Strategy – Public Consultation

I don't routinely replicate internal, Councillor Briefings here on the blog - but this one is *most* important ;-)

If you've an interest in Allotments, please do take part in the consultation which now runs through until 18th October ... full details follow:

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Councillor Briefing – Edinburgh’s 3rd Allotment Strategy – Public Consultation

The City of Edinburgh Council produced its first allotment strategy “Cultivating Communities” in 2002.  This was followed by “Cultivating Communities – A Growing Challenge” in 2009.  Our third strategy, “Cultivating Communities - A Growing Success” continues the themes of its predecessors and aims to provide a strategic approach to the planning and management of allotments for the next 10 years and contains a 5 year Implementation Plan.

Over the duration on the last strategy (2011 – 2015) a further 11 sites were developed at Kirkliston, Albert Street, Inchkeith, India Place, Hawkhill / Nisbet, Drumbrae, Baronscourt, Prestonfield, Northfield Drive, Dumbryden and Victoria Park, as well as extending allotments at Stenhouse.   There are currently a total of 44 sites in Edinburgh, all with varying size plots.   A Council Allotment Officer is responsible for the majority of these sites.  In total there are now 1,724 allotment plots (Table 1) of which, the Council directly manages 1,488 plots.

Demand for allotments while now stabilised continues to be high with approximate 2,500 current waiting list applicants.

The draft strategy has been released for consultation and focuses on 4 objectives:
- Adequate provision
- Robust management
- Improved customer experience
- Adoption of revised regulations.

Consultation on the new strategy began on the 20-Sep-16 and will run until 18-Oct-16 with responses being reviewed during this period.  It would be our intention to report the new Allotment Strategy to the Council’s Environment Committee in January 2017.

The following provides a link to the public consultation on the draft strategy:

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Friday, September 16, 2016

September Leader's Report

September 2016

Celebrate the Great

Andrew Burns
It's not often you get the chance to rub shoulders with Olympic and Paralympic stars, so do please make sure you get Wednesday 28 September in your diary.

That's when the public will get the unique opportunity to meet our Scottish heroes after all their outstanding sporting achievements in Rio.

The Council has held very positive discussions with sportscotland over the best way of allowing the public to celebrate the athletes' medal successes and an event (still in the planning) in Festival Square promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So don't miss this amazing chance to take photos and mix with your sporting stars; hotfoot it to Festival Square between 3pm and 4pm on 28 September to meet your Rio heroes and show your appreciation for all their efforts.

Keep your eye on the Council website and local press forfurther event details.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh
Council

Keeping Edinburgh Clean

Edinburgh is one of the world's most beautiful cities and I know all of us want to live in a place where the streets are kept as clean as possible and waste is disposed of responsibly.

Our staff worked extremely hard at Festival time to keep the city litter-free and our specially branded Our Edinburgh bins collected 60% more litter during August, showing that the public are definitely doing their bit to help Edinburgh look her best.

Refuse collection is another major priority as we strive to recycle more and send far less to landfill. Every year we carry out over 26 million waste collections, the vast majority of which happen without any issue. However it is only right we constantly review and make improvements to our services as we have done in recent years.

There has been increased recycling (now almost 45%) and a corresponding drop of 10% in the amount of waste ending up as landfill, which saves us £84.40 in landfill tax per tonne - or £1m a year! We've also invested in new vehicles, implemented daily bin collections, extended communal bins, rolled out food waste collections and trialled new technology, such as sensors on litter bins to monitor how full they are.


A warm Edinburgh welcome for Syrian refugees

Nobody could fail to be moved by the plight of the millions of Syrian refugees forced to flee their war-torn homeland and last year the Council was delighted to sign up to the Scottish Government's response to the refugee crisis.

I'm delighted that we have met our target of welcoming 100 refugees to the Capital within the first year of the relocation. Kindness and generosity are part of the DNA of this city and residents have extended a sincere and heartfelt welcome that does us all proud.

The Council is committed to building on the success of our Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme and we look forward to working with the Scottish and UK governments to ensure the continued resettlement and successful integration of refugees in Edinburgh.


Saying no to cold callers

Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes but sadly there's a minority of pretty unscrupulous people out there who prey on the most vulnerable in our society.

That's why it's fantastic news that we've now established more than 100 special 'no cold calling zones' across Edinburgh to help stamp out doorstep crime. These zones give communities a strong voice against bogus callers and rogue traders and empower residents with the confidence to say no to unwanted callers.

Cold callers can often be a precursor to doorstep crime so the Council's Trading Standards team work very closely with Police Scotland to combat the problem. An incredible 100% of residents in existing zones are satisfied with the measures and 92% have noticed a drop in cold callers - proof that No Cold Calling Zones are having the desired effect.


Encouraging signs for Edinburgh's air quality

Tackling air pollution is a major challenge for all urban authorities. Here in Edinburgh we're acutely aware of the issue and work extremely hard towards improving air quality and making the city a cleaner, greener place for everyone.

While we certainly can't be complacent, early nitrogen dioxide data for 2016 from our fixed monitoring sites do prove satisfying reading, with emissions down a full third at St John's Road and more than a fifth at the Newbridge Roundabout.

It's tricky to pinpoint all the factors contributing to this fall in emissions, but it seems likely that the wide range of actions we're taking to improve air quality - such as our £200,000 investment upgrading the traffic signals to reduce queuing at Newbridge - could be starting to bear fruit. I know every effort is being made to ensure this positive trend continues.


Calling all community champions

It's elections time again! We're looking for people from all over Edinburgh who care about their community to put themselves forward as potential community council members.

Community councils play a really important role in the life of this fine city and they're a great way for people to help shape their local community and make a real difference to their neighbourhood.

If you think this sounds like your cup of tea, don't delay - nominations close on 26 September! Candidates must be 16 or over and registered to vote. Nomination forms can be found on the Council's website.


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September Full Council Meeting

September's Full Council Meetings is now fast approaching - takes place at 10am next Thursday (22nd) ...

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and each of the individual reports separately via this link.

Of course - as ever, if you're so minded - you can watch all the proceedings live here ...


... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Community Council elections - nominations open on Monday


Call for nominations for community council elections


Nominations for Edinburgh’s community councils will open on Monday 5 September 2016.
The Council is calling on people passionate about their area to play an active role and through local engagement help to build consensus on key issues.

Community councils give local residents the opportunity to influence what happens in their area  - members get involved in a wide range of activities, comment on planning and licensing applications, take part in community campaigns and work with others to improve the local area.

Community councils are made up of local residents and community groups such as youth forums, parent councils and student bodies. Each one is represented on the Neighbourhood Partnership for the area, where they work with local elected members, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Lothian and the voluntary sector to identify and deliver local priorities.

Meetings are held usually once a month and members get involved in a wide range of issues. Recent activities include successfully lobbying to increase the frequency of a bus service, setting up a book festival and delivering an annual health fair.

Cllr Maureen Child, Communities and Neighbourhoods Committee Convener, said: "Democracy is a powerful force at all levels. By joining your local community council you can make a real difference to your neighbourhood, meet new people, learn new skills and take action on issues raised by local residents.”

“We are looking for people of all ages and from all walks of life to get involved.  Ideas, energy and enthusiasm are welcomed and the Council will provide support to get the best from being a community council member. I’d like to encourage anyone who’s interested in local democracy to get involved – be part of something great.”

People aged 16 years or older and are registered to vote can join. The nomination period for the community council elections runs from Monday 5 September to Monday 26 September 2016. Elections, where required, will take place on Thursday 27 October 2016. You can apply as an individual or as a local interest group, such as a Parent Council, Friends of Parks or sports club.

Nomination forms will be available from 5 September 2016 on the City of Edinburgh Council’s website.

You can find information on each individual community council, including maps, on the Neighbourhood Partnership website(external link), telephone 0131 469 3838 or email community.councils@edinburgh.gov.uk

Thursday, September 01, 2016

September's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

All of the Reports are now published for September's "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee; it meets at 10am, next Tuesday 6th September.

The relevant paperwork is now in the public domain: a full set of Reports and the main Agenda can be found here.

And individual Reports can also be accessed via Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) as linked from here.

Some of the Reports that may well be of interest:


And, of course, as usual the "Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee" meetings are all webcast live - and thereafter archived!

All available via here --- it's TV; but possibly not like you've ever seen before ;-)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Edinburgh's newest allotment site


Great to see - especially as an 'Allotmenteer' myself - some new allotments being opened in the City ...

... relevant News Release available here, and I'll simply cut-and-paste the main text below as well:



Cutting the ribbon on Edinburgh's newest allotment site


Edinburgh’s newest allotments have been officially opened on the site of a former bowling green in Leith.
Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, was joined by members of theFederation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Garden Associations(external link) (FEDEGA),Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society(external link) (SAGS), community councils and plot holders to mark the event at Victoria Park on Wednesday (31 August).
 
The area was transformed earlier this year after a local consultation found that some form of community garden would be welcomed on the site of one of the bowling greens, which was deemed as under-used.
 
There are now 16 ‘mini’ allotments on site, along with a toilet and communal storage unit, plus a community plot for use by pupils of the neighbouring Trinity Academy, encouraging education in food growing, biodiversity and nature.
 
Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “We have worked closely with the local community to ensure the redevelopment of this site benefits as many people as possible.
 
“I am delighted to see the allotment plots are already well used, and that the garden is helping to teach local young people more about sustainable food growing and nature.
 
“I look forward to  seeing the positive impact that other projects to transform underused bowling greens have had.”
 
In 2014 it was proposed to redevelop a number of Council-managed bowling greens due to a significant drop in users over previous years. Other bowling greens have since been turned into tennis and petanque courts, growing areas and in one case a school playing field.
 
Victoria Park allotments, which came into use earlier this year, have been designed to be easily accessible for people of all abilities, and were offered to both local residents and those on the Council’s allotment waiting list. 
 
The facility cost £50k to develop, funded by the Council’s Parks and Greenspace Department, and has been created to be in-keeping with the surrounding environment. 
 
Find out more about Council allotments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August Leader's Report

August 2016

Exam results success

Andrew Burns
Congratulations to all those pupils who were successful in their exams this year. Once again, the city achieved record results - testament to the commitment of our teaching staff and hard work put in by pupils that results have yet again exceeded expectations.

A total of 39,884 results were awarded for 8,007 candidates in more than 80 subjects, ranging from Accounting to Urdu. Of particular strength is the success of pupils by the end of S5 and S6, where strong levels of attainment have either been maintained or improved at all stages.

I wish every success to those young people who are embarking on the next stage of life's journey whether that is at university, college or in work. Well done to you all!

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh
Council

Back to school - on time

I'm delighted that all schools affected by recent closures have now reopened in time for the start of the new term. It has undoubtedly been a very difficult few months for everyone affected by the closures and thanks must go to parents, staff and pupils for their understanding and patience.

The revised exam arrangements, in particular, worked well and (as above) all five affected high schools saw improvements in their results - in common with other schools unaffected by the closures.

We pressed the Edinburgh Schools Partnership to ensure the schools opened on schedule so I'm pleased we have achieved this. All the relevant safety paperwork has been published on our website having been reviewed by an independent expert on behalf of the Council.

Now we must establish what went wrong when these schools were built. The independent inquiry, being led by respected construction and procurement industry expert John Cole, has already started and my intention is for it to be completed by the end of the year with a full report coming back for councillors to consider.


Reducing speed, increasing safety

On 31 July, the Capital became Scotland's first 20mph city, with the lower speed limit coming into effect in the first phase - Zone 1 - of a citywide rollout. Streets across rural west Edinburgh and the city centre are now 20mph, with key arterial routes in the zone retained at 30 or 40mph.

Edinburgh is following several European and UK cities in bringing traffic speeds down. Slower speeds encourage better sharing of road space, encourage active travel, make us feel happier spending time in an area and - most importantly of all - they greatly reduce the risk of being fatally injured if hit by a vehicle.

While around half of our city was already 20mph, as a driver and cyclist myself, I know it'll undoubtedly take time before it becomes second nature for people to go more slowly in the new zones. A map of the 20mph network and implementation timetable is available on our website.


Edinburgh workforce top of the class

The percentage of the Edinburgh workforce with a degree level qualification or equivalent is higher than any other major UK city and has risen again, to 55%. This has gone up from 46% in 2013.

This is one of the many facts about the city in our latest Edinburgh by Numbers, published at the end of last month. Edinburgh also continues to be the most prosperous city outside London and has created more jobs through foreign direct investment than any other major UK city outside London.

The document also highlights that more waste was recycled in Edinburgh from April 2013 to March 2015 than any other major Scottish city and that almost two-thirds (65%) of people in Edinburgh use the internet on the move.


Another exceptional August

Here we are almost 70 years on from the first Edinburgh Festival and, once again, thousands of performers, directors, artists and producers are in residence making some of the best creative work in the world. And, if the early signs are to be believed, August 2016 is set to be one of the most inventive and successful yet.

The tourism benefits are, of course, huge. We know the festivals position the city as a leading international destination but this year's Impact Study proves 94% of people believe the festivals make Edinburgh a special city.

Re-affirming our position as the World's Festival City, the research also proves festival events support the equivalent of 5,660 full time jobs and generate a massive economic impact of £280m locally and £313m in Scotland. A truly exceptional performance.


Award recognises Council's caring side

This month we were proud to receive 'Carer Positive-Engaged' status, something which recognises the work we do here at the Council to support those who provide unpaid care to an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner.

With people working later in life and our population getting older, it's inevitable that more of our employees will become carers at some point. Those who provide unpaid care play such an important role in society and, indeed, the lives of the people they care for, so it is essential that we recognise their needs.

By working closely with employees to ensure a flexible atmosphere, the necessary leave and to provide information and support where needed, I am certain that we will create a comfortable and productive workplace for everyone.


Arise, Lord McInnes

My fellow councillor, Mark McInnes, was appointed to the House of Lords in the outgoing Prime Minister's Dissolution Honours List.

While I tend to take the old-fashioned, democratic view that the Second Chamber of the United Kingdom should be elected by the people and am not a fan of the discretionary honours system, on a personal level, I do want to pass on my congratulations to Mark on being awarded the peerage.

I've been on the Council at the same time as Mark for over a decade and I've no doubt that he'll take an effective approach to robustly scrutinising legislation in the House of Lords.


My final term

Finally, readers may well already be aware that I confirmed this week I don't intend to stand for potential re-election next May. I have published a personal blog-post explaining my decision.

I simply want to focus on other (non-political) interests in the next few years of my life. Nothing more, nothing less. It's an entirely personal decision.

Of course, I will continue to fulfil the duties in my role as Council Leader - to the best of my ability - right through until next May. Back in 2012 I committed to a five-year term, and I intend to complete that term and finish the work that both myself, and the current Coalition, have a mandate to deliver upon.


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August Full Council Meeting

Edinburgh schools are now back, and the summer-recess is over ...

... so, the August Full Council Meetings is now approaching - takes place at 10am this Thursday (25th) ...

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and each of the individual reports separately via this link.

Of course - as ever, if you're so minded - you can watch all the proceedings live here ...


... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thank You Edinburgh

... and with huge thanks, in particular, to the residents and voters of what was the 'Moat Ward' between 1999 and 2007; and subsequently the 'Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Ward'; between 2007 and 2017; for electing me on four consecutive occasions. 

It's been the political, and professional, privilege of my life to represent those local Edinburgh residents for nearly two decades now.

Nothing I've done in my life beforehand, and I'm sure nothing that I'll do with my life in the future; will match the hugely enriching local experiences I've had over those two decades. 

But today, I'm confirming that I won't be putting my name forward for a fifth consecutive occasion, and thus will not be standing for potential re-election in 2017. 

As those close to me know full well - I'm not someone who has ever envisaged my whole working life being in politics --- indeed, for well over a decade from the mid-1980's and into the 1990's, I worked in a variety of private sector environments and it wasn't until relatively late ... at 35-years of age ... that I entered front-line politics; first being elected in 1999.

I'll thus be 53-years of age in a few months time; and would be - if successfully re-elected - over 58-years of age at the end of the next Council-term in 2022 ... 

... and I'm sure it won't come as a shock to close friends, family and colleagues; when I simply say I want to now move on; to focus on a different phase in my life. A phase that once again will not involve front-line politics, in any shape or form - whatsoever

And as my family and friends also know ... whilst I can indeed be a political-anorak of the highest order, I do also maintain a wide and diverse range of personal interests outside of formal politics. Indeed, I like to think that that breadth of outside interests has helped to keep my feet on-the-ground in recent years, and also enabled me to keep my political-roles in some sort of perspective. 

And I simply now want to focus on some of those personal interests in the next few years of my life. Nothing more, nothing less

But I will always be grateful for the privilege of being in Elected Office over these last near, two-decades. Since first being elected in 1999, I've been witness to the complete transformation of politics in the UK - I think for the better - it's a subject I've blogged about before - see here in particular.

And obviously, the specific privilege of being the Council Leader, of the Capital City, of my home-Country, for the last 4-years, has been something I will always cherish. 

In those 4-years, as Council Leader, I've experienced a pace of political events that's been somewhat breathtaking ... here is a short list of the most obvious:
  • forming the only, two-Party, Labour/SNP Coalition, in the whole of Scottish Local Government, after the May 2012 Local Elections 
  • it still is the only such local Coalition 
  • and doing so from, and after, being in Opposition for only one term 
  • openly publishing a new 'Contract with the Capital'; and putting those local Coalition pledges, and their independent monitoring, into the public domain 
  • instigating the open webcasting of the vast majority of all Council Meetings 
  • then successfully seeing a new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a Ward by-election in June 2013 
  • seeing through a European Election in June of 2014 
  • working through the Scottish Referendum in the September of 2014 
  • quickly followed by the UK General Election of May 2015 
  • successfully seeing another new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a second Ward by-election in September 2015 
  • then the Holyrood Parliament Elections of May 2016 
  • that all quickly followed by the European Referendum in June 2016 
  • and throughout all of that, leading the local Labour/SNP Coalition and running the Capital City, with three different SNP Group Leaders (thus three different Council Deputy Leaders) within that 4-year period! 

Now, not for one second would I claim that policy and delivery mistakes haven't been made - of course they have; both collectively and personally ... and it would be wholly wrong of me to personally assess our overall political performance - that is most certainly a task for others to do, in due course. 

But, I am personally proud of the last 4-years ... and when it comes to local policy delivery, all I would ask is for a relevant amount of focus to be paid to, for example
  • Educational attainment for all our students 
  • Transport-mode usage figures 
  • Particularly, growth in cycling spend and general usage
  • Economic performance statistics; specifically local employment figures
  • The overall quantum of Social Care being delivered 'at home' 
  • 'Edinburgh Festivals' growth and success over recent years
  • The number of 'Housing completions' in recent years
  • The localised delivery of Services and Budgets, to communities 
  • Not to mention delivery of the Living Wage and settlement of Equal Pay issues

... to mention but a few areas.

And for more than these last 4-years; I have actually been the local Labour Group Leader for over 8-years now ... and I am unreservedly proud of being re-elected as such, at 9 consecutive Labour Group AGM's. I am extremely grateful for the trust, support, help and assistance; given by all of my Elected Labour-colleagues over those years.

I'm also very proud of the various Election Agent (and other) roles that I've undertaken for my Party at both Westminster and Holyrood levels since 1999.

And beyond the Capital City, it has also been a huge privilege - over recent years - to Chair both:

Of course, in my role as Edinburgh Council Leader, I will continue to fulfil all of these duties - to the very best of my abilities - right through until the first Thursday in May of next year.

Back in May 2012 I committed to a five-year term, and I intend to complete that term as Council Leader and finish the work that both myself, and the current Coalition, have a mandate to deliver upon.

I will not though be seeking re-selection this Autumn, and will not thus be a candidate in next year's Local Government Elections.

And most importantly of all - as I referenced at the start of this post - it really needs no repetition; but the biggest privilege has been serving local Edinburgh residents, at a Ward level, for coming up on 18-years now. 

I will be forever grateful for the opportunities this most beautiful City, and its wonderful local residents, have given me. 

So yes indeed ... Thank You Edinburgh.