Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Further rise in tram passenger journeys

Edinburgh’s tram system is continuing to perform ahead of expectations, new figures released yesterday (23rd January) have revealed ...

... half a million more passenger journeys were made on the hugely successful network last year, delivering year on year growth of 10%.

Total passenger journeys for 2016 stood at 5.6 million journeys and Edinburgh Trams General Manager Lea Harrison said: “We are continuing to perform way ahead of our business model targets and we’re absolutely delighted to be able to demonstrate that both the people of Edinburgh and visitors to the city are using our services in such significant numbers.

“The tram has now firmly established itself as a major part of the city’s public transport infrastructure and, as we continue to make service improvements we hope to attract even more customers in the future.”

In order to meet customer demand, a new enhanced service pattern was introduced at the start of the year with trams now running from every 7 minutes throughout the day, including weekends.

Mr Harrison added: “Our customers want more services, more often, so we’re now running extra trams. It is further evidence of the rapid progress the system has made since its launch at the end of May 2014.”

George Lowder, Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said: “Edinburgh Trams has demonstrated another strong performance in 2016, proving that it is a key part of Edinburgh’s integrated transport network. These results are very encouraging. The growth in patronage shows an increase in people using public transport who previously were not.

"2016 was a year of service enhancements introducing faster, more frequent, services and the hard work undertaken by Lea and the Team at Edinburgh Trams has paid off with this positive result.”

Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “These are fantastic figures, showing that trams are continuing to build on their success as an important part of the Capital’s growing public transport offer. With the outstanding 97% passenger satisfaction results from the most recent survey, Edinburgh Trams have a great deal to be proud of – congratulations to everyone there, and keep up the good work!”

Transport Vice Convener Councillor Adam McVey said: “Edinburgh Trams are going from strength to strength, performing ahead of targets and adapting and evolving their service to meet their customers’ needs. This welcome increase in passenger journeys shows the continued – and growing – appeal of public transport to residents, commuters and visitors as a way of getting around and exploring Edinburgh.”

(News release issued today by Edinburgh Trams)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Votes at 16 for upcoming Local Council Elections

I've got a short piece in the local Newspaper today, on the issue of 'Votes at 16' - for those interested, I'll reproduce the main text below ...

Votes at 16 good for local democracy

On Thursday 4th May this year, 16 and 17 year-olds will be able to vote in Local Council elections for the first time here in Scotland. Personally, I very warmly welcome this extension of the electoral franchise.

Evidence from the 2014 referendum, here in Scotland, shows that 16 and 17-year-olds had a higher turnout rate (75%), than those aged 18 to 24, and even those aged 25 to 34. And academics have also demonstrated that voting is habitual; one of the best predictors of non-voting is not having voted in the first election for which you were of age. 

And in a time of declining turnout, it’s right that politicians from across the political spectrum should get behind measures to boost the rate of first-time and habitual voting, encouraging more citizens to elect their representatives and to hold politicians to account.

So yes, I do welcome the fact that in June 2015, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a law to let 16 and 17 year-olds vote in all future Local Elections. No Political Party argued against it, and we should all be doing everything we can, between now and May, to promote as high a participation rate as possible.

This is a positive challenge for us all to embrace – as individuals, as Political Parties, for schools – to equip our younger citizens with the tools and the knowhow to get informed and to get involved.

And Scotland is by no means alone, or the first, to extend the franchise in this way. 16 and 17 year-olds can already vote in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey; while Wales is considering similar measures to those of Scotland. In fact, those elections where 16 and 17 year-olds are not yet allowed to vote (most notably Westminster general elections) are looking increasingly isolated.

But like all potential voters, 16 and 17 year-olds do need to be on the Electoral Register, and I would strongly encourage those who will be eligible to vote to check that they are duly registered. It’s very easy to do – it literally takes only a few minutes by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote ; and you have until Monday 17th April to register, which will then enable you to vote in the Council Elections on Thursday 4th May 2017.

Votes at 16 – combined with balanced high-quality citizenship education – will better nurture tomorrow’s voters, activists and politicians, and contribute greatly to building a better local democracy.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader, City of Edinburgh Council

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Leader's Report

January 2017

2050 Edinburgh City Vision

Andrew Burns
Since the launch of the 2050 Edinburgh City Vision project last September, we have had a fantastic response from individuals and businesses on the type of city we want Edinburgh to be in the future.

This isn't a Council vision, but a vision for the city. Council officers' role is to facilitate and support this conversation. We asked three simple questions: What is great about Edinburgh now? What could be better? What should the city be like in the year 2050?

From the responses we have had to date, four key themes have emerged: that Edinburgh in 2050 should be CONNECTED, INSPIRED, FAIR and THRIVING. How does that feel to you; does it resonate with your view of Edinburgh?

We still want to hear your thoughts and ideas so if you haven't already, please have your say at edinburgh.org/2050 and on social media using #Edinburgh2050.
 Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh



Positive progress for Waste Action Plan 


I was delighted to see progress being made to improve our Waste and Cleansing service, thanks to a comprehensive action plan developed by staff in the department.

Since its launch in November, the Waste and Cleansing Improvement Plan has seen a reduction in missed collections and an increase in street cleansing enquiries addressed within timescale.

While these results are promising, there is still a long way to go, and we're really focusing our resources to achieve outstanding actions. What's more, the successful Our Edinburgh campaign will continue to roll out across the city, tackling anti-social behaviour like fly-tipping and litter-dropping by generating pride in our surroundings.

The initiative has already seen a 52% rise in the amount of litter binned in the Grassmarket in its first phase and, in its second, exposed more than 50% of Leith Walk businesses who do not properly dispose of their waste.


Lights, camera, action. visitors! 


"Edinburgh seems to have been built as a film set" - or so said Capital-born cinema legend Sir Sean Connery. And with the hotly anticipated world premiere of T2 Trainspotting happening right here this coming weekend, Edinburgh's stealing the limelight on the big screen once again.

As a resident, it's very exciting seeing your own city on the silver screen, or to catch a glimpse of actors and extras in costume ready to shoot scenes for hit historical drama Outlander - as I and many of my colleagues have done on our way to work recently!

Having top movies and TV programmes filmed here is also a huge draw for visitors, and Edinburgh is fast becoming a must-visit 'set-jetting' destination - testament to our commitment to making the Capital as 'film-friendly' as possible.

With the prospect of another major comic book blockbuster joining the hundreds of movies and programmes shot in Edinburgh each year, it's clear our great city's decision to become one of the first UK cities to adopt a Film Charter was clearly a wise one.


Air Quality: a challenge for us all 


Poor air quality is one of the biggest challenges all cities face - and Edinburgh is no different. While I welcome recent figures demonstrating that our concerted efforts to reduce air pollution are having a positive impact, there's far more we can and must do.

We're working with our partners and the Scottish Government to make sure we're taking the best and most appropriate actions to improve Edinburgh's air quality and I'm delighted that we've won cross-party support on the Council for our multi-stranded approach.

Now it's about keeping up the momentum and harnessing this shared commitment so that we make the Capital's air quality - and quality of life - as good as it can possibly be. All of us can play our part and small changes to your routine, such as walking to work or taking the tram to the shops, can make a real difference.


Another festive success 


Edinburgh's Hogmanay countdown to 2017 proved to be one of the busiest yet with 75,000 revellers at the famous Street Party, Old Town Ceilidh and Concert in the Gardens headlined by Paolo Nutini. The midnight moment was beamed all over the world and visitors joined us from 80 different countries.

Alongside Edinburgh's Christmas, these celebrations are a fantastic success story for the city, contributing close to £241.5m to the local economy and cementing Edinburgh's reputation as a top winter destination.

These events have blossomed in recent years and are well placed to continue doing so without the need for as much funding support from the Council. Our priority will, of course, continue to be ensuring best value for the city while retaining Edinburgh's position as a fantastic winter destination in this milestone year.


A milestone year for the Festival City 


In 2017, we celebrate the 70th anniversary year of Edinburgh, 'The Festival City'. Every summer, the details of the city's packed festival programmes are hotly anticipated and this year is sure to offer something extra special.

We have committed additional support to ensure this will be an extra special year and it has already got off to a fantastic start. If you can't wait until March - when most programmes are set to be released - watch the 70th anniversary teaser from Festivals Edinburgh: a nostalgic look at art, comedy, dance, theatre, film and the spoken word at many of our festivals over the years.


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Friday, January 20, 2017

January Full Council Meeting

January's Full Council Meeting is just a week away - it takes place at 10am next Thursday 26th January ...

... 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 every month, 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!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

All of the Reports are now published for January's "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee; it meets at 10am, next Tuesday, 24th January.

The relevant paperwork is now in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here ...

... and all of the individual Reports can be accessed via Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) as linked from here.

Couple of Reports that may 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 ;-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canon Kenyon Wright

I was very sorry indeed to hear of the recent death of Canon Kenyon Wright - the news was reported here ...

... during the early 1990's, when I was heavily involved in many of the devolution-campaigns of the day, alongside colleagues like Campbell Christie and Bob McLean; Kenyon showed me an enormous amount of personal generosity; and was particularly helpful when we separately launched Fairshare (archived website here; and background here) - the campaign for a fair, local voting system.

I've even spotted an old BBC story of some 16-years ago, from the actual day of the campaign launch, which is fascinating to read all these years later :-)

My thoughts are with Kenyon's family and friends.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A new primary school for south east Edinburgh ...

Views sought on proposed new Primary School for South East Edinburgh

Consultation for a new primary school in south east Edinburgh starts today (Monday 16 January).
The statutory consultation(external link) is taking place due to the significant new housing development proposed within the area because of the Local Development Plan (LDP).
This is the first consultation for a new school as a result of the LDP as school roll projections show that pupils from the new housing will lead to accommodation pressures by 2020.
A site within the ‘Broomhills’ housing development site to the south of Frogston Road East and between Burdiehouse Road and Broomhills Road has been identified for the new school.
The consultation paper outlines the proposed catchment area for the new school which if implemented will lead to changes to the current catchment areas of: Gracemount Primary School, Gilmerton Primary School, Liberton Primary School, Gracemount High School and Liberton High School.
As part of the consultation there will be two public meetings at Gilmerton Primary School (31 January between 6.30pm and 8.30pm) and Gracemount Primary School (9 February between 6.30pm and 8.30pm).
Councillor Cammy Day, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The significant housing development planned for south east Edinburgh means we will need a new primary school in the area because of expected accommodation pressures.
“The statutory consultation starts today and allows parents and school communities an opportunity to have their say on plans for the new primary school and related catchment changes. I would urge everyone to take part as we want to listen and take on board the views of everyone affected by this proposal.”
The consultation will end on Friday 3 March and all comments received will be detailed in a report expected to go to the City of Edinburgh Council in June 2017.
Additional information:
The Council has a legal obligation to carry out a statutory consultation under the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 as amended by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

so long, Social Media ...

Back in August, I announced that I wouldn't be standing for a fifth term-of-office when all of us next go to the polls (this coming May) for the Local Council elections --- that blog-post can still be found here ...

... and as I promised at the timein my ongoing role as Edinburgh Council LeaderI am continuing to fulfil all of my duties to the very best of my abilities --- and will do so right through until the close-of-poll at 10pm on Thursday 4th May 2017.

Last August, avid readers may also have spotted that this blog was somewhat surprisingly 10-years old ... and many readers will additionally know that I've maintained an active presence on Facebook, Twitter etc. for almost as lengthy a period of time ;-)

And I've thoroughly enjoyed (which I do hope has come across!) using all forms of Social Media over the last decade or so --- but, with 16-weeks to go until Local Election Day, I'm flagging up well in-advance ... so there's absolutely no room for dubiety on the day ... that as at 10pm on Thursday 4th May 2017, I'm intending to say "so-long, Social Media" and will completely wind-up both my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and also cease this blog.

I'll archive everything that I possibly can via this blog-presence; but whilst being visible as a record, none of it will thereafter be 'live' and/or 'maintained'.

There's never going to be a 'good time' to do this, but I've promised myself (and been very open about the fact) that I'm moving on to focus on other personal interests that will not involve front-line politics whatsoever --- and, as of 1-second past 10pm on the 4th May, I won't be a politician and reckon that will be as good a time as any to say cheerio to social media!

VERY IMPORTANTLY --- my mobile number, home phone number, home e-mail address, and physical home address; will all be exactly the same thereafter ...

... so if anyone wants to communicate with me, all they will need to do is either: pick up the phone, send me an e-mail, and/or even chap my front door ;-)

Who knows what could happen; I might even end up expanding my circle of friends :-))

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Call for nominations for 3 Community Council elections

Nominations for 3 X Edinburgh Community Councils now open

Residents of the 'Craigmillar', 'Drylaw/Telford' and 'Old Town' community council areas who are passionate about their area are invited to play an active role and have their say on local issues

Community councils give local residents and community groups such as youth forums, parent councils and student bodies a chance 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 represented on each of the 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships(external link)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 usually held once a month and members can get involved in a variety 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.

Councillor 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 9 January to Monday 30 January 2017. Elections, where required, will take place on Thursday 23 February 2017. You can apply as an individual or as a local interest group, such as a Parent Council, a Friends of Parks group or sports club.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Painting Edinburgh Red"

Come join Edinburgh Labour for a fundraising dinner with fantastic speakers.

Raising money for the forthcoming council elections; join your comrades, colleagues and friends to listen to our keynote speaker Owen Jones.

Owen Jones is a British columnist, author, commentator and political activist with a democratic socialist perspective. He writes a column for The Guardian and for the New Statesman. https://www.theguardian.com/profile/owen-jones

We are also looking forward to Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, and our local Lothians' MSPs and MP, Neil Findlay, Daniel Johnson and Ian Murray, joining us for what promises to be an inspiring and entertaining evening. Our compere for the evening will be Susan Morrison.

Support your local Edinburgh Labour candidates by listening to inspiring speakers, eating delicious food, and the obligatory raffle with amazing prizes!

Friday 10th February 2017
Arriving at 7pm, dinner at 7.30pm
Radisson Blu Hotel, 80 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1TH

The event URL is:

... and/or tickets at £50 available from Lesley Hinds:


Monday, January 09, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to one and all ...

... promises to be a very busy few months, on the immediate horizon, so was very glad to get a bit of rest-and-recuperation over the festive-period.

Didn't leave Edinburgh much at all over the last few weeks, and was great to spend some time with the family - and, of course, manage to set a few bonfires at the Allotment :-)

The 'old-shed' recycling project is still very much work-in-progess!

At least the main Allotment-plot (see below) is all in reasonably good order!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2017 :-)

My very last day in the Office for this year ...

... and I am planning to have a bit of a complete break from 'the blog/twitter/facebook/blipfoto' over the next couple of weeks.

Normal service will resume on Monday 9th January 2017, at the very latest  ;-)

I am in-and-around Edinburgh over the whole holiday-period, and hoping to reacquaint myself with the family somewhat!

My work e-mails are being read by staff, so if you need to get in touch urgently, then that's the best way to do so: andrew.burns@edinburgh.gov.uk

I am also available on the mobile if its a real emergency ...

... hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and very Best Wishes for 2017 :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Strategic Plan will help us build for the future ...

I'll reproduce below a short blog on Planning-issues, from my colleague, Ian Perry, which also featured in our Local Newspaper yesterday ...

Strategic Plan will help us build for future

Edinburgh is a hugely successful city which is expected to grow by about ten per cent in the next decade.

The Capital also continues to be the most prosperous UK city outside London and the percentage of our workforce with a degree level qualification or equivalent is higher than any other major UK city.

While it is important that Edinburgh and its economy continue to grow, we need to plan carefully and strategically for this change to ensure that we retain and enhance Edinburgh’s built and natural assets for future generations.

We adopted a new city plan for this growth last month, the Edinburgh Local Development Plan, and I would like to thank the thousands of you who helped to shape it. We also have an online survey at: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/localdevelopmentplan to gather your views on what you thought of the process so we can prepare for the next Plan.

How the Local Development Plan is now delivered is of central importance to us and we will use it to provide a clear and fair basis for planning decisions. I believe that this, in turn, will give confidence to communities, businesses and investors.

Our priority has to be for houses to be built in the right places connected in the right way and I hope that local residents and community groups also use the Local Development Plan to better understand and get involved in the planning issues affecting their areas.

We have identified land for at least 33,000 homes, prioritising brownfield and regeneration sites where we can. But although we have earmarked enough land for this growth, housing is not being built quickly enough to meet the demand. We are working closely with landowners and developers to identify ways in which building programmes can be accelerated to address this short-term issue.

The type and quality of housing delivered is equally important to allow us to create mixed, integrated communities, where people have a good quality of life.

We are willing to take an interventionist approach where we think housing is not being delivered quickly enough. We would look at where the barriers are and unlock land by resolving local issues.

To deliver this level of growth successfully we have also agreed an Action Programme, which identifies all of the necessary infrastructure required to allow people to get around easily using sustainable transport and have their needs for primary healthcare and education met.

A financial plan for this infrastructure will be discussed by councillors in the New Year. As well as collecting developer contributions we are also working closely with NHS Lothian, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to identify innovative funding streams such at the Edinburgh and South East of Scotland City Region Deal and the Scottish Government Housing Infrastructure Fund.

The Local Development Plan has been adopted now and we must focus our efforts on helping to deliver the housing sites to support Edinburgh’s growth and build sustainable communities as well as protecting the city’s unique heritage and environment.

Planning Convener
Edinburgh City Council

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The worst revenue settlement since devolution

Rarely in my near 18-years as a Local Councillor have I seen so much spin and manipulation of figures, as that which I've witnessed in the last 72-hours.

To be fair, when it comes to the Scottish Government Draft Budget Settlement, as announced last Thursday, both proponents and opponents must be about as dizzy as each other.

And to be clear, I really don't care much what those in the Holyrood legislature (it's called that, because that's what people who work there are supposed to do - legislate) argue one way or the other ... what I care about, as a Council Leader, is trying to ensure we deliver services locally to the very best of our ability and to do so within the finances that are available to us.

And having first been elected on Thursday 6th May 1999, I've actually witnessed every single Local Government Budget Settlement since devolution from very close quarters - as for each of those near 18-years, with the exception of 2007/8, I've been a Senior Councillor ... and since 2012 I have obviously been the Council Leader here in Edinburgh.

I think it's also fair to say that I'm not exactly someone who can very easily be categorised as unnecessarily, politically-tribal in my outlook ... epitomised by my current Leadership of the only two-Party Labour/SNP Coalition across the whole of Scottish Local Government.

But, tragically, the undeniable conclusion that I've regrettably come to is that, for the City of Edinburgh Council, this is the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999.

Of course, I know the Budget announced on Thursday last week is still Draft, and that it may change between now and its final adoption - but as things stand at the moment; year-on-year, we've got some £37million less revenue from the Scottish Government this year, than last, to spend on services. 

That's on top of recent, and recurring, revenue reductions all of which has led to the Council having well over 1,300 less people in employment than 2-years ago.

And this is all against a backdrop of the Scottish Government actually receiving, year-on-year, more revenue this year than last, from the Westminster Government.

Yes, we're now allowed to raise Council Tax by up to 3% - and I welcome that flexibility being returned to Local Government ...

... and yes, any additional monies from the adjusted E/F/G/H Council Tax bands will also remain with Local Government - I warmly welcome that, and want to thank Derek Mackay for actually listening to the arguments from Councils on that specific point.

But I cannot welcome a general revenue grant settlement for Edinburgh, that sees the funding received from the Scottish Government being reduced, this year compared to last, by some £37million.

I understand that it's a choice the Scottish Government is entitled to make - but what's particularly galling is that other choices were available, which would have negated the need for any year-on-year revenue reduction.

At the Council, we'll simply get on trying to ensure we deliver services to the very best of our ability, within the finances that are available to us - but please spare me any further spin ...

... as sadly - my measured conclusion is clearfor the City of Edinburgh Council, this is currently the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999.