Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last of the allotment potatoes

Last of the allotment potatoes dug up late this afternoon ... click on the picture for a better view: some of those spuds aren't too bad at all, considering what a miserable year generally its been for our 2 potato-beds.

Some fruit still to crop, along with the brussel sprouts and leeks; but that'll then be about it for 2012.

I sense lots of autumn-preparation (for 2013's growing season) about to commence!

That's it for the day now: newspaper delivery this morning, potato cropping this afternoon; evening off :-)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Policy and Strategy Committee next Tuesday

Policy and Strategy (P&S) Committee next Tuesday - main agenda is here, and all the papers can be found, as usual, on CPOL here ...

... its the very last P&S Committee before the changes to the governance structures, which come into force from the 29th October.

End of an era ;-)

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 2012 Leader's Report

September Leader's Report was up at the Full Council Meeting last Thursday - you can access it on CPOL here and/or even watch it all here...

... and here's the text below:
Leader's Report

Leader's report banner heading

Sept 2012

New initiatives picking up a pace

Andrew BurnsSummer may be coming to an end but Council staff are picking up the pace on a number of new initiatives. We are putting in place ways to widen access to Council meetings, change the way the Council does business and, this week, the Council launched a new economic strategy for the city.
On Friday 7 September we took the first steps in changing the way the Council does business. At the Co-operative Edinburgh Seminar, over 100 staff from the Council and third sector partners heard Councillor Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council give real life examples of the pioneering work being done by his council. The seminar concluded with people working together to identify how we can make this work in Edinburgh. We want the Council to become more co-operative as an organisation and we want to explore the development of co-operatives as a way of delivering services. Our report on the seminar will be available from the Council’s website in the next few weeks.
By now, you’ll probably be aware of this week’s significant legal developments in relation to the plans to build a new Portobello High School. This is the Council’s initial response and I will be giving an update to full Council on 20 September with a full report coming to full Council on 25 October.



From 20 September you’ll be able to watch your councillor debate at full Council meetings the issues that affect you and your community live online. You’ll also be able to see archived full Council meetings which will be available from two days after the end of the meeting until a month after the original live webcast.
This is an important new communications tool that will help us engage with all of you, both as residents and as Council staff. I want to take a moment to thank the team who have worked hard to deliver the webcast project on time.
You can find out more about our webcasts on the Council’s website.


Celebrating sporting achievements

On Sunday 16 September Sir Chris Hoy, the six-time gold medalist, will be joined by fellow Olympic and Paralympic stars on an open-top bus tour in the city centre, ending at the Assembly Rooms on George Street where Sir Chris will receive the Freedom of the City honorary award in a private ceremony.
This will be immediately followed by a civic reception, hosted by the Lord Provost in honour of the athletes together with their coaches and support staff, officials, plus some of the many volunteers who gave up their time to make London 2012 such a success.
If you would like to celebrate our Olympic and Paralympic stars, you can find more details of the route and timings on our website.  


Property Repairs

You still have six weeks left to make your views known on options for a brand new service supporting homeowners to manage private property repairs. We have already received more than 450 responses to our on-line survey. It’s important that anyone with an interest in this issue, including staff, takes part before the consultation closes on 31 October. To make sure the consultation is as wide-ranging as possible, the Council is also carrying out extensive meetings, focus groups and face to face briefings with a range of individuals as well as local groups such as community councils and heritage bodies.
These views will help to shape the new service, which has at its heart the principle of owners taking primary responsibility for managing their property repairs. I’m aware that this change in emphasis will not be universally popular but it will mean home owners will be more in control of their own home maintenance and the Council, as is the case in cities elsewhere in the country, will only be used when attempts at self-management have failed. It’s really important to stress that the emergency service, which responds where there is a risk to public health or safety, is likely to be retained.


Revised Governance

September’s full Council will consider a report proposing changes to the way the Council does business. These proposals would see a new Public Petitions Committee, a new Budget Sub-Committee and a greatly strengthened Audit and Risk Committee. The way in which committees work will also change to ensure that there is more time to talk about the development of policy and strategy with public input.
We are making these changes because we believe that local groups and members of the public should be able to be far more involved in Council decisions. More information will be on the Orb and Council website shortly about the changes being made.


Edinburgh Economic Strategy

The Council is calling on its public sector partners and Edinburgh’s businesses to help support the creation of 20,000 new jobs in the city. This was the main theme at a conference which I attended earlier on 12 September which launched an ambitious five year economic strategy for Edinburgh.
The strategy’s three key targets for 2012–17 are to support the creation and safeguarding of 20,000 jobs, to support £1.3 billion of infrastructure investment in the city and to help 10,000 people into work or learning.


Be in the picture

Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gorgie Litter-Pick

Another glorious day, weather-wise, and spent a few hours helping out on a local "Gorgie Litter-Pick" earlier this afternoon ...

... two play-parks off of Gorgie Road cleared of rubbish, all in glorious sunshine: I even had to put my hat on :-)

Quieter evening now, getting ready for another hectic Council-week ahead!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Allotment afternoon

Stole a few hours down at the allotment this afternoon ... been a few weeks since I was last there: good job my better-half has been more attentive than me!

Everything in reasonable order and still a fair bit of colour in the beds - as you can see from this photo: just click for a better view.

Later in the afternoon, friends from Liverpool visited, and we even managed to fit in an early evening meal at the Caley Sample Room - food was as good as ever :-)

Very stressful day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

New decision-making processes

Amidst all the 'webcasting' excitement ...I forgot to flag up the very substantial report (and changes) that were made to the Council's decision-making processes yesterday. They will all come into effect from next month, October 2012.

The relevant News Release is below, which highlights the upcoming establishment of:
  • a first for Edinburgh, a Petitions Committee chaired by the Opposition (Greens)
  • a new Best Value & Governance regime, also chaired by the Opposition (Conservatives)
  • and, believe it or not, another first for Edinburgh - a draft Budget to be published months before budget-setting day; via a new Finance and Budget Committee
  • and a new Communities and Neighbourhoods Executive Committee, which will look at the development of Neighbourhood Partnerships and their relationship with other aspects of the Council
I'm now looking forward to these changes coming into effect.

Council performance to be open to greater scrutiny

Published Friday 14 September 2012
Decision-making and monitoring processes at the Council are to be improved if proposals to change the current committee system are approved at a meeting of all councillors next week.

The new arrangements include a greater focus on achieving and reporting on the commitments set out in the Capital Coalition agreement in May. The meeting at which this report will be discussed is also the first ever Council debate in Edinburgh to be webcast.

Council Leader, Cllr Andrew Burns, said: "People in Edinburgh told us clearly that they wanted better opportunities to influence Council decisions and to see that the quality of our processes was open to greater scrutiny. The way we have approached this review underlines how we want to do our business generally, in that it shows we have listened to the public and opposition groups and have made changes in response to their constructive criticism.
"These arrangements will help us to deliver on our priorities of providing excellent services for the capital and will also help to rebuild a relationship with residents based on trust."

The main elements of the report to Council include:
  • A petitions committee to give the public greater opportunities to influence Council business
  • A new corporate policy and strategy committee to focus on the Council's overall priorities
  • A revised set of decision-making committees*
  • Sub-committees for each of these focussing on developing policies in line with the coalition pledges and review performance
  • Proposals to improve the quality of Council reports and streamline the business put to committees
  • A new Governance, Risk and Best Value committee, with a stronger and wider remit than the current Audit committee, to monitor and evaluate all of the committees
  • Keeping existing arrangements for planning and licensing

*The new committees are:
  • Communities and Neighbourhoods
  • Culture and Sport
  • Economy
  • Education, Children and Families
  • Finance and Budget
  • Health, Wellbeing and Housing
  • Transport and Environment


Thursday, September 20, 2012

CEC Council TV

Full Council Meeting today - papers are all here ... but you can also see the whole meeting via webcast as well: from here.

Over 600 people watched the meeting live - believe me, that's about 595 more than are usually in the public gallery!

Will be interesting to see figures over coming weeks for those who watch parts of the video - do have a look at the site; you can search for specific items (really easily) and watch short sections of the meeting on a specific subject.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Statement in response to judgement on new Portobello High School

I know opinions are strong on either side of the debate around the future of Portobello High School ...

... but I'm personally deeply, deeply disappointed by today's Portobello-judgement.

We've put a brief response out, which you can see on the Council website here.

Key points being that we've instructed Council officers to consider the judgement fully and look at the grounds for appealing against the decision - and while this is taking place options around using an alternative site will also be explored.

An update report will now go to the October Full Council Meeting on Thursday 25th October.

Investing in Jobs: Edinburgh's Call to Action

Been asked again (honestly!) to post my speech notes from today's conference up on the blog ...

... thus please see the following:

Investing in Jobs: Edinburgh's Call to Action

  • Thanks Robert and good morning ladies and gentlemen.
  • It really is a pleasure for me to be here today to mark the launch of the Councils’ Strategy for Jobs
  • It’s very heartening to see so many people here --- from across the city’s business, public and third sectors --- first thing on a Wednesday morning, to discuss and debate Edinburgh’s call to action for an on-going and relentless focus on investment in local jobs.
  • I’m particularly grateful that the Deputy First Minister is here this morning, despite being involved in a Government reshuffle just last week, and all the undoubted diary-chaos that will have created.
  • I’m personally delighted that you’ve retained the Cities element of your portfolio and very much welcome that continuity, and on-going commitment, at this crucial time.
  • Robert, can I also start by saying a very special thank-you to our business sponsors for this event, who include:
  • Gillespie MacAndrew
  • Harvey Nichols
  • Lothian Buses
  • Millers
  • Montagu Evans
  • and Selex Galileo.
  • Their public endorsement of this launch is hugely welcomed and sends out a very powerful signal of the collaborative approach which we are keen to build on.
  • Robert, you mentioned the Council’s Coalition Agreement in which we have outlined our partnership vision, for the City, for the forthcoming 5-years..
  • Our absolute central priority is to build a co-operative, more prosperous Edinburgh in which every resident and community benefits.
  • We are keen to act in a co-operative, open way, involving citizens, businesses and the third sector. This means keeping people informed, listening to and reflecting their views.
  • And this Strategy is an early example of exactly that type of approach.
  • The programme outlined in the Strategy document, a copy of which is contained within your information packs, was developed through close collaboration between the Council and its partners, including the Edinburgh Business Forum who have endorsed the strategy and who are co-hosting today’s conference.
  • You will hear from Hugh Rutherford, who Chairs the Forum, a little later.
  • The Strategy for Jobs sets out an ambitious programme for sustainable growth in jobs and investment in Edinburgh’s economy.
  • And, crucially, it puts people at the heart of that Strategy.
  • Creating the conditions for growth and jobs has to be the Council’s number one economic priority - and one which will require every Council service to respond.
  • The Council’s Chief Executive, Sue Bruce, will shortly be outlining the detail of the Strategy and the plans for delivering our vision of a confident, creative and inspiring capital, powering growth and jobs for the city region and for the rest of Scotland.
  • These plans are deliberately ambitious and recognise the unique role that the Capital City of Scotland plays.
  • However, we know that we cannot deliver this Strategy by working in isolation.
  • The challenges are significant and meeting them requires a strong sense of shared purpose and collaboration.
  • That’s why today’s event is also a Call to Action for all of our partners.
  • By pooling our knowledge, expertise, connections and resources we believe we can enhance our capacity to support the local economy.
  • And we do want to hear from you – with your ideas on where we might begin to work together or where we might build on existing partnerships.
  • For all of us – I know – it’s a privilege to be part of the Edinburgh story.
  • This Capital City stands out as a remarkably successful and resilient location but, as we move through this coming decade we need to build on that success and work together to deliver our ambitions for this exceptional and truly world class location.
  • So - this morning, with the launch of this Strategy for Jobs, we will mark an important point in ensuring  – collectively – we rise to the challenge of generating sustainable growth in employment opportunities --- for all residents of the Capital.
  • Every one of us has a part to play - and I look forward to working with you all - in helping to secure a vibrant and successful economic future for Edinburgh.
  • Thanks again for your attendance this morning – your support to date, and your support in the crucial years to come.
  • We need that support – we need to work together – if we’re to achieve the ambitious goals that other speakers will now expand upon.
  • Thank you and – again - welcome.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Call to action in Edinburgh

More detail on tomorrow's conference can now be found on the Council's main website - here ... short summary:

"The Council is calling on its public sector partners and Edinburgh’s businesses to help support the creation of 20,000 new jobs in the city.

This will be the main theme at a conference being hosted by the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Business Forum on Wednesday 12 September to launch an ambitious five year economic strategy for Edinburgh.

Businesses and other partners are being encouraged to join the Edinburgh Guarantee programme to give young people the apprenticeships and work opportunities they need to boost their job prospects.

They are also being asked to get more involved in the city's communities by investing in its social and community enterprises, act as ambassadors for Edinburgh and mentor new entrepreneurs.

City businesses are also being asked to share their knowledge and international connections with the Council to help attract vital new inward investment. Delegates at the event will be invited to contribute their ideas to help drive the strategy forward."

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Had a great day at Pedal for Scotland today ... I'm not usually one to blag too much; but I am rather proud that myself, and the better-half, completed our 10th-in-a-row Glasgow to Edinburgh ride this afternoon.
Here's a wee picture showing the fruits of my endeavours :-))

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Local Food Fair

Managed to get to the Shandon Local Food Group 'Food Fair' earlier today ... very good turnout and even the weather held out: just!

Lost track of the number of folk who asked why Felicity Kendal wasn't with me ;-)

Bit of a rest now this evening, with a 5.30am rise looming, for my 10th-in-a-row Pedal for Scotland ride tomorrow!

Have even managed to construct a team of ten, for my 10th ride - 5 Councillors and 5 others ...

... looking forward to it.

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Cooperative Edinburgh - will the Council join in?

Believe it or not, I've had quite a few requests for the text of my speech at this morning's Co-operative Edinburgh event so, for those interested, here are the full notes that I used earlier.

Co-operative Edinburgh
Thinking outside the box
Good morning Ladies and Gentleman and a warm welcome to the City Chambers and this Co-operative Edinburgh event.
I’m delighted to see so many people here this morning and I’m really looking forward to the contributions, debates and discussions that are about to happen over the next few hours.

My task in the next 15-minutes, or so, is threefold:
·      to briefly lay out the background to today’s event
·      to give voice, from my perspective as Council Leader, to the vision that the new Capital Coalition has for Edinburgh
·      and to make sure we all know just what the next steps are, in realising that vision

Should be easy!

So firstly, by way of background … I think you’d need to be inhabiting a wholly different world from the one I live in, if you weren’t aware that trust between the electorate and those of us either elected, or employed, to serve that electorate, has broken down badly.
It’s not a malaise that just affects Councils, or is unique to Edinburgh, but as a starting point, I believe it has to be openly acknowledged.
For me, we’ll never successfully re-invigorate our local democracy if we can’t even bring ourselves to acknowledge that there’s a problem to solve.
And in the recent Local Government Elections here in Edinburgh, I think all 5 major Parties did indeed acknowledge - in different ways - in each of their respective manifestos - that political business as usual, just simply wasn’t an option, post-election.
And, I’m delighted to confirm, that business as usual, we are not going to have.
As you’ll all know, the outcome of that election has led to a local coalition between Labour and the SNP here at the City of Edinburgh Council.
A coalition that has agreed a clear set of some 53 commitments, in a new ‘Contract with the Capital’.
That contract has been openly published, and within weeks, the ‘monitoring against delivery’ of our promises will be live and very visible via the front-page of the main Council website.
But the delivery of those promises can’t be a one-way street, there has to be an ongoing, two-way dialogue, with the citizens of Edinburgh, about their role in just what the Council does for the next 5-years.
And today is a key point in starting that process of engagement … it’s a discussion that won’t end at 2pm this afternoon, but must continue all the way through to May 2017, and undoubtedly beyond.
And I think it is crucial to openly acknowledge that for all of us, Council Officers, but also Councillors – from across all the political groups – there is a varying degree of understanding about just what being a cooperative council could actually mean in practice?
And a key object of today is to try and address that variable understanding …
… initially here amongst the ‘+plus100’ people present this morning; yes primarily Council Officers and Elected Members; with some external input … but today will not be the end of this discussion – it is very markedly, just the beginning.
Our next phase will undoubtedly be to have this dialogue with many more of our external partners, at many more of these types of event.

So much for the background to today, secondly … what about our vision for Edinburgh?
Well, in essence, Edinburgh’s new Capital Coalition wants to radically transform the way that services are planned, managed and delivered; and move Edinburgh towards being a truly Co-operative Council.
We want Council services to be transformed by shifting power; so that the Council is working much more ‘in partnership’ with the local people it is ultimately here to serve.
That won’t happen overnight and it won’t apply to all of the Council’s services … but as evidence from elsewhere has proven, and which we’ll hear much more about throughout today, small beginnings can lead to a major transformation in service design and delivery …
… and, crucially, can lead to a real transformation in the relationship between the electorate and those elected and employed, to serve them.
This approach is about giving local people a refreshed sense of choice and control, over the public services they use.
The way different services work, will vary, but the objective of finding new ways of working in partnership with local people will remain constant.
And in the coming months, we are certainly not going to consider turning absolutely all services into co-operatives, and it is certainly not intended to replace skilled professionals with volunteers.
It is about giving local people a renewed sense of choice and control over the public services they use.
So – such a co-operative approach will put people much more at the centre of decision-making and provide the opportunity to develop new and imaginative ways of supporting communities, empowering people, delivering services and caring for public assets.
We do intend to develop a new partnership with local people, in a radical bid to improve public services and strengthen local communities.
Instead of doing things to our communities, a ‘Co-operative Edinburgh Council’ will work with our communities to make sure local services meet the needs of local people.
It will mark the end of top-down services where residents are expected to put up with what’s on offer.
For all of us, it’s certainly going to be a challenge …
… and, as I’ll outline in a second, its not just about developing cooperatives; but has to be about a whole new approach to the way we work, and the way we engage with our electorate.

So that does lead me to my third point; what of the next steps in realising this vision?
Well, I hope I’ve been clear not just this morning, but throughout recent months, that this is going to be a process and not a one-stop destination.
Today marks an important point in that process.
We’ll shortly hear from 2 other speakers with very real experience of actually making a reality of developing a co-operative approach.
And later this morning, we have workshops on 4 key target areas where we want to see the co-operative vision being made a reality:
·            Energy
·            Housing
·            Childcare
·            & Social Care
All of what we hear in the next few hours may not be directly transferable to Edinburgh, but much of it will indeed be so … and a bit of local adaptation cannot be beyond the wit of the people in this room and the residents of this city.
And whilst the 4 areas I’ve mentioned are our initial targets, we are absolutely not excluding progress in other areas if opportunity– and beneficial circumstance - arise.
But this all has to be part of a wider, new approach.
That new approach to the way we work, and the way we engage with others, will include some definite actions in making the vision of a cooperative council a reality:
1.there will be the first Petitions Committee, and petitions process, established here in Edinburgh - this October. This will enable local residents to have an additional channel to raise issues of concern, with their elected representatives, and directly with the Council.
2.there will be a completely revised budgetary process, which will ultimately mean the publication of a draft budget – for the first time in decades - here in Edinburgh, at the end of this calendar year. That will then allow 2-months of detailed debate and scrutiny before we finally set our 2013/14 budget in February of next year.
3.there will be a renewed focus on neighbourhoods and communities within our decision-making structures, and by April next year, ‘worked-up’ proposals for the next stage in the development of our Neighbourhood Partnerships will be put before the Council for debate and decision.
4.there will be direct, parental representation within our Education’ decision-making processes, by this Autumn.
And – in addition to these very definite --- and timetabled! --- changes to the way we work, and the way we engage with our electorate; there will also be the establishment of a Cooperative Development Unit, which will help facilitate some further, definite developments …
… thus – by this time next year – we will have an exemplar cooperative project, right here in Edinburgh, in each of the 4 key target areas I mentioned earlier; there will be:
·            a new Energy co-operative
·            a Housing co-operative
·            a Childcare co-operative
·            & a Social Care co-operative

To me, this all seems an entirely possible, and eminently pragmatic, set of goals.

The Capital City of Scotland can – and will - achieve this.

And – all of this will help us learn lessons …
-       upon which further changes to the way we work, as a Council, can be developed
-       and upon which future cooperative developments can be delivered, right here in Edinburgh.

So, in conclusion, I’ve briefly covered:
1.the background to today’s event
2.the vision that the Capital Coalition has for Edinburgh
3.and the next, definite, steps in realising that vision

Thanks very much for listening.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Co-operative Edinburgh: thinking outside the box

Looking forward to tomorrow's "Co-operative Edinburgh" event ... line-up of speakers:
Co-operative Edinburgh

Thinking outside the box

Friday 7 September 2012

City Chambers, High Street (Royal Mile)
      Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ.

Seminar Programme

09.00               Cllr Andrew Burns: Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council
                        The vision for Edinburgh

09.15              Cllr Steve Reed: Leader of Lambeth Council
                          What makes a successful co-operative council?

09.45                         Jim Maxwell: Business Development Manager, Co-operative Development Scotland

10.15             Plenary: Sue Bruce, Chief Executive, City of Edinburgh Council                     
                      Round table discussions

·               What best practice can you identify that would fit into the co-operative approach as you have heard it described

·               What top 3 actions  would the Council need to take to move towards becoming more co-operative

·               What further information, clarification or support do you need to be confident about contributing to a co-operative approach

11.45               Workshops

·         Energy Co-operatives: Pete Roche,  Edinburgh Community Energy Co-op

·         Housing Co-operatives: Susan Paton, Co-operation and Mutuality Scotland

·         Childcare Co-operatives: Hugh Donnelly, Co-operative Education Trust Scotland

·         Social Care Co-operatives: Dr Guy Turnbull, Care and Share Associates, Sunderland

13.00              Networking lunch: Additional third sector, academic,
                       consultancy and business invitees

14.00              Close

Unlocking infrastructure spending

A few weeks ago, I flagged up the imminent launch of the 'Strategy for Jobs' on the 12th September ...

... pleased to see that a series of posts, across the next few days (over on the Council's News blog), will examine the strategy in more detail. Today's post looks at the Council's plans to support infrastructure investment over the next five years: you can read it in full here.

Don' forget to keep an eye on the News blog, over coming days, for more informaiton as we lead up to next Wendesday's launch event.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Festival Fireworks tonight

Off to the end-of-festival Fireworks later this evening - Junior really looking forward to them ... and the weather is looking pretty near perfect at the moment :-)

We've got seats in the Ross Theatre area this year, so might actually get a decent picture which I'll try and post up on the blog (much) later this evening.

UPDATE: Not so much fireworks, as the Castle looking like its on fire!

A great evening had by all :-)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Dads Rock Edinburgh

I spent a very pleasant hour earlier today visiting Dads Rock Edinburgh, along at Gate 55 in Sighthill.

You can read more about the Group on their blog - here - and if you're a father with a child under 5-years old, then I'd really encourage you to get in touch with them (e-mail: if you want to go along any Saturday morning.

Just speaking to some of the dads today, and seeing how much fun their kids were having, said it all to me ... a very impressive project.