Friday, October 26, 2012

Webcast, democracy and equal pay

Yesterday's Full Council Meeting still available to watch on the internet ... go on, you know you want to?

You can quickly go to any section of the meeting (as listed) if you click on the second tab, from the top-left, that says 'index points' if you hover over it.

Am pleased to report that the clutch of reports on Governance Issues were all approved (some on division) and further details can be found on CPOL and on the Council Newsblog here ...

... and just today, I was delighted to be able to go public with the news that the City of Edinburgh Council and UNISON have reached agreement to settle the outstanding equal pay claims of former APT&C employees lodged by the Union on behalf of their members. More details here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 2012 Leader's Report

October Leader's Report now up on CPOL - you can see it as a PDF here, text is also below, and don't forget you can watch this Thursday's Council Meeting (from 10am) via the web if so interested ... just go here.


October 2012

Opening up democracy

Taking part in or creating a petition is a new way that individuals, community groups and organisations can get involved in what the Council does. It allows people to raise issues of public concern and gives councillors the opportunity to consider the need for change.
The new Petitions Committee, chaired by Councillor Maggie Chapman one of our opposition colleagues in the Green Party, is set to consider petitions for the first time on Monday 3 December. If there is something you are keen to have considered you can get information from the Council's web pages, libraries and other Council buildings.

The committee is part of a package of measures and a new committee structure aimed at creating a more accessible and transparent organisation by opening up decision-making and improving scrutiny of the Council's work. The meeting will also be webcast live as part of a year long pilot programme aimed at opening up democracy in the city.


Best large European City of the Future


Edinburgh was recently awarded Best Large European City of the Future by fDi magazine in recognition of Edinburgh being a great place for businesses. The magazine has followed this up with a short film that looks at why Edinburgh is a proving so popular for inward investment. You can view the film on fDi’s website.


Festivals contribution to Edinburgh

This summer while London hosted elite athletes and the next generation of sporting talent from around the world, Edinburgh celebrated the worldwide cultural phenomena that are Edinburgh’s Festivals.

With audiences holding steady, and in some instances increasing, the impact of Edinburgh’s Festivals has been shown to generate £261 million
for Scotland’s economy and 5242 full-time jobs in Edinburgh. What the results of summer 2012 really tell us is that Edinburgh’s Festivals have this year seized the opportunities arising from the UK hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The breadth and depth of Edinburgh’s festival programmes
with their vast array of premieres and commissions, provide the distinctive cultural offering that are the envy of cities around the world and each year attract artists, audiences and media from every continent and over 70 countries. We should be rightly proud.


Investing in our future

The Council invests around £11 million annually in tourism promotion and infrastructure and enjoys a strong position in the international tourism market. However, if we are to grow our success and improve on our position we need to find a way to continue to invest during a time of budget constraint.

We had been considering the potential for a transient visitor levy (TVL) or ‘tourist tax’. You may have experienced this charge or heard about it when travelling to other European or American cities. However, having spoken to many in the industry, the clear view is that businesses would rather support a voluntary investment model and not be compelled to make a specific charge to customers.

We agreed at the
Policy and Strategy Committee on 2 October to look at options based on the principle of a voluntary funding mechanism and will be consulting further before deciding on the best arrangements to make.



The project is making good, steady progress and every effort is being made to complete work early in the revised schedule where possible. Passenger services from the airport to York Place are scheduled to run by summer 2014. Now 22 trams have been delivered to the tram depot, with the remainder to be delivered by the end of November 2012.

The main utility diversions are on target to be cleared by November 2012, substantially reducing the risk of the project schedule slipping. The construction of the civil engineering and system elements of the project are also progressing well, with a significant amount of track construction underway. A number of areas are presently ahead of schedule.

A more detailed report is being considered at Council on 25 October. This will go live on the Council’s committee papers online system in the week beginning 22 October 2012.


Bin collection changes


On 10 September we introduced changes to bin collections which affected nearly 160,000 properties. The scale and complexity of these changes were bigger than any our waste services have seen in decades. Even so, there is no denying that the recent level of disruption to the bin collection service experienced by some residents has been unacceptable.

Although progress has been made I recognise that for some, the service is unfortunately still not what it should be. I would like to reassure these residents that getting this right is our highest priority and we will continue to listen and resolve these matters as quickly as possible.

However, by introducing this managed weekly recycling and waste collections, we will make significant improvements in recycling rates and this will reduce what the Council spends on landfill tax by up to £2.4 million per year.

I will be pushing for the service to learn from its mistakes and to continue to make it easier for all residents to recycle more to
help protect our environment for future generations. Further progress reports including improvements to customer complaint handling will be looked at by the Transport and Environment Committee. This will go live on the Council’s committee papers online system on Monday 19 November 2012.


Portobello High School

We desperately need a new school and in the shortest possible timeframe. Following recent legal challenges to building on our preferred site on Portobello Park, a huge amount of work has gone into looking at all the options available to us.
These options are recorded in some detail in the report to Council on 25 October which highlights that we are pursuing several of them simultaneously. We are examining the potential to challenge the recent legal decision not to build on the preferred site while at the same time looking at potential alternative sites.

We need to make a decision quickly and a further report will be considered at the next Council meeting on 22 November.


Be in the picture

Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Back in Edinburgh

Back in Edinburgh this afternoon, after a very restful week in rural Teeside ...

... stayed in a cottage right on the River Tees and can't speak highly enough of the general location: the Teesdale Way ran very nearby and the section of the walk from the cottage up to Barnard Castle was truly wonderful.

This picture (you can click on it for a better view) is at the 'meeting of the waters' where the River Greta joins the Tees; made famous by Turner's 1818 painting ... and, as you can see, we also enjoyed wonderful weather ;-)

On top of all that, there was little or no mobile reception in the surrounding area: devastating.

Paying for it now though, with a significant volume of (all media!) messages to catch up on --- the joys of the modern age :-(

Friday, October 12, 2012

Half-term is here

Half-term is here and time to re-acquaint myself with the family!

So --- no blogging for the next week, and there will be facebook and twitter silence as well I'm afraid :-(

Normal service will resume from Monday 22nd ... meantime, don't forget that the next Full Council Meeting is on Thursday 25th October, the papers for which will be public via Committee Papers on Line (CPOL) on the morning of Friday 19th October (at the end of next week).

My mobile will be on in case anyone needs to get me by phone/text urgently.

Monday, October 08, 2012

New Petitions Committee now live

Delighted to note that Edinburgh Council's new Petitions Committee is now live and you can start submitting relevant petitions from today - all the details can be found within the 4-pages of information here.

And I'll re-produce the relevant News Release below:


Edinburgh residents urged to use new Petitions Committee

Published Monday 8 October 2012

Members of the public are being given a voice to influence Council decisions in the city with the date being set (Monday, 3 December) for the first meeting of the new Petitions Committee.

Taking part in or creating a petition is one way that individuals, community groups and organisations can get involved in what the Council does. It allows people to raise issues of public concern and gives Councillors the opportunity to consider the need for change. 

The Committee is part of a package of measures and a new committee structure aimed at creating a more accessible and transparent organisation by opening up decision-making and improving scrutiny of the Council's work. The meeting will also be webcast live as part of a  year long pilot programme aimed at opening up democracy in the city.
Members of the public and local businesses can make use of the Council's e-petition facility. Paper petition forms can also be downloaded from the Council's webpages and are available from libraries and other Council buildings. 
Convener of the Petitions Committee, Cllr Maggie Chapman, said: "The Petitions Committee will give a voice to members of the public who wish to raise issues the Council is not already addressing.  I urge people to use this new opportunity to participate in local politics and to help improve the lives of people living, working and visiting our city.  I am pleased that, in addition to the meetings in the City Chambers, we will also be taking the committee 'on tour' to reach a wider audience, and we will also ensure our young people are included by having youth focussed events."

There is a range of agreed criteria for a petition to satisfy prior to confirmation of validity and consideration by the Committee. Matters that will not be considered include those currently being considered by a committee, included in a work programme or those that relate to a council or committee decision that has been made in the previous six months.
Further information
  • Petitions from individuals require at least 500 signatures though in some cases petitions with 250 signatures can be accepted. 
  • Petitions from local businesses need the support of at least 20 other businesses within Edinburgh before they can be considered.
  • If a petition is invalid, the petitioner will be advised of the reason and given the opportunity to refine and resubmit it.
  • Hashtag to use if tweeting about the Petitions Committee is #edinpetitions


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Europe's Leading Destination 2012

Edinburgh wins quite a few awards each year, and I generally don't shout too much about them ...

... but worth flagging up one that the Capital picked up last night: Europe's Leading Destination 2012, at the World Travel Awards!

To the best of my knowledge, Edinburgh has never won this before - some details, and previous (modern) winners, can be seen here.

Quite an achievement, I'd say.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Edinburgh Partnership Summit

Edinburgh Partnership Summit event earlier ... really good attendance, with the vast majority of participants staying right through to the end: which is always a good sign!

Edinburgh Partnership website is here, for further general background, and the day's agenda can be found here, but I'll also paste it below ...

... very clear that the main message on the need to reinvigorate, and rejuvenate, the Partnership's work was warmly received by all present. I'm confident it can be done; it won't be completed quickly, but a positive start was made today.


EP Summit Meeting - Friday 5 October
1925 Suites, Murrayfield Stadium

08.45 Check In, Workshop Sign Up and Refreshments
09.15 Opening Remarks on the changing landscape of public sector reform and the challenges ahead - Cllr. Andrew Burns, Summit Chair
09.25 The Reform of Public Services - Alex Clark, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, Chief Supt Malcolm Graham, Lothian and Borders Police, and Dr Charles Winstanley, NHS Lothian
09.40 The Edinburgh Partnership’s Approach to Achieving Better Outcomes - Sue Bruce, Chair of the EP Executive
09.55 Questions and Answers
10.10 Presentations on Partnership initiatives which reflect key reform themes of service integration, early intervention and prevention, and working with communities:
10.50 Coffee Pickup
11.00 Workshops on Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) Priorities and Improving Outcomes:
12.00 Feedback and Plenary Session
12.30 Close and Lunch


Thursday, October 04, 2012

National Poetry Day

Its National Poetry Day today --- and this year's theme is: stars.

As per the last few years, I'll reproduce my favourite poem that deals with this year's topic ...

... and, for me, this was an easy choice as it just has to be William Blake's 1783 poem, 'To the Evening Star'.

Blake is calling on the Goddess of Love to protect him during the dark of the night, and inspire all that is oppressed during daytime.

Incredible to think that it's almost 230-years old, yet it still speaks to me like it was written just yesterday:

by: William Blake (1757-1827)
Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, while the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!

Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on

The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro' the dun forest:

The fleeces of our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Off to Manchester tomorrow morning - spending the day attending 3 main events at the UK-conference:

1.00pm - The Co-operative Councils Network
Power to the People: How can the principles of Co-operation improve local public services?
The Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP, will be joined by members of the Co-operative Councils Network sharing their experiences.

2.15pm - LEADERS Q&A with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party.

4.00pm – Community Organising – the Edinburgh Story
In Edinburgh the local Labour Party used social media to involve thousands of local residents in the writing of their manifesto. Come along and listen to Edinburgh campaigners tell their own story. Arnie Graf will also join us to talk about how Community Organising can work for your local Labour Party.

I am looking forward to the day, especially the 4pm slot --- and, whilst I know I'm somewhat biased, I did think Ed Miliband's speech earlier was a complete and total triumph: will be interesting to see the press coverage tomorrow and sample the reaction on-the-ground at the conference itself?

But regardless, for me - at long last - he managed to come across on camera ... in the most challenging of environments ... as he does in person: relaxed, bright, interested, thoughtful and yes, even funny :-)