Friday, August 30, 2013

Capital Coalition Away Day

The joys of proportional representation ... our political Away Days now involve two parties ;-)

So; a joint Labour-SNP Friday afternoon spent discussing a combination of Governance Structures, Welfare Reform impacts, and our 2014/15 Budget.

All uplifting stuff :-(

On the positive-side, as mentioned a few weeks ago, we are on track to publish our draft 2014/15 Budget figures by mid-September: at the 'Finance and Budget Committee' of Thursday 19th September to be precise!

All of which will leave a full 3-months of dialogue on the draft, up to Friday 20th December.

Much more detail to follow, via the Council's main website, very soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

September's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee coming up next Tuesday (3rd) ...

... main Agenda can now be found here; and the individual reports are all up on CPOL linked from here.

These Committee Meetings, whilst open to the public obviously, are not yet webcast like our main Council Meetings are ... hopeful that will change in the not-too-distant future, as we try and expand the webcasting service to cover most of the main Executive Committees of the Council.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Allotment update

Got down to the Allotment earlier this afternoon ...

... still getting a great crop of fruit etc., and well over a full bed of potatoes yet to be dug up!

But, here's a snap of one of the 4 main flower-beds, all of which are looking pretty good for this time of year :-)

This is our 6th growing season, and I reckon its been the best yet ...

... and all recorded within the lifetime of this blog: which has now been running consistently for over 7-years :-))

Friday, August 23, 2013

c600days to go ...

As mentioned a couple of days ago, Ed Miliband made it to Edinburgh this afternoon and hosted a wide-ranging 'question & answer' session with local Party Members, residents, and some of the press corps.

Last time I saw him do this was with a 'much, much' bigger audience, in Manchester last year ... and, do you know what, he was really rather good at it then, and was equally as impressive today.

Needless to say, much of the actual content was lost in the reporting, the narrative of which I just don't recognise out here in the real world?

Ah well, guess we'll find out in a little over 600-days which story prevails.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

All-comers welcome in Edinburgh :-)

It's August and everyone, who is anyone is up in Edinburgh ;-)

Harriet Harman visited our Group today, and was very generous in her time (along with Margaret Curran) speaking to both Elected Members and wider Party Members ...

... Ed Miliband is visiting later this week: anyone would think something important was happening here in Scotland ;-)

Friday, August 16, 2013

August Leader's Report

August's Full Council Meeting next Thursday - and all the reports are now in the public domain; you can see the main agenda here, and the individual reports here ...

... and I'll cut-and-paste immediately below my August Leader's Report.

And don't forget, if so inclined!, you can watch the whole meeting (which starts at 10am next Thursday) via this link.

Leader's Report

August 2013

Festivals Capital

I just looked out of my office window to witness a 38-piece New Zealand Army Band performing the Haka followed by 'Gangnam Style' (a taste of their quite brilliant performance at the Tattoo). This can mean only one thing: we are slap-bang in the middle of Festivals season. And what better time to live in Edinburgh? My Capital Coalition colleague, Councillor Steve Cardownie, recently reminded us of why we love Edinburgh in August.

Come the end of the month, and having indulged in everything the city has to offer, you could be forgiven for seeking out a healthy antidote to the weeks of excess. Well, look no further than the city's fifth Festival of Sport, which kicks off in some style with 'Sport with the Stars' on 24 August. Running until 8 September, the Festival offers a bumper fortnight of sport for everybody to get involved in. It's the perfect opportunity to try new sports, find out about the sports clubs in your area and all of the activities are FREE.
Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader, City of Edinburgh Council

Community Council elections - get involved

Do you want to get more involved in your local community and have a greater say on the issues affecting your area? If so, now is your chance. Nominations for community council members open next month and anyone aged over 16 can apply.

Being a community councillor is a valuable and rewarding experience and a great opportunity to represent your community, meet new people, learn new skills and help organise events that make a real difference to where you live. Everyone has something to offer regardless of experience, interests and backgrounds. Community councils are also represented on their Neighbourhood Partnership and work with local councillors and representatives from the likes of Police Scotland and NHS Lothian to agree local priorities and develop and deliver local community plans.

I know the hard work and dedication of community councils has had a really positive effect on neighbourhoods. Why not get involved? Nominations for election run from 2-23 September. Both individuals and groups can join. You'll find more details on the council website.

Wendy Henderson - a champion for change

I hope you will join me in congratulating one of our Communities Officers, Wendy Henderson, who has received a 'Champions for Change' award from one of Scotland's leading anti-sectarianism charities.

The trustees of Nil By Mouth have been hugely impressed with Wendy's energy and enthusiasm over the last 16 months during which time the charity has worked closely with the council to deliver their 'Beyond Religion and Belief' workplace training package to staff. This package has been developed in partnership with the STUC and Scottish Government and seeks to raise awareness of sectarianism in the workplace. We are the first local authority in Scotland to commit to the programme and the feedback we have received from staff to date has been extremely positive.

Wendy is the first ever recipient of the award which recognises outstanding contribution and best practice in addressing sectarianism in Scottish society.

Tram project latest

The good news is that we now have a signed operating agreement between the Council and Lothian Buses, who will run the tram on behalf of the city. Naturally, I'm delighted that we're able to benefit from their vast expertise. You will find a report on this agreement on our website.

Less good is the ongoing remedial work, particularly on and around Shandwick Place, which the contractor is currently carrying out on substandard sections of track. This work has taken longer that initially anticipated but is now nearing completion. Again, we're sorry for the ongoing disruption. The contractor is responsible for the additional costs and this will not affect the completion date.

We now look forward to September when we'll be able to provide a further update on project timeframes. In the meantime, our focus remains on delivering a service by summer 2014. It's important to remember that there is still much to be done in terms of completion of works and, following that, testing and commissioning.

See the latest pictures highlighting progress. You can also get regular updates by following @edinburghtrams on Twitter.

The bids are in

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to take one last opportunity to urge you to get behind Edinburgh's bid for the National Performance Centre for Sport (NPCS). The £25m investment by the Scottish Government will create a world class sporting facility providing fantastic opportunities both for community sport and performance athletes.

The bid team, including Chief Executive Sue Bruce, gave their final presentation to the judging panel at Hampden Park last week, following which full details of the bid, including some pretty impressive artist's impressions of the centre, were released for the first time. We'll have to wait until the return of the Scottish Parliament next month before we get the result although I understand that initial feedback from the panel has been extremely positive.

If you haven't already, please show your support and back the bid at the Go Edinburgh 2016 website.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Allotment update - first potatoes of the season :-)

Wonderfully calming few hours spent down at the Allotment this afternoon.

First (test) potatoes of the season dug up - pictured here ... that was just one row, out of a full two beds, to see how they were doing!

I have a feeling we'll be eating Allotment-tatties at Christmas again this year :-)

So - also in the picture:
  • red onions
  • (white) onions
  • gooseberries
  • raspberries
  • blackcurrants
  • strawberries
  • runner beans
  • spinach
  • & some picked-flowers

That's dinner sorted for this evening then :-))

Friday, August 09, 2013

August Full Council Meeting

August Full Council Meeting now fast-approaching - Thursday 22nd, with the full set of reports out on the morning of Friday 16th; a week today.

I'll be sure to post up the relevant links at the end of next week ...

... but I'm sure no state secrets are being disclosed by flagging up that progress with the Tram Project, and the next steps for the Shared Repairs Service will feature amongst the reports to be debated/decided upon.

I'll also post up my monthly Leaders Report as soon as its finalised.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Council projects in running for top spot at UK public sector awards

Always nice (no, this has nothing to do with the previous post!) to have some positive Council News to shout about ...

... and I've learned in the last few days that 5 Council projects, all of which have saved a considerable sum of money, have been shortlisted for an award :-)

All the details can be found via the News Release here, and I'll copy the main text below ...

... with many congratulations - and thanks! - to all the Council Staff involved:

Five Council projects in running for top spot at UK public sector awards

Published Thursday 8 August 2013

Five Council projects that have transformed the way city public services are delivered are going for gold in the finals of the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) Service Awards 2013.

The City of Edinburgh Council’s foster care recruitment campaign, a project targeting nursery children’s transition into Primary 1 and an internet based training portal for staff that saved the Council an estimated £3m, are among the projects shortlisted. In total the five projects are estimated to have saved over £3.86 million.

They will go on to compete against councils and other public sector organisations from across the UK in these annual awards, with the results due to be announced in Liverpool on Thursday 5 September 2013.

The APSE Awards recognize excellence in public sector service delivery in local authorities across the United Kingdom.
City of Edinburgh Council Leader Andrew Burns said: “These key projects have not only helped the Council achieve its objectives in critical service areas, they have also delivered important cost savings. Despite increasing pressure on budgets and resources, our frontline services continue to ensure that the people of Edinburgh are well cared for and looked after.

“Our employees deserve this national recognition for the work they continue to put in to improve Council services and deliver improved outcomes for Edinburgh residents.”

Announcing the finalists, Councillor John Kerr Brown, APSE National Chair, said “These awards recognise those frontline services are leading the way in UK public services, and deserve national recognition for their contribution to local neighbourhoods.”

The five projects shortlisted are:

  • Best Efficiency Initiative - ‘Foster Me Foster Us’
‘Foster Me Foster Us’ recruits foster carers to care for Edinburgh’s most vulnerable children. The team used an engaging recruitment campaign with a recognisable brand to increase the number of approved foster carers in the city. In 2012/13 there was a 55% increase in new carers registering and saved the Council £800,000. 

  • Best Public/ Voluntary Partnership Working Initiative - The Lighthouse Keeper Joint Transition Project
To help raise attainment and engage parents in their child’s learning, the multi-agency team developed a high quality, interactive learning experience, developed around the stories by Ronda and David Armitage. 122 families took part who were supported through their child’s transition from nursery, through summer and into P1.

  • Best Service Team Sports, Leisure & Cultural - Libraries – Unafraid of the future
Edinburgh’s Library and Information Service is delivering a new model for libraries across the city, based on an approach which is inspired by successful practise within the retail sector. The service has forged a coveted international reputation for its innovative, visionary approach with key strengths being a partnership approach, delivery of a range of services for hard to reach readers, cutting edge website and Library App, and engaging social media activity.

  • Best Employee & Equality Initiative - Workstyle
Home working was introduced as an effective way to reduce costs, reduce sickness absence, increase productivity and promote a healthy work-life balance. This has resulted in a forecasted annual saving of £61,000 and on average a 20% increase in productivity.
  • Best Information & Communication Technology Initiative - CECiL
CECil is a 24hr learning and communications that has transformed the way in which the Council approaches and delivers key messages, initiatives and campaigns.  This has resulted in greater cross council working and sharing, more highly skilled staff and delivered approximately £3m of savings.

NOPE it just doesn't work for me

I've tried to steer somewhat clear (forgive the pun) of the NiceWay Code since its launch on Monday ... it's not a campaign that the City Council is directly involved in.

But, as someone who is a daily cyclist myself, I can't not comment on the pictured bus poster that is currently on the streets of Edinburgh.

Personally, I do not like its messaging at all.

Just to be clear - there are some aspects of the NiceWay Code I do like ... if nothing else, it has most certainly got a vigorous debate going about road safety issues. And re-inforcing messages about visibility; sight-lines; leaving adequate space; and even being respectful of each other; are fine with me ... mind you, these are, of course, all in the Highway Code already ;-)

And - I do know that no amount of 'niceness' will have the same positive impact on the uptake of cycling that more, and better, infrastructure would lead to - and/or - the same impact on safety as the proper enforcement of (or reduction in) existing speed limits would make.

So, I do fully appreciate that many may take a different view on the 'overall' nicewaycode campaign, and its worth;

- but on the specifics of this one bus poster ...

... to the very best of my knowledge, it simply is not illegal to 'undertake' vehicles on a bike - and I am NOT equating what's legal with what's safe.

Every working day of my life I 'undertake' vehicles - cars, taxis, vans, buses and occasionally lorries. On every occasion I do so; I do it legally; I try and do it as safely as I can; and I do it VERY, VERY carefully.

My journey to, and from, work would take a considerably longer time to complete if I didn't do so - and I'm just not keen on being advised that, NOPE, I shouldn't undertake a bus?? And that - if I must - I can overtake it ... frankly, overtaking any vehicle - into an oncoming traffic lane - can be JUST as dangerous as irresponsibly undertaking a vehicle.

Now, I'm no marketing expert ... all references to Incredinburgh in the comments section will be automatically deleted :-(

... but surely it's not too late to make some adjustment (or even selective deletion?) to the pre-booked advertising space and/or any ongoing message development for the campaign??

That would be nice.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

With thanks to all of Edinburgh's teaching staff

Exam results day, Scotland-wide obviously, and the provisional data for Edinburgh looks very encouraging ... the Council's main News Release on the issue can be found here;
I'll repeat the main bod of text below but additional figures are available via the link here (scroll to the bottom).
Very well done to all concerned and huge thanks to all of Edinburgh's teaching staff.

Exam results improve across Edinburgh

Published Tuesday 6 August 2013
The wait is finally over as thousands of pupils across Edinburgh receive their exam results today (6 August).

Early indications are that candidates in Scotland's Capital have improved on their performances from 2013 and that Edinburgh's overall good performance has been maintained. In total 8,642 pupils sat 41,949 exams this year in over 70 subject areas, ranging from Mandarin to Woodwork Skills.

Highlights include:
  • By the end of S6 59% of all pupils have got Highers – a 4% improvement on last year and a 15% improvement since 2008.
  • By the end of S5 51% of all pupils have got Highers – a 10% improvement since 2008 and maintaining last year’s good results.
  • Craigroyston High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre have shown particular improvement in the number of pupils gaining five or more level 3 qualifications, this year achieving 100% and 99% respectively. This is an increase of 28% for Craigroyston and 26% for Wester Hailes Education Centre since 2010.

Peter Reid, an S5 pupil from Firrhill High School, who sat Higher exams in German, History, English, Chemistry and Physics, said: "I’ve studied really hard for these exams and after my Advanced Highers I’m hoping to study law and mandarin at university. I’ve just got back from a course in China and loved the country and the language.”

Education Convener, Councillor Paul Godzik, said: “Early indications from the SQA exam results show that 2013 has been another really positive year for all our pupils and I’m delighted at all their successes.

“To have nearly 60% of our pupils get a Higher by the end of S6 is a real achievement and I want to congratulate all our teaching staff on their commitment to delivering learning experiences of the highest standards. Our pupils should be very proud of themselves too – all their hard work has certainly paid off.

“Our drive to improve literacy has also proved successful with 99% of our pupils now gaining an award in English by S5.

“The Council is committed to making sure all school leavers enter a positive destination of employment, training or further education - last year a record number of 90% of them did so.

"Initiatives such as the Edinburgh Guarantee are also going a long way to making this a reality for many of our ex-pupils. This is something we are keen to build on in the coming years and look forward to seeing many more placements and positive results.”

All candidates will receive their results by means of the traditional postal delivery on Tuesday 6 August. Those candidates who have activated their MySQA accounts, through which they can choose to receive their exam results by text in addition to their results certificate, will also receive these by 9am on Tuesday 6 August."

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Lord Provost portrait

My colleague, Lesley Hinds ... who was Lord Provost between 2003 and 2007 ... had a small event this afternoon to note the unveiling of her official 'portrait' to mark her time as Edinburgh's First Citizen.

This is just a hastily taken snapshot of the final product ...

... I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and think Lesley (and Martin!) have chosen a format --- the first ever official "photographic portrait" of a Lord Provost, I believe? --- that will stand the test of time when placed against the many other formal paintings within the City Chambers!

And believe it or not, this isn't photo-shopped ... but somehow the LP's ceremonial Chair was transported to Inverleith Park, which is within the ward that Lesley represents ;-)