Saturday, December 10, 2016

December Leader's Report

December 2016

A 2050 vision for Edinburgh

Andrew Burns
It's easy to make a New Year's Resolution for 2017, but what about 2050?

Our conversation with residents and businesses of Edinburgh, along with those who visit, on the type of city they want Edinburgh to be by 2050 is now full steam ahead and clear themes and shared priorities are starting to emerge.

From preserving Edinburgh's green spaces to blending new architecture with the city's distinctive Old and New Towns, you have been telling us what matters to you.

The response to this conversation to date has been fantastic and I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to engage.

In the New Year, we will be preparing a citywide vision for the Edinburgh of the future and we want you to continue giving your input. Let us know what you think at

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh

Reasons to be cheerful

There's been some very welcome news about Edinburgh's continued economic resilience in recent weeks.

Hotel industry research showed that in contrast to other cities, Edinburgh's hotels saw a record profit growth in October thanks to a surge in international visitors. Profit per room was up 18.4% during the month of October.

Meanwhile, retail sales and leisure spend both climbed in October, according to figures issued by Essential Edinburgh in their monthly Essential Trends bulletin. Retail sales jumped 6.9% compared with the same month in 2015, and leisure spend increased by 5%.

And October saw well over a million passengers travel through Edinburgh Airport - making it the busiest October EVER at a Scottish airport.

Festive free wifi

When you are out and about enjoying the festivities in the city centre, remember to take advantage of free high speed wifi.

More than 50,000 people are already using the EdiFreeWiFi service, which is now in place following a 10-year concession contract with intechnologyWiFi, agreed in March this year, to deliver wifi coverage and improved mobile reception in the city centre.

You'll also be able to make the most of the free service at Edinburgh's Hogmanay as intechnologyWiFi is their official partner and has installed extra equipment to cope with increased demand.

Here's a map of the available coverage and FAQs about the EdiFreeWiFi service.

Keeping to our pledges

It's fair to say that politicians often make ambitious promises when canvassing for votes but how often do they voluntarily put their commitments up for public examination?

On taking office in May 2012, we set out 53 specific pledges that we aimed to deliver by 2017 - the progress of which has been constantly and independently monitored by officers throughout our term.

These are based on a number of high level commitments, which include reducing poverty, inequality and deprivation, and maintaining and improving the quality of life in Edinburgh.

I am pleased to report that, thanks to recent developments such as the opening of the new Portobello High School, we have now met 39 of the pledges with the remaining 14 on track to be completed by next May.

Fantastic books and where to find them

Edinburgh is widely thought of as the birthplace of Harry Potter so we are delighted to showcase an original copy of J.K. Rowling's classic, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Featuring personal anecdotes and illustrations by the author, this one-of-a-kind book is a must-see for all Potter fans and brings a touch of magic to our Writers' Museum this winter.
Visit before 8 January and check out our series of family friendly events taking place.

20mph rollout continues

We're now four months into Edinburgh's 18-month journey towards becoming a 20mph city, after Phase 1 went live in the city centre and rural west Edinburgh on 31 July.

This carefully planned rollout is about keeping speeds down in residential and shopping streets, while retaining a strategic network of key routes across the Capital at 30 and 40mph.
Signs and lines are now beginning to be put in across Zones 2 (North) and 3 (South Central / East), with the 20mph limit formally coming into effect for Phase 2 on 28 February 2017.

Check out an interactive map of the 20mph network and implementation timetable on our website and find out when 20mph is coming to your area.

Season's greetings

The celebrations for Edinburgh's Christmas are well underway and the city is once again gearing up for three spectacular days of Hogmanay celebrations.

I am glad to say the city's school pupils have been at the heart of the festivities this year, with 10,000 children benefitting from free visits to the circular ice rink in St Andrew Square. Bus shelters in the city centre are proudly displaying some of our school pupils' creative Christmas card designs, while Princes Street Gardens has been adorned with 'Winter Windows' by budding young artists from local schools.

Adding some festive cheer to your TV screens, our talented schools choirs will also be performing on STV for Edinburgh's Christmas Song Book. I can't think of a better way to get in to the spirit of things.

Merry Christmas from me and all the very best for 2017.

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The City of Edinburgh Council

Friday, December 09, 2016

December Full Council Meeting

December's Full Council Meeting is just a week away - it takes place at 10am next Thursday 15th December...

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) this morning, 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, December 07, 2016

Councils Homelessness effort under potential threat

Councils Homelessness effort under threat if funding cut says COSLA
Speaking today (Wednesday) in advance of the Scottish Government laying out its spending plans for next year, COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson Councillor Harry McGuigan said:
“Councils have made great efforts to tackle homelessness in recent years but a severe cut to Local Government next week will threaten all of this hard work.  As the Scottish Government look to hollow-out council funding even more, this will result in resources being taken away from support services that stop people becoming homeless.
“Our funding is at breaking point and, despite the evidence that councils are prioritising the most vulnerable communities, there are only so many efficiency improvements that can be made before the quality of service is affected.  While councils have done well to meet their statutory obligation on homelessness, the impact of cuts is beginning to be felt by the most needy in society.
“Although many of the drivers of homelessness lie outwith the remit of Scottish and Local Government – such as the introduction of Universal Credit – it is important that both spheres of government in Scotland work together to support those in need.  If one sphere of Government makes a political choice to cut its funding to Councils we are certainly not working together to alleviate the problem.
“It is tragic that anyone should be made homeless in the 21st century, especially at this time of year with Christmas approaching and a cold winter starting to bite.”
City of Edinburgh Council Leader, Councillor Andrew Burns, added:
“Over recent years, Edinburgh has seen a steady reduction in people presenting as homeless. A major contributing factor has been the collaboration with our partners in the third sector. These achievements have also been despite a challenging economic climate and significant budget pressures throughout the city.”
“Of course, protecting vulnerable people will continue to be our key priority and we are committed to reducing homelessness further across Edinburgh. But these recent, very positive achievements, will all be put at serious risk if we see any further significant budget reductions from the Scottish Government.”
Article published: 
Wed, 07/12/2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A hair-raising hat-trick for the 'Loony' Provost

Lord provost joins the loony dook 2016A hair-raising hat-trick for the 'Loony' Provost

(picture of last year's Loony Dook)

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost is once again preparing to plunge into icy cold waters for charity when he takes on the New Year’s Day Stoat’s Loony Dook challenge.
Part of the three day festival for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the event will see over 1,000 ‘Dookers’ cheered on by 4,000 spectators start 2017 with a dip in the River Forth in the shadow of the world-famous Forth Bridges.
The Lord Provost Donald Wilson has signed up to take part for the third year in a row in order to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which provides a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service across the UK.
He commented: “The event has gone from strength to strength in recent years and raises lots of money for a fantastic charity. Once again it is a sell-out. The South Queensferrry branch of the RNLI will receive a 10 per cent donation from each registration fee for the event. The cold is a serious challenge, but one I’m prepared to undertake again for such a good cause. I wish everyone else taking part the best of luck – you’re going to need it!”

The Stoat’s Loony Dook is organised by Unique Events, which produces Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council. It is supported by porridge producer Stoats. Last month, organisers confirmed the event has been a sell out and that no more spaces are available, but spectators are welcome to cheer on the Dookers from various vantage points along the route. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Another cut to local government funding will have severe consequences

COSLA today (Monday) said that a cut to local government funding from central government next week will have severe consequences for jobs across the country.

Speaking in advance of the Scottish Government laying out its spending plans for next year, COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill said: “The Scottish Government needs to realise that if as a result of their political choices the local government settlement is cut again next week – this will have severe consequences for jobs across Scotland.

“There were 7,000 job losses arising from the £350m cut to Scottish councils last year. A further reduction in budget of similar proportions, on an already reduced base, will have even more severe consequences for job losses in councils and have a wider knock on effect for jobs within communities. We need to remember that services are delivered by these people – no people, no services to communities.

“The Scottish Government needs to remember that in many areas the council is the largest employer and therefore a cut in council jobs has a devastating knock on effect for people and local economies. Consequences for families and communities will be severe due to reduced local spending and the economic vibrancy of many communities will be threatened.

“I also feel that the Government should be made aware of the wider economic development perspective as a result of any cuts to Council budgets. Any further reductions in funding for Councils, combined with an expectation that statutory services such as education and social care are maintained, can only mean a disproportionate reduction in discretionary services such as economic development.

“Councils help thousands of businesses to start or grow every year, creating jobs in the process. A reduction in that support can only mean much less opportunity for job creation, a reduced opportunity to tackle inequality. This will have a detrimental impact on the local economies affected, especially in many areas still suffering from the financial downturn.”

Backing the words of the COSLA President, Fife Council Leader Cllr David Ross said: “A cut of the same proportion as last year (3.5 per cent) would result in well over 300 jobs being lost within Fife Council. David O’Neill is right, the Scottish Government has to be made aware of the wider ramifications of yet another substantial cut in funding for local government – a cut to local government is a cut to jobs and economic development.

“Reductions in economic development locally in Fife, mirror a reduction in spend by national agencies which has already delivered a significant reduction in expenditure in Fife at a time of great uncertainty. This double whammy has a worse effect on our most needy communities and many of our most needy communities are already at breaking point.”
Article published: 
Mon, 05/12/2016

Friday, December 02, 2016

EDINBURGH LABOUR: Draft Manifesto launch-note

I've had several requests to blog my launch-note from the event on Wednesday --- so here is the text I spoke to, for all those interested:

Our Edinburgh; a European City to be proud of …

Good morning colleagues.

Many thanks for attending this morning.

Great to see so many of you here – existing Councillors, new candidates, and some friends from the local press too.

Today Edinburgh Labour is launching its Draft Manifesto for next May’s Local Government Elections.

Believe it or not, there are 22-weeks from tomorrow until the 4th May 2017 – just a little over 15-days!

And by this coming Monday (5th December) night; all 23 of our local candidates will be in place, and our selections will be complete.

I’m delighted to see several of our new (already selected) candidates here this morning.

Along with the launch of our Draft Manifesto today, we’re making a clear statement-of-intent about how important these upcoming elections are to Edinburgh.

And – in the next 15minutes or so, I want to cover 3 brief areas:

1.    How we’ve arrived at today

2.    What’s happened for the last 5-years

3.    Our pledges for the next 5-years

Then I’ll be happy to take questions, and we can also help with any required photos at the end of the meeting – all of which should conclude by 11am latest.

1.    How we’ve arrived at today

We obviously went into Opposition in 2007 – having been in power for 33-years beforehand; from 1984-2007

It was a salutary lesson to lose power, and one which we worked hard to learn from and to become stronger because of.

I became Group Leader in June 2008, 1-year after we lost power, and we did our very best to be a constructive – but robust – Opposition, to the then Coalition running the Capital City.

I’ll leave it to others to judge how effectively the Political Parties who then ran the Council (between 2007-2012) managed their business.

But for us – we focused on moving forward, and in 2011 we launched (in a first for Scottish Local Government) a Draft Manifesto, which we then very publicly consulted upon – and received over 1,000 submissions to the initial text.

As a result of the feedback we received last time, we ensured that several elements of our final 2012 Manifesto were strengthened – and we have now delivered:

·         open webcasting of all the main Council Meetings, which are archived and available for scrutiny by everyone
·         a Petitions Committee (Chaired by the Opposition) through which members of the public can directly raise local issues
·         a revised Audit Committee (again Chaired by the Opposition) which is able to scrutinise key Council decisions and hold those in power to account
·         an entirely renewed ‘Localities’ structure, with much more decision-making power being progressively devolved to local areas and local people
·         the use of Participatory Budgeting (PB) in ‘Localities’, wherein local residents choose their own budget priorities

And that 2012 finalised Manifesto did lead us to get back into power at the May Local Government Elections – after only 1-term in Opposition, which is a very unusual outcome electorally.

After that election, we openly published our local Coalition Agreement, and our 53-pledges … all of which is independently monitored by Council Officers, and routinely reported to Full Council.

We further – I would contest – provided a degree of stability that hadn’t been present in previous Council terms (in recent times) … with the current local Coalition making 38 out of the existing 58 Elected Members.

So ---

2.    What’s happened for the last 5-years

So --- as well as the changes referenced a moment ago … many of which led the way for Scottish Local Government, and none of which existed in Edinburgh prior to 2012 … I’m also particularly proud that Edinburgh Labour, very quickly:

·         Introduced the Living Wage for all of the Council’s workforce, leading the way for the rest of the Capital City … this benefitted literally thousands of low-paid Council employees
·         & settled the outstanding Equal Pay Issues … again benefitting literally thousands of low-paid female employees

--- both these issues were resolved/implemented within a few months of us coming back to power in 2012 … nothing had been done on them in the previous 5-years between 2007-2012.

Gaining back power has made a tangible difference to many thousands of low-paid workers!

And we achieved all of this against a backdrop of a reducing Central Government Budget, and increasing service-demands.

Providing a level of stability to the Council throughout – despite currently being on my third ‘Council Deputy Leader’, the junior Coalition partner having changed their Group Leader 3-times!

And other issues we’ve manged to deliver upon are – just some highlights:

·         Educational attainment levels at Standard and Higher Grades have seen year-on-year improvement for the last 5-years 
·         4,914 new affordable homes have been built since 2012, and the city is on target to deliver 16,000 new low cost homes over the next decade 
·         There has been increased support for vulnerable children, and help for families, so fewer go into care
·         There has been increased provision for homeless people in Edinburgh leading to reduced numbers of homelessness presentations and rough sleeping
·         Youth unemployment in the city has fallen from 4.5% in 2012 to just 0.6% now
·         1,426 quality, new energy efficient council homes have been completed, are under construction or in procurement
·         There has been a significant increase in care being delivered at home 
·         £8.6m has been provided to support vulnerable children and families through the Early Years Challenge Fund
·         There has been an extension of Breakfast Clubs, ensuring that support for a breakfast club is provided to every school which wants one
·         There has been £91m of investment into new school buildings for Portobello, James Gillespies and Boroughmuir High Schools – alongside St. John’s RC Primary School – and St. Crispin’s Special School
·         The percentage of school leavers in a positive destination has risen from 85.2% in 2010 to 93.1% now

Overall the Capital City has retained an enviable reputation:

·         we are frequently ranked as having the best ‘quality of life’ of any city, in the whole of the UK
·         the Scottish Capital also has the 2nd highest average wage rate in the UK
·         16% of people walk to work in Edinburgh - that's more than any other UK city
·         and the City's Festivals welcome over 3,000 performers, from nearly 50 countries, who carry out some 50,000 shows in over 300 venues – every year!

But – and it’s a very important qualification … the inequality gap in the City is still far too stark:

·         24% of our Secondary-age children go into the Private School Sector
·    whilst 22% of children in the Capital continue to live in families below the official poverty-line

Tackling this unacceptable inequality gap needs to be the absolute focus of our attention in the next 5-years.

3.    Our pledges for the next 5-years

Thus – today we’re launching a new Draft Manifesto, which we’ll consult publicly on for the next 3-months, right through until the 28th February 2017 …

… we’ll thereafter adjust the Manifesto, subsequent to the feedback we receive, before we launch our final document in March 2017.

The Draft we are launching today has six themes:

1.    Planning for Edinburgh’s Growth
2.    Young People and Education
3.    Affordable Housing for all
4.    Care and Compassion in our Society
5.    Jobs and the Local Economy
6.    Your Local Environment

--- and just to highlight one example-pledge, from each of those themes – we will:

1.    seek to ensure the delivery of a ‘City Region Deal’ for Edinburgh, Lothians, the Borders and Fife – that deal to include significant infrastructure funding, and new Housing-powers for local Councils

2.    there are already a number of community sports hubs across the city; Broughton High School has a school of music and dance, while Leith has a Confucius Institute specialising in the teaching of Mandarin;
§  other schools specialise in vocational courses or are recognised as leading in certain subject areas.
§  building on the Council’s move to localities (a more localised delivery of services), our partnership working in delivering the senior phase, and our existing sports hubs; we will investigate moves to set up more ‘specialist school hubs’ in
§  languages
§  science & technology
§  arts & the creative industries
§  and sport
... in High Schools right across the city.

3.    commit to deliver 8,000 new affordable homes over the next ten years and encouraging our Registered Social Landlord (RSL) partners to match this, bringing 16,000 affordable homes to Edinburgh in the next decade.

4.    we are committed to delivering 8 ‘Health and Social Care Community Hubs’ across the City.
§  these Hubs would be physical ‘one stop shops’ where people can speak directly to professionals in both the voluntary/statutory sector, about all of their health and care needs
§  This model is already used in other service-areas, and has proven to be extremely successful
§  We would deliver 2 ‘Health and Social Care Community Hubs’ in each Locality Area of the City.
5.    as a nation, we need to empower our cities to play a much fuller role in serving their people and stimulating their local economies - we will therefore press the Scottish Government over the required powers, and seek to introduce the following measures locally:
§  abandon the Council Tax freeze
§  extend Council Tax banding (if the Tax is not otherwise reformed) to embrace the wealthiest in our society
§  allow Council/s full control of Business Rates
§  adjust means settlement to allow Council/s full income of taxes generated locally
§  introduce the so-called ‘Tourist Visitor Levy’
§  introduce a form of Land Taxation on non-residential and non-business property, that isn’t subject to business rates (this is in relation to the management of land banks)
6.    we do need to do more on air pollution – as this is one of the most significant threats to the ‘quality of life’ we currently enjoy in our Capital City:
§  we will therefore consult on the implementation of Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) for the City
§  we will continue to develop quality public realm; and promote vehicle free areas, wherever feasible
§  we will also lobby the Scottish Government to devolve powers to Local Authorities, allowing them to :
o   consider the implementation of a ‘Workplace Parking Levy’
o   consider the implementation of an ‘Emissions Surcharge’
§  this will help reduce carbon, across all our activities, so that the national target of a 42% reduction is met by 2020

And a final reminder that we’ll consult publicly on these draft ideas for the next 3-months, right through until the 28th February 2017 …

… we’ll thereafter adjust the Manifesto, subsequent to the feedback we receive, before we launch our final document in March 2017.

This is a radical, bold set of proposals, which – given the chance – we will deliver upon prior to 2022.

Many thanks for listening.

Cllr Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council

Thursday, December 01, 2016

December's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

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

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

... and the individual Reports can also 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 ;-)