Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Council Executive meeting - NOT in the City Chambers!

First Council Executive meeting today that's NOT being held in the City Chambers, but instead at the Salvation Army Hall in Wardieburn!

Hoping all goes well and that we actually get a few new faces along in the public gallery. To be blunt, we're lucky to get ANY members of the public along to a City Chambers meeting, so I'm all for giving this a try - if it doesn't work then we can revert back, but I see no harm in giving the 'roving format' a trial run at the very least.

Later this afternoon first meeting of the Recruitment Committee to begin the process of replacing Roy Jobson, as Director of Children and Families now he has announced his retirement in June 2007. We're just agreeing advert etc. but it will get the ball rolling and ensure we have a replacement up and running for a bit of a handover before Roy departs - pretty crucial if you ask me.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Eco Schools" event and "An Inconvenient Truth"

Eco Schools event this morning out at the the conference centre of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Gogarburn. Really, really impressive morning with several schools and teachers presenting what they are up to with the Eco Schools scheme ... the standard was just great.

Three primary schools awarded their "Green Flag" level award, capping off a thoroughly enjoyable event.

And later this evening went to a Youth Services Advisory Committee viewing of "An Inconvenient Truth", the Al Gore film documentary. It is pretty powerful and seemed very appropriate to be watching it the very day the Stern Report hit the headlines.

... all in all a very 'green' tinge to today's diary!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Decorating finally finished ;-))

Decorating of the dreaded spare bedroom finally, finished this weekend!


You just don't realise what a job this was from this very boring photograph!!

Might get back to some semblance of 'weekend normality' now - although I'm sure there is another "scheme" in the pipeline that is just waiting to be revealed to me at the appropriate moment ;-((

Friday, October 27, 2006

Director's Meeting and Waterfront Tour!

Director's meeting first thing this morning ... bit rushed, but managed to cover plenty of ground.

Tour of the Edinburgh Waterfront this afternoon ... in relation to new 'developments' and school provision. There does seem to be a high number of schools planned for the type of 'housing development' that is currently (and planned to be) at the Waterfront. Something to definitely follow up next week.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Full Council Meeting today

October's Full Council Meeting today ... again, as per September, not too much "Children & Families" business on the agenda ... what a change from the previous 5-years of Council Meetings for me! That said, one opposition motion on private sector early years childcare provision did raise a bit of debate.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Achievement Awards & Edinburgh University

Bit of preparation for the annual Achievement Awards this morning ... main event to be held on the 1st November, so not far away now. Seems it will be a bit of a lively, fun, informal evening - not the type of evening I ever had in my last role! - so very much looking forward to it all.

Later this afternoon, helped with a lecture session for Edinburgh University Law Diploma students - been something I've assisted with for 4 or 5 years now ... helping out on a course run by a Council staff-member from the Committee Services section.

I do have a terrible habit, only at these closed-door events I hasten to add, of being ridiculously open in terms of my views on all things political. I may have been just a little too frank about how much I admire (NOT) first-past-the-post as an electoral system ... oops.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joint Departmental meeting and YSAC

Joint Departmental meeting this morning between Children & Families and Health & Social Care ... was quite keen to ensure high-level communication as soon as feasible after being in the new post. That's not to say the two new Departments don't work well together - I think they do - but fairly important, I think, that the two Directors and Executive Members actually sit down together at least every month or so. Seemed to go well.

Later - Youth Services Advisory Committee (YSAC) meeting this evening ... second of these committee meetings since taking on the new job. Just realised that means I've done a complete 'cycle' in the new role already - frightening!

The YSAC members are great - so refreshing to hear so many young people so full of good, constructive ideas for how to develop services in the city. Could do with a few of them on the Full Council ;-))

Monday, October 23, 2006

Computer refreshed ....

Back in the office this morning to find my computer has been "refreshed" .... was actually surprsingly straightforward to get it all back up and running - apart from getting my PDA (I know it's ancient, but it works and I like it!) to properly synchronise etc.

But, after a bit of trial and error, and some help from the professionals, got it going again and synchronising properly with everyone else who needs to constantly see what I'm doing for every minute of the day - just in case I rather outrageously have some time to actually take a radical decision, of course ;-))

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quiet Sunday?

Bit of time to recover from the few days away - not all relaxation though, with the ineviatable D.I.Y. requests that I love so much to be completed!

The dreaded shelving is now all finished, but on to a complete re-decoration of the spare bedroom - bit of a nightmare as I've taken out an old false ceiling - only to reveal a host of problems it was undoubtedly put up to hide ;-(

Nevertheless, it's made the room twice as airy (which was the purpose!) and I'll just now need to get on with the serious repair work to what's been exposed - joy of joys ;-((

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Back to normality ;-((

Back from a few days away this morning. Whole family had a great time up North in Glen Orchy - and even the weather was pretty kind to us ;-))

The cottage we stayed in (used it last year for the first time) was really first-class, and has a really relaxing atmosphere - as well as a great open fire!

Lots of walking around the local area, and even managed to fit in quite a bit of fishing - nothing caught I'm afraid - but thoroughly enjoyable. Early evening seemed to be the regular slot for the 'rod and reel' and caught sight of several deer crossing the River Orchy on a few of these ocassions - moving down from the forests to open space for the night I presume?

Anyhow, back to normality this afternoon and Edinburgh (small as it is) seems very crowded having spent a week in a valley with a single-number of houses!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Half Term week starts ;-))

Half Term week starts for the whole family from today - wonderful!

May be a lack of posts for a few days, but normal service will resume as soon as possible ;-))

Friday, October 13, 2006

Young Edinburgh Conference today

"Young Edinburgh" conference today - lasting most of the day in the City Chambers. Had to give a (very) brief welcome to the many delegates before a wide range of workshops and presentations. The quality of the input from the young people was really first-class; there is just no way I had their levels of confidence at that age ;-(

Very impressive all-round.

One of the presentation sessions was feedback from the Tynecastle High students who had 'shadowed' me over the course of several days. They were, thankfully, very kind and didn't make my day-job sound too desperately dull ... just a little bit dull ;-))

All in all, I've really enjoyed the event today. If what I've seen in the City Chambers today is a snap-shot of our future civic leaders, then I'm greatly reassured about the future. I really hope they all stick with it ...

I may though have to re-think my 'sausage roll' assessment from yesterday, having watched some people eat the City Chambers ones today ... not a pretty sight ;-((

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Scottish Executive Civil Servants and a Ceilidh!

Victoria Quay this morning to meet several of the Scottish Executive Education civil servants. Was quite keen to get this in the diary, early-on in my new role - after nearly five and a half years at Transport I reckon I got to know many of the Transport Civil Servants better than some of my own Council Officers ;-)

I can't say the same for the Education Department at Victoria Quay - probably only know one of the senior staff. So, it was really helpful to meet up with nearly 10 of the senior Education team today at Victoria Quay. I've always found that having a face to put to a name, picking the 'phone up and being frank with an issue with that person, can save dozens of pointless e-mails and letters that take you no further forward.

So here's hoping that this morning was time well spent - there was certainly a genuine sense of willingness to assist wherever feasible.

On a lighter note - it appears that City Chambers sausage rolls are shockingly NOT the worst in Scotland - that proud title now, without question, belongs to Victoria Quay sausage rolls ;-((

Just look at that??

Some preparation later this afternoon for my first "Young Edinburgh" annual conference tomorrow. This was preceded by a dinner and ceilidh this evening ... dinner was good, and I decided not to spoil the young people's evening by saying anything, as it all seemed to be ticking along nicely. Ceilidh too was good fun - just stayed for a short while but it was clear that the floorboards were going to be creaking late into the night!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Community consultation meeting on Portobello

Community consultation meeting this evening on Portobello and St. John's schools - following on from the statutory events last Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Large meeting in Portobello Town Hall, with a very healthy attendance, and again an incredibly civilised and informative debate!

I'm pretty impressed with the folk from Portobello, and surrounding area/s, who have attended these meetings - must be getting close to 700 for the 3 main events? There is clearly a high level of contention over the Council proposals - just have a look at Portobello Online (this is a long 'chain', which starts at the first posts and carries on into the 1,000's - literally!) for a flavour - and yet each of the meetings, although challenging, have been pretty polite and civil affairs with a very high level of well-informed debate.

No matter what the outcome from this round of consultation, there's no question that the local population have been very involved. I certainly hope that those who don't get their preferred site option/s, come the Council Meeting in December which will ultimately decide these matters, would at least accept that.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Council Executive meeting and Tynecastle visits

Council Executive meeting this morning ... not a huge number of actual 'Children and Families' reports, but the Department did have a joint-role in several that were approved throughout the morning. Four students from Tynecastle High were in the public gallery (swelling the numbers by at leasy 100%) as part of their 'shadowing' of me ... I know, I've felt sorry for them as well ;-)

They attended a press briefing we did last week, and have now followed it through to the relevant reports actually being approved by the Council Executive. This afternoon, I'm returning the experience and am going to 'shadow' them for a spell at the High School, in their 'Pupil Council' roles. I've a horrible feeling the Pupil Council may be a lot more interesting than the Council Executive ;-((

As well as the 'shadowing' at the High School, I'm also visiting the school management team (separately) as Tynecastle are part of the second-round of school buildings programme. Think that will thereafter mean I've visited all of the Primary and Secondary Schools involved in the second-round of building.

After the High School, also going to visit the Tynecastle Nursery School to discuss a variety of local issues. Will feel slightly odd, as the last time I was in the building was probably dropping off my own son who was there (about 5 or 6 years ago) as a Nursery Pupil ;-)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Some 'blog' training and local Community Council this evening

Actually attended a brief (but good!) training course on how to keep a 'blog' this morning - made me realise that I should make more effort to publicise my existing "blog/diary" ;-))

Weekly surgery this evening quite busy - combination of housing and planning issues; two of the most common concerns that are raised with me.

Talking of concerns - at the local Community Council meeting this evening still plenty of anxiety (quite rightly) about the ongoing youth disorder issues in the local area. The meeting a couple of weeks ago seems to have eased some worries that not enough was being done - but it's clear to me that this now needs to be followed through into action on the ground.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Local Radio Show & first Civil Partnership!

Saturday morning, local radio show yesterday seemed to go well - always difficult to tell when you're at the receiving end of the questions etc.; but I enjoyed the discussion, which is always a good sign. I generally find with these events, if you feel uncomfortable then something is certainly going wrong ;-(

Anyhow, that wasn't the case yesterday morning - so here's hoping for some positive feedback during the coming week from those who may have been listening??

Yesterday evening, the family all shot over to Glasgow (having dropped our son at his grandparents near Airdrie) to attend our first ever Civil Partnership event! Was a really enjoyable evening - atmosphere made all the better by Scotland beating France 1-0 at football just before the reception started, which seemed to send Glasgow into a frenzy of excitement ;-))

Can't help but comment on the general 'feel' of the whole evening - first off we had a few pints in a pub in Partick (not the most salubrious part of the city) and other guests from the North West of England were in the bar ... the atmosphere was great; England playing badly against Macedonia, Scotland practically 'claiming' the 2006 World Cup having beaten France, Scots and English having a really good laugh at it all in the pub, no smoking allowed inside, English smokers being told they are not down South now and can't freely pollute other drinkers lungs (this is in Partick remember!). Then the Civil partnership just round the corner still in Partick, same-sex couple tying a legal bond for life, lovely atmosphere, friendly, loads of diversity in the wedding party ... this paragraph (and yesterday evening) would just not have been possible - or even thought possible - 10 years ago.

Whether one agrees with the direction of change - yesterday reminded me that Governments DO unquestionably change society. For me, it was a wonderful example of the power of politics to create a 'good society' ... not perfect, just a bit better for many.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Director's Meeting, catch up, and evening off!

Weekly Director's Meeting first thing this morning - focused on links with Kenya, and departmental budget issues. Quite a contrast in tone and content!

A huge general catch up this afternoon - bit of mail backlog, but all successfully cleared.

... and an evening off tonight - thank goodness, it's been a frantic week but looking forward to the weekend and a bit of a rest! That said, have to do a local radio show tomorrow (Saturday) morning ... I do usually enjoy these events and hoping that tomorrow will be no different ;-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Visits to three schools today!

Busy 'visiting-day' today ... all schools that are involved in the second round of the schools building programme.

Bonaly Primary first this morning - well, actually at the old "Darroch" site in Tollcross, as they are decanted there for a while, until the new school built. Thought the school were coping magnificently with what must be a pretty demanding set of circumstances.

Forrester High School next and very differerent issues - no decant involved, but new school will be built in the grounds, so still difficult challenges to overcome throughout the upcoming building programme.

St. Augustine's High School last, which is right next door to Forrester's, had similar issues and also some specific concerns about detail.

It has to be said that, in the main, the management teams at the schools are showing remarkable patience - and organisation! - in coping with all that is either going on and/or about to happen to their school communities.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Portobello last night; St. John's tonight

Two, large public meetings over the last couple of days.

Portobello High School meeting, held last night, had 200+ people in attendance, but was remarkably civilised and I was hugely impressed by the calm, rational arguments being put forward by the vast majority of people present.

St. John's Primary School meeting, tonight, had close on 100 members of the public present ... and again, very calm and rational arguments being put forward.

Subject matter has been the potential replacement of both schools with new facilities - badly needed in both cases - but with the possibility of some of the moves being on to local green space.

Another, wider public meeting next Wednesday in Portobello Town Hall - before the formal consultation ends on 30th October.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Children 1st AGM and Weekly Surgery

Children 1st AGM late this afternoon, with a big attendance in the City Chambers. Only had a few minutes at the actual annual general meeting as it near enough clashed with my weekly surgery at 6pm. Was, consequently, all a bit hurried unfortunately.

Anyhow, dahsed out to do the Weekly Surgery thereafter. As is nearly always the case, a few constituents present with several issues to raise with me.