Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lord Provost's Party this evening

Xmas over - really great time had by all in the Burns' Household, although celebrations ever-so slightly dampened by my mother not being in great health for the holidays.

Lord Provost's Party this evening ... two of these now held every year, one before Xmas and one just before the New Year. Think I've always gone to the one just before New Year, and there was a really good atmosphere again this year with elected Members asked to invite guests from their local community who have made a positive contribution to the city during the year - great idea.

Most of the Hutchison and Chesser Community Council members were my guests and think they really enjoyed themselves.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Xmas Eve & excitement high!

Excitement now reaching a high-point in the household! Various family members can hardly contain themselves - and that's just the two adults who live here ;-)

Here's tomorrow's Xmas table nearing completion!

Xmas Eve and round to some friends house for a bit of yule-tide spirit (literally) ... some eventually went to the local church Chris-tingles Celebration, whilst others remained to continue with the alternative pre-Xmas build up ;-))

Friday, December 22, 2006

Xmas lunch

Xmas lunch for the Labour Group and all the support staff this afternoon. Was down at The George Hotel for the second year running and was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon ... except of course the bit were the 'tables are announced' and despite our loudest efforts, its still hard to convince many of the benefits of their local authority ;-(

Back to the office afterwards and the usual mad panic to clear my desk before the Xmas break. Managed to escape at a reasonable hour, having cleared all the essential stuff and a good deal of non-essential work as well.

Nice evening at home, with a slap-up meal provided by the family as it's my 43rd Birthday today!

Very much looking forward to the next few days now ...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Full Council Meeting today

Full Council Meeting today - looks like it could be a very long meeting ... and the agenda includes several items relevant to Children and Families.

Three main issues:

- an update on the progress being made with the PPP2 project ... report here.

- another report surrounding a further set of proposals for a third-round of school building, which I mentioned in a couple of posts last week ... report here.

- the third, the final decision on site-locations for the new Portobello High School and St. John's Primary School ... report here.

Was very pleased to get all-party support for all three of these decisions ... the minute of the meeting is now on the Council website here.

A constructive end to 2006 ... can only hope it augurs well for coalition decision-making next year - no matter who is in the coalition!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Budget Review Group

Budget Review Group meeting this afternoon ... always difficult to know exactly how to make your 'Departmental Pitch' at these events!

The Budget Review Group (BRG) is the main body of politicians and officials that pours over the detail of the council-wide previous budget spending and future proposals ... calling before it a variety of senior Directors and elected Members to make their case for their respective Departments.

Can be a bit daunting, but hopefully it all went okay this afternoon - we'll know soon enough when the 2007/2008 Budget is set at a special Full Council meeting on Thursday 8th February!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Boroughmuir High School

Boroughmuir High School this afternoon ... for much the same purpose as yesterday's visit to James Gillespies - to talk to the Head Teacher and School Board reps. etc. about the report going to the Full Council next week.

Boroughmuir also being prioritised for the third round of school building - and despite them having been in this position on several occasions in the past, they showed a real pragmatism about the progress that's been made with their case in the last few months.

Very refreshing and positive ;-)

Monday, December 18, 2006

James Gillespie's High School

James Gillespies High School this afternoon ... brief visit to go over the upcoming report going before the Full Council next week on 21st December.

Although there is undoubted relief at the report actually prioritising James Gillespies for our next round of any school building programme (funding permitting of course) there were still several other issues that are obviously frustrating the School Board.

I'll obviously try my best to keep a constructive dialogue going, even though I can't promise instant solutions to all the school's wishes!

Friday, December 15, 2006

First of the Xmas Parties ...

First 2006 Xmas Party this evening ... Labour Group event in the City Chambers. Although these are always enjoyable evenings, almost impossible to relax properly with assorted press and others in attendance.

Nevertheless, enjoyed the first half of the evening before managing to escape around 9pm ;-))

Thursday, December 14, 2006

James Gillespie's Xmas Carol Concert

James Gillespie's Xmas Carol Concert this evening ... a very impresive evening indeed, with such a wide variety of talent on display.

It really is this type of showcase for the state sector that just doesn't get enough attention - I seriously doubt anything better is undertaken within the private sector.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Carrick Knowe Primary School this morning

Over to Carrick Knowe Primary School this morning ... really calm atmosphere throughout the school. Yet again, this was pretty evident within a few minutes of being in the building, and only re-inforced as I went around some of the classrooms with the Acting Head Teacher.

All of this, the more impressive when you consider the devasting issues that the school community have had to face this year.

Very seriously impressed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Council Executive meeting - Transport-lunch!

Council Executive meeting (agenda here) this morning ... John Owino from Meru South (in Kenya) District Education office spoke briefly to the meeting before it began. Ongoing discussions about setting up a formal trust have led to his visit and a paper was approved at the meeting taking this to the next step.

Transport-lunch this afternoon! ... went out with all the principal Communications Officers, and my ex- Departmental Assistant, who saw me through a very challenging final few years at the Transport brief.

Enjoyable afternoon and just a very small thank you for all of the unstinting help they provided over the years.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lismore Primary School Board this morning

I've been invited to a Lismore Primary School Board meeting later this morning ... suspect it may be a lively meeting, with some bridges to be built for sure! And it did turn out to be a much wider meeting than just the School Board - even Gavin Strang MP was there and actually chaired the gathering?

Did my utmost to reassure everyone that I wanted to see a successful future for the school - was undoubtedly an air of scepticism, but entirely understandable given the recent history of events surrounding the school. Tried to press home the message that as well as the Local Authority supporting and promoting the local school, the more important support and promotion would always come from the local community itself ... and to achieve that, everyone needs to move on from yesterdays' issues.

Not sure I fully succeeded in getting the message across??

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Xmas Decorations

Spent this morning - with a very excited 9-year old! - getting the 'Xmas Decorations' up in the flat. Most of my side of the family coming over to Edinburgh this year - looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

London today for Electoral Reform Society Council meeting

Down to London today for the quarterly Eletoral Reform Society (ERS) Council meeting.

Been on the Council now for several years - lost out in the vote for one year recently - and in the main the level of debate is vastly improved on my earlier years. That said, little bit of the old factionalism did seem to creep in to the second half of the meeting today ;-((

Hopefully was just a minor reversion and won't become a depressing pattern!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekly Director meeting

Weekly meeting with department Director this morning ... budget for 2007/08 still dominating general discussion.

Other topics covered ranged from Tynecastle to Portobello educational issues; from 'Children 1st" to 'school computer refresh programme'.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blackhall Primary School and Local Community Council Xmas night-out!

Blackhall Primary School this morning ... very impressive establishment and really enjoyed being taken around by the Head Teacher and Chair of the School Board - even had a good bit of debate about aspects of educational policy with them ;-)

Amazingly calm atmosphere throughout the whole school - which I always think speaks volumes for what is going on.

Blackhall throws up some interesting dilemmas ... very successful school in terms of attainment, pretty good building fabric when compared to others across the city, probably not traditionally 'top' priority for investment ... but should all of that really prevent it being considered for further investment? Edinburgh is always banging-on about 'investing in success' and not just 'spending to avoid failure' ... apply that general argument to school fabric?? Not sure, needs to be a balance really and ultimately children's education simply has to be the top priority ... good fabric undoubtedly makes a difference, but so many other crucial elements require support as well ... staffing; parental-backing to mention but the obvious two.

On to my local Community Council Xmas Night-Out this evening - very enjoyable occasion at Jimmy Chungs in town! Managed about 4 main-courses and 2 puddings ... I do have a reputation to keep up after all ;-))

Lot of chit-chat about computers making all our lives easier (??) ... can't say it feels like that to me when I look at the number of e-mails I get on a daily basis! ... lots of them from members of the said Community Council ;-((

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Murrayburngate Social Work centre yesterday and Braidburn School today ...

ooops ... didn't log an entry yesterday (Tuesday), but was at Murrayburngate Social Work centre for most of the morning and also forgot to mention that I went out to Westfield House Social Work Centre yesterday afternoon. Having been round several now, I'm more than ever convinced of the need for a pretty large boost in the base-revenue budget for the Children and Families Department ... there's really impressive work going on, but a lot of 'professional' time is being spent on tasks that could be undertaken by others thus releasing the qualified Social Workers to do what their job title suggests.

Braidburn School this (Wednesday) morning ... a fairly new special school with the complete age range from 3 years up to 18 years old ... also pretty wide range of educational, physical and emotional needs being catered for as well.

A really excellent facility all-round but still the odd snagging issue with some of the new fabric ... just a tiny, little bit frustrating that this still seems to get blamed on the school being PPP financed; if anyone can point me to a traditionally-funded school that had absolutely no snagging issues on the day it opened I'd be very pleasantly surprised ;-)

That said, there clearly is an issue about speed of response to fabric issues that are being raised ... something that definitely needs to be pursued!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Young Edinburgh Awards

Young Edinburgh Awards ceremony this evening ... meant I had to cancel my weekly surgery, which I never like doing, and hopefully the door signs were in clear view! ... but the alternative was a really enjoyable evening, which even the Evening News reported positively - have a look at this link, and here, but make sure you're sitting down first ;-)

No wonder the roof blew off Meggetland the very same day ;-))

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Birthday weekend!

Birthday weekend for the family this Saturday/Sunday ... complete exhaustion now very evident after having 16 X 9-year olds for a couple of hours ten-pin bowling and then all back at the house ;-(

Self-inflicted madness - but the kids all thoroughly enjoyed themselves ;-))

Some expert bowling ...

Friday, December 01, 2006

St. Crispin's School

St. Crispin's School visit this morning for a special St. Andrew's Day assembly ... only just got there on time (typical politician!), which was all a bit embarassing, but was made to feel very welcome and the school assembly was hugely impressive. The 'whole' school did seem to be involved and it was very evident that a massive amount of preparation had gone into the morning, which is no small feat when dealing with such challenging young people.

Following the school assembly, got a tour of the classes, and outside areas - it is a typical 1960s/70s building and clearly does need some refurbishment, but that said the patience and calmness being shown with the young people was exemplary.