Amazingly, managed to get home in time for the second half of the Cup semi-final between St. Johnstone and Hibs - didn't see Steven Fletcher's third-minute goal, but did catch the rest of the action ;-)
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Amazingly, managed to get home in time for the second half of the Cup semi-final between St. Johnstone and Hibs - didn't see Steven Fletcher's third-minute goal, but did catch the rest of the action ;-)
One topic, which hasn't (sadly) got nearly as much local press attention, was the development of golf facilities across the city by Edinburgh Leisure ... as a bit of a part-time golfer myself (I did once play off a handicap of 16 - but that was 'several' years ago!) I found this all fascinating.
It does seem that a huge (Scotland-wide) increase in golf courses has simply not been matched by a similar increase in the actual number of golfers? National projections of such, seem to have been way wide of the mark - although I'm relieved to say that it appears the trend has been slightly bucked in Edinburgh when compared to other similar local authority areas.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
As you'll see from the agenda, not just the usual presentation and report, but a "Dialogue between Young People and Elected Members" ... should be interesting as it basically involves members of Young Edinburgh asking unscripted questions of a panel of the four Group Leaders on the Council.
I'm looking forward to it!
Monday, January 29, 2007
'Devolution' - what's been the point??
Have a look at the link - look at the fourth paragraph:
"The crash at about 2300 GMT on Saturday took the total number of deaths on Scotland's roads this weekend to 14."
... really, if those 14 lost-lives had been attributable to almost anything other than driving, there would have been political uproar. I've not heard a whimper of a political protest about this today ... mind you the fact is that, on average, almost 10 people die EVERY day on the UK's roads and it hardly ever gets a mention, so I shouldn't really be surprised.
It's a tragedy in every sense.
All 5 named schools from the December 21st report came in for an update briefing on how the proposals are progressing and just what they can expect over the next 8-12months (in particular), although the overall process is going to be years, not months long.
A very constructive meeting and reinforces for the me the absolute need to keep the 5 schools affected, as involved in the process as possible.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Thoroughly enjoyed the day - only problem with these events, is you inevitably meet someone who is doing 'everything perfectly' ... and there was I thinking I delivered a huge amount of leaflets last weekend ;-((
Of course, its results (not patter) that matter!
Friday, January 26, 2007
By sheer coincidence, the meeting was held in the new Edinburgh Scouting Headquarters - now, I was a long-standing Scout in my youth and was delighted to have a good nose around the building (I did ask first of course!) and very pleased to see the obvious strength of the modern Scout movement in the city.
I'm now tempted to try and find some old photos ;-))
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Well, it is actually getting a bit interesting now in the final run-up to the poll on May 3rd - with, what I consider, a crazy debate about whether to start counting national separate from local ballots or to count the whole lot in one go. What's crazy about it, is the insistence that either way counting has to start at 10pm as soon as the polls shut.
Why there is a desperate need to count 'on the night', I've never really understood. Would be better for all concerned if it was simply left to the Friday - or even more outrageous, why doesn't the UK do what most of the rest of the world does and vote at weekends??
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Although no 'formal' basis for these periodic meetings, I think they are pretty crucial just in terms of building up relationships with the main stakeholders within the Children and Families department.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
First up was the South Morningside PTA - I've written on this topic recently here - and they put a very professional case over. There was no actual 'report' on this issue but the draft minute of the meeting has the decision reading thus:
1) To note that in the short-term, due to circumstances beyond the direct control of the local authority, the South Morningside Primary School Nursery required to be relocated and that significant efforts were ongoing to secure a new site for the nursery classes involved.
2) That the Director of Children and Families enter into discussions with the Church of Scotland General Trustees to explore options surrounding the site at Morningside Braid Church and report on the outcome to the meeting of the Executive on 27 March 2007; the report to also include information on the outcome of investigations detailed at 1) above.
3) To instruct the Director of Children and Families to report on the long-term options regarding the accommodation pressures facing South Morningside Primary School and nursery taking into account all the potential solutions which had been raised locally including potential NHS Lothian owned sites.
4) To agree that it was essential that the School Board and local community remained involved and were kept fully informed of progress in both these work streams.
So, definite progress and the School/Board/PTA should be commended for bringing the whole issue to the fore - still obviously a very immediate solution required, in the next few months, for the location of the Nursery but I'm confident an acceptable solution will be found.
Second up were parents from Tynecastle Nursery School - two reports refer to this debate; here and here. In essence, they deal with a fairly complex set of changes around the Gorgie/Dalry area that affect the Hearts ground at Tynecaslte, the Tynecastle Nursery and the Gorgie-Dalry Community Association.
I'm under no doubt that the long-term benefits for the area are pretty substantial, but there is significant concern (completely understandably) about the 'temporary' (for approximately 3-years) move of the Nursery before it's permanently re-housed in a new integrated Children's Centre.
There does, in particular, seem to be the confusion abounding that the land is now all sold before the public consultation on the Nursery move has finished. This is simply NOT true.
No sale goes ahead until after the consultation. Have a look at recommendation 5.4 of the Nursery report and you'll see that any sale is "subject to the satisfactory conclusion of the consultation" and the Properties report repeats this at recommendation 5.1(i) were it states again that any sale is "subject to further consultation ... as set out in the accompanying report ..."
The 'draft minute' of the meeting further repeats that no sale will take place until the consultation is concluded ... I quote (item 3 referred to is the Nursery report) ...
"The Director of City Development confirmed that no sale would take place until the consultations arising from the decision on item 3 above were concluded."
I really do hope that clarifies the situation.
I have actually got a lot of sympathy with those who are worried about these moves - I've got personal experience of using the Tynecastle Nursery and was extremely happy with the service provided to my family - and will try and do all I can over the next few weeks to reassure those who are concerned. I really do think there are very substantial, long-term benefits for Gorgie/Darly in these proposals - but fully accept they must not affect the education of children over the forthcoming 3-year period (before the permanent Nursery location is secured and opened).
The consultation now runs through until 1st March 2007, with an open Public meeting for parents on the 20th February, which I'm certain is going to be well attended!
Monday, January 22, 2007
Quite refreshingly, several of the Children and Families reports were positively welcomed by members of the Panel ... in particular this one on Childcare Strategy monies and this one on a Review of Residential Childcare.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Short walk around the village, before lunch at a local hostelry; followed by a bit of a walk around the grounds of Falkland House and out to the Pillars of Hercules organic farm for a coffee before returning home.
A good day had by all.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I do really love the Scottish winter ... honestly I do ... but freezing wind has an alarming effect when delivering newsletters ;-((
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The normal, utterly compelling series of Party meetings will resume shortly after early May ...
The whole visit was definite proof that seeing things first-hand is always better than simply reading about them in yet another official report!
Going back to the School Board on 31st January, and will hopefully have made some progress with the issues being raised. In essence, the School Nursery is being required (more information here) to vacate it's current premises later this year, and this is compounded by the already existing pressures on the main school site, pressure which of itself has led to 2 (of the 3) Primary 1 classes already being housed in a separate annexe building. So, having to move the Nursery to a new location is not going to be easy.
That said, I think there are two parts to the problem - one is very short-term, the other longer-term.
In the short-term, we do need to find a solution to the Nursery location, and pretty quickly, as it's not that long now until the Summer break. I know the prospect of housing any such temporary Nursery building in the current main playground is not looked on with much favour locally (to say the least!) - and I am determined to avoid that option if at all possible. I do though have to face the possibility that no other solution arises ... unlikely, but it would be wrong to ignore it.
In the longer-term, there clearly is a lot of pressure on the current, main building - with the Nursery and two P1's already being housed externally - and a more permanent arrangement needs to be found to house, say, all of the early-years services ... thus freeing up badly-needed space in the main building.
I'm sure that, with a bit of goodwill and cooperation, the Local Authority, the School and the local Community can resolve these problems ... it won't be easy, but nothing ever really worth achieving is.
And, I equally fail to see why no major political Party is arguing strongly for significantly increased powers for the current Scottish Parliament short of outright Independence - just look at what happened to the Catalan Nationalists when they did just that ;-))
300 years may indeed be a long time, but I really do think the SNP need to play a longer game than 301 if they ever want to achieve their ultimate goal.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I know I'm completely biased, but they held a debate around whether the union between England and Scotland was about to end ... given the evidence of the debate, I'd say definitely not.
Putting how well, or not, the SNP will do on May 3rd to one side - there was just no real spark of passion about the issue. Alex Salmond just didn't land any killer punches on Douglas Alexander; and he didn't seem to get any real emotion going in the debate and/or amongst the audience.
To me, January 2007 feels absolutely nothing like the palpable excitement you could sense in the 'run up' to either the Devolution Referendum in September 1997 or the first Scottish Parliament elections in May 1999. Change was almost certain on both occasions, and was being talked about by all political sides/classes. That isn't the case today.
Given the (lack of real) passion in last night's debate, I think turnout will be the problem on May 3rd and not the dissolution of the Union.
This morning off to Niddrie Mains Drive in Craigmillar to see the start of work commencing on the new Primary School there - see this link for a bit of general background - artists impression above (?) ...
Then this afternoon, off to Currie Primary School in the west of the city ...
... and this evening, Edinburgh Central Local Development Committee (LDC) meets - agenda can be found here. Think this may actually be the last (or at least penultimate) meeting of the Central LDC before the move to "Neighbourhood Partnerships" - more details on all of this can be found here ...
And here's a rough map showing the proposed new, Neighbourhood Partnerships
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Anyhow, you may remember that I've had a bit of a whinge about the CCWP before - see here and here - well, it was much better this evening (I felt??) with the particular emphasis on one major issue definitely keeping the debate a bit more focused.
I should hasten to add, it's not the folk on the CCWP (except the Chair possibly??) that cause my anxiety but the format of the Group - it's just so large and amorphous and I'm not certain it's the best vehicle for giving School Boards and others the desired city-wide perspective and voice.
I do think a bit of time needs to be spent on considering how to improve it's format - next meeting in March, so I've no excuse for not doing so this time round!
Monday, January 15, 2007
Miller's autobiography - Timebends - is a book I'd strongly recommend to anyone ... after Alan Bold's biography of the Scots Poet, Hugh Macdiarmid, probably the second best biography I've ever read.
Various discussions about a whole host of work issues, throughout today, just didn't seem as crucial ... I know they really are, and hopefully will seem so when I get to Tuesday ;-((
Sunday, January 14, 2007
There is an Archive of previous issues easily accessible if you're really interested /(sad!) ;-)
Current issue (No.37) includes a copy of the Xmas Card competition winner - Eve from Fox Covert RC Primary - who provided this fantastic picture for my festive communications this year!
He really is in great shape, with all the statistical averages indicating he should have been dead well over a decade ago ... working class manual background, long-term heavy smoker (gave up when he was about 55 thankfully!), west coast Scottish diet (spent 22-years away in the Army thankfully!) ... but probably most important of all, he's living happily with the same partner he married nearly 54 years ago.
Poor woman ;-))
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Well, it's another one of those "what do you do" questions, that is not very easy to answer.
Best to start with my Council "register of interests" I reckon ... do have a look, and you'll see that I'm a member of lots (and lots!) of campaigning groups. Most of these I have actually been a member of longer than I've been a member of the Labour Party - which I joined in 1992 after complete moral apoplexy at John Major defeating Neil Kinnock ... if only things had turned out differently back in April 1992??
Anyhow, I did spend most of the late 1980's and early 1990's rallying against a whole host of reactionary (as I saw them) forces. I was living down in middle-England at the time and watched what was happening to Scotland from a distance. Back then, I did spend an inordinate amount of time at a huge variety of 'pressure-group meetings' moaning and whingeing with the best of them.
After Kinnock lost, I'd simply had enough (from the outside) and decided the only way to assuage my moaning and whingeing tendencies was to get involved with politics from the inside. A couple of nano-seconds later, after deep philosophical thought, I joined the Labour Party ... and a few months later, got the chance to move up to Edinburgh in mid-1993.
The rest, as they say, is history - I got totally absorbed in the devolution movement and went completely native. The whole of 1997, in particular, is a blur of change that I'm certain the history books will pick out as pretty memorable - general election victory in May 1997, referendum victory in September 1997, and my son born in December 1997 ;-))
This ongoing, political involvement led to me becoming a local government candidate in May 1999, from whence I was successfully elected onto the City of Edinburgh Council. And from then, I've thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Council - still privately have the tendency to 'moan and whinge'; but publicly do try my utmost to convert that into positive, long-term change.
That's not the half of it obviously ... but hopefully gives you a flavour of why I was mad/inspired enough to become a Councillor ...
Was remarkably relaxing actually, being able to concentrate on other matters, with no intrusion from e-mail and/or the internet whatsoever.
It is quite incredible how dependant we've all become on the internet - and in such a relatively short period of time ... I had a spell back at University in the early 1990's and although e-mail was well-used, the internet didn't really exist in the way we know it today. A mere 10-years later and it seems indispensable (I know it's not!), and it does make you wonder where the internet - and all that goes with it - will be in another 10 years time?
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Oh; and in-between all that, back up before the Budget Review Group (BRG) ... as mentioned a few posts ago. Probably our last formal pitch for the Departmental 2007/08 Budget settlement, before the actual Council Meeting on 8th February which will set the overall Corporate Budget for the local authority.
An interesting day!
I'll always remember going to see Sarah sworn in on 12th May 1999 - just after the first elections to the Scottish Parliament - along with all the other first-time MSP's. It was one of those events were it's just impossible to convey the emotion of the moment on paper; but as someone who had campaigned long and hard for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament it was just tremendous (and a real privilege) to see Sarah amongst the first round of Scotland's MSP's.
A very good day yesterday as well ;-))
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Patricia Ferguson MSP (Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport) was the principal guest and speaker and I'm pretty amazed by the increase in primary school participation, as she announced and you can read via the news link above.
My prompt notes were relatively brief, and follow below, but do also indicate a hugely successful couple of years for Active Schools in Edinburgh:
- I should start by thanking the Minister, and Scottish Executive, and Stewart, and SportScotland, for their funding and partnership support for the Active Schools programme. It is very much a partnership and the success in Edinburgh simply would not have happened without the support of the Executive and SportScotland
- And very briefly, it’s that success of the ActiveSchool programme in Edinburgh that I want to touch on – just to try and make ‘real’ the very significant impact and benefits of the programme for one part of Scotland – I’m certain what I’m about to illustrate has been replicated all over the country
- The ActiveSchools programme has been running for some 2-years now in Edinburgh
- I cannot stress enough, that although entitled ActiveSchools, the programme has had a much wider community impact through links that have ensured participation in a wide variety of activities has continued into the after-school hours and weekends
- In this way the 'changes in choices' that young people are making about their activities are indeed being embedded into their wider community lives and not just being given up at the school gate
- The funding for the programme has enabled Edinburgh to have an ActiveSchool team of some 16 full-time primary co-ordinators, 23 part-time secondary coordinators and 2 Additional Support Needs coordinators
- This has led to a very wide range of activities being on offer, not just the traditional football and hockey but climbing, sailing, dancing and many, many more alternatives
- The programme, in just the one year of 2006, has led directly to the participation of literally tens of thousands (over 40,000) of Edinburgh’s young people in a variety of some 33 different activities
- 55% of the participants have been male and 45% female
- and over 1,200 people have helped physically deliver the programme, with over half of that number being volunteers
- there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the vast majority of these tens of thousands of young people simply would not have had access to such a variety of opportunities had the ActiveSchools programme not been running
- it is relatively straightforward, as I’ve briefly done, to quantify actual participant numbers in the programme in Edinburgh – it’s much more difficult to quantify the benefits, both physical and emotional, of the scale of participation that the ActiveSchools programme has allowed in Edinburgh. It will be of vast, long-term benefit … of that there can be little doubt
- So, I very much welcome the ongoing support of the Executive and SportsScotland in the ActiveSchools programme and do hope that it will continue over the coming years so that Edinburgh – and the rest of Scotland – can build on the undoubted success of our first two years.
... not sure about putting this much text in an entry, but it is an interesting success story ;-)
Monday, January 08, 2007
Here's the last Council meeting I attended ... no, seriously ...
... no easy place to start, but the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) web-site is as good as any; have a look at this link first. This site gives you a full explanation of how the Council works politically ... if you follow the link to "the Executive" and scroll down a bit, you'll see I'm listed there as Executive Member for Children and Families. In essence, the politician responsible for that area of Council business. Further information at the EGFL site ...
At a wider level, have a look at one of the links on the left of the first CEC page marked "elections" and you'll get a huge amount of general information about the political elections in Edinburgh, including those for the local authority (CEC) of which I am an elected Member (currently Ward 28 Moat). Thus, as well as the 'Children and Families' city-wide responsibilities I have strong local Ward (area) responsibilities as well. You can read a bit more about all of this on my own website here.
This is all about to change in May - thus my recent ramblings - when Scottish local government (including Edinburgh of course!) moves to STV-PR ... a form of proportional voting. Much more information on this topic at the Electoral Commission Scotland's new site - here!
On a daily basis - this can mean a range of meetings, discussions and decisions ranging from helping to get a constituent's blocked drain fixed on a Sunday afternoon through to strategic planning for the future provision of education for the whole of Edinburgh.
There - that's what I do. Clear as mud ;-((
I do think this all has huge potential for local school (and wider) communities - but I'm not a technical expert (as you can probably tell from this blog!) so do have a look at the local Learning Hubs website and associated wiki; both of which give you the background and some of the surrounding debate on these potential changes/developments to traditional educational methods.
As mentioned before, I really think that if this is going to run in Edinburgh then a pilot (of some description) is now what's needed - it's the only way that any benefits/dis-benefits can be flagged up for real. Watch this space ...
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Friday, January 05, 2007
I'll include more as soon as I can and will try to continue the trend now started.
Any further, constructive feedback would be welcome.
Budget issues still to the fore - we're back in front of the Budget review Group (BRG) this coming Wednesday, and that will be (I guess?) our final, formal pitch for a settlement figure before the actual revenue and capital budgets for 2007/08 are set on Thursday 8th February ... all not far away now!
It's all a bit of a dilemma for officers (in particular) and politicians this year, as we'll be setting a budget that will be 'picked up' by a new Administration - for certain. All due, of course, to the implementation of Single Transferable Vote (PR) for Scottish Local Government elections on May 3rd.
Now, despite my own best interests (or in spite of them!) I've always been a long-term supporter of PR ... I'm a Director of both the Electoral Reform Society and Chair/Director of Fairshare ... and am wholly supportive of the moves to STV-PR for local government elections.
It is indeed, all going to mean a period of political flux in Edinburgh - but I'm pretty certain the local authority will cope with the change (whatever that may be politically and administratively?) which will certainly happen in May.
There is no doubt it's going to be an interesting 6-months!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
No meetings at all today, so able to catch up quite a bit ... just as well really, as returning to the regular 8.30am Director's Meeting tomorrow - and bound to be nothing but frantic thereafter!
Suffering ever-so-slightly today after yesterday's heroic exertions in reaching the summit of Ben Lawers in what can only be described as "Alpine conditions" ;-((
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
First big walking expedition for quite some time and both of us really looking forward to the day - was a bit of a challenge though given our lack of big walks in recent years.
Eventually made it to the top and did try jumping the 16 or 17 required feet to reach 4,000ft but the wind was just too strong to allow it ;-(
Posting a couple of photos here (thought it about time I gave this a try given the blog has been going for some time now!) which show how tricky the conditions were, but didn't stop a smile once we got to the top and the well-deserved coffee came out ;-))
Can't deny my legs weren't a little bit sore upon our eventual return home!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Just look at those hats ;-((
Joking aside, really enjoyable ride along the canal out to Wester Hailes and beyond to The Calders before heading over to The Gyle and back along the Busway (well, the cycle-way parallel to it to be precise!) to Stenhouse and then home via Slateford Green.
Good to limber up for tomorrow's epic expedition!
Monday, January 01, 2007
Spent last night with some family and friends ... didn't go too over-the-top, but clearly now being 43 is restricting my stamina ;-((
Happy New Year to one and all.