Thursday, May 31, 2007
I've thus, with some careful thought, lodged an objection to the proposed development today. I do like it (as of itself), but think on two counts it's just not acceptable (here's the text of my objection):
FORM - I believe the proposed development does not in any way, in its architectural design, reflect the existing street scene or existing surrounding architecture and contrasts dramatically with the existing character of the area. The proposed development is certainly not in keeping with the established structure and form of the surrounding and adjacent tenement architecture.
DENSITY - The proposal is for 24 flats; this a greater density of dwellings when compared to the existing surrounding accommodation. I believe the proposed development will seriously overshadow and dominate the existing tenement structures. I believe there will be a detrimental effect with regard to reduced lighting and residents privacy for the existing properties on Harrison Place in particular.
I do hope that if this 'version' is rejected, as I suspect it may well be, that the architect will come back with another (more suitable) application as I'm not opposed to a potential development of this site per se.
It has to be said, that Dunedin-Canmore (local Housing Association) appear to have played a pretty pivotal role in pulling things together; finally!
All credit also due to a wide-variety of officers at the Council, the Police, and one of the local Community Councils, as well.
Indeed, all but 1 Local Authority (Stirling ... details here) is now working in blissful harmony ;-)
... and the results are:
Labour - 11*
Independent - 8
SNP - 6
Lib-Dem - 4**
Tory - 2
* - looks like Stirling may make it 12 eventually
** - what can I say, one-quarter Edinburgh's fault ;-((
Just a reminder that Labour only had control of 13 Councils before May 3rd.
Now I know that the SNP have most "Councillors" in Scotland, but the political affiliation of the Council Leader does pretty much correlate to the make-up of the largest political Group on 'each' Council.
Interesting ... and, as far as I know, completely ignored in the media?
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
A New Politics for Edinburgh?
You must have noticed that the political map of Edinburgh has changed significantly in the last few weeks.
Personally, I very much welcome the move to a form of proportional representation for the City Council – I’ve been a long-standing champion of the Single Transferable Vote (STV - the system we all used on May 3rd) and am pleased that it seemed to be used with such ease by most voters a few weeks ago. It is a system that puts ‘voters’ very much in charge, which is why so many politicians and political Parties dislike it!
And ‘voters’ do seem to have found it easy to understand. The number of spoiled ballot papers for the Local Council elections was exceptionally low – unlike the serious problems with the Scottish Parliament ballot paper – and indeed, all of Scotland had a lower % of spoiled STV ballot papers than Northern Ireland did in their Assembly elections in March 2007 … and they’ve been using STV for decades.
But what does it all mean for Edinburgh? Well, the city now has 17 ‘multi-member’ Wards instead of the old 58 ‘single-member’ Wards. There are now 10 Wards with 3 elected Members, and 7 Wards with 4 elected Members … so the total number of Councillors for the city is still 58.
For the city as a whole, the number of Councillors elected for each political Party more fairly represents the percentage of the vote they achieved across the city. And that’s principally why we’ve seen such a significant change in the make up of the Council – we now have 5 main Party Groups, … Liberal-Democrat, Labour, SNP, Conservative and Green. There used to be only three Party Groups on the Council and their numbers of seats didn’t reflect their percentage of the vote.
So since the May 3rd election, no single Party has an overall majority – far from it, with the largest Party only having 29% of the seats on the Council. Thus, the city has a ‘coalition’ in charge with political Parties having to share power. Despite having some critics, coalition local-government has been standard practice in most continental European countries for many, many decades … last time I checked, life was still continuing there! Indeed, essential services in Edinburgh have continued to be delivered since May 3rd and the sky hasn’t yet fallen in.
And what about at a local level – well, to take my own Ward (Ward number 9) of “Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart” as an example … this part of the city now has 3 local Councillors: Gordon Buchan representing the Conservative Party, myself Andrew Burns representing the Labour Party and Jim Lowrie representing the Liberal-Democrats. Despite our political differences, we will have to work and cooperate together to help ensure the best services are delivered for the wider local area we have all now been elected to serve. Instead of having only 1 elected Councillor to address any concerns to, every constituent in “Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart” now has the choice of 3 Councillors – each of us has different strengths and areas of specific interest and over the next four years I’m certain that these will combine to the wider benefit of the larger Ward. And, put simply, if any one of us doesn’t pull our weight it will be very easy for any constituent to speak to another of their local Councillors!
So, changed-times indeed. And I believe the change will be to the long-term benefit of politics in Edinburgh – there will simply “have” to be more cooperation ‘between’ political Parties. Old style, confrontational politics isn’t going to end overnight, but I do think its days are now numbered. Edinburgh will be the ultimate beneficiary.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Well, today is the day that I'm finalising my own - my excitement is barely containable, as I scrabble around my desk at home trying to find every invoice and receipt from the last few months ;-((
Monday, May 28, 2007
... The Daily Mash (see the earlier, related BBC story) has come to my rescue and cheered me up no end ;-))
Maybe, just maybe (see para. 6 of the Daily Mash story!), this is why the Liberals are refusing to consult on their proposed changes to the internal decision-making structures of the City of Edinburgh Council?
Perhaps they're not being dictatorial at all, but entirely rational ...
As Council-watchers will know, the City of Edinburgh Council currently has an 'Executive-Scrutiny Process' (it's about to be changed without any consultation whatsoever, but I'm saying no more about that!) ... anyhow, under the Scrutiny process any 5-backbenchers (of which I am now obviously one) have the right to "call-in" a decision of the Executive. In essence, hold-up and properly scrutinise a decision before it is implemented. So far, so good.
Now last Thursday, to my slight annoyance, the new Council Executive met with the sole purpose of appointing the Leader, Deputy Leader and Executive Members so they can be treated as such and start attracting their respective salaries to their bank accounts.
All fair enough really, except that as well as there being an Executive Member for Culture and Leisure (Deirdre Brock) there is also to be a 'Festivals and Events Champion' (Steve Cardownie) ... why do we need these two posts; what's the rationale for this; perfectly valid questions for scrutiny I would say ...
... except we can't call-in the decision because of bloody Standing Order 58(10), which within a section on how to call decisions in, reads:
The "Call-in" Process ...
58. (10) This Standing Order does not apply to decisions to appoint or nominate a member of the Council to an outside body or other office.
... yes, you've guessed it; it's a relatively new Standing Order, instigated by the previous Administration (that included me!), a few weeks after Steve defected from Labour to the SNP so that we had no shenanigans around appointments when the Council was, briefly as it transpired, in a tight 29/29 split.
Oh ... poetic justice ;-((
Things can only get better ...
Have enjoyed my brief spell working in this area - sorry to be moving on ... though on the positive side, should have a bit more time to actually undertake some physical activity! Nothing too strenuous mind ...
... Wales is obviously were it's at - if the Liberals and Tories can potentially join together in Wales with the Party who came second in the election ... why not in Scotland ;-))
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Some debate about how to take Fairshare forward in the new political climate ... meeting of that body coming up towards the end of June, when I'm pretty certain the focus will shift towards a concerted effort to attain STV-PR for the Holyrood elections ... as I was ranting-on about earlier, here.
Friday, May 25, 2007
This scintillating fact means I will no longer be able to view all my posts on one "edit posts" page, as the maximum is 300 "posts per page", before presumably having to click onto a second page of posts!
Sad I know ... but the small things in life make all the difference ;-))
Not sure how it all works, but appears you can add comments here - helpful ones only please ;-))
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Having thought that things (not that I wished to be in this position I must make clear!) might quieten down being on the backbenches, it does seem the reverse has happened. The new multi-member Wards are one reason why ... much bigger obviously and whole swathes of new territory, different local issues, Community Councils and residents groups to get to grips with.
Add to that; the time 'released' from endless Departmental and Management meetings (as an Executive Member) is quickly being soaked up by endless political meetings about how to deal with not being in endless Departmental and Management meetings ;-) Oh joy.
Actually, I have to admit to quite enjoying it ... rather not be here obviously ... but in addition to the points above I do really feel like I've seen more of my wife and son in the last 4 weeks than I did in the last 4 years.
On a personal level (if not political level!) not all bad then.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Actually, to be fair, Salmond's speech to the Parliament had a bit more in it than bridge tolls and oil transfers ... but I do genuinely feel that the real limitations of minority Government are starting to dawn on everyone.
Looks like they are doing absolutely everything possible to avoid it in Wales ... mind you, they'd better get a move on or there will have to be another election for the Assembly!
Or is the reality of minority Government about to hit us?
... indeed Edinburgh is apparently a classified "decision-free zone" until August 2007.
Nothing of any strategic importance is going to happen in Edinburgh for months ... here's a brief update:
- after the very urgent Council Executive meeting this Thursday (agenda here ... if you didn't believe the only purpose of the meeting was to fix pay-grades) there will only be two other Executive meetings before the Summer recess, at which "not much business" will be conducted.
- the whole Scrutiny Process will, nevertheless, be dismantled forthwith on the grand assumption that the shiny-new, streamlined Committees ARE coming into existence in August.
- there will indeed be ABSOLUTELY NO public consultation on this (Stalin would be proud) and no room for change/amendment.
- the new Committees will ALL have coalition Conveners and Vice-Conveners, despite the fact that they are supposedly to perform some sort of Scrutiny role ... I thought that's what the Scrutiny Panels did now? - and several of them were rightly Chaired by the Opposition.
All quite breathtaking.
What happens if the 'coalition of the unwilling' fails to get this all through the Full Council meeting in June - it's their only opportunity if it's to start in August regardless? There will be no Scrutiny for months and that hapless situation will continue for longer if June goes badly ... Stefan Tymkewycz had better get permission from the SNP whip to be absent on that day for his "other job" in Parliament ;-))
Actually, it's hard to make a joke about it all ... 'cause it's not funny.
In essence, all the big decisions facing Edinburgh (capital city of Scotland, in case anyone has forgotten) are on hold until at least August. Our competitor cities probably can't believe their luck.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
- first Full Council meeting last Thursday was a bit of a shambles, with Standing Orders being ignored ... or more politely, not understood.
- quasi-judicial Planning Committee 'stacked' in Liberals favour, so they and Nationalists have an in-built majority. Proportionality completely ignored.
- first Council Executive meeting called for 9.30am, half-an-hour before the Full Council meeting, this coming Thursday ... all with minimum 7-days notice and no consultation with anyone about the meeting which wasn't in the Council diary.
- only item on this Council Executive agenda is the appointment of the new Council Leader and Deputy Leader, so they can start claiming their new pay-grades asap.
- appears to be no consultation planned for any new structures which may replace the Council Executive model.
- no cross-Party dialogue, to date, about interim decision-making structures and allocation of pay-grades to any elected Members.
- and finally, no cross-Party policy discussion has taken place on anything since the election.
So far, so bad ;-((
Monday, May 21, 2007
Anyhow, making the best of it ... getting the tent and other stuff dried up from the weekend and catching up on mail generally - in-between all the 'phone calls of course ;-((
Now, for those who don't know, John runs a website that Councillors in Edinburgh refuse to read ... well, no more than 7-times a week that is ... and he actually calls this a "good blog".
That's it, my time in politics may have had a temporary set-back at the recent local elections; but praise from the author of Edinburgh Sucks means that it's now totally over ;-((
Just look at the contrast in the weather - this picture was taken on the Sunday afternoon ... by the way, that baby on my back was just 'borrowed' for the day and is not mine ... don't want any unfounded rumours now ;-))
Back up to Edinburgh Sunday evening ... washing machine now working on overtime to try and get all that gear cleaned up!
Friday, May 18, 2007
It will take quite some effort to affect such a change!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I've absolutely nothing against the new Lord Provost, George Grubb - he undoubtedly is an honourable man - but the way he's been installed is all to do with the leader of the Tory Group being 'promised' Chair of the Police Board ... basically giving control of the Council to a Liberal/Nationalist coalition for the sake of around £30K as Police Board Chair. Now, deals like this are not uncommon - under any system - but to accept such a deal and automatically throw away control of the Council seems pretty breathtaking to me ... especially from the Tories.
And the meeting got worse ... the paragons of proportionality - the Liberals - ignored proportionality completely when setting up the 'quasi-judicial' Planning Committee, denying the Labour Group a fourth seat on the Committee and 'stacking it' to themselves just so they have an in-built majority along with the Nationalists.
"Say one thing ... do another" - why I should be surprised at today's odious display I'm not entirely sure, but a lack of principle does simply offend me ;-((
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Did make me wonder whether I should urgently press the Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council to organise a similar "training seminar" for the Lib/SNP Groups in the capital ;-))
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Makes the very clear point, which I was banging on about earlier, that the vast, vast majority of problems with spoiled papers on 3rd/4th May was with the AMS election to the Scottish Parliament ... the level of spoiled papers for the Local Government elections was actually lower than in Northern Ireland back in March, when they also elected their Assembly with STV-PR.
Northern Ireland have been using STV-PR for decades ... Scotland obviously had no problem in adopting it and clearly it would result in far fewer problems for the Scottish Parliament elections if adopted for 2011 ;-)
... and also worth repeating that it will take the Tories (or at least one of them?) to abstain for the Liberal Lord Provost nominee to be successful ... and even if that happens, thereafter the arithmetic is 29/29 with the casting vote likely to be required on many, many occasions. None of it can happen though unless one Tory (at least) decides to initially prop up, even if for one vote only, a Lib/SNP coalition.
It won't be a dull 4-years that's for sure ...
Monday, May 14, 2007
All to be decided later today, and more formally at a full Group Meeting tomorrow evening. Whatever brief; I have every intention of being 'constructively critical' ... I'm going to enjoy it, but I'm determined to make sure it will not be fun for the new rapier-like Administration ;-)
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
... further details at:
And yes, she really is called Canter Cookie ... don't ask.
... and they're far from the most decisive bunch at the best of times.
Politically I'm sore - of course. But trying to be dispassionate, I do feel it will be bad for Edinburgh ... and that's not good for anyone.
As far as I can make out, this arrangement has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with position and money:
- Lib-Dems (17 seats) support trams
- SNP (12 seats) oppose trams
- even so 29 seats don't make a majority of the 58 total seats
- so, Tories (11 seats) take chair of Police Board and will use their casting vote
... problems resolved? I think not!
... and I suspect nothing much of a radical nature (or even close to it) is going to happen in Edinburgh for the next 4 years.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Not quite as emotional as 1999, but still a tremendous occasion to be present at.
Fascinating to watch the body language down in the Chamber - personally, I think any finalisation of a Government for Scotland is a long way off being secured ;-(
... I'd better unpack those damned lampost posters ;-((
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
... if only that were true ;-((
Joking aside ... pretty impressive achievement for Northern Irish politics.
Now I could divulge all the details on my blog, right here and now ... but ... sorry to disappoint - I'll have to leave all of that until any ink is dry ;-))
Monday, May 07, 2007
Eventually (after much searching) found it behind one of the beds, in the initial stages of digesting the outer mattress and entering said-mattress, probably never to be seen again ;-(
Now safely returned to its cage, I swear it has a look of smug satisfaction on its face, having managed to escape its usual confines ... no Nationalist political analogies intended ;-))
"Using data from the Glasgow City Council website, have now completed the analysis of the spoilt papers for the Scottish Parliament elections and the City Council elections in the Glasgow Electoral Region.
Have used the totals given for spoilt papers, nearly all of which were classed as "Voting for More Than One Candidate" or "Unmarked or Void for Uncertainty". Most of the spoilt papers in the Constituency elections were classed as "Unmarked or Void for Uncertainty", which suspect means mostly blank.
Scottish Parliament Elections 2007
Ten Constituencies in Glasgow Electoral Region
============ ========= ========= ====
% Spoilt 4.2%
Constituency Vote - ten constituencies
% Spoilt 7.9%
10 individual Constituencies
4.8% 5.4% 5.8% 7.3% 7.3% 8.8% 9.7% 9.8% 10.2%12.1%
Do not have access to the Constituency breakdown of the Regional vote data.
Local Government STV Elections 2007
Glasgow City 21 Wards
% Spoilt 2.3%
21 individual Wards
1.5% 1.5% 1.6% 1.6% 1.8% 1.8% 1.9%2.1% 2.1% 2.2% 2.2% 2.4% 2.6% 2.6% 2.7% 2.7% 3.0% 3.1% 3.3% 4.0% 4.2% "
These figures (for the AMS Scottish Parliament election) are a lot worse than I had earlier mentioned for Edinburgh - here.
Understatement of the week for sure.
A long weekend of dialogue has failed to deliver a coalition deal for Holyrood - and also for many Scottish Council Chambers - and the luxury of opposition must seem like a distant memory to many politicians today.
Personally, I think it's a very, very positive development. You can sense an element of political maturity creeping into many minds where before it was broadly absent.
This type of transformation does take years, but the seeds are clearly there today, and one thing is certain - none of it would be taking place under First-past-the-post.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Yes, it was high in the Scottish Parliament elections - that was the election under the Additional Member System (AMS) that had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with STV-PR (as was used for the Local Authority elections).
As indicated earlier, the number of spoiled ballot-papers under STV was fairly standard - around 1.3% for Edinburgh Council as a whole, and as low as 0.6% in some Wards. The large increase in spoils came under AMS for the Parliament - 3.1% on the left-hand side of the paper and a shocking 5.1% on the right-hand (constituency) side of the paper ... that's 1 in 20 votes!!
I'm convinced that thousands and thousands of people voted on the left-hand side and thought "job done" and ignored the right-hand side ... the conjoining of the (previously) two ballot papers has been very badly managed. Again, nothing whatsoever to do with STV.
Whether I'm right or wrong on the detail, the solution is not to blame PR, but to change the Scottish Parliament electoral system from AMS to STV ... it should have been used from the start (in 1999) and if ever you needed evidence that it's a better system, just have a look in detail at the wide range of analysis that will inevitably come out over the coming weeks.
I sense that my Fairshare activity is about to be re-invigorated!
What I do find a bit objectionable is the automatic assumption that the leader of the SNP will become First Minister - this is simply arrant nonsense. If it happens, that's life - but it will 'only' happen if 65 MSP's elect him as First Minister and NOT because his Party have got 1 more MSP than anyone else.
Everyone involved in Scottish politics knows this; and it thus makes it all the more annoying that some politicians were running around the media, in the run-up to Thursday, saying that the largest party would have the moral authority to form the Government and elect the First Minister ... it's simply NOT true.
Have a look at what happened in Sweden recently, a country run by the equivalent of 'Labour' for decades - 'Labour' were the biggest Party in the September 2006 national election, but the 'Tories' form the biggest coalition and lo-and-behold the 'First Minister is a 'Tory'. It's absolute standard practice on the continent in all countries with PR and political activists in Scotland know it fine well.
Needless to say - exactly the same principle applies to Local Authorities as well.
Pleased to have received so many 1st preferences - nearly cleared the quota at first count - not quite, but surely next time!
Congratulations to Gordon Buchan (who did clear the quota at first count!) and Jim Lowrie (who benefited from a healthy influx of transfers) which enabled him to secure the third elected spot. Many commiserations to Denis Dixon, who just missed out - I'm sure he'll be back again.
I have to say, knowing both Gordon and Jim, I'm looking forward to working with them in the new three-Member Ward ... despite the fact that they are a Tory and Liberal respectively ;-))
Very important to add here that only 0.86% of the ballots cast (87 of 10,057) in Ward 9 (under STV) were spoiled ... more about that later - right now, I need a bit of rest ;-((
... and thank you to everyone (of whatever political persuasion) who supported me, and helped me get through the election - you can be certain I'll do my very, very best to repay your trust in the next four years.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Everyone genuinely delighted to have kept Sarah in Central - there's just no doubt a huge, personal vote played a massive part in her success ... not to mention a rather slick and professional campaign, of course ;-))
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Election campaigns just get more and more fun, the closer you get to polling day ...
... it's the 4am rise tomorrow morning that we're all really looking forward too ;-(
... followed by trying to stay awake until probably 4am (at least!) on Friday morning; and then having to get up again at 11.30am to make the 12.30pm Friday Local Government count ;-(( ... oh joy!