Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Personally, I find it pretty unedifying to see the senior Officer of the Council being left-in-the-lurch to defend ongoing revelations ... makes me wonder if any politicians will actually speak at the upcoming Accounts Commission hearings??
What follows is a completely classic example of 'reading what you want' into the latest political, opinion-poll:
- here's part of the relevant SNP Press statement
Welcoming the YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph today [Wednesday], which shows a strengthening lead for the Scottish National Party over Labour and the other parties – projected to win 51 seats to Labour’s 45 – SNP Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said:
“We are delighted with these poll figures. The growing SNP lead shows that the honeymoon continues a year into government, on the back of solid policy delivery.
"The poll shows the SNP winning more votes and more seats since last May, with sensational approval ratings for Alex Salmond, and a significantly increased lead over Labour and the other parties.
“On independence, if you ask a straight question - unlike in the Telegraph poll - then you will get a straight answer."
- and this is part of the relevant Scottish Labour Press statement:
LABOUR'S decision to push for a Constitutional Commission was right, the party said today in response to the YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph which shows support for independence at an all time low.
Fewer than one-in-five voters in Scotland wants to break-up Britain - while nearly three-quarters back the current devolved parliament, with its present powers or with more responsibilities.
And today Labour accused the SNP of engaging in '1984-style Orwellian double speak' in their analysis of the You Gov findings.
Labour's Jackie Baillie said:"This poll confirms what Labour has said all along -. the vast majority of Scots don't want independence but want to see devolution work. It confirms our belief that Scots want to walk tall in the UK but not walk out of the Union."
- and then do please have a quick read at this - the original article from today's Telegraph
Quite obviously, a healthy dialogue on a potential constitutional compromise is ongoing :-(
I despair, I really do :-((
Weather was atrocious ... typical for this type of event :-( ... but several BTCV volunteers, Council Staff, and Craiglockhart Primary PA Members, braved the rain and the flag was duly raised.
Was pleased to be able to make it along - not only is the park in Ward 9, but its also very near my own flat and has been (and continues to be) a much-used space by all our family :-)
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
"In a final poll for the London mayoral race, released yesterday, Boris Johnson is predicted by YouGov to sweep to power. Voters' first preference shares put Johnson on 46% (up 2%) and Livingstone 35% (down 2). The Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick is on 12%. After second preferences are taken into account, YouGov predicts a 55% to 45% victory for Johnson.
This leaves the internet pollster totally at odds with MORI and MRUK, which have recently reported that Livingstone is narrowly in the lead."
... lets hope its YouGov :-(
Monday, April 28, 2008
I'm fast coming to the conclusion that the debate over Wave 3 schools is getting close to becoming farcical ...
- on the one hand; we have the Council saying it has done all it can; they've set aside some 20% of the overall capital cost of the 5-schools; and are near completion of business cases for the 5 projects/s which will be submitted to the Scottish Government as a bid for them to fill the remaining 80% of cash needed!
- on the other hand; we have the Scottish Government saying that the Council is getting not 1 more penny; it has all the money it requires; and there is no need to submit 5 business cases as they will not be assessed because there's no bidding-process that requires them to be so!
Both sides can't be right ... and, for better or worse, the Scottish Government is the senior tier of 'authority' and I'd have thought the Council needs to face up to some stark realities pretty quick:
- there is NOT going to be a quick replacement for previous school building programmes - the SFT ain't happening any time soon - it would help actually, if a Scottish Government Minister had the decency to announce this truth, instead of pretending that all is well with the national school-building programme?
- it sadly appears therefore that there is NO bidding-process (?)
- the 20% of the overall capital cost of Wave 3 schools (allocated by the Council) looks like its all that's going to be available in the short-term
There clearly needs to be some very straight talking between the Council and Scottish Government over all of this, because meantime; nothing of significance is progressing; young peoples' educational experience is thus being affected; and the 20% of overall capital costs allocated won't even pay for 1 of the proposed Secondary Schools :-(
- really, come the 1st anniversary of the 2007 election, all of this will hardly be one-jot further forward than last May :-((
It is serious incompetence.
... now I have to point out, in the strongest possible terms, that "she's in it to win it" (think Hilary believes that as well) - and being second-fiddle to Obama will not suffice.
... I mean, just re-read her manifesto, and tell me how she can possibly lose?
Wth Clinton and Obama fighting like the proverbial 'ferrets in a sack' (they make the Labour Party seem full of love-and-harmony), a hamster for President is the obvious answer ;-))
Saturday, April 26, 2008
... never mind 'stalling' - not one single new school contract has been initiated since last May, the programme that's running is the 'old' school building programme. There is no 'new' programme ... it hasn't 'stalled', as it hasn't started :-(
Audit Scotland seemed worried we're about to lose "the pace of change built up over the past nine years or so” ... err, sorry but it's already well and truly lost:
- 12-months, not one single new school contract has been initiated
- the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) seems in big trouble
- even if a version of the SFT is eventually launched, it won't be soon
- even then, no new school building contract will be initiated that quickly
- and we all know how long contracts and then actual building can take
I'm beginning to wonder (seriously) whether one single new school contract will be initiated, and that school then built and actually opened in this term of the Scottish Government?
... there are only 36-months left; and I know from experience that the time from contract initiation to actual opening, more often than not, takes longer than 36-months :-((
Friday, April 25, 2008
... but my sister-in-law's (to be) Hen Weekend.
So, junior and I are free agents for the whole weekend, as my better-half is attending the said-festivities over in sunny East Lothian (I think?).
... who knows what could happen at home :-))
... looking at the number of (fairly) significant items, it could be yet another very long meeting :-((
Thursday, April 24, 2008
- First Minister boldly states today at FMQ's - "Clearly, it's a time when we need everyone, and the public's cooperation, to behave sensibly and responsibly, to cut out non-essential trips, to use public transport. The essential message is that the stocks of the available range of fuels will stretch into May and there is the capacity to import more if required. Scotland can cope with this difficulty".
- Lothian Buses, Edinburgh's main public transport provider, later in the very same afternoon promptly tell everyone they are about to run out of fuel and won't be able to run any buses within a couple of days!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
... Wednesday afternoons may never be the same again ;-)
A 9.2% win, when she was +20 percentage points ahead a few weeks ago, is woefully inadequate in the chase to close the gap on Obama. At best, Clinton won an extra 20 delegates over Obama and he is still around 140 pledged-delegates in the lead. With only 9 contests to go, I haven't changed my mind and remain convinced its Obama V McCain.
I'm now sort-of resigned to the contest running through to June 3rd (and the last two Primaries) but hope that sense will prevail thereafter - only McCain can be enjoying the increasingly bitter (and ultimately pointless) battle between Obama and Clinton :-(
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Worthy stuff, no doubt - but it surely says a lot when this type of story is "news" in the capital city of Scotland :-(
... the middle-class vote in parts of 'Fountainbridge/ Craiglockhart' may take years to come back - just as well there's no local government election for a while yet :-((
... so, I probably shouldn't link to this - but I just can't help myself :-(
After all, looks like it will indeed be 2012 before the next local poll ;-)
Next meeting of the Forum is now set for 11th June, and it seems a 'special meeting' of the Education Committee may well be arranged to meet quickly thereafter.
Decision-time is clearly looming ... and, at the very least, a sensible process will have led to any proposals this time around.
Monday, April 21, 2008
... would be easy to have a pop at the SNP Government; but frankly they're not alone in having ducked difficult decisions over sustainable energy generation :-(
It can't go on ... or the national target of 50% green energy by 2020 (now only 12-years away) won't be worth the paper its written on.
I appreciate that views are pretty divided on this particular application - but personally, I was firmly of the view that RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust had got this one seriously wrong.
For me, its a travesty that the current Government has appeared to back their argument ...
Sunday, April 20, 2008
... thus you can imagine my 'unbridled joy' at having just spent this Sunday morning helping paint-up parts of the local Community Centre, along with various other members of the Community Council, and Ward colleague Gordon Buchan, in preparation for some new events being run at the Centre from next week.
... aah; the joys of being a local Councillor.
And, after yesterday's serious exertions down at the allotment, I can tell you I'm glad that tomorrow is a local holiday and that the 'phone may be mercifully quiet?
... famous last words :-(
Saturday, April 19, 2008
- potatoes planted!
- (onions and spinach already in, of course)
- apple tree planted
- pear tree planted
- fruit-cage nearly full now!
- most of the flower-borders planted up
- penultimate bed dug and bordered ... only 1 left to go now :-)
- more scrap wood and waste burned/cleared from the site
- and lots of pots planted up ... as you can see below :-))
... guess what - they've just sneaked out the 'formal consultation responses' last thing on a Friday afternoon (yesterday) - knowing full-well that most political attention would be elsewhere.
If you're wondering why - do have a quick look at some of the responses, which can all be accessed here.
Have a look, in particular, at the responses from the various professional bodies that have taken the time to make a submission.
Once you've read them, I'll leave it to you to make up your own mind about the efficacy of what's being proposed.
I know what I think.
Friday, April 18, 2008
... only joking ...
Much more seriously, one very worrying development did occur - one of my colleagues has seen fit to get agreement to lodge a motion at the next Full Council meeting about bloody allotments ...
... I mean to say, I'll need to declare a 'pecuniary interest' and then leave the Chamber for any ensuing debate :-(
We were very happy to support the motion, which was sadly (and rather pointlessly) defeated by an alternative SNP/Liberal amendment ... the end-result, the work does appear as if it will be completed anyhow.
On a lighter note, what I hadn't picked up was the 'double-entendre' in Gordon's comments to the local press ... the Glasgow Herald didn't miss it in today's Diary though - see the second-last item :-))
I don't often mention that I'm vegetarian - don't actually think I've ever done a post on it before in the couple of years I've been keeping this blog?
But ... I do feel compelled to mention a really first-class article by George Monbiot in Tuesday's Guardian, that I've just caught up on. Please read it.
Monbiot basically outlines the principle reason why I became vegetarian back in June 1993, when I moved to Edinburgh from Stoke! ... and it had little to due with cruelty to animals, but was mainly down to land-use. Or, I should say, mis-use.
As regular readers will know, I have mentioned my serious concerns about unsustainable population-growth in several blog posts before - here for example (and the links therein) - and it is the combination of the absolute facts about population-growth; and the equally undeniable truths on volumes of land required for meat production as opposed to conventional agriculture; that led me on 1st June 1993 to the conclusion that if I could, I should stop eating meat.
... now, some blog-readers will know this, others may not, but it is a standing joke amongst friends, family and work-colleagues that I am (in essence) a one-man walking dustbin when it comes to food ... and it really is more than a joke, as its actually true! Its always been true - long-prior to 1993 and still now.
I eat the most enormous amount of food (in my defence, I am nearly 6ft 5in tall and weigh around 17-stone) but I have never once in the last 15-years had any problem in sustaining my voracious appetite without resorting to meat. Its not been difficult, I've never regretted it, and my main-point is ... if such a one-man human dustbin as I undoubtedly am can do it, anyone can.
So go on, have a read at Monbiot's article ... check out those links on population-growth and give 'going veggie' some consideration ... if a self-confessed 'gannet' like me can do it, just maybe so can you?
In terms of achieving a positive, collective environmental (not to mention a positive, personal health!) impact, its probably the single biggest step most of us can make ... and, its easy to do.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Seems there must have been some sort of Damascene conversion, or the like?
... I think we should know whether our Leader has become "a strong advocate of working more closely with Glasgow in order to be able to compete better on the global stage"??
We should be told.
I certainly hope she has.
... of course, its definitely NOT some delayed alcoholic-shock related to last weekend :-(
Managed to get to work nevertheless - just as well, because the Fountainbridge Surgery was pretty busy this evening.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
There is just no way now that proper political scrutiny can be applied to what was agreed today - 4 of the 6 approved recommendations gave the green-light for outline structures 'in principle' and delegated authority to the Director to finalise further consultation and specific details of the posts/remits within those structures.
On top of that we had an Attainment Report that clearly flagged-up some worrying issues with a minority of schools - it too was agreed, not by us! - and yet the very support-services required to help that minority of schools improve their attainment levels were being cut-back in the earlier Organisational Review ...
... support-services like: a better integrated early years provision; Community Learning and Development services; services for vulnerable children through the Working Together programme; to mention but the obvious.
I think it all bodes very badly for the future - and our esteemed Convener boldly stated that:
"We will now be successful in driving up standards"
... one to remember, along with:
"We now have the budget under control"
... well, I've now seen a draft of the SOA for the City of Edinburgh Council. I should stress it is a draft and that it will (apparently?) be going to the Full Council for debate/amendment at least twice in the coming months.
BUT, it has been submitted to the Scottish Government and I think the chances of it being radically overhauled are now not great. I'd like to be wrong.
Looking at the sections on educational issues, two things really jump out at you:
- there is no data about the % of pre-school (Nursery) children who are receiving a minimum of 570-hours (?) per year of pre-school education ... remember that key SNP pledge to give an entitlement of 600-hours per year nursery education to all?
- there are only some 24% of P2 classes in Edinburgh which currently have under 20 pupils ... remember that other key SNP pledge to reduce all P1, P2, P3 class size to 18 or less??
... and guess what, no resources are identified to deliver either of these 'national pledges' :-(
And I've just looked at the education section! - I dread to think about the scale of other unfunded commitments that are contained in the whole document, which is some 62-pages long :-((
The City of Edinburgh Council would be mad to sign this document as it currently stands.
Monday, April 14, 2008
... thought it interesting that Housing issues dominated the questions that followed her talk - yet more proof, if it were needed, of the growing pressure on existing stock.
The other main topic of discussion was the Council's proposal to locate a 'Skateboard Park' within Saughton Park ... pretty mixed views from those in attendance. Whilst many accepted the 'need' for such a facility, there was some disquiet about its actual location within Saughton Park - in particular, why it couldn't be sited right next to Saughton Sports Complex?
... more local debate to follow for sure.
... are the Council serious??
Would never have happened in our day ;-)
P.S. I'll regret this - but, if you have any thoughts on an appropriate name do feel free to put them in the comments section ...
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As you can see, there was plenty of snow on the tops and numerous group members did actually manage to get some decent walking in ... it has to be said, that not everyone made it up to the snow-line :-(
... alcohol played no part whatsoever in this failure of course :-((
Bunkhouse; the next-door hotel; the food they provided; and the ever-helpful staff; were all first-class ...
... all-in-all an excellent weekend. Definitely one to remember ;-)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Around 25/26 of us gathering at a Bunkhouse in Glen Clova from tomorrow through to Sunday ... I foresee a fair amount of hillwalking, lots of eating, and a significant quantity of alcohol being consumed.
... so, if blog posts don't resume in the next few days, you'll know I haven't survived :-((
I just hope that the legal-people at the Council have paid some attention to what happened fairly recently in the Borders - see original planning permission being given here in June 2006; and then final approval for building on Common Good land here in September 2006.
3-months from planning approval to legal approval to build.
... it can be done, and relatively quickly.
What really gets me, is that this is the type of stunt that if we'd done it whilst in power (not that, that would ever have happened of course!) the Libs would have been squealing from the rooftops about an 'abuse of democracy' ...
P.S. just noticed that whilst Committee Members have been e-mailed the papers, they are still not up on CPOL so no members of the public can see them!
UPDATE - just after 4pm and they are now up on CPOL ... better late than never?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
... junior is just point-blank refusing to go :-((
... not a prospect that fills me (or most of my London contacts) with much glee :-((
But, all appears not to be lost - the Guardian has Livingstone edging ahead in the latest polls; and with Polling Day being just 3-weeks tomorrow, I can only hope its the start of a trend as Londoners start to grapple with the potential reality of a prospective Mayor Johnson.
Really, it doesn't bear thinking about ...
... now, I welcome this development - I think it's good that the Council is using Bebo to help promote 'Fairdeal'.
... only problem is, you can't access Bebo (or Facebook) from within the Council's computer network :-(
Apparently "the (Fairdeal) profile is updated regularly and is monitored by the Fairdeal team at the Council" ... not quite sure how they manage this, given that Bebo/Facebook/YouTube et.al. are all blocked on our network??
Well, the observant amongst you will have noticed that papers were due out yesterday/today - look it up on CPOL and see what you get ... here's a link to the Agenda, as frankly that's about all that's there ...
... everything (apart from 1 item) is 'to follow', including the organisational review of the Department :-((
I'll let you know when us lowly Opposition Councillors finally get the organisational review paper, but even if it's tomorrow, that only leaves two full working days (Friday & Monday) before Tuesday's meeting.
... plenty of time for proper scrutiny of this not-insignificant paper then - or maybe that's the whole point?
New politics in action ...
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Planning is a big issue at all 4 Community Councils I attend - Hutchison-Chesser, Craiglockhart, Merchiston and Tollcross ...
... but it really does dominate Tollcross debate at the moment, which is perfectly understandable given the phenomenal amount of development that is ongoing throughout the local area.
... I've simply lost count of the number of contacts who have suggested that Danielle Johnston's PowerPoint presentation should be circulated to all Labour Councillors in Edinburgh by way of a training-aide :-)
Laugh, I nearly cried :-))
P.S. mind you, isn't Danielle's school one that the local SNP wanted to shut back in August 2007 ... yet now they're applauding the "talented pupils" that WHEC produces??
Monday, April 07, 2008
As well as all the e-mails (and far fewer letters) been trying to catch up on the press cuttings from the past week - couldn't quite believe it when I saw this story from Saturday's Scotsman!
It's the bit that indicates that:
"Kate Dean, the Lib Dem leader of the city council, confirmed yesterday that she would be taking part in the protest march through the centre of Aberdeen" ....
... which really gets me - that's the same Council Leader who has just voted through all the service reductions and cuts.
Proof-positive that Libs really do know no shame.
Actually, I'm with Midlothian SNP councillor Colin Beattie who is quoted in yesterday's Scotland on Sunday as saying:
"Some councils just have to grow up. Every council in Scotland has been given more than enough money by the Government. People just have to start taking responsibility for things."
Couldn't have put it better myself ... wonder if they'll hear his plea in Edinburgh's City Chambers?
Sunday, April 06, 2008
... red onions; 6 rows of 7; so there will undoubtedly be plenty of onion-soup to consume later this year :-)
... only 2-beds left to 'border' and all the major preparation-works will be finished and much more planting will commence :-))
Saturday, April 05, 2008
... I mentioned his 2007 Reith Lectures (which had quite an impact on me) last April - here - and thought it interesting to see them referred to again in the Guardian piece today!
Although he's not giving any clear-preference away in the interview, from the subtext Sachs is surely an Obama supporter? Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he was given a prominent role by President Obama in early 2009 :-)
... here's hoping anyway.
Friday, April 04, 2008
... Kirkcudbright itself was a real delight, and I'm pretty certain that most members of our holiday-party will visit it again - ourselves included :-))
Couple of days more rest before school/s return and we're all back to work :-(