Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
- now contrast it with the "Local Reality", here in Edinburgh, by scanning through some of these posts (and the links therein) on Early Years Education in our Capital City during 2007/2008.
Honestly - the gap between such vacuous rhetoric, and the reality on the ground, is enough to make you weep :-((
For good measure - throw in the class-size ruling in East Lothian, reported in The Herald today, and its hard not to come to the conclusion that the whole Education Policy Framework of this Government is simply a joke and quite frankly not worth the paper its written on.
I do cling to the hope that more and more will see through all of this nonsense in coming months ...
... need to be careful what I say, what with thousands of Hearts fans forming part of my potential electorate :-(
But, lets face it, who can possibly stop Airdrie now??
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I see there's a bit of banter on several Scottish blogs about his unwillingness to do a deal with the SNP last May and how this could be a poor omen for the Libs - who are now to be consigned to political oblivion due to Scott being such a tribalist??
... well, for what its worth, I had to work very briefly with Tavish Scott when he was Minister for Transport, and I had the Transport Brief at the Council, and found him to be quite the opposite of tribal. It was never a difficulty to get an agreement (with him or his advisers/civil servants) on a way forward - despite political differences.
P.S. Actually, this reminds me that during my near 5-years with the Council Transport Brief (which felt more like 50!), I worked with all of the first two-terms of Devolution's Transport Ministers:
- Sarah Boyack
- Wendy Alexander
- Iain Gray
- Nicol Stephen
- Tavish Scott
- and no, no matter who requests it, I will not be undertaking a preferential voting exercise on who was the most effective Minister ;-))
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
... he presented a fairly blunt message about the need for some clear leadership on certain specific (planning) topics - top of the list: trams. It has been a common theme of his time as Design Champion.
And, I am stating the obvious when I say his specific message(s) haven't always been heeded ... but, at the very least, clear political direction has been present - even if not of his liking.
As for the future, I'd love to be wrong, but given the current political circumstances I just cannot see such equivalent leadership being forthcoming in any shape or form :-(
Not good for the city ...
... and equally, my thoughts on the current Council Coalition are hardly secret - my most recent ramblings on this issue are probably here.
And if you need an exemplar of how these two topics collide, then just cast your eye over this article from yesterday's local newspaper ...
... surely, even if you're opposed to the tram project, you have to concede that this type of 'political' response is doing nothing but damage to Edinburgh?
Its just very hard to see how a truly difficult political decision can be made on anything in this current (and obvious) climate of mistrust between the local Coalition partners ...
Monday, August 25, 2008
If true, that's a considerable saving to make on a revenue account ...
... one would hope that such an amount could be put to some immediate good use??
... well, okay - here it is.
I ask you, do you blame me for not wanting to publicise it any further than need be ... I stopped dancing like that a long time ago ;-))
- 5pm'ish Sunday evening and the SNP Sports Minister puts out a call for a Scottish Olympics Team (such good timing, many wonder?)
- 2am'ish Monday morning and the SNP First Minister recycles an old story about a possible UK Olympic Football Team - even better timing :-(
Oh well, no need to worry ... after all, it is only the future constitutional status of our nation that's at stake over the coming months.
Plenty of time to raise the quality of debate before that pesky referendum eh?
... you do have to wonder :-((
Sunday, August 24, 2008
... but really, and I say this as someone who is not tribally opposed to those who choose to make an intellectual case for Scottish independence, I don't think this is the smartest move to make just minutes after the most successful-ever, modern UK Olympics Team is winding down and celebrating its phenomenal success.
This could have been left for another day - surely?
... well, you do have to agree that Coatbridge does feel somewhat like another country ;-) ...
- we did manage today to fit a quick 'allotment visit' into the hectic, festival schedule :-((
And, just look at that prize-winning pumpkin!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
... thought this headline might be appropriate for Edinburgh given current weather, and tram works, but the sun is indeed shining today! Amazingly?
And, to add to the feeling that anything could happen, our weekend visitors are travelling from an incredibly diverse range of locations: some from Holland, and some from Coatbridge!
I kid you not ;-))
Friday, August 22, 2008
A bright, new future for Edinburgh - was it not:
- "Council finances are now back onto a stable course" - Councillor Dawe, Council Leader
- "We now have the budget under control" - Councillor MacLaren, Convener of Education
Now then, just look at the Month 3 (yes, only Month 3!) financial figures for the Council's two largest Departments (you'd better sit down first, if you have a weak constitution) ...
- first, have a read at paragraph 3.1 here - which shows a £4.4million projected overspend in the Health & Social Care Department budget at the end of Month 3
- worse still, have a look at paragraph 3.1(a) here - which shows a £8.9million projected overspend in the Education, Children & Families Department budget at the end of Month 3
In both of these Departments, further significant management actions (code for yet more front-line services cuts?) are now being employed to bring these budgets into line.
Sadly, as I've said before, this is NOT now a Council which is 'service-driven' ...
... but the mechanistic-approach adopted last February - one of "knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing" - also now appears to be failing miserably.
Not good for Edinburgh, not good at all.
... but they won't necessarily improve the quality of decision-making currently being undertaken in the City Chambers :-(
And don't forget, the lights themselves cost some £1,600.00 :-((
Thursday, August 21, 2008
... of course, I'm sure some will claim it was all down to the infamous traffic-lights, but truth is the agenda was pretty light and I suspect September's meeting will be more weighty?
- Lord Provost casting vote used to reject a one-off request for funding of £8,000 for 'Senior Action Group Edinburgh' (SAGE)
- Lord Provost casting vote used to reject a perfectly reasonable motion from the Greens on the use of the 'Climate Challenge Fund' - see item 10.6 on the agenda here
But, much more serious than the LP using his casting vote to prevent progress on items such as those above (important though both are in their own right obviously) is the ever-creeping, and blatant, politicisation of the LP's position.
At the meeting (and anyone present will confirm this I'm sure) there was a woeful use of Standing Order 22 (see page 11 here) which stops a decision of the Council being changed within 12-months.
The LP has used it frequently to prevent us discussing issues such as school meals, and he used it during this month's meeting to prevent the Council discussing the Fairer Scotland Fund (see item 10.1 here) ... all these topics are just too embarrassing for the current Lib/Nat Pact, you see :-(
... but not Post Offices - no, that's not too embarrassing because the whole Post Office Agenda is being led by a tier of Government within which they have no power or control.
Now, the fact that we've discussed, and made significant decisions, on Post Offices at Council Meetings in both May 2008 and June 2008 was quickly swept under the carpet and Standing Order 22 (despite my request for it to be applied consistently!) was ignored when it came to discussion of an 'emergency motion' on Post Offices.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
And, crucially for me, he's not overtly tribalist or unnecessarily partisan.
Talking of which, next up were the Deputy Leadership candidates who were somewhat ... what can I say? ... more 'entertaining' ;-)
Whatever the outcome on September 13th, this whole leadership selection process will definitely have strengthened the Party for the challenges ahead in the run-up to May 2011 ... no bad thing in itself!
Not entirely certain if Craiglockhart Primary School is closed due to the one-day strike action (I think not actually?), but believe it may be down to ongoing window-repair works that haven't been completed before the start of term ... frankly - someone, somewhere, hasn't planned the timing of the works effectively if that's the case?
Anyhow - that new graphics card, which was very recently fitted to the home computer, is currently being tested to near-destruction ;-))
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
But, I'm pleased to report that in my never-ending quest to use local businesses as much as possible, I've located a very local outfit in Craiglockhart who repaired and upgraded my old computer in rapid time, and levied a pretty reasonable charge for their services ;-)
... and no, I wasn't given a reduction on promise of advertising their services!
... a scurrilous rumour is doing the rounds at the City Chambers that 'lunch was provided' by the Leader's Office in an attempt to induce agreement on a whole range of difficult topics for the Lib/Nat Administration ... well, the bit about the lunch being provided is true ;-))
Joking aside, personally I very much welcome any efforts (from all political sides!) to reach consensus on some issues before the hot-house of the main Council Chamber is reached. That doesn't mean that heated political disagreement will always be avoidable - it won't be, and neither should it be ...
... but, its a simple truth that on some 80% of Council decisions there is absolutely no political division - yet, you would be right to doubt this statistic from the way that the remaining 20% of decisions are dealt with :-(
Monday, August 18, 2008
... but for those 'political anoraks' out there who are interested in such things, the complete list of posts follows below.
Needless to say, our focus will now be renewed on:
- promoting Edinburgh's wider interests at every possible opportunity
- speaking up (loudly!) in defence of essential front-line public services here in the city
- professionally scrutinising every action of the current Council Administration
LABOUR GROUP EXECUTIVE MEMBERS
Andrew Burns - Group Leader
Ricky Henderson - Deputy Leader
Ian Murray - Chair
Lesley Hinds - Vice Chair
Ian Perry - Secretary
Paul Godzik - Assistant Secretary
Elizabeth Maginnis - Whip
Angela Blacklock - Vice Whip
LABOUR GROUP SPOKESPERSONS
Lesley Hinds - Health and Social Care
Ewan Aitken - Community Safety
Ricky Henderson - Children and Families
Angela Blacklock - Children’s Support Services & Equalities
Elizabeth Maginnis - Economic Development
Ian Perry - Transport and Infrastructure
Gordon Munro - Housing
Maureen Child - Environment and Sustainability
Norma Hart - Communities and Social Justice
Ian Murray - Finance
Paul Godzik - Culture, Sport and Leisure
Donald Wilson - Smart City
Eric Milligan - Planning/Police
Eric Barry - Fire/Licensing
Two quick comments come to mind:
1. all seems a bit pointless, as the agenda is pretty short anyhow - as I mentioned earlier - and why the whole 'project' can't now be shelved I'm not entirely sure?
2 . much more seriously, it is all costing yet more money (some £1,600 apparently) at a time when funding is being reduced right across a whole range of City Council services.
Mind you, such a sum seems paltry when compared to:
- the £112,352 about to be spent on 'refurbishing' old desks - see paragraph 5.3 here!
- or the +£1million that could well be spent on 'ceremonial flags' for the city :-(
There may well be a time for such expenditure, but this year isn't it :-((
Sunday, August 17, 2008
One downside of all this home-grown produce is we've now had to cancel our fortnightly 'organic vegetable box' which we received from East Coast Organics, whom - I hasten to add - consistently provided great produce right to our door.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
... but spent a couple of hours helping over at Juniors' school were the Parents' Association had organised the painting of a "Beach Hut Mural" ... details at the bottom of this page!
Final product looks great - nothing to do with my painting skills I hasten to add - and I'm sure the children will love it when they return to school this coming week ... strike/s allowing :-(
Friday, August 15, 2008
There are one or two contentious reports, but nothing in comparison to some that have been before the Council in the previous few months ...
... I'll regret predicting this, I just know it, but I reckon we could actually be out of the Chamber before late afternoon??
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I also happen to think that Scottish Ministers are correct to press for a further lowering of drink driving limits - I hope the UK Government will respond constructively in due course ...
... good time had by all :-)
Talking of bus trips - read this local news story on my return, and find it hard to believe that a bit more flexibility can't be applied when dealing with these issues ... David Griffiths, chief executive of ECAS, hits the nail-on-the-head with his quoted comment.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
... unfortunately, I've missed the deadline for this month's Full Council meeting or I would have tabled a motion calling for "pre-agenda wine" to be compulsory at all Edinburgh Community Councils :-))
... those that know my previous room will appreciate just what a task moving all my filing and paperwork has been :-((
But, all now completed and off to my weekly surgery and then on to Tollcross Community Council. I hope its not a fractious meeting!
Roll on the weekend ...
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Full Council meeting next Thursday as well - with the deadline/s for questions and motions today and tomorrow, so no respite from the treadmill :-((
Monday, August 11, 2008
... and it really felt like I was straight back on the treadmill today ... huge amount of stuff to catch up on and straight into a series of difficult meetings.
... such a contrast to the tranquility of the last two weeks :-((
... nowhere near as good weather as the second week though - up in Stromness, on Orkney (rented a pier-side cottage: details here) - and we had practically 7-days of sunshine, which I understand is in stark contrast to the weather in Edinburgh over the last week or so :-(
I simply can't speak highly enough of Orkney ... if you haven't visited, its well worth the effort. The natural beauty of the place is quite breathtaking, and its history simply fascinating.
... I'm certain we'll be returning again - hopefully in the not-too-distant future ;-)