Friday, October 31, 2008

Anyone for India?

Perceptions matter!

... and I reckon this is a decision to match those made on robes, traffic-lights and old desks ...

It is, unquestionably, an inappropriate time for this type of expenditure. Someone, surely, should have recognised that?

... the very fact that it's made its way into an official Council report just about sums up the political miasma that appears to be suffocating all prospect of decent decision-making within the City Chambers at the moment.

Not good.

Busy few days ahead

Very busy few days ahead, with the Forth Ward by-election now less than a week away!

... and, amazingly, the Council website has JUST put up all the relevant details about voting etc. Much of it, regarding postal voting and so on, is completely out of date now of course :-(

I hope this is not an omen for the efficacy of the electronic count on Thursday night :-((

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Edinburgh University (2)

Edinburgh University (for the second time in one day!) this evening for a Student Forum event ... organised by Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA).

Enjoyable evening, with good contributions on a wide range of topics.

There does seem to be a renewed effort by the student bodies across the city to engage with the City Council, and local communities - I think it can only be to the good that such communication is happening on a regular basis ...

... that's not to say there will 'always' be agreement - but there's a sense of an open-dialogue now happening, which I'm certain will help understanding from all sides of the debates which surround student communities in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh University (1)

This afternoon, helped out with a lecture session for Edinburgh University Law Diploma students - been something I've assisted with for around 5 years now ... on a course run by Council staff from the Committee Services section.

I did repeat my terrible habit (only at these closed-door events I hasten to add!) of being ridiculously frank and I may have been just a little too blunt about how much I admire (NOT) first-past-the-post as an electoral system ... oh dear ;-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Simply wrong

I'm personally astounded at the story (BBC link here) being covered today about the Catholic churches' comments on the Embryology Bill currently going through the UK Parliament.

... frankly, they are quite simply wrong on this. There seems to be an almost complete blind-spot (when it comes to certain Catholic church representatives) to the fact that a huge percentage of female eggs are lost in the natural process of conception anyway?

Edinburgh credit crunch?

Council News Release out today, which reads to me like the beginning of a 'softening up' process before the 2009/10 budget round commences properly in a few weeks time - BBC have also covered the story here.

Its all well-and-good to blame some of the current local, financial difficulties on the 'credit crunch' ... but I'm certain all the Opposition Groups on the Council will be looking at the forthcoming budget detail very, very carefully.

... 'credit crunch' or not, I'm fairly certain the financial challenges within several Council Departments are still causing their own problems, precious little of which has been solved since last May - despite all the promises to the contrary?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A banquet for our times?

Possibly not the 'best' time to launch this initiative - but, to be fair, you could argue that its an opportune moment to try and raise the profile of the city which is currently suffering a bit of an onslaught ...

... so, I'll reserve my judgement until I know who is paying for year 2 - as its not at all clear that funding is secured beyond the first year for this event, which is being paid for by an anonymous benefactor??


New, electronic Newsletter been launched today for the Council's Children and Families Department - official blurb from the launch can be found here ... and the first edition itself can be found here.

... on the face of it (sorry, couldn't resist that!) I reckon this innovation has decent potential and is a good development.

What it absolutely must avoid though - otherwise people will just see it for what it is - is being "nothing but" a propaganda tool for the Department ... and if the lead-article in the first edition is anything to go by, then its not a great omen. I'll quote:

"Improving our school estate is one of Edinburgh's priorities and in recent years there has been a huge investment in our school buildings. We are committed to continuing with this investment and a number of construction programmes are currently taking place in the city."

Slight failure to mention that NOT ONE construction programme has been initiated in the last 18-months and that come early 2010, when the current second-round of the school building programme is finished, there is nothing to follow it.

To be fair, the rest of the Newsletter content is fairly informational - as opposed to the 'aspirational' quoted above!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Forth Ward

Spent a lot of today up in the Forth Ward ... by-election now only 11-days away!

Thankfully didn't encounter any more friendly Alsatians as I was doing my rounds :-(

... weather still not that great mind you - certainly hope it's a bit drier on Thursday 6th November!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Computer overload

Suffering a bit of a computer overload tonight :-(

... you would think being in Opposition would have led to a reduction in the volume of incoming e-mails, but no - if anything there seems to be a never-ending increase in the sheer scale of e-mail traffic that comes my way!

I dread to imagine what it will be like when the remaining 30% (or so) of local households get direct access to a computer??

... all part of the joy of being a public servant, of course ;-)

Wet week

Back in Edinburgh this evening ... been up in Glen Orchy for a few days, as per last October, and I simply cannot tell you how wet a week its been - total non-stop rain :-(

On Thursday, Tyndrum (just a few miles down the road from where we were staying) had a daily rainfall of 7.2cm :-((

This picture of the River Orchy in spate just about sums it all up!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Normal service will be resumed shortly

October half-term week ... blogging may be somewhat light ;-)

Normal service will be resumed very shortly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Deep trouble?

Looks to me like McCain is in deep, deep trouble ...

... just cannot see any way back from such a poll deficit, across so many states.

As usual, Steve Bell pretty much sums it all up in today's Guardian - its all in their "cartoon-persona's" body language!

So close to the truth.

October Full Council meeting

Well, Full Council did last considerably longer than the previous two months ... finished around 6.30pm :-(

Main divisions were on:
  • the (so-called) Fairer Scotland Fund
  • Wave 3 schools project update
  • review of funding to Third Parties
  • review of Neighbourhood Partnerships
  • and most of the motions from item 10.1 onwards :-(

No division on item 8.1, as it was all ruled 'incompetent' - I'll leave you to judge on that ...

The Lord Provost did verbally guarantee that the whole saga would come back before the Full Council after the Standards Commission has duly reported.

Very little accommodation to any other viewpoint (other than their own, of course) given by the Administration ... Neighbourhood Partnerships were the exception, where at least some sort of a compromise was offered and then agreed ...

... it can be done, but precious little evidence of it yesterday unfortunately.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Full Council tomorrow ...

Day before Full Council, and the usual mad rush to prepare everything :-(

... there are actually quite a few substantial items on the agenda and I suspect there will be more political divisions this month, than in the last few meetings?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gordon Does Good?

You can't deny that there's plenty of doom-and-gloom around at the moment, so in my ongoing effort to cheer up the legions of Labour activists who I know read this blog ... ;-)

... have a look at this article in today's New York Times - and do take note that it is written by a man who has just, this very day, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Gordon, and Alistair, do good?

... time will tell.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Allotment brussels

Okay - just like a few weekends ago - I do have to shamefully admit that not EVERY hour of the weekend was spent leafleting in Forth :-(

... managed to fit in an early Sunday evening visit to the allotment and picked a few of the still-growing brussel sprouts, took them home, and cooked them as part of our Sunday dinner.

Absolutely delicious - even if I do say so myself ;-))

Nice doggie?

Leafleting duties most of this weekend due to the ongoing Forth Ward by-election ;-)

... spent most of the time in Royston/Wardieburn and the majority of people we spoke to were pretty receptive, and even positive ;-)

I did have one of those heart-stopping moments when I entered a front-garden gate (in Royston Mains Green, think it was?) and casually proceeded up the path, only to arrive at an open door with a truly huge Alsatian bounding out towards me looking as if it was about to rip my head off :-(

Fastest I've moved all year, I'll tell you :-((

... but all was okay really, as the owner followed the dog out, just as I was exiting the gate at close to 100mph, and told me not to worry as the dog wouldn't have touched me as it was trained to bark only??

Forgot to ask him if he would be voting Labour ;-)

Friday, October 10, 2008

No more passing the buck?

I do believe COSLA have just put out a News Release (this afternoon) whose content is very, very significant.

It follows their 'Leaders' meeting earlier this morning when they discussed the collapse of Icelandic banks ... the News Release mainly deals with this issue, and this is obviously what the BBC have picked up on.

BUT - have a look at the last three paragraphs on 'school meals' ... the last paragraph, in particular, is code for 'We may have signed up for the school meals commitment, but we now believe we don't have the money to implement it and want to renegotiate the deal'.

Well, I won't say it - but follow the links ...

And do have a quick read at paragraph 4, on page 6, here ... escape hatch or warm words?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Biting the bullet?

I'm fully aware that there has been plenty of scepticism over recent events at the Treasury, and one of the loudest critics has been Will Hutton who writes for the Guardian ... saw him almost explode with indignation about his perception of government inactivity on one Channel4 news programme a few weeks ago :-(

... so, it is obviously noteworthy that he has an opinion-piece in today's Guardian that applauds yesterdays actions by the Treasury.

Well worth a read - although, as ever, the ensuing comments prove that not everyone is convinced :-((

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No.1 for the Forth Ward

Now, if proof were needed that Cammy Day is indeed No.1. for the Forth Ward ...

... I'm able to confirm that he is (as of this afternoon) the first - and only - candidate formally nominated for the by-election on 6th November ;-)

... and, by the way, elections officers told me earlier today that there had been a small 'typo' on the nomination papers sent out to all the Parties, and that the deadline for nominating was out by a week - should have read 4pm on the 8th October and not 4pm on the 15th October ;-))

... if only!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

North Merchiston Football Club

North Merchiston Football Club (in the Fountainbridge area of the Ward) became only the fourth club in Edinburgh to attain the Scottish FA Standard Quality Mark Award today!

... think all the details should be up on this website very soon.

I know that a huge amount of effort goes into the successful running of this local club and I was really delighted to learn that all the hard work which goes on behind-the-scenes has been recognised with this Award.

Congratulations to all concerned ...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Back from lunch?

Well, at least 'something' appears to be happening ... even if it is nearly a week since all the problems began!

... I still can't help wondering just what on earth the Convener of Transport is doing - other than keeping absolutely silent on all of this, that is?

Been quite a week - even by Liberal standards:

I'm sort of dreading what might happen next :-(

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Who would have thought it - Peter Mandelson back in the UK Cabinet?

... I do need to rebut wide spread rumour-mongering that I knew what was about to happen ... see my 'light-hearted' reference to Mr. Mandelson's supposed political skills earlier in the week ;-))

Of course, it was all complete coincidence!

Friday, October 03, 2008

'Big Brother' enters the by-election!?

The 'Forth Ward' rumour-mill is at full belt this morning, with the news that it looks like an ex-Big Brother winner is going to be one of the candidates ;-)

... actually, its not as bizarre as it sounds - John Loughton, who hails from that part of the city, and who did indeed win Big Brother back in January, is said to be launching a local campaign this coming Monday at the West Pilton Neighbourhood Centre?

So, if John does stand as an Independent ... that'll make at least 8 candidates I reckon - and probably more to come??

Thursday, October 02, 2008

... on a brighter note!

... on a slightly brighter note than my last couple of posts - some apparent good news from the COSLA/ Unison negotiations this evening!

Appears that an improved offer HAS now been made, and the third round of strike action - which was penciled in for next week - has been suspended whilst consultation with Union Members takes place.

I had been of the view that the original 2.5% offered could be improved - and, without pre-judging what Union Members conclude, I'm glad it now has been.

'Free school meals' - at no cost?

My current state of disbelief is now reverting back to my earlier state of despair :-((

... BBC Scotland are reporting today that all P1-P3 pupils will receive free school meals from August 2010 (quite some way off) - and, on the face of it, this is welcome news ...

... BUT - sorry - it is also being categorically stated that:

"However, the government will not be allocating extra money to fund the roll-out of the initiative."

No extra money - we, in Scotland's Local Authorities, have got all the cash we're going to get and we dutifully signed up to all of this in that 'historical concordat' - go on, check out those specified commitments on page 4 and 5 here.

I said it back in early May this year:

"The rest of the "specified set of commitments", and the fact that they are practically all unfunded, make very, very worrying reading financially..."

Those who signed that concordat, and those who have since remained silent on it, frankly have a lot of serious questions to ask themselves.

Local Government in Scotland HAS been emasculated and - mark my words - will subsequently be blamed for all the 'political ills of Scotland' come late 2010/early 2011. The Political Party of "Independence" has indeed removed that very same thing from the tier of Government they control and democracy is the weaker for it.

As for this City Council Administration Coalition of Libs/Nats - they can't even provide decent school meals for existing pupils, never mind rolling out such to all Primary 1-Primary 3 pupils ...

... and, of course, you simply cannot ignore the small matter of money to pay for all of this at a local level?

Absolutely unbelievable

My despair yesterday, has turned to absolute disbelief this morning ...

... today's Scotsman has a brief piece on the near complete gridlock that was the City Centre yesterday, which was a result of the start of tram works at The Mound - you can read the article here.

PLEASE have a look at the article - you'll note that the Chief Executive of TIE has at least apologised for the problems, but when the journalist asked the City Council to comment here's what happened:

"Despite the extent of the problems, the city council declined to comment on how the first day of the tram works had gone."

Absolutely unbelievable.

Thousands - no, probably tens of thousands - of commuters were affected by this yesterday and not one word from any Lib-Dem politician currently in charge of this project.

... actually, the likely truth is that no politician is currently in charge of this project :-(

In my darker (and generally uncharacteristic) moments of feeling 'less-than-charitable', I sometimes think the Lib-Dems in Edinburgh are metaphorically "out to lunch".

I've been badly mistaken - yesterday proves there's nothing metaphoric about it :-((

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Forth Ward Campaign Launch

Bit of a campaign launch for the Forth Ward by-election earlier this evening ...

Excellent turnout - candidate managed to attend, and even one or two MSPs made it along ;-)

Really good atmosphere in the campaign shop and I sense a very lively and up-beat five weeks of campaigning in front of us :-))

... mind you - I feel like I know most of these streets pretty well already!

Lack of leadership

My long-term support for the tram project is well known - and post May 2007, my position did not change as I made clear not long after that election ...

... but I've also, very recently, made clear my disdain at the lack of political leadership from the current Council Coalition on the project.

Well, today, I think that lack of clear leadership has become all too apparent to thousands and thousands of commuters - it's the first day 'The Mound' junction has been closed and by all accounts it is causing complete gridlock within the City Centre.

I know that some problems are to be expected, but the scale of what's happened this morning strongly suggests to me that the changes just have not been explained, publicised or communicated effectively.

Transport Officers cannot do that job alone - they need senior political figures to get their heads above the parapet and start 'championing' the project from the front! Can you tell me the last time you saw such a politician on TV, or heard them on radio, explaining what was about to happen??

Everything (politically) appears to be reactive and not proactive - and all (political) energies are used up with the in-fighting between the Coalition partners who disagree on this project.

I despair, I really do ...