Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween-madness in Cowan Road this evening ... door-bell hasn't stopped ringing all night.

I've tried my best to prove this American journalists' thesis wrong and turned nobody away ;-)

... and I've learned some great new jokes into the bargain :-))

Friday, October 30, 2009

Edinburgh West

Commiserations to my Council colleague, Paul Edie, who I hear 'just' missed out tonight in the selection process, over in Edinburgh West, to be the next Lib-Dem Westminster candidate ...

... shame that, I was really looking forward to an interesting by-election ;-)

Tram bosses ban cash?

The 'no cash on trams' story in today's local paper seems to have attracted a huge amount of attention ...

... but, hang on, isn't there a quote near the bottom of the piece that clearly states: "we have not taken the decision yet"?

Tram bosses ban cash??

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Policy and Strategy meeting next week

Policy and Strategy committee meeting next Tuesday - main agenda here, and all the papers can be found on 'Committee Papers on Line' (CPOL) by searching here ...

... one report worth noting is at item 9 on the Draft Budget for 2010/11 - you can see it here.

At last were getting some plain facts on next year's Scottish budget - paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 indicate that for Scotland the budget is rising in real terms, with a welcome recognition of the mendacity being employed by the Scottish Government when it comes to 'capital acceleration'. Poor old SPICe (first bullet-point on page 3!) will probably have its funding removed and be closed down soon :-(

... and paragraphs 2.5 through to 2.9 (however grudgingly!) acknowledges that Edinburgh's financial allocation is also going to be a rise in real terms.

So, if income is going up for Scotland and for Edinburgh - in real terms, not just cash terms - then the problem must be levels of expenditure ... correct!

Those in charge just need to get it under control - it's called the responsibility of being in power.

Mind you, I'll take any bet that the actual truth of all this is completely ignored and those in charge continue to take no responsibility whatsoever and simply continue to blame someone else.

Truly depressing stuff ...

Phone problems

If you've been trying to reach me on the mobile today --- many apologies, but the Sim-card appears to have completely given up the ghost and died on me :-(

... fear not, as all has been repaired, as of around 4pm today.

... so my blissfully peaceful 'morning/early afternoon' is now over and I'm back to the constant sound of my ring-tone :-((

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Electoral Reform Society meeting in London this afternoon, so stuck on the train most of the day ... I have now reached the point where I wonder how I managed to ever survive without that recently-purchased Notebook ...

... sad, I know :-(

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finance Committee today ...

Substituted for my colleague, Donald Wilson, on the Finance Committee (agenda here) this morning ... the meeting lasted from 10am through to 2.30pm :-(

... I think Donald may have known something I didn't :-((

More seriously - two significant issues dominated the vast bulk of the time:

  1. the report on the award of contracts for the provision of Care and Support Services - here
  2. the report on the Council's 'Long Term Financial Plan' - here

On the former, the report was (on division) referred to the upcoming Full Council Meeting on the 19th November; and I have to say in my 10-years as a Councillor I've rarely seen professional Officers look so uncomfortable trying to defend a policy issue.

After 2 powerful deputations, the subsequent two-and-a-half hours of questioning Officers failed to convince almost any of the Opposition Politicians present that what is happening could not be handled a lot more effectively. The suspension of 'Direct Payments' (which isn't even mentioned in the report!) seemed to be the main point-of-contention, but it underlies a serious disquiet amongst users with the whole process of contracting-out such services - which are being provided to the most vulnerable in our City.

And, despite repeated denials, it still appears to me that 'Direct Payments' have been suspended for one reason - and one reason only - because if they hadn't been, then the contracts which are about to be awarded (if the Administration get their way on the 19th?) would not be viable in terms of scale and/or financially?

There's a lot more to come on this - of that I'm sure.

On the second issue --- I've posted at length on the current budgetary pressures facing us all, but most recently here and here.

In essence, I've been trying to get across the point that yes the budgetary pressures are indeed very real but that INCOME is still increasing and the main problem is actually EXPENDITURE.

And, despite all the negative language, what this report proves is that City of Edinburgh Council funding is going up and the main problem is the gap between that increasing funding and the levels of increasing expenditure. I don't disagree this is serious - and I don't disagree that solutions for the problem need to be found ... but the problem is not primarily because of income (which is still increasing), it is primarily because of expenditure which is increasing at an even greater rate.

For the last 10-years, that rate of 'expenditure-increase' has been covered by an equally sizeable rate of 'income-increase' - for the next 10-years a similar (and continuing) rate of 'expenditure-increase' isn't being matched by an equivalent rate of 'income-increase' ... but income is still increasing.

Appendix 1a of the report (page 39) shows just that - Aggregate External Finance (AEF: Government grant to Councils) going up year-on-year, but not as fast as the rate of expenditure. It's that divergence which leads to the projected funding gap ... income is still rising but not as fast as expenditure.

There is a huge difference between the problem being one of expenditure - which it primarily is - and the way the whole situation is being portrayed by many who insinuate that everything is down to falling income. Income is not falling - income is rising.

It comes down to this --- you can't blame someone else if the problem is primarily about the rate of your own expenditure ... much easier to accuse others of reducing your income, even if it's just not true.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to the grindstone

Back to the grindstone today :-(

... was very beneficial to take my 'foot off the pedal' a bit last week, but I do sense that the next few days are going to be pretty busy as a consequence!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Half-term week

Back up in Edinburgh now ...

... schools' October half-term this week - junior just finished his first term at Tynecastle (which has gone really smoothly), but I'm still generally knackered!

So, taking a bit of a blogging-break for the week. Normal service will resume soon :-)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

War Horse

As well as Legoland, should give a mention to a production of War Horse we all went to see at the New London Theatre ...

... if you're in London before the middle of February, then I'd highly recommend the show: great script, fantastic set, and a really gripping production!

The whole family loved it.


Well, given the early finish, I did indeed manage to catch that 5pm train on Thursday ;-)

... was visiting the in-laws over the weekend - and in addition to the usual family-events, managed to get to Legoland near Windsor and was pleased to see some familiar sites on display there :-))

... I shouldn't admit it really, but I do think the adults enjoyed the day just as much as (if not more) than the kids!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No moratorium here?

Forgot to mention one classic moment at the Full Council meeting, when the relevant Convener was responding to a question about the use of biomass in Edinburgh ...

... he boldly asserted that there has never been a moratorium on the use of biomass in the city?

Someone should really politely request that he goes back and re-reads a report that went before Council in December 2007 - you can find it here ... paragraph 2.17 at the foot of page 3 clearly states:

"the Council is adopting a precautionary principle in suspending the use of biomass pending the outcome of the Scottish Government Research findings."

'Suspending' --- 'moratorium' --- damned if I can tell the difference??

Yet more proof, if ever it were needed, on who is truly running the Council these days ... and it's not the said-Convener :-(

Just who is in charge?

Well - the Council meeting did indeed finish earlier than last month --- a 1.15pm end of proceedings!

Most significant division of the day came over the report concerning the review of funding to third parties ... you can see the full report here.

There was a pretty healthy debate in the Chamber, and the Administration won the vote obviously, but there is a clear worry about this whole process that is simply not being recognised by those supposedly in charge ...

... amazingly, during the exchanges, it transpired that the politicians responsible for this report seem blissfully unaware that Officers are happily telling all-and-sundry that Voluntary Sector funding is reverting to annual-awards for the foreseeable future and that three-year funding is off the agenda?

This despite previous - very clear - decisions to move as many voluntary sector grants onto a three-year footing as possible.

Does make you wonder just who runs this Council.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tollcross Community Council

Tollcross Community Council this evening - Annual General Meeting, and all seems to have gone smoothly with the nominations process ...

... very pleased to be able to report so, as this year's local Returning Officer for the Community Council :-)

Full compliment of 12 individual Community Council Members nominated, and also 2 Local Groups representatives - leaving space for up to a further 4 Local Group reps.

Main discussion of the night was on the new alcohol regulations that have come into force - these appeared to be, I was personally pleased to hear, pretty much supported by the local community ... at least in Tollcross!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A cynical game

I mentioned the SPICe briefing that puts the lie to the Nats constant whining about the (NOT) reducing Scottish-budget for 2010/11 a few days ago - details here.

Well, just to prove the scale of their 'chutzpah' the Scottish Government have put out a News Release today pressing for the same form of 'capital acceleration' this year as they received last - details here.

I'd be willing to take a gamble that the Westminster Government gives them such - despite the puerile political games going on?

If they do, it will say a lot about the respective levels of political maturity within Westminster and Holyrood ... and, as ever, I trust that voters are quite capable of making their own judgment on who is trying to respond to current economic circumstances constructively and who is playing a particularly cynical political game given the seriousness of all the circumstances.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Help needed ...

I have a terrible confession to make ... this morning, whilst reading The Scotsman, I found myself in total agreement with a Tory MSP :-(

I may have to rapidly reassess my allotment-obsession :-((

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Recession - what recession?

Talking of 'light agendas' ...

... have a quick look at this one for the Economic Development Committee meeting next Tuesday --- you know, that Committee which should be the cutting-edge of the Council's response to the recession?

There are seven actual reports on the agenda - and every single one is entitled as a 'Progress Report' :-(

Inspiring stuff.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Full Council this coming week ...

Full Council this coming Thursday (15th) ... main agenda can be found here; and papers via searching on CPOL.

I probably shouldn't say it, but agenda looks incredibly light and I reckon the meeting could even finish earlier than last month?

I've actually got a (flexible!) ticket for the 5pm train to London that afternoon, so am hoping for as few points-of-order as possible ;-)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day today - some details here - with this year's theme being "Heroes and Heroines".

I'm not really one for heroes ... everyone who makes it through the day is a bit of a hero as far as I'm concerned ... but in the spirit of National Poetry Day I'll raise a shout for Charles Darwin.

I've mentioned my admiration for his work before, and earlier this week I managed to see "Creation" the film about his life, which I would highly recommend. And so here is an extract of a poem by Darwin's own great-great-granddaughter, Ruth Padel, entitled:

"More Funny Ideas About Grandeur"

'There is grandeur, if you look
at every organic being
as the lineal successor of some other form,
now buried under thousands of feet of rock.
Or else as a co-descendant, with that buried form,
from some other inhabitant of this world
more ancient still, now lost.

Out of famine, death and struggle for existence,
comes the most exalted end
we're capable of conceiving: creation
of the higher animals!
Our first impulse is to disbelieve -
how could any secondary law
produce organic beings, infinitely numerous,

characterized by most exquisite
workmanship and adaptation?
Easier to say, a Creator designed each.
But there is a simple grandeur in this view -
that life, with its power to grow, to reach, feel,
reproduce, diverge, was breathed
into matter in a few forms first

and maybe only one. To say that while this planet
has gone cycling on
according to fixed laws of gravity,
from so simple an origin, through selection
of infinitesimal varieties, endless forms
most beautiful and wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved.'

(February 2009)

Impossible to believe?

No - not Cameron's speech today ...

... but this BBC story, from several months ago, which a colleague has just sent me.

I have to say, that as someone with two sisters I find the thesis of this research almost impossible to believe ;-)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Minds made up?

As regular blog readers will know, the current local school closure programme continues to roll on towards a final decision at the December 2009 Full Council Meeting ...

... one of the four Primary Schools currently being considered for closure is Drumbrae, and all the consultation details can be found here. And, if you look at the 'summary of the proposals' (page 2) it's evident that a new, larger Nursery is to be built at Clermiston Primary School IF Drumbrae closes.

Fair enough - except today, numerous Councillors are awash with angry e-mails from parents at Clermiston because they've been told by workmen on the school site that the foundations for a new Nursery are being prepared right now??

... someone, somewhere better have a good explanation to convince these parents that minds aren't already made up about the closure of Drumbrae :-(

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Networking for all - even at the Council :-)

Well ... who would have believed it?

... I put up a post about my '100th Friend' on Facebook, and have a little whinge about the ongoing lack of access to said-programme within the City of Edinburgh Council network ... and what happens?

... just this morning, Facebook is now accessible from within the Council :-)

I've also noticed that Bebo, YouTube and other networking sites have likewise all been unblocked :-))

Lets hope that 'Blogger' isn't now blocked in some act of surreal administrative revenge??

Monday, October 05, 2009

100 friends?

High excitement here at the Really Bad Blog ... just reached my '100th Friend' on Facebook ;-)

Just imagine how many there would be if I could access the damned programme at work?

--- obviously all part of delivering the "Smart City Vision with Infrastructure Optimisation Model" ... minus Facebook :-(

ERS Scotland ...

Interesting discussion earlier today, over in (what was a sunny!) Glasgow.

Plenty of life left in the Westminster PR-campaign yet! I'll try and blog more about it all soon ...

Fountainbridge streets full of beds

No, I'm not joking ...

... just a few pictures from local Fountainbridge streets, indicating all too-graphically what the ever-increasing fee for bulky uplifts is doing to many, many tenemental streets across Edinburgh :-(

... first picture is on Dundee Street, second one from Bryson Road.

As I've already said on several occasions, it really is time for a complete re-think of this whole policy-area ... the current Lib/Nat Administration have indeed made a right mess (sorry) of it.

weekend Guardian & Glasgow today ...

Interesting article about Edinburgh in the 'Weekend Guardian' on Saturday ... paragraph 7 contains a timely reminder of what could have been; or could still be?

On a lighter note (maybe not!), off to sunny Glasgow this morning to meet up with other electoral reformers for a general catch-up on where now after that conference promise of a post-election referendum?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Back to work for a rest ;-)

It's definitely 'back to work for a rest' tomorrow ...

... we've been looking after two of our nieces, aged 4 and 1, for the whole weekend ;-)

Every minute been a joy --- of course.

Friday, October 02, 2009

more on that Budget ...

First bullet-point at the top of Page 3, in this SPICe briefing is a bit of a shocker ...

... that 'capital acceleration' has a lot to answer for :-(

Mind you, you have to admire the Nats pure-brass-neck ... they ask for extra capital monies to be brought forward; trumpet how much good they're doing with the additional money; and then use that capital acceleration as a means of claiming their budget is being cut in the next year!

You couldn't make it up ...

... except, the Governing Party of Scotland did.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

2010/11 Budget - more money for Councils

Some disclaimers to start with:
  • this post is about the 2010/11 Local Government budget in Scotland
  • it's not about any other aspect of the Scottish Budget
  • and it's not about any other (future) years
  • and it's based on the figures released a few weeks ago

OK - now put all the political shouting about the overall Scottish Budget to one side and here are the unquestionable facts for the forthcoming financial year as regards Local Government:

  • the 2010/11 Scottish Local Government budget is going UP from £9,589.9million last year to £9,809.0million this year (see first table here)
  • that's an increase of £219.1million in cash (nominal) terms
  • in 'real' terms the 2010/11 figure relates to about £9,664.0million
  • that's a 'real terms' increase of £74.1million (from the previous year) for Scottish Local Government
  • so, Scottish Local Government is getting a 2.3% cash (nominal) increase
  • and, Scottish Local Government is getting a 0.8% 'real terms' increase next year
  • see table 1, on page 2, here for confirmation of these facts
  • the figures here (as above) correlate to the official figures here, from the first bullet-point above

Yes - you've got it ... Scottish Local Government is getting MORE MONEY in real terms (not just cash terms) in 2010/11 as compared to 2009/10.

Remember, this post is not about future years - but the unquestionable facts above may well be worth remembering in the gathering political hysteria as we move towards setting our own Local Council Budget for 2010/11 in early February ...

NP event ...

Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) event yesterday was very good ... possibly better than being in Brighton ;-)

... seriously though - the trick is going to be translating a lot of the energy and positive enthusiasm evident yesterday into the actual NPs at a local level?

I think a bit of this change is already happening at my own South West NP - spreading such change across all 12 NPs will be a much bigger challenge for sure.