"I’m sure the observant amongst you will have registered the fact that today marks six-months to go until polling day, next year on Thursday 3rd May 2012.
Now, many of my colleagues think I’m somewhat obsessed with the countdown to the next local government elections – and I have to admit that they are basically correct.
That 6-months translates to 26 weeks or, to be more precise, 181 days, 20 hours and 30 minutes until the polls open at 7am on Thursday 3rd May 2012.
It cannot come soon enough for us.
We’re determined to use every one of those 181 days to work tirelessly to bring real and lasting change to Edinburgh’s City Chambers.
And whilst I really don’t want to dwell on the negative this morning, I think it has to mentioned that not only I, not only Edinburgh Labour, but many, many individuals and organisations right across Edinburgh think our City Council has failed in the last 5-years, and our city – our home – has stalled.
Ultimately, Edinburgh voters will be the final judge on that – but for this morning, I want to primarily focus on what Edinburgh Labour is offering as a vision for a better Edinburgh.
And over the summer months – since the Scottish Elections back in May – we have worked very, very hard to ensure we’ve arrived at this position, here today, a full 6-months out from our own local elections: we have all 23 of our candidates selected and in place to fight every one of Edinburgh’s 17 multi-member wards.
I do believe we are the first local authority political group in Scotland to have reached this position – and I certainly have no recollection, in the 20-years of my political activism, of candidates being in place so early.
It is a statement of our intent, and of our seriousness to move Edinburgh forward, at the next Local Elections.
As well as many of the candidates being here today, we are also launching a new website, Twitter feed, Facebook page and a whole series of candidate blogs – all of which can be accessed from edinburghlabour.com
We have our first piece of city-wide literature being delivered to 150,000 households right now.
And we are actively telephoning and door-to-door canvassing in a major drive to engage with Edinburgh voters, to talk to them about our ideas to take Edinburgh forward.
And that does bring me to the key document on your chairs this morning – the ‘Moving Edinburgh Forward’ consultation document and accompanying Co-operative Council article.
I and my colleagues are utterly convinced that politics-as-usual is simply not an option and we’re taking a bold step today in throwing open to public dialogue our ideas and vision for moving Edinburgh forward, some 6-months before the election. I think it’s a completely unprecedented move.
And we will listen to all the feedback we receive over the coming months, and our eventual manifesto will reflect the dialogue we’re about to have ... Lesley, as our Transport Spokesperson, will specifically ensure that relevant transport groups, professional bodies and individuals are consulted in detail; Paul as our Education Spokesperson will do likewise for Education groups, professional bodies and individuals; Maureen as our Social Work Spokesperson likewise ... and so on.
I’ll highlight some of our ideas, all underpinned by the principle of developing a Co-operative Council – a Council that does things with its communities, rather than doing things to its communities.
So, to that end:
- We’ll investigate and promote the development of a city-wide child care co-operative to help parent’s access affordable childcare.
- We’ll aim to expand housing co-operatives as a way of expanding affordable housing and providing tenants with a bigger say in their community.
- We’ll help households generate green electricity by promoting energy co-ops like the Edinburgh Community Energy Co-op – and we’ll make sure Council property is also used to generate green electricity as well
We also plan to radically shake up how we engage with communities more generally:
- We’ll establish a proper Budget Committee to ensure we have an open and transparent budget process, where everyone has the right to be heard.
- We’ll discuss the role of Parent Councils and how they interface with the main Education Committee.
- We’ll introduce a new ‘petitions committee’ which will allow citizens to highlight their priorities.
The consultation document also has a host of innovative ideas concerning the local economy:
- From developing and promoting apprenticeships, to ensuring that such apprenticeships are a key component in Council contracts.
- From developing and promoting local suppliers, again directly assisting them through the imaginative and consistent use of local supplies for as many Council services as feasible.
- From working closely with house-builders, ensuring high quality and fast delivery to market, in return for the development of ‘first-time purchase’ properties.
We will also press the Scottish Government to let Edinburgh keep a bigger share of our local businesses rates. We’ll lobby for fairer funding for Edinburgh housing and other needs. And we’ll spend our time doing what the city needs, not chasing centrally-set Government targets.
And if Edinburgh Labour is the largest party on the Council next year, we will get the city moving forward again and actively involve every party in Council decisions. We’ll make officials accountable to the city’s needs, not to rules made to suit them or the Government.
We will stop the tick-box target culture and focus on what people really want, empowering frontline staff to have a say in budget decisions, squeezing value from every penny.
Above all, we will not shrink from real city leadership.
- Our candidates are selected and in place.
- We are actively campaigning and engaging right across the city, right now.
- Our vision and ideas for moving Edinburgh forward are now in the public domain.
- We will undertake a significant exercise in facilitating dialogue on these ideas, and we will listen to - and act on - all the feedback we receive.
- We are ready, if trust is placed in us, to play our part in moving Edinburgh forward."