Friday, December 23, 2011

Last day in the office

Last day at the City Chambers today ... that said, I am in Edinburgh right throughout the holidays and will pick up e-mails (or messages on my mobile) if anyone needs to get in touch urgently.

Yesterday's Council Meeting was a grim affair. No other way to describe it really.

It was bad enough seeing the significant (and understandable), local anger at the closure of Leith Waterwolrd (more on that below); but then the last substantive debate of the day - on the 'Management Reporting Arrangements' report descended into slight farce with the Administration accusing Opposition Groups of being too robust in their challenging of Officers?!

For me, was a bit of a metaphor for all that's gone wrong in the last 5-years ... perhaps, just perhaps, those making the accusations should consider whether they themselves could have been more "robust in challenging Officers" on some other important projects for the City?

Anyhow, of much more importance, all four main Council Groups voted to see the eventual closure of Leith Waterworld in January --- in response to the Green Motion (see item 10.5) which sought a reprieve.

I know, only too well, that our decision to back the Administration Motion will be a huge disappointment to many, and I want to briefly lay out our reasoning:

The original decision on this matter was considered by Full Council on 15th September 2005 as part of a report on renewing sports facilities, including Meadowbank and the Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP). It was agreed to realise a capital receipt from the sale of Leith Waterworld as part of the funding package for the RCP. This received all-Party support by all four Parties on the council at the time.

This decision has thereafter been reaffirmed, again on a cross-Party basis, at numerous formal meetings of Council:
  • it was the subject of further reports to Full Council on 1st June 2006 and 1st February 2007
  • The new SNP/Lib-Dem administration reaffirmed this decision on 28th June 2007, 20th December 2007 , 13th March 2008 , 20th November 2008 and 5th February 2009
  • it was the subject of Executive and Committee reports (Planning, Finance & Resources Committee, Culture & Leisure Committee) on 7th December 2006, 14th August 2007, 9th September 2008, 16th June 2009, 1st June 2010 and 26th April 2011
  • the report of 26th April 2011 took into account changes in the business case reporting that the funding gap in the business case for the RCP had been closed
  • every report above received all-Party support from all five Parties now on the council.

I did subsequently raise the general issue of "scrutiny" at Leaders' Question Time yesterday:
  • underlining that the formal decision on 1st February 2007 (on an all-Party basis) included that Leith Waterworld would remain open up until the new facilities at the refurbished Commonwealth Pool were open to the public
  • and noted our severe disappointment that the specific commitment of the 1st February 2007 had not been honoured and that an ‘Act of Council’ had not been properly monitored

All that said, I fully appreciate this is clearly not the ultimate decision that local campaigners were seeking, but as I've tried to lay out above there is a six-year, all-Party history to this closure decision.

And, having very carefully considered all the arguments, we did feel the closure should go ahead in January.

So - as I say above - a grim affair of a Council Meeting.

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