Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
... really hasn't been the best of starts for their Holyrood campaign: but, I know only too well, its a marathon not a sprint and I'd be amazed if there aren't more such twists-and-turns within many of the Parties before 5th May. Not - I hasten to add - that I have some secret knowledge of an imminent Labour defection!
Ah well, at least those local nomination papers were okay :-))
... I strongly suspect that most interest will surround the Audit Scotland report on the tram project - although, given the report has actually been in the public domain for nearly 2-months already I'm not convinced there will be any new and unique debate on this topic tomorrow :-(
But you never know?
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
... there was though one very interesting debate about the level of Council debt where I swear the Audit Scotland representatives were 'ever-so-slightly' disagreeing with senior Officers (and Administration politicians!) about the desirability of the current level of Council indebtedness? It does currently stand at some £1.3billion pounds (yes billion - see bottom of page 14 here).
Then this evening, had the usual Tuesday surgery at 6pm, followed by a quick visit to the 'Meggetland Heights Owners Association AGM'; then followed by Craiglockhart Community Council bi-monthly meeting - main agenda for which can be found here; with previous minutes here ...
... never a dull moment.
... no election leafleting or door-to-door canvassing allowed :-((
My distress at having to leave the campaign trail for a few hours must be palpable ;-)
And for those really interested, the Finance Committee agenda is here, and full set of papers are here. As you'll see - much more exciting than electioneering.
Monday, March 28, 2011
... and a Lib-Dem gone last week as well :-(
I know I'm possibly tempting fate - but I certainly do hope I completed those nomination papers correctly last Tuesday :-((
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
... but here's one from yesterday in Gardners Crescent, were the gardens are about to be re-opened after many months of closure due to a Scottish Power infrastructure renewal project.
Quite a contrast to the 'building site' that the area has been recently!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
... enjoyable discussion with the assembled masses, after our opening pitches.
It is noteworthy that at almost every Labour (or Labour-related) debate I attend on this topic, one of the main 'No Campaign' attack lines is "vote no to give Clegg a bloody nose" :-(
Now, personally, I think the Lib-Dems are going to get a bloody-enough nose on May 5th - several hours before any referendum result is announced!
... and, in addition, I just can't see the logic in the 'No Campaign' argument?
If I wanted to be partisan about this - and I don't really - then it's clear to me that a Yes! vote will do a significant amount of damage to David Cameron. I simply cannot see a no vote doing the same to Nick Clegg, who is probably --- for reasons that have nothing to do with electoral reform --- damaged beyond repair already.
... and I'm slightly surprised to see so much (obviously expensive) glossy materials coming through my letterbox (even if most of it is for the wrong constituency, as I now live in Southern not Central!) which has clearly been dispatched post-dissolution.
Needless to say, am keeping close tabs on it all to make sure that relevant Parties declare this expenditure in their 'short-campaign' returns and not their 'long-campaign' returns?
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
... pleased to report that an Emergency Motion we moved on the issue of staff speaking to Councillors was agreed. Not certain what has changed since last Tuesday - but welcome the motion being approved nevertheless.
I'll simply repeat the terms of the motion here:
Constituents’ ability to raise issues with Local Councillors
Following press reports this weekend, and confirmation from a city council spokesman that a "letter was sent to staff as a reminder of their obligations under the code of conduct for employees of the City of Edinburgh Council” ...
... Committee calls for an urgent report clarifying the rights of individual members of the public (as constituents) to raise/discuss any issues of concern with their locally elected representatives.
The report to specifically address:
• The right of all individuals to attend local Councillors surgeries
• The right of all individuals to contact local Councillors in writing and/or via e-mail
• The responsibility of local Councillors to respond to such enquiries
• The restrictions placed on these rights and responsibilities by the ‘Code of Conduct’ for employees of the City of Edinburgh Council
Committee agrees this report to return to Policy and Strategy within one cycle.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Don't usually make 2 such journeys in a single week, but circumstances made it unavoidable I'm afraid - I did though use the train/sleeper on both occasions!
Main Council Meeting of the Electoral Reform Society today, so as the current Chair really did have to be there ;-)
Friday, March 18, 2011
... not because I'm verging on the obese, I hasten to add, but simply because I have always found it difficult to grasp that life expectancy is falling in the UK --- which is often claimed by many commentators.
Don't get me wrong; it's clear that life expectancy would be even higher if diets were healthier, but I do hope that studies such as this one put an end to factually incorrect claims that our children are likely to live shorter lives than us. The evidence suggests otherwise.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This afternoon I was speaking at a McDougall Trust workshop - a very good debate ensued after a couple of presentations. A pleasant change to be debating the actual implementation of STV (in Scottish Local Government) as opposed to the possible use of AV for Westminster.
Then this evening, I attend the launch of the Labour Yes! campaign - Ed Miliband spoke - which will, I think, be pivotal in helping to ensure a Yes! vote in said referendum to scrap first-past-the-post and move us to AV.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
At this rate, there will be no one else in the eventual final :-)
Of course, it's the taking-part that counts - not the winning :-))
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
... should be up-to-date now though :-))
As predicted, the Council Meeting was indeed dominated by Nursery closures and the (seemingly) never-ending "Gathering Saga".
The overall debate on the two Nursery School closures frankly swept aside the strong views of the many eminent practitioners who had submitted evidence against moving to closure ... not the most shining-example of how to respond to a consultation; if that's what you could really call it :-(
But most time was taken up (sadly when you think of the importance of the above) with the "Gathering Saga". No apologies were forthcoming and a very acrimonious debate led to a very split-chamber on a vote of no confidence in the Council Leader and Deputy Leader.
To be honest, it wasn't the Council's finest moment and not sure either side handled it with the gravity it should have warranted.
But - and it is an important but - the Council Leadership continue to fail to take any responsibility for the mess that this whole issue has become. Until they stand and and admit mistakes were made and apologise, I just can't see this going away :-(
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
... early part of the meeting very much dominated by Licensing and Planning issues and, very unfortunately, I had to leave before what looked like an interesting presentation on transport :-(
But every minute (literally) is occupied at the moment and I had to get on to meet the next set of impending deadlines!
Roll on May 6th :-)
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
All scintillating stuff - local elections staff seem somewhat worried about the organisational challenges ahead of them?
Well, the Electoral Commission has published a 36-page list of directions --- as long as local staff follow that, what can possibly go wrong ;-)
Monday, March 07, 2011
Specific YouGov details can be found here - with some further analysis on the politicalbetting.com blog here ...
... it's close, but all the major polling companies are now showing a lead for the Yes! Campaign.
... I know, only too well, that 'the hour is late' for these proposed closures to be stopped; but the arguments are overwhelmingly in favour of doing just that - any cursory glance at the consultation submissions makes that abundantly clear.
It's not just about any quantity of submissions, but the quality of what has been submitted in this case - is it too much to hope that the local coalition might just listen for once?
Sunday, March 06, 2011
... and a busy Sunday subsequently spent on the doors back in Edinburgh!
And as if that wasn't enough physical exertion for one day, even managed a quick (very late afternoon!) visit down to the allotment just before it got too dark ...
... everything still looking in reasonable order. No more planting, but sure to be plenty coming up soon :-)
Saturday, March 05, 2011
... rumour has it, that an evening visit to the famous Cafe Spice could be in order ;-)
Pity I have to get back to Edinburgh tonight for yet more tenemental stairs tomorrow :-(
Friday, March 04, 2011
... interesting that YouGov continue to ask a question that's at variance with the actual ballot paper question?
Come on YouGov; surely now time to ask that actual question:
“At present, the UK uses the first past the post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the Alternative Vote System be used instead?”
... shame about Monmouthshire: if only another 161 people had voted Yes! ;-)
I know the turnout was relatively low, but just contrast today's figures with those that were achieved in 1997.
I'd class that as a 'devolutionary success' - and good to see all the main parties putting aside the arguments about gradualism and coalescing around an achievable development ...
... wonder if Scottish Labour and the Scottish National Party might ever manage to do such again??
Anyhow, main agenda here and the rest of the individual reports can be accessed from here.
I strongly suspect that Nursery closures, The Gathering and a Lothian Buses appointment are all set to dominate the day!
... but I couldn't help a wry smile when I heard various Liberal Democrats this morning stating (correctly) that Labour lost it's deposit in several by-elections whilst in Government form 1997 to 2010.
What they all failed to mention, strangely enough, was that those deposit-losing by-elections came MANY years into Labour's 13-year spell in Government, whilst this Liberal-Democrat deposit-losing by-election has come just 10-months into them being in Government :-(
They need to be very careful - as with power can often come delusion.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Very unusually, don't think the Opposition Groups have been given a 'draft agenda' in the run-up to this meeting - can't recall that happening in recent times; and only serves to fuel my suspicion that agenda-management isn't one of the local coalition's strong points :-(
More seriously, there will be quite a few controversial reports up for decision, not the least of which will be the proposed closure of 2 Nursery Schools - and various motions (it appears?) on 'The Gathering' fiasco.
Note to self: don't buy any evening theatre tickets for Thursday the 10th March :-((
... and it's not just the 'fact' that a referendum is taking place, but there's been practically zero-discussion about 'why' it's actually taking place --- and, the bottom line has to be, that it is only happening because of the so-called "One Wales" coalition that has run Wales for the last 4-years. That coalition being between Labour and Plaid Cymru.
That no one (apparently?) seems to think there are lessons or parallels here for Scotland to learn from is beyond me?
And that no one seems to be actively discussing such a possibility post May 5th, right here in Scotland, also seems somewhat bizarre :-(
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
... have a look at this document - here - it's basically ALL of the consultation submissions to the proposed closures, and is one of the documents that should go before the Full Council on the 10th March.
Councillors received this document, along with the other formal paperwork, in mid-February --- apparently because of the need to publish consultation outcomes at least three-weeks before any decision is actually taken.
All fair enough, but take a quick glance at pages 39 through to 50, all of which are individual submissions opposing the closure of High School Yards Nursery School in particular:
- page 39 is anonymised
- page 41 and page 42 is anonymised
- page 43 and page 44 is anonymised
- page 45 and page 46 is not anonymised
- page 47 is anonymised
- page 49 and page 50 is anonymised
Now, I can see the rationale in anonymising some of the earlier pages - where 'current parental/child' details have been redacted ... but I can see NO REASON why these latter submission have been anonymised: indeed one (pages 45-46) is not?
I had many of these submissions copied to me, as Opposition Group Leader, and know who most of these letters are actually from ... and all have been sent in by very prominent Early Years' specialists.
So just why have they now been anonymised in the public release of these documents?
Personally, I can see no reason other than to avoid embarrassment for the City Council.
If that is proven to be the case, then it's nothing short of a disgraceful set of actions.
... reasonable attendance from actual Partnership members, but a pretty low (to say the least!) public attendance :-(
There's just no doubt, in my mind, that removing the support which was previously provided by Committee Services has been a significant mistake.
Don't get me wrong; I know there are efficiencies that could be made to the NP-structures, but taking away their recourse to professional clerks who know how to advertise, minute and structure public meetings should not have been one of them :-(
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
... I guess I'm okay with the Council trialling electric scooters: but really; just what is wrong with Council staff using a bike instead?
Zero emissions; no electric batteries to charge; and a lot better for your personal health-and-well-being than sitting on an electric scooter.
Seems a no-brainer to me.