Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More tram woes

Just a couple of weeks ago I put up a post making a plea for some firm leadership of the tram project ... well, appears there might well be no leadership left at all shortly :-(

Those currently in charge of this project really do need to get-a-grip of what's going on.

... and this isn't what I had in mind :-(

I just despair :-((

Monday, May 30, 2011

Local flooding in Ward 9

Some really bad localised flooding early on Saturday morning in Ward 9 ...

... the local paper has picked up on the story this afternoon.

Immediate problems obviously now resolved, but some significant damage appears to be have been done to several properties in the street.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Allotment pond & newts!

With Junior away, managed to spend an inordinate amount of time at the Allotment this afternoon/evening (sad I know!) ...

... everything a bit 'battered' by the storms earlier in the week, but didn't take too much effort to get it all back into shape.

Thought the pond was looking rather good and pleased to report that we once again have some resident newts :-)

Bon voyage!

From this morning, Junior is off to France for a week with the Tynecastle High School Modern Languages Department :-)

First time he's been away (for more than the odd night) since late 2008 ... last time was the week before the Forth by-election, and this time it's during a Full Council week :-(

Ah well - we've still got every intention of trying to make the most of our 7-days of freedom :-)

And Junior looks set to have a great time at the Chateau Beaumont :-))

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Procedurally unfair?

Hard to ignore the storm of media coverage (again!) over Sharon Shoesmith yesterday ...

... I've watched numerous colleagues jump to Ed Balls defence in recent days, arguing very strongly that he was right to sack Ms. Shoesmith. I agree with them - the buck has to stop somewhere.

But sadly, that's got nothing to do with the Court Judgement yesterday, which made it quite clear it agreed completely with the Ofsted Report that was totally damning of 'services for children' in Haringey.

The Court Judgement was actually about 'due process' not having been followed in the sacking of Ms. Shoesmith and when you read through their reasoning, it is hard to disagree with the Court's conclusion that her employers had been "procedurally unfair" in her sacking.

Having read the judgement, I seriously doubt if any Government Appeal will be successful.

What a mess.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Full Council papers now available

Well, the Full Council Papers (for the meeting on the 2nd June) are now all available via CPOL (committee papers on line) here ...

... the specific agenda for the day is here.

And you'll see that there is indeed an update on the Alternative Business Model (ABM) programme at item 8.1 --- the full report can be found here.

The report is, in essence, indicating the next steps for Corporate and Transactional Services (CATS) which was the area identified as having the most significant risks back in the December 2010 report. And, sadly predictably, it recommends ploughing ahead with the external provider (privatisation!) process :-(

Nearly £2million has been spent on all of this now and I can see no sense in progressing the CATS element any further - other than via the internal improvement programme - given the significant risks that still appear to be present?

Why the local SNP (who help run the Council) don't just put a stop to this is beyond me :-(

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Full Council next week

Full Council next week - I can hardly contain my excitement at they're being 2 such meetings in June ... first on the 2nd June and second on the 30th June!

Whilst all eyes will undoubtedly (and quite rightly) be on the latter meeting - due to the imminent trams report - there may well be one or two reports of interest up at the meeting next week.

At the very least, am expecting an update on progress with the Alternative Business Model programme, which seems to be moving inexorably towards the privatisation of a whole swathe of Council services.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Local Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) meeting this afternoon ... South West Funding Panel to be precise.

Despite various budget reductions, the NP's still do have monies to distribute as local grants this year - details of how to apply etc. can be found here.

I'd encourage any organisation thinking of doing so, to get an application in quickly - if today's rate of applications was anything to go by, then the earlier you submit the better!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Very high winds in Edinburgh

Forgot to mention that the drive back up from Malham (in Yorkshire) yesterday afternoon was pretty wet and windy all the way ...

... so wasn't at all surprised to see the level of damage around Edinburgh when we arrived back. I've had several constituents in contact with fallen trees in their gardens etc.

Council issued an update this morning - you can see it here.

And - I'm pleased to report - the response I've had from relevant Officers, to my various local queries, has been very prompt.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Enjoyable weekend

I just know I'll regret this ...

... but here's some pictorial proof that the 'Operation Raleigh' weekend was a thoroughly enjoyable few days :-)

And yes, that's the Chilean national drink in my hand - otherwise known as Pisco: I kid you not :-))

Can you believe I still fit in that jumper after 25-years!

Friday, May 20, 2011

25-years of friendships

Regular readers will remember (?) that despite encroaching middle-age, a large group of our family and friends do still manage a bit of a get-together every year which usually involves tents and a camping-stove ...

... well, this weekend (being a local Holiday Weekend!) we're off to Malham, in Yorkshire and no tents will be in use :-)

We're putting up residence in a local Bunk-Barn for a few days - the elevation from canvass to an actual roof, marking the fact that this will be the 25th year of these annual get-togethers!

Yes, my better-half and I - and many of the +30 folk coming along this weekend - all first met in the Spring of 1986, in Chile, as part of an Operation Raleigh expedition ... so, as you can imagine, we're all really looking forward to the weekend and celebrating some very, long-standing friendships :-)

Bottles of the Chilean national-drink are packed and ready for imminent consumption ... blogging will thus certainly be non-existent for a few days :-))

Leadership required?

I mentioned the tram project just a couple of days ago - but yesterday events appear to have taken yet another downward spiral with the Departure of TIE's Chief Executive ... reported extensively here and here.

I'm a supporter of trams returning to Edinburgh - as regular readers will know (and if you're so inclined, just type 'tram' into the top-left blogger search box and you'll see literally dozens of posts where I've discussed the project over recent years) - but revelations of the last few months would test the forbearance of the project's most ardent supporter :-(

If you've tried the 'search' I suggest above, you'll be able to read my thoughts on what's gone wrong - and, ultimately, I would personally welcome any further investigation/s into the project in due course, as I've made perfectly clear before ...

... but surely the priority, for now, has to be to ensure something of this project is delivered within the existing funding envelope?

Edinburgh (and perhaps even Scotland) will undoubtedly suffer considerable opprobrium otherwise - and I sense that even Members of the new Scottish Government know that to be the case and understand the damage that could be caused.

Leadership - from somewhere - would indeed be welcome.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Constituency Meeting tonight

First local Labour Party Constituency Meeting tonight, since the Holyrood election 2-weeks ago ... there will be plenty to discuss ;-)

But, joking aside, I'm pleased to report that whilst some serious reflection is going on (as it should) within Edinburgh Labour circles, there is also a steely determination to continue our robust planning for the upcoming 2012 Local Elections --- which are now only (exactly) 50-weeks away!

One can only hope that the same sense of pragmatism and urgency is infecting those at Party HQ, 50 miles to the West.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Don't knows" in or out?

Forgot to mention the Policy and Strategy Committee, which met yesterday ... main agenda here.

The meeting was totally dominated by the report at item number 5, on the so-called "People's Survey" - you can see the full report here.

Now, if the title wasn't Orwellian enough, you must have a quick glance at paragraph 2.2 (please do!) - I'll paraphrase the content for you here:
  • satisfaction levels with Council services are going down :-(
  • but dissatisfaction is not increasing!
  • its just that too many people are answering "Don't Know" to the questions.
  • so we'll consider ignoring them to make the results read more positively ;-)
Classic stuff.

Although, to be fair, in the ensuing debate at the Committee no one was suggesting not keeping both 'sets of data' so that reasonable comparisons could be made across a time frame ...

... but, the 'Machiavelli within me' just doesn't like it :-(

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No food waste here

Bit of ongoing hilarity in the Burns household today about the (welcome) success of the Council's food waste pilot - further details of which can be found here ...

... needless to say, my well-earned 'gannet-reputation' means there is little (or no) food waste in Cowan Road - and what little remains is very quickly composted ;-)

There is a serious point behind all of this - I do welcome the pilot and am glad it's been a success; but (just like normal, daily waste) surely much better to reduce the problem at source? --- and I do hope that point doesn't get lost in the rush to recycle.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Special Council Meeting

Well, the Special Council Meeting today actually turned out to be somewhat of a damp-squib :-(

Only item on the Agenda was the Tram Update Report and after a bit of an adjournment to consider various addendum's there was all-Party agreement on the report before us.

Labour Group addendum ultimately read:

1. To instruct the Chief Executive to seek absolute clarification on the new Scottish Government’s intention in relation to the release of the remainder of the £500million Government Grant and that such an update be received by Council prior to any further decisions on this project.

2. To instruct the Chief Executive to report on potential compensation arrangements for Princes Street and West End traders given the possible, additional closure of Princes Street and that such an update be received by Council prior to any further decisions on this project.

3. To instruct the Chief Executive to ensure the next Council report on the Tram project, scheduled for 30 June 2011, was in the public domain a full seven days prior to the Council meeting.

Full Council Meeting on the 30th June is now shaping up to be the critical moment for the project - no doubt about that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Allotment update :-)

Rather shockingly, managed to leave the flat today ;-)

... and spent a fair bit of time down at the Allotment this afternoon/evening - all 'thoughts-political' banished from my mind (for a while at least!).

Lupins looking rather impressive (if I don't mind saying so myself!), and everything really springing into life now.

Really hard to believe this is the fourth growing-season we've had at the Allotment :-)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Completely free day :-)

Talking about my need for some rest, cannot believe that today I had absolutely nothing in the diary (and I do mean nothing) ...

... and for the first time in a long time, I don't think I even left the flat; just read a bit, ate a bit (well lots actually!), watched some pointless TV and generally did nothing in particular.

Bloody marvellous :-)

London and ongoing lack of sleep!

Apologies for the slight lack of posting - still trying to catch up on sleep! ... and also had a long-day down in London on Wednesday for a series of ERS meetings.

Bit of time for some sober reflection on that deeply disappointing referendum result obviously :-(

Undoubtedly the issue was caught up in a wider political storm, but it would be wholly wrong not to acknowledge that there were campaign-failings as well ... and the relevant lessons need to be learned if electoral reform is to be kept successfully on the agenda in the coming years.

Still as good a time as any to join :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tollcross Primary School visit

Brief visit to Tollcross Primary School, and the Gaelic Unit, this morning ...

... clearly some big decisions coming up for the future of Gaelic education in Edinburgh - think the final reports are going to the Full Council Meeting of Thursday 30th June 2011?

So, was good to see and hear of the main issues first hand.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Audit Committee this morning

Back to some semblance of normality earlier this morning with the Audit Committee meeting.

Main item on the Agenda was the ongoing development of a Commissioning Strategy and the related 'lessons learned' from the Care and Support Tender Review ...

... having been very critical of this whole (earlier) process, I think it would be churlish not to recognise that the two reports linked above do represent very positive progress in this area.

It is to be very much welcomed.

The real political distraction?

Probably not wise to rant-on too much about the Holyrood election results :-((

I'm certain there will be time for more 'considered' reflections in the coming weeks ...

... but, for what it's worth, I really do think Scottish Labour should calmly reassess its view on the devolutionary process - and, as I've made clear on numerous occasions, I do personally believe it is a process not an event.

It might be tempting to revert to the comfort-zone of developing policy on other issues, but until there is clarity on the constitutional question within Scottish Labour (and other Opposition Parties), I fear that 'all else' will ultimately be the real political distraction?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Central spirit

They say a picture is worth a thousand words ...

... well, Sarah might have lost the constituency vote (just!), but this picture sums up, more than any words ever could, the spirit behind Labour's Edinburgh Central campaign :-)

By the way - I missed this Eddie Izzard visit (was a bit gutted), but by all accounts the activists present were hugely impressed by the tone and depth of his support.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Sleep, allotment, planning for next year ;-)

Lots of sleep today - was up from 5.30am Thursday morning until about 11pm Friday evening, with no break and/or sleep in-between ... totally exhausted :-(

But, early Saturday evening and we did manage a brief visit to the Allotment (can't tell you how therapeutic it was!) ...

... and, back from the Allotment, refreshed and now thinking hard about May 2012 ;-)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Hugely frustrating result

Hugely frustrating result for Sarah last night - losing by just 237 votes is tough ...

... but, I really don't think there was anything else we could have done locally to stop the tide-of-change that faced us.

Thanks to all in the campaign team for wonderful support :-)

And many congratulations due to Marco Biagi - I hope he serves Edinburgh Central well - the omens are good, as he was extremely generous towards Sarah in his acceptance speech. I wish him the best of luck.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Just a brief reminder ...

Just a brief reminder ...

Keep an eye on Twitter ;-)

Election Day is here!

Won't have time for much blogging, but will try and tweet throughout the day ...

... you can follow me at: AndrewDBurns :-)

Don't forget to vote!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

1-day to go!

Ludicrous amount of work, in preparation for tomorrow, completed over the last 24-hours ... can't thank the wonderful 'Edinburgh Central' team enough :-)

Very much looking forward to tomorrow now - believe it or not, I love election-days :-))

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Local Surgeries

Election might just be hours away, but no respite for us Councillors --- local surgery as usual tonight in the St. Cuthberts Primary School!

Tomorrow, in Fountainbridge Library, will be the last one before polls open at 7am Thursday :-)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Count training :-)

Very busy day on the doors, followed by a short (but helpful) 'count-training' event down in North & Leith ...

... Edinburgh's election count out at Ingliston this year: it's the right-side of town for me :-)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sunshine, doors and dogs

Weather just could not have been better today ... sunshine, endless doors and quite a few dogs: mostly friendly ;-)

Less than 4-days to Polling Day now ... think blog posts might be very brief from now on!

... for a week at least :-))