Friday, December 23, 2011

Have a restful Christmas :-)

That's it --- will be a bit of a blogging break as I try and re-acquaint myself with my Other-Half and Junior ...

... not that its set to be a 'quiet' holiday: all the in-laws coming to us for Christmas dinner and we'll have 12 people in the flat on Sunday! Thank goodness for that Allotment :-)

Normal blogging service will be resumed in early January ...

... meantime, hope everyone has a restful Christmas :-))

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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Birthday boy :-)

48 today ... I do hope the next 24-months go really slowly ;-)

I've got my doubts!

Can't believe I'm going to be stuck in the Council Chamber all day on the 22nd December ...

... ah well, important business does need to be discussed --- and the cake will keep.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas shopping!

Managed to take a few hours off this afternoon and quickly fitted in the Christmas shopping!

With the Southern-invasion starting on Friday, and Full Council tomorrow, it was either this afternoon or blame the postman for a series of terribly unfortunate delays ;-)

Was good to see the City Centre looking fairly busy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Social media training

Bit of additional, 'social media' training this afternoon, and yet more Edinburgh Labour candidates persuaded to sign up to twitter and facebook ...

... I'm sure they will all be merrily tweeting away in a few days time!

Anything could happen frankly :-(

Monday, December 19, 2011

Full Council this Thursday

Full Council Meeting this Thursday - main agenda here and individual reports on CPOL here ...

... quite a few potential, political divisions, but with the surprise absence of the ABM reports it might be a slightly shorter meeting than initially anticipated?

I would think most of the debates will centre around the 'Management Reporting Arrangements' report; and the motion on Leith Waterworld (see item 10.5).

I will try and post late Thursday, or early Friday, with any outcomes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Allotment Update - AT LAST :-)

Back from the Allotment and, as you can see, all is looking well :-)

Bit of storm damage to some of the fences, but temporary repairs weren't too difficult to undertake.

I did actually (several months ago) take down some sections of the tall fence, as it really is past its best. Also managed to locate a second-hand stock of good quality fencing posts to renew the whole structure.

But, work-pressures (not that I'm complaining!) have stopped me from completing the re-fencing project ... just might try and get some of it done over the Christmas/New Year period as I can't imagine there will be much time available after the 2nd week in January!

Anyhow - this morning we picked got a great crop of brussel sprouts (you can see some here) in preparation for the Christmas-day invasion ... not sure I've mentioned it before, but we have 12 people in total arriving for Christmas dinner, with every one of the in-laws making the journey North from London!

As well as these brussels, also got some potatoes in storage - so there will certainly be an Allotment-theme to the Christmas day meal :-))

Strictly, allotment and more newspaper delivery

Devastated that Chelsee failed to win Strictly last night ... so much for my dancing-powers of prediction ;-)

On a totally separate subject - I've had several complaints from regular readers asking what the h*ll is happening at the Allotment? ... apologies to all those so-interested; it is true that the plot has had somewhat less attention in the last few months than recently but we do have several hours planned for "Allotment-work" this afternoon, so I'll get an update/photo on the blog later today :-)

And then, post-Allotment, and before it gets dark, I must get the last of those Edinburgh Labour newspapers delivered!

Never a dull moment.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Leadership team out on the streets of Edinburgh

New Leadership team out on the streets of Edinburgh earlier this afternoon ... all that 'Glasgow-bias' talk is clearly rubbish: their 1st preference is obviously Edinburgh Labour ;-)

(apologies about the picture quality ... can't get the staff these days!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

COSLA, Group Party & new Leader

COSLA Convention Meeting later this morning, at their Haymarket office ...

... followed later this afternoon (and certainly into the evening!) by the Edinburgh Labour Group Christmas Party at the City Chambers.

Blogging may be light until Leadership announcement tomorrow ;-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Central Edinburgh suffers power surge

Tram depot handed over to the Council this afternoon ... SNP Minister quoted as saying:

"This is an important milestone for the project and demonstrates what has been achieved through the city council working alongside Transport Scotland and the contractor in the last few months."

Pity neither he, nor his colleagues, gave much thought to that potential synergy throughout the previous 4-years :-(
Anyhow, good to see such progress at last ---
--- of course, was all followed by some significant power-problems in Central Edinburgh just a few hours later!
Not that I'm suggesting the two incidents were in any way connected ;-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tollcross Community Council

Tollcross Community Council meeting this evening ... made sure I attended, arriving slightly late, all absolutely nothing to do with the festive 'wine and nibbles' on offer at the end of the meeting :-)

Various planning issues again dominated the main part of the meeting - hardly surprising when you consider the huge amount of development in the local area over the last decade.

Tollcross, and parts of Fountainbridge in particular, are completely unrecognisable to what first presented themselves to me in the mid-1990's when I moved to Edinburgh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ward 9, City Chambers and CERN!

Busy day at various Ward events this morning and into the early afternoon ... followed by a series of meetings in the City Chambers this afternoon.

Outside of work, been fascinated by the huge attention given to today's developments at CERN ... I, to my shame, wasn't fully aware of Peter Higgs' Edinburgh connections until today. Indeed, I thought Boson was his scientific partner :-(

More seriously, it does seem like a scientifically significant moment.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hutchison and Chesser Community Council

Hutchison and Chesser Community Council meeting this evening ...

... fairly prompt meeting, with most discussion centred around the recent approval of the Hutchison Road outline planning application.

As I mentioned last month, there was overwhelming community support to see the site developed, but it will be crucial now to ensure all of the numerous planning conditions (and Section75 conditions) are delivered upon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rested and refreshed

Back in Auld Reekie feeling rested and refreshed after a blissfully quiet weekend off the Byres Road, in Glasgow. Even the mobile phone was eerily quiet :-)

Back to the campaign trail though - and also been catching up on some of the weekend coverage of that Euro Treaty decision ... don't always agree with Ian Bell, but his is the most accurate analysis I've seen so far. Deeply, deeply depressing stuff.

Thank goodness for the Byres Road.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Glasgow for the weekend ;-)

Right - off to the sunny West Coast this evening for our annual pre-Christmas weekend break ... I certainly know how to splash out ;-)

Dropping Junior at one of his Aunts (in Salsburgh) for the weekend and the other-half and I then plan to do absolutely nothing in particular for 48-hours.

Bloody marvellous.

Going it alone

I'm a federalist at heart - always happy to be pragmatic about how we eventually get there! - but have to say I find the news about our UK Prime Minister's negotiating-stance over any new European Treaty deeply depressing :-(

All the best aspects of my life are those of an inter-dependant nature, where I'm reliant on others for good things to happen; and where those good things just wouldn't occur without others.

Being alone is fine at times - but this isn't the time to go it alone.

Quite the opposite.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Local Government Settlement

More detail on the Local Government finance settlement out - details here and comparative tables here ...

... Edinburgh benefits from the new "no council should receive less than 85 per cent of the average" commitment, to the tune of some £21million next financial year (2012/13).

By a quirk of local government accounting that equates to almost exactly the sum that's been lost in the last 3-years (circa £7million/year) due to the centralist imposition of the Council Tax freeze; which should more correctly be known as the Service Improvement freeze.

Aberdeen benefits in a  similar fashion, with all other Councils seeing a real-terms reduction.

Not to be too churlish - this does make year 1 (2012/13) look somewhat less daunting for Edinburgh, but years 2 and 3 (2013/14 and 2014/15) remain a depressing financial sight.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Elections Consultative Group Meeting

Elections Consultative Group Meeting earlier this afternoon ... clearly lots of behind-the-scenes preparations now going on for next May's Local Government elections: they are less than 150-days away of course ;-)

Timing of the count discussed, and Administrators clear preference is to do the count on the next morning (Friday 4th May). I somehow suspect that the City of Edinburgh will continue functioning perfectly normally without the immediate counting of votes ... after all, if 2007 is anything to go by, it will take several days for any new Administration to be formed?

I have to say, personally, I completely agree with this view and think it frankly bonkers to try and count elections after polls close at 10pm in the evening.

I just fail to see the need to rush and hope that good sense prevails and the counting is indeed left until the morning of Friday 4th May 2012.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pesky reporting arrangements

Well, so much for my predictions :-(

There were a couple of divisions on those Motions (not a surprise) but there was also a bit of a rammy on the very brief paper at item 13 on the agenda: 'Management Reporting Arrangements' ... if you read it - it's only 2-pages! - you'll see its actually about a lot more than reporting arrangements; and all three of the Opposition Groups were surprisingly joined by several Members of the Administration Parties in requesting much more detail on what's actually being proposed.

A certain bodily function and a brewery comes to mind ...

... needless to say, further report now coming back to the next Full Council Meeting on Thursday 22nd December.

Oh joy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Policy and Strategy Committee tomorrow

Polcy and Strategy Committee tomorrow - main agenda here and all the reports on CPOL here ...

... expect there to be divisions on both Motions, at 5.1 and 5.2 on that agenda - but the rest of the formal reports are fairly uncontroversial. I suspcet this is a trend that will now last until at least the 4th May 2012!

Mind you - that said, the report on 'Mainstreaming Employment' does contain impressive statistics indicating that men are now in the minority of top-earners within the Council ... check the table at the top of page 3.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More envelopes and dancing ...

With only a few weekends to go before the Christmas break ... and a mere 150-days or so until polling day! ... the mass envelopes-stuffing (and subsequent delivery) continued apace today ;-)

Managed to make it home in time to see Chelsee Healey survive through to the next round --- maybe it'll be two-years in a row after all :-))

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Birthdays, Budgets and Strictly ...

Well, survived the birthday celebrations yesterday early evening - just! Good time had by all, and the flat is still in one piece ;-)

This morning spent several hours at the final City-budget summit ... still find it utterly bizarre that the list of top table 'City Leaders' (in this Release) doesn't include those politically in charge of the Council --- or maybe it does ;-)

Anyhow, it was an 'interesting' event - after which I hastily switched on my computer (remember the phone I have is twitter-useless) to read the 'Council twitter-feed' to see what promised commentary had been put up during the event --- only to find: nothing, not a single Council tweet today? Very strange.

And - this evening - Strictly is nearing the semi-finals ... been getting a bit of stick for not blogging about it this year (damned if you do, damned if you don't!), having correctly predicted the winner in 2010 :-)

Well, for what it's worth, I've though for several weeks that Chelsee Healey (who I'd never heard of before?) has had it in the bag - and that was certainly reflected in tonight's scores. She'll probably be evicted tomorrow night now :-(

Friday, December 02, 2011

Birthday Boy!

Junior is an impressive 14-years old tomorrow (3rd December) - can hardly believe it!

Due to a city-wide Budget-Summit having been organised for tomorrow morning (yes, I know it's a bl**dy Saturday!) we're having the main celebrations late this afternoon/early this evening ...

... with quite a few teenagers coming to the flat for Pizza: it may take me some time to recover fully ;-)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Blackadder exhibition

Finally managed to find a bit of time, late this afternoon, to go and have a proper look at the current Elizabeth Blackadder exhibition which is on at the National Gallery ...

... I do think the Gallery have done an excellent job of displaying dozens of Blackadder's paintings, stretching across the whole of her long career, and the resulting exhibition is (for me) a triumph.

It's only on for another few weeks, closing on 2nd January!

Special Council Meeting on 19th January

Discovered this afternoon that there is to be a Special Council Meeting at 10am on Thursday 19th January 2012 ...

... solely to deal with the next two tranches of the ABM/privatisation-programme; those being:

  • IFM (Integrated Facilities Management)
  • CATS (Corporate and Transactional Services)

As regular readers will know, both Labour and Green Groups on the Council have opposed this process from the start (it all originated in the February 2009 Lib-Dem/SNP Council budget), and last month - to their credit - the local SNP joined with our 2-Groups to create a Council-majority which led to the decision to keep the first tranche (Environmental Services) of the ABM-programme in-house ...

... I've seen nothing to date that leads me to believe that either the Labour or Green Groups will alter their stance on this specific topic, and if the local SNP remain steadfast then the delay until the 19th January should be merely a delay for the inevitable retention of these services in-house?

A public commitment to that effect would certainly help ease the uncertainty that currently affects, literally thousands of Council workers.