Had quite a few requests for a copy of my speech notes - so, in the spirit of openness and transparency, here they are ...
... I may have deviated slightly from the text, here and there, for the observant amongst you who were in the hall!
I'm now very much looking forward to the October/November events, later this year, that I reference towards the end ;-)
24th June 2013
Cllr Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council
Thank you Graham (Chair) and thank you Cabinet Secretary ...
… and can I personally welcome you – and all of today’s delegates - to the City Chambers in Edinburgh for what is already shaping up to be a fascinating and full day of discussion and debate.
The title of today’s event is ‘Vision, Policy and Partners’ and in my contribution – for the next 15-20minutes – I want to focus on the pivotal role that I believe the Capital City’s Local Authority has in ensuring that Edinburgh maintains its position as ‘THE’ place in … not just Scotland – but across the whole of the UK – to live, work and play.
But I also know – as Council Leader – that we, as a Council, need to continuously renew and refresh our working partnerships across not just the public sector, but also with the private and voluntary sectors.
And I’m very optimistic that , looking at the line-up of contributors, that today’s event will help us do just that … renew and refresh our partnerships.
For me - it would, frankly, be fatal to Edinburgh’s long-term prospects if all that prevailed was ‘business-as-usual’ --- and I certainly hope to convince you in the next 15-minutes that this Council is already ‘doing things very differently’ and has every intention of continuing in that vein for the next 4-years of this elected-term.
And the focus earlier from the Cabinet Secretary - on the diversity of our population and the demographic changes taking place in Edinburgh - is a welcome one …
… and one which I hope to be able to build on within my own contribution.
I want to focus on what we have in common across the sectors, professions and political parties --- and on working in partnership and co-operation, with city stakeholders, and the wider Edinburgh public.
Indeed, one of the main reasons we in Edinburgh have, what I believe to be, a very focussed local coalition is our ability to rise above what divides us, identify commonality of purpose; and to work together on our vision for a successful city.
And last May, after the Local Council Elections, the newly formed Labour/SNP Capital Coalition started with a clear focus on partnership working - by developing a partnership vision.
We acknowledged and expressed - very openly - that we thought that the trust between citizens and the Council was badly damaged.
It’s not a malaise that just affects Councils, or is unique to Edinburgh, but I believe it has to be openly acknowledged.
That’s why the Capital Coalition put ‘co-operation’ at the heart of our ‘contract with the capital’ – our Coalition Agreement.
And, uniquely as far as I know, we immediately published the full details of that contract on the Council’s website.
In essence, Edinburgh’s Capital Coalition wants to radically transform the way that services are planned, managed and delivered; and move Edinburgh towards being a truly Co-operative Council.
We want Council services to be transformed by shifting power; so that the Council is working much more ‘in partnership’ with the local people it is ultimately here to serve. Working “with people” and not doing things “to people”.
That won’t happen overnight and it won’t apply to all of the Council’s services … but as evidence from elsewhere has proven, small beginnings can lead to a major transformation in service design and delivery …
… and, crucially, can lead to a real transformation in the relationship between the electorate and those elected and employed, to serve them.
We have also put accountability and openness at our core and to that end we made specific commitments to the electorate and to stakeholders that we will be measured against, and ultimately judged on.
I am not aware of any other Council in Scotland that has done this in such a transparent and open manner.
We have made some 53 specific commitments in our Contract with the Capital, as I indicated, the whole document is available via the Council’s website and referred to in nearly all of our communications with the public.
But the delivery of those promises can’t be a one way street, there has to be an ongoing two way dialogue with the citizens of Edinburgh and our city stakeholders and partners, many of whom are here today.
I was struck, when looking at the detail of the sessions today, and at the range of contributors and participants, that we have some of the foremost policy and decision makers... from across the sectors... in this room.
So, today does provide a great opportunity to take our commitment to collaborate and work in partnership, with others, to the next level --- and I want to thank MacKay Hannah for making this event happen.
So, as mentioned, we want to radically transform the way that services are planned, managed and delivered …
… what have we achieved so far after just over a year in office?
In terms of ‘doing things very differently’; I’ll mention just 4 issues, from amongst many, which I hope give you a flavour of how things have quite radically changed over the last 12-months.
1. We committed to establish the first Petitions Committee, and petitions process, here at the City of Edinburgh Council – and in October last year we launched the new Committee and it has already heard several valid petitions. This has enabled local residents to have an additional channel to raise issues of concern, with their elected representatives, and directly with the Council. And, it’s worth underlining that its Chaired by a Member of the Opposition; and I think it’s fair to say that the Committee’s subject matter is often of a politically challenging nature
2. We committed to a completely revised budgetary process, which meant the publication of a full 5-year draft budget – for the first time in decades - here in Edinburgh. For our first budget, we published that draft in November 2012, for decision in February 2013. And this year, having listened to the feedback we received, we’re publishing the 4-year roll forward in September 2013, for decision in February 2014. This will allow 5 months of detailed debate and scrutiny before we finally set our 2014/15 budget next year.
3. We also committed to a renewed focus on neighbourhoods and communities within our decision-making structures --- and, we’ve delivered on that through our new Communities and Neighbourhoods Committee, and the further development of our 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships will be put before the Council for debate and decision later this year at our October Full Council Meeting.
4. We also committed to, and have now established a new Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee, also Chaired by an Opposition Councillor.
Those structural alterations, alongside other simple – but relatively radical – changes to how business is conducted in this Chamber every month … like the web-casting of our main monthly meeting … are providing a renewed framework for our detailed pledges to be effectively monitored and delivered.
And, as I referenced earlier, we committed to 53 specific pledges --- all within the following six themes:
o Ensuring every child in Edinburgh gets the best start in life
o Reducing poverty, inequality and deprivation
o Providing for Edinburgh's prosperity
o Strengthening and supporting our communities and keeping them safe
o Ensuring Edinburgh and its residents are well cared for
o Maintaining and improving quality of life.
And - so far we have;
· Introduced a living wage of £7.50 for all our staff – this will plough extra resources into the local economy as this money will be spent locally
· Created a new Transport Forum to help develop a vision for how we all get around the city in the future
· Lodged a bill with the Scottish Parliament to pave the way toward creating a much needed high school in Portobello
· Helped more young people into work through the Edinburgh Guarantee
We are also tackling other very challenging issues facing the Council.
Ø The Property Services allegations are being investigated and we have launched the new Shared Repair Service with a refreshed staff team. This was done within a year of taking Office. The service is now being further developed in consultation with users.
Ø The tram project is making good progress against the revised timetable and budget and we will be making a formal decision at Council later this week on who the tram operator will be.
Now - I don’t think I’m highlighting anything new when I say there are likely to be serious and difficult economic challenges ahead for Edinburgh in general and for the Council in particular.
We, in the Council are operating against a backdrop of real and intense pressure on public spending; whilst dealing with an overall increase in population as well as an increase in the number of elderly and vulnerable people who need our support and a population whose expectations (rightly) are higher than ever.
This is undoubtedly a difficult challenge for us – but it is also part of our motivation to do ‘business very differently’ AND to do it better.
Public service reform - against this backdrop - is already gathering pace and our Chief Executive Sue Bruce will go into this in more detail in session two.
I certainly don’t wish this contribution to come across as gloomy or negative in any way --- but I do believe that acknowledging challenges, is often half the battle to dealing with them.
Edinburgh has in fact been bucking the trend of the rest of the country in many ways --- due to a number of factors --- and has, partly because of these factors, the genuine opportunity to make further progress.
Ø We have a cultural and heritage offering second to none and we must do more to protect and enhance it.
Ø We have academics and experts in a wide variety of fields and a particularly well educated population.
Ø I believe we have innovators and established business expertise in abundance.
Ø We still have opportunities for development and improved infrastructure.
Ø And we are developing a culture of co-operation within and across the sectors.
And we, as a Council, have much to continue to do, so that Edinburgh can remain prosperous and successful, for as many of its residents as possible.
We need to continue:
– Investing in key services
– Investing in prevention and early intervention initiatives
– Ensure best use of our resources
– Achieve this at a time of increasing demand
– Transform what we do, look at where we can increase our income, prioritise our services, work with partners to provide services in a more effective and cheaper way.
And the wider Edinburgh public do need to be able to judge how successful we are and so – in addition to our real-time monitoring of our specific pledge delivery (via our website); I can confirm this morning that we will publish an annual report on ‘ The Co-operative Capital – one year on’ in November of this year.
There will also be a preparatory event for ‘city partners’ in October this year;
· to assess progress to date
· to provide a chance to input into the November document
· and to agree shared-challenges for the following year ahead.
So, I do hope I’ve given you a flavour of just how ‘very differently’ business is being conducted by the Council - and how it will continue to be so …
… I know many of you have been involved in delivering those changes already made, and I look forward to your on-going participation in what has to be a joint-effort across all the sectors --- public, private, voluntary --- if we’re to ensure Edinburgh’s continued success.
Many thanks for listening, and I look forward to any questions – but also to the rest of today’s event.