Saturday, November 28, 2015

Scotland’s Climate March

It was wonderful to see so many at - and take part in - Scotland's Climate  March, in a slightly blustery Edinburgh, earlier today :-)

The BBC have covered the story here.

There was a very clear message to world leaders about to gather in Paris over the coming days ...

... act on ‪#‎Climatechange‬ now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

December's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

It might still be November but papers are now out for December's "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee; it meets next Tuesday 1st December!

All the papers/reports are now in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here.

The individual reports are all on Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) linked from here.

Several reports that may well attract some attention and debate:

Just click on any of those links above for access (as a PDF) to the specific report ...

... and, of course, all the Policy and Strategy Committee meetings are webcast live - and thereafter archived! All available via here --- it's TV; but not like you've ever seen before ;-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Edinburgh is all set for Winter!

The City of Edinburgh Council is Ready for Winter - and we've got the stats to prove it.

Preparations for the onset of winter weather are well underway in Edinburgh, with grit bins being topped up and stand-by arrangements for treating the roads and pavements already in force.

The Council's fleet of road gritters and mini tractors are also set to treat the streets with priority routes tested and communications plans in place, should severe weather strike.

You can find out more information on priority road, cycle path and pavement gritting routes, salt bin locations and tips on preparing for winter weather on the Council website.

Receive live updates on service changes resulting from weather by following the Council's Twitter account:
and the hashtag #readywinter15

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Refugees Welcome Here!

Syrian refugees’ arrival in Edinburgh

Readers may well be aware that a charter plane carrying Syrian refugees has arrived at Glasgow airport today (Tuesday 17 November).

This update was sent out earlier today to advise residents on Edinburgh Council’s current position and update them with what is being shared with the media etc.

I thought it might be of wider interest ...


  • has agreed to welcome around 100 Syrian refugees over the next 12 months
  • is expecting around half to arrive before Christmas - with a further 50 to follow over the course of New Year. They will start arriving in the next few days
  • has been involved with the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme since May. The scheme allows us to welcome a number of families from Syria, all of whom will have been identified as being in particular need by the United Nations
  • is keen to provide support and assistance to those in need. The scheme prioritises help for survivors of torture and violence, women and children at risk, and those in need of medical care.

Arrangements in place

We are expecting the first refugees to arrive this week and next. This will be around half of the total the Council committed to for this year.

The Council will be using its Private Sector Leasing scheme - coordinated by Link Housing - to accommodate refugees.

Appropriate school and GP placements have been identified for the families arriving.

All costs of participating in the scheme will be met but he Home Office for the first year.

Official statement released to interested media

Council Leader Andrew Burns said: “City of Edinburgh Council has agreed to take 100 refugees in the coming year.  This week we will start welcoming around half that number to the capital in the run up to Christmas and look forward to welcoming the remainder during the course of next year. 

“Naturally, as a city, we’re keen to provide support and assistance to those in need of our help.  The people coming to Edinburgh have been on a long and difficult journey.  Working with our partners in health, police and in the third sector we look forward to helping them settle in Edinburgh.

“Our city has long been a multi-cultural capital and we will continue to welcome people from all over the world to live, work and raise families here.

“There has been a huge response from local communities and members of the public wanting to offer help which is very heart-warming but we need to ensure we can channel this support to make the best use of it.

“I have every confidence that the people of Edinburgh will continue to show their support for the families as they adapt into their new lives in the capital.”


Sunday, November 15, 2015

I dream of grass, of clouds and rain

Late Sunday afternoon, and we luckily managed to snatch an hour down at the Allotment ... and despite the lateness of the season, and the dying light, there was still some colour in one of the flower beds :-)

Like many, I'm certain - I've been thinking a lot about Paris today; which (for me) along with San Francisco, London, and Edinburgh of course; has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world ...

... but given all the circumstances of recent days, I'm reminded of these lines written by Marina Tsvetaeva, the famous Russian poet, who lived in Paris in the 1920's:

In Paris

Homes reach the stars, the sky's below,
The land in smoke to it is near.
Inside the big and happy Paris
Remains the secretive despair.

The evening boulevards are noisy,
Gone are the sundown's final rays,
And there are couples everywhere
Trembling of lips, daring of eyes.

I'm here alone. To trunk of chestnut
It is so nice one's head to lean!
And like in the abandoned Moscow
In heart weep verses of Rostand.

Paris at night is sad and alien,
Dear to the heart is madness gone!
I'm going home, there's vial of sorrow
And tender portrait of someone.

There's someone's glance, sad and fraternal.
There's tender profile on the wall.
Rostand and the Reichstadtian martyr
And Sara - in sleep come they all!

Within the big and happy Paris
I dream of grass, of clouds and rain
And laughter far, and shadow near,
And deep just like before is pain.      


Marina Tsvetaeva (1892 - 1941)


November Leader's Report

November 2015

Budget Question Time


Andrew Burns
We are now midway through this year's budget consultation and I would like to thank the hundreds of you of who have already taken the time to have your say. If you haven't, there's still plenty of time to do so - the consultation runs until 10 December.

As part of this, and following the success of last year's event, we are running another Budget Question Time on 23 November in the City Chambers. This is designed to give you the opportunity to quiz our panel of senior councillors on the Council's budget proposals for next year and beyond.

The proceedings will be chaired by Scotsman and Evening News Managing Editor, Frank O'Donnell, and broadcast live via the Council website.

If you would like to put a question to the panel, or just come along and be part of the audience, please register online by next Thursday, 19 November. We are allocating places on a first come, first served basis.

This is a great opportunity to play your part in Edinburgh's budget challenge.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh

NPS crackdown


I am delighted that the Council has become a leading local authority in the battle against dangerous NPS - Novel Psychoactive Substances.

Trading Standards officers from the Council were the first in Scotland to be granted Forfeiture Orders from the Sheriff Court declaring NPS products - incorrectly known as "legal highs" - as unsafe. Officers used the orders to target 13 stores, eight of which have now voluntarily handed over their stock of NPS to Trading Standards. These products, which have a retail value of up to £50,000, will now be destroyed.

It is encouraging to hear that a number of other Scottish local authorities are now following our lead and considering how best to adopt this approach.


Seven cities convention


Earlier today I joined Deputy First Minister John Swinney at the Scottish Government's Cities Convention in Perth to speak of the importance of Scotland's seven cities and their regions to the country.

The cities contribute 60% of Scottish economic activity, almost £69 billion, while supporting 54% of the country's employment. The cities and their regions will be crucial to delivering prosperity and tackling inequalities. In order to do this effectively and in the most efficient manner, we need greater control over policy and fiscal matters to allow us to create the right environment.

The event was very productive and I'm looking forward to on-going discussions with the Scottish and UK Governments on ways in which the cities and their regions can help deliver a more prosperous and fairer Scotland.


Growing in confidence


It may surprise you to know that mental health issues affect one in ten young people. It's an area that often doesn't get much publicity so many congratulations to the Council's Mental Health & Wellbeing Team for winning the Education Initiative of the Year at the Herald Society Awards.

Their 'Growing Confidence' Secondary School Programme aims to support secondary schools to better promote good mental health in staff, pupils and families. Many of them have gone on courses and delivered training and 21 out of 25 secondary schools have actively taken part in the programme since its launch two years ago.

Good mental health allows children and young people to flourish, develop resilience and cope better with stress. A very worthwhile project and well done to the team on the award.


A bright future for solar cooperative


I have joined hundreds of other 'sustainable investors' by registering to buy shares in the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative which, thanks to more than £500,000 of investment, is set to become the UK's largest community-owned urban solar farm.

Community energy co-operatives allow local people to play a part in building a greener, more sustainable environment whilst raising awareness more generally about the importance of being energy efficient.

We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh's carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards achieving this. The offer closes on 1st December.


Edinburgh in Bloom


What does Edinburgh have in common with Milan and Gothenburg? At a prestigious ceremony in Malmo last week, all three cities were named worthy winners of the 2015 EUROCITIES awards.

Recognised for innovation and community participation, I'm pleased to say Edinburgh's outstanding entry was for our Edinburgh in Bloom initiative. The project works with partners, volunteers and organisations from all over the city to keep our parks clean, green and looking good.

The EUROCITIES awards are selected by an independent jury and consider projects from all over Europe. It's a fantastic achievement and proves our city has some of the finest green spaces (and green-fingered workers) in Europe.


Farewell Greg


After almost eight years, our Director of Economy and City Strategy, Greg Ward, is to take up a role with Westminster City Council.

From our Edinburgh Guarantee programme for school leavers to critical investment for the Edinburgh St James development, the Council's impressive economic development service helps to support business growth, inward investment and local employment opportunities. This has been helped in no small part by Greg's leadership and dedication.

Just last month, our economy watch figures revealed the number of businesses operating in the Capital has risen by 19.2% year-on-year, while Job Seekers Allowance claims continue to decline - now sitting at just 1.2%.

Greg leaves us on 30 November and we thank him for his dedication while wishing him well as he takes on this new challenge.


Stay in the picture


Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online. Watch live full Council and some committee meetings on our webcast. Join the debate on Twitter #edinwebcast  

If you wish to unsubscribe please email us.

Follow us on twitter
Watch our webcasts
Follow us on Facebook

The City of Edinburgh Council

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November Full Council Meeting

November's Full Council Meeting now coming up fast - takes place at 10am next Thursday (19th) ...

... all the reports are up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and each of the individual reports separately via this link.

Of course - as ever, if you're so minded, you can watch all the proceedings live here ... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Empowering Scotland's Cities

As Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance, I was delighted to play a part in the "Cities Convention" meeting earlier today, up in Perth - some background detail can be found here ...

... and the actual "Empowering Scotland's Cities" discussion document can be accessed in full, via this link.

And below, for those interested, is the full speech note of my contribution at today's opening session:

Empowering Scotland's Cities

Good morning again colleagues – can I start by saying it’s great to see so many delegates present this morning; and looking at the delegate-list it’s particularly impressive that we’ve got such a wide geographical spread ... from right across Scotland ... in the room today.
And I would like to start my contribution by saying thanks to all the Scottish Government staff who have helped make today a reality.
As Eddy mentioned when he introduced me earlier – I’m currently the Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council ... but I’m primarily here today as the Chairperson of the Scottish Cities Alliance.

The Cities Alliance has a focus on  empowering Scotland’s cities - and their respective regions - in order to delivery prosperity and tackle inequalities throughout our country. It’s an Agenda, I’m pleased to say, the Scottish Government wholeheartedly shares; and we work in very close collaboration with the Government – and it’s great to see so many Government Ministers here this morning.

... and in essence, I’m acting today as the spokesperson for Scotland’s Seven Cities --- and the Scottish Cities Alliance is the collective voice of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.

And I’m delighted that all of the 7 City Leaders are here today – myself from Edinburgh; Frank McAveety from Glasgow; Jenny Laing from Aberdeen; Ken Guild from Dundee; Margaret Davidson from Inverness; Johanna Boyd from Stirling; and last but by no means least – the Leader of the City we’re meeting in today – Ian Miller from Perth.

And colleagues - those seven cities account for 2.8million people in Scotland – well over half of the country’s population
They generate over 60% of Scotland’s overall economic activity ...
... and account for nearly 55% of all employment in Scotland.

And the cities – all seven of them – are growing in size ... and by 2030, a full two-thirds of Scotland’s economic activity will be in our 7 cities. 

Now – I would say this wouldn’t I ... but I was relieved to hear John Swinney agree earlier ... Scotland’s Cities really do matter to our Nation.

It really is in everybody’s interest that we get policies, relating to our cities, right

Thankfully, I know the current Scottish Government ‘get this’ ... and indeed I believe all of the main political parties in Scotland are increasingly recognising the crucial role that Cities, and their regions, play in Scotland’s economic fortunes.

And the Scottish Cities Alliance believes that for the best possible economic outcomes – we do now require a real step change in the way we do things.

Historical ways of working need to be challenged; and we do need to look at innovative approaches to allow cities and their regions greater control of local issues; greater fiscal autonomy and freedoms to help create jobs and sustainable economic growth; and the flexibility to deliver services that are city and region specific. 

We feel – very strongly – that we need greater local control over issues such as Council Tax, Business Rates, Land and Property Transaction Tax ... while also being in a position to generate local taxes where appropriate and where we can demonstrate the benefits this would deliver. 

And I’m going to take a bit of a risk here Eddy and dangerously stray into constitutional issues --- no matter what your view is on the issue of Independence (or not) ... hands up if you feel it’s right that some additional powers are transferred from the Westminster Government at a UK-level; to the Holyrood Government at a Scottish-level.

I’d say Eddy that that’s an overwhelming majority of people in the room today who feel that it’s right to see powers moved to a more local and appropriate level ...

... and, in a nutshell, that is all the seven cities are arguing for; for themselves – some freedoms and powers to be moved to a more local level from the Holyrood Government to the City Hall.

Now we don’t have to agree on the absolute detail of which specific powers --- most of Scotland doesn’t agree on what’s being transferred from Westminster to Holyrood! ... and I suspect not everyone in the room will agree with a complete list to be transferred from Holyrood to Scotland’s City Halls ...

... but that agreement on every detail – for me – isn’t absolutely crucial; as long as we can accept the principle of transferring some powers to give Cities more freedoms.

And there is a simple reason why we – Scotland’s seven Cities – believe this would be a good thing to do.

Currently, cities and their regions face a potential financial disadvantage by creating growth in their own local and regional economies. This is because local budgets don’t relate directly to local economic success. A successful local economy attracts more people to live in the area but this leads to greater demand on services without the necessary finanical support. Retention of a greater share of taxes to the growing locality would help alleviate this problem; allow investment in necessary infrastructure and skills to encourage further growth; and benefit Scotland as a whole.

Of course there will be those that argue we already have these powers and there is no real need to devolve further decision-making

And there is no doubt that we are currently a successful country; and we have made great strides over the past 20-years --- but we need to push on, and quickly.

In our city region, Edinburgh, the Lothians, Birders and Fife ... a region that many assume is relatively wealthy ... we have 21% of children living in poverty. We also have 24% of the population living in fuel poverty.

In 2015 - this is frankly unacceptable for a region that boasts 47% of the population educated to degree or equivalent level; a city that is the second most prosperous in the whole of the UK; with some fantastic recent success stories, including being home to two tech companies now valued at over $1bn each, Skyscanner and FanDuel.

And all our respective 7 City Regions could provide similar evidence of quite wide disparities of wealth, education and general well-being.

That is why the seven cities are making 5 key asks of the Scottish Government in the Discussion Document we’re launching today – which is in your delegate packs – and is entitled ”Empowering Scotland’s Cities”.

This discussion document is essentially our pitch – our bid – into the welcome refresh of the ‘Agenda for Cities’ that the Scottish Government is currently consulting on – Scotland’s cities were key partners in developing the first ‘Agenda for Cities’ (basically – cities policy) back in 2011; and we’re very keen to play a constructive role in the refresh of that agenda as we approach 2016.
And the 5 key asks, in our document, are: 

1.  Control over decisions relating to key infrastructure projects. This could include- for example - transport, water, skills, health and local economic development
2.  Passing on to local areas all of Non-Domestic Rates and a proportion of the fiscal retention to be granted to the Scottish Parliament by the current Scotland Bill
3.  Freedom to raise local taxes
4.  A commitment to the continuation of support to progress City Deals and City Regions Deals in Scotland.
5.  The allocation of dedicated national resources at a city region level for inward investment.
Of course – and I think it’s really, really important to stress this point - this would not be one-way traffic.

In return, Scotland’s seven cities would: 

1.  Ensure Scotland’s cities became increasingly recognised and desirable places for capital and foreign direct investment.
2.  Work more closely with the private sector on joint investment and long term growth and productivity
3.  Ensure that Place-making is at the heart of development
4.  Promote Greater community involvement and responsibility for shaping localities, including allocation of budgets.
5.  Help ensure that there ia Greater partcipation in local democracy
6.  And fundamentally, the reduction in inequality. I mentioned some figures earlier from my own region that is worth reiterating – 21% of children living in poverty. 24% of the region living in fuel poverty. It is essential that we tackle these sorts of issues and greater local control will allow us to really get to grips with these problems. 

Through our region’s work on our City Region Deal with the Scottish and UK Governments I’m pleased to say I believe we are pushing at an open door.

Glasgow was the first Scottish city region to agree a deal in 2014 which outlined an ambition to unlock investment of up to £1.2bn. Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh have this year submitted City Region Deal proposals which have the potential to unlock up to £4.2bn of investment. 

All of this isn’t a case of seeking greater control just for the sake of it. And I think it’s crucial to stress that we are not promoting necessarily more or less taxation and spending.

What we do want to see happen is for decisions to be made locally – for communities to decide on issues affecting them, which can deliver greater efficiencies, reduce dupliations and generate better outcomes. 

This is not to say that we are not aware of the need for national grant support to equalise variable local tax bases; variable costs of providing services; and variable patterns of need and demand.
However, there is growing evidence that decentralising systems of government, can deliver better outcomes both economically and socially. 

In March 2014, the Council of Europe reported that the main area of economic concern for the UK was ‘the financial resources of local authorities, their limited taxation powers and their dependence on government grants’.

Certainly, when you compare us to other countries we are very much the poor neighbour.

According to Audit Scotland, revenue directly raised locally, amounts to only 17% of local public expenditure in Scotland’s cities; while in other developed countries it is three times that of our own. In Germany, for example, local government areas raise on average approximately half their budgets (50% not 17%) from local taxes on incomes and business profits.

Our cities have the potential to deliver so much more but ...
... and this really isn’t a Party-political point – it’s a democratic-point - the nature of our systems of government mean we are currently unable to realise our full potential. 

And worryingly we are currently seeing our competitor city regions in England move to a more decentralised model --- and there is much evidence to demonstrate that more decentralised systems of government are associated with higher national growth.

So Eddy – in conclusion - in order to deliver thriving local economies that can also improve peoples’ lives --- cities and their regions need a bit more control of their own destiny. We’re not asking for the moon here.

And finally – whilst everyone in the room may not agree on every detail of the document we’re launching today - I really welcome the opportunity I have had this morning to speak to you on behalf of Scotland’s Seven Cities, and their respective regions; and to outline the opportunities that we believe are potentially available to us.

And I also really welcome the Scottish Government’s willingness to listen to this debate ...

... and I’m looking forward to hearing what comes back from the break-out sessions later.

I do believe – and Scotland’s seven Cities believe – we have a real chance here to fundamentally change the relationship between councils and citizens ... and to deliver a more prosperous and fairer Scotland for us all.

Many thanks for listening.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

New dedicated customer service Twitter account

... may be of interest to my blog-readers ;-)

Council launches new dedicated customer service Twitter account

The City of Edinburgh Council has launched new dedicated customer service Twitter account @edinhelp today (Thursday 5 November).

The Council has been helping residents on social media since 2009 with everything from missed bin collections to road safety. The main Council Twitter account @edinburgh_cc has grown to almost  50,000 followers and now receives on average over 2,300 messages per month.

This increase in residents contacting the council through social media channels has prompted the council to think about the best way to help people to get the most from its social media accounts. The new 24/7 service will handle customer questions, requests and complaints. All enquiries will be responded to as quickly as possible and if it can’t be answered in a tweet, a helpful solution or link will be provided.

As well as responding to enquiries the dedicated customer service channel will provide information on issues or delays to services in the city. The account will be up-to-date with what’s going on and where. Residents can refer to it and may save themselves a tweet or call if the council is already aware and has posted a public response. For example, an instance of fly-tipping that a response team has already been sent to or a power cut in an area of town that is being investigated.

This dedicated channel is a further step in helping Edinburgh’s residents online. The new channel will also make it easier to identify where residents might be experiencing problems with council services and take proactive measures. The main account will continue to operate with general messages about Council services and what is going on in the capital.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, Convener of the Finance and Resources Committee, said:  “Social media is part of everyday life and there is no reason why people shouldn’t use it to carry out their daily business. This dedicated channel will allow us to make sure no enquiry goes unnoticed.

“Of course there are still many ways in which people can contact the Council but we hope that as awareness increases  people will start to use our new account. It also gives us a better way of getting messages out to you –improving  interaction with the Council on social media.”

The new Twitter account is supporting the continued drive to encourage residents to increase their online contact. The Council’s ‘channel shift strategy’ agreed by the Finance and Resources Committee in January 2015 will make estimated savings of £5.9 million by 2017/18 and aims to transform the way residents interact with the Council.

The ‘Save time. Do it online.’ campaign encourages residents to use the Council’s website to report issues such as problems with street lighting, pot holes and litter.  @edinhelp (external link) will raise awareness of services the council offers online as well as assisting with common queries through the medium a lot of residents are choosing to use.