Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One City Trust - can you help?

My colleague, Donald Wilson, is running the London Marathon again this year - he has a short blog post up today, which I'll simply replicate in full below ...

... can you help him raise funds for the One City Trust?


On my marks in March

Hopefully most people will know by now that I am running the London Marathon in a few weeks time for the One City Trust.

The training has been hard - especially Easter weekend when I did a 40k run just to see if I could! Oww!

Two years ago, Andy McNaughton volunteered his services to help me train. Andy is a fitness instructor with Edinburgh Leisure and this year he is doing the Marathon with me.

Over the last month I've upped my training in anticipation and colleagues at Waverley Court have been really supportive. I'm thankful for their advice and humour. My journey from incredible unfitness two years ago to the position I am in now is, I hope, an inspiration to others that anybody can do it if they put their mind to it. I have lost a lot of weight, feel better and, yes, feel younger!

I am as passionate about the One City Trust as I am for running. The One City Trust is solely about Edinburgh. It tries to make sure the wealth and opportunities of this great city are experienced by all its citizens.

So, I might be running the marathon in London but I am running it for Edinburgh. You don’t have to run it with me but you can help. If all the citizens of Edinburgh who could afford it contributed even a pound, what a difference we could make to the city. Please help if you can.

Go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LordProvost
...or if work at the Council, see Andy in the gym at Waverley Court.

...or ask at reception at the City Chambers or Waverley Court how to support the One City Trust, or send a cheque to the Lord Provost made out to the One City Trust.

...or contact my friend and colleague Sandra on 0131 529 4000.




Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happy Easter to one and all :-)

I'm going to attempt to re-aquaint myself with the family over the holiday-weekend ...

... so; no on-line presence (of any form!) between now, and until next Tuesday at least.

I am available on the mobile if its a real emergency - but, in the nicest possible manner, I hope not to hear from too many folk ;-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Scottish Labour proposals for Local Government finance

I've blogged extensively over recent years on the topic of Local Government funding in Scotland being broken - for example, see here and also here.

So - was very good to hear that Scottish Labour has today pledged to scrap the Council Tax system and replace it with a fairer system based on property value - all of which could see 80% of households better off.
Announcing the primary policy in Edinburgh, party leader Kezia Dugdale has also proposed additional, optional-powers for Local Councils, around a tourist tax and a tax on vacant, economically inactive land.
The main points of what's been announced are:

  • The unfair council tax will be scrapped and replaced with a fairer system based on property value.
  • Under the plans nearly 2 million households - 80% - would pay less than they do today.
  • In addition to the fair property tax Scottish Labour will devolve radical powers over tax to local government to give them the extra ability to raise revenue for local services.
  • These tax powers include a Tourist tax and a Land Value Tax on vacant, economically inactive land. It would be for local councils to decide whether or not to use these powers.
  • Scottish Labour would also devolve the surplus from the Crown Estate to local government.
  • Under Scottish Labour’s replacement for the council tax, households would pay a percentage of what their property is worth, with a maximum charge of £3,000 in year one.
  • Scottish Labour will make good on the broken promises to scrap the council tax. This replacement plan will fix the funding of local services for good. It’s a fair plan which means millions will pay less and those who can afford to will pay a little more.
  • The Scottish Government recently commissioned a report into replacing council tax and then ignored its main findings.
  • Scottish Labour have taken that report, and its research, and voters can now choose a fairer alternative to council tax.
  • For properties of £180,000 or less the tax would be levied at a rate of £450 + 0.35% of the property value.
  • For properties above £180,000 the portion above £180,000 would attract a rate of 0.9% of property value.
  • The maximum charge under this scheme would be capped at £3,000 in year one, with a 3 percent cap on increases year on year.

I'll re-produce some further detail below on how this new, fairer system would work ...

... but for me, Party politics aside, this is a hugely refreshing set of proposals that would see some serious fiscal flexibility restored to Local Councils - giving them more control over their own destiny. Section d. below is very welcome indeed.

If implemented, these proposals would see the most significant devolution of financial powers to Local Councils since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 ... and not before time.


a. The majority households will thus pay less

Nearly 2 million households - 1,972,956 will be better off with 80.8% paying less than they do today.

Scottish Labour's calculations are based on the modelled evidence, provided to the Commission on Local Taxation reform, which all four member parties were provided with in order to aid their work on the commission, and any proposed reforms.

Based on the data used by the Commission, provided in its report, nearly 2 million households will pay less under Scottish Labour’s fairer property tax.

Detailed analysis from the Commission on Local Tax Reform with Heriot-Watt University found that the failure to address the current system leaves 57% of properties in the wrong band: 28% households should pay less, and 29% should pay more.

Scottish Labour’s system will reflect our changed housing market. It will realign the taxation paid towards local services with house prices, give a tax cut to millions, and will ensure that the richest pay their fair share for local services.

b. What happens each year?

Annual increases linked to local house prices would be capped at a maximum of 3%.

Local authorities would be responsible for setting the increases.

House prices vary between regions of Scotland and annual updating of value would be done on a local basis to maintain fairness.

Adjustments will be made to the percentage of property value rate to ensure this 3% cap is not exceeded. That means that if local house prices increase by more than 3% the cap won’t.

c. Discounts, rebates and exemptions

All discounts rebates and exemptions would continue to apply, protecting those households who benefit from them.

Recognising that there are some circumstances where householders, particularly elderly householders, are asset rich and income poor we will establish a new system of protections to apply in those cases.

Because the liabilities will reduce for the cheapest homes, we can spend less to correct the flaws of an unfair system.

d. Empowering local government with new tax powers

Devolution should not stop at the Scottish Parliament that is why Scottish Labour will empower local government with new tax powers to raise additional revenue for local services and pursue economic development. This will broaden the tax base for local authorities.

Taken together, these new tax powers are worth over £150 million to local government in Scotland.

It would be for local councils to decide whether or not to use these powers.


Monday, March 21, 2016

COSLA: Choose a Local Revolution!

A local revolution is within the grasp of the next Scottish Parliament ...
... COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill said today:

Speaking as he launched #chooselocal, COSLA’s Manifesto for Stronger Scottish Democracy, Councillor O’Neill said:  “In just over six weeks Scotland goes to the polls. 
 “It is a pivotal opportunity to think about the kind of country we want, and about the changes that could make a real difference to communities across the country.
“Like every elected local Councillor, I already passionately believe in local democracy and see it as a real, meaningful and positive force for good in every part of Scotland.  Local democracy also impacts on every single one of us in one way or another on a daily basis.
“All of us within Scottish Local Government want to harness the power of a more local way of doing things, and overhaul participation in decision making across the country by bringing democracy closer to people.
“A series of independent reports have shown that it is time for this new, radical, local approach.  Communities around Europe are already feeling the benefits and there's a buzz about what can be achieved here.  It’s time to translate that energy into real action.
“However, we know that this simply won’t be possible without commitment from across the political spectrum and across all spheres of government. 
“That’s why we're asking every parliamentary candidate to sign up to 5 key pledges that will begin to put local democracy on the political map within Scotland. 
“All 5 pledges can be delivered within the first 100 days of the next Parliament, and all can help set a course towards better and more equal outcomes for every community.
"For real meaningful change in Scotland let's #chooselocal this May". 



1.     The full #chooselocal manifesto is available via this link
2.     Two short videos to accompany the #chooselocal manifesto are also linked below: 

#chooselocal’s 5 Pledges to put local democracy on the map are:
  1. Make Scotland’s public services local by default
  2. Redraw the partnership between local and national government
  3. Give communities financial choices
  4. Open up Scottish democracy
  5. Join up thinking on reform

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

'Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal' confirmed

I was delighted to hear confirmation in the Chancellor's budget Statement this afternoon, that the "Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal" now has formal Treasury-recognition, and is thus entering the detailed negotiation stage.

The 'Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region' comprises a total of six local authorities, as per the map - with some 24% of the whole Nation's population living in this part of Scotland. 

And for some time now, the six local authorities that make up the 'Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region', have been working collectively on a 'City Region Deal' bid, which has been submitted to both the Scottish and Westminster Governments for their consideration. 

The 'City Region Deal' is a mechanism for accelerating growth and investing in success. By investing in infrastructure, skills and innovation we could create a step change in economic performance, which would generate funds to pay back the initial investment. 

It's also about greater autonomy and decision making powers being devolved to the region, in order to make public service delivery more effective, and to tackle inequality and deprivation across the region.

Our ambition has been to secure +£1bn of funding and it's estimated that an additional +£3bn worth of private sector investment could also be leveraged. 

I've written generally about this issue before, via the local Newspaper - here ... 

... and the 'City Region Deal' website is available here.


Speaking today, on behalf of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region, City of Edinburgh Council Leader Andrew Burns said: 

‘We are delighted with the Chancellor’s pledge to develop a City Deal for our region and welcome the opportunity to continue our engagement with both the UK and Scottish Governments. 

“We submitted our proposals in September 2015 and remain as determined as ever to negotiate greater fiscal powers and funding towards strategic housing, transport and infrastructure projects to help the region become the most connected, creative, inclusive and innovative place in Europe.

“This commitment from Westminster is a step forward for our proposals to tackle inequality and accelerate substantial economic growth.” 


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Saughton Park and Gardens --- Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Delivery Phase of Grant Award

I mentioned the successful Saughton Park, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) application a couple of months ago - here ...

... well, there's a Full Report on the 'Delivery Phase' up at 'Transport & Environment' Committee next Tuesday - and you can now access it on-line via this link.

If you're local and/or interested at all - please do have a look at the Report --- there's just no question that this is going to be a great project for the South West of Edinburgh and I'm really looking forward to August 2018 when the new Park and Gardens will open :-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

New SNP Group Leader

There's been some 'change-at-the-top' of the City Council SNP Group, following their Annual General Meeting earlier this evening ...

... Frank Ross has replaced Sandy Howat as their Group Leader - and Frank will now become 'Council Deputy Leader', following this week's Council Meeting on Thursday.

At a personal level, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Sandy over the last 12-months, and wish him all the very best for the future.

Internal political-Group changes do happen, and the 'Edinburgh Labour' Group will continue to work constructively with the whole SNP Group on the Council - it’s important to stress that the local Labour/SNP Coalition will continue, as we collectively understand the importance of continuity and stability for Scotland’s great Capital City.

And I do now look forward to working with Frank, as the Council Deputy Leader, and both of our respective Groups continue to have every intention of ensuring this unique Coalition remains in place right through to May 2017.

Our Coalition-agreement remains unchanged, and our focus remains on doing what is best for Edinburgh.

Scotland's Agenda for Cities

Back in November, I mentioned the Scottish Cities Alliance participation in the "Cities Convention" meeting, which was organised by the Scottish Government - all as part of the work towards refreshing the 2011 "Scotland's Cities Agenda" documentation ...

... well, I'm pleased to update that the refreshed "Scotland's Cities Agenda" has been formally launched today ---

--- you can access the full document via this link; and Keith Brown (as Cities Minister) has briefly blogged about the refresh here.

Personally, as current Chair of the Cities Alliance, I'm delighted to see it feature so strongly in the refreshed Strategy.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Sponsorship opportunities galore!

I've got two colleagues who are undertaking very different challenges, for charity, in coming weeks ...

... both are for very good causes, and - if you can - please do consider following the relevant links and sponsoring them ;-)

In June, Maureen Child (left) is abseiling off the Forth Rail Bridge!

Sponsorship details via this link.

And my my colleague, and Lord Provost, Donald Wilson is running the London Marathon; for the second year, next month in April :-)

Donald's sponsorship details are available via this link.

Thank you!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Delivering a new Meadowbank Sports Centre

On your marks for a new Meadowbank

As referenced in yesterday's post ... delivering a new Meadowbank Sports Centre is the key recommendation in a report to be discussed by the City of Edinburgh Council next week.

The ‘Funding Package Proposal for a new Meadowbank’ report outlines the estimated investment required to build a brand new state of the art sports centre.

The estimated total project cost has now reduced to £41.1m and the report recommends the Council develops the detailed design which would allow the project to be tendered. This would then provide greater clarity on the funding gap required from the Council capital investment programme - currently estimated at £5.98m.

The remainder of the funding would be achieved by generating capital receipts from the surplus land at Meadowbank, prudential borrowing and revenue savings from closing the facilities during the construction period. In addition the Council would make an application to sportscotland for funding. 

Another benefit outlined in the report is that two areas of the site would be transferred to the Council’s 21st Century Homes Programme providing affordable housing. 

The report will now be discussed by a meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council next week (Thursday 10 March).

Council Leader Andrew Burns said: “This report sets out quite clearly the funding required to turn one of our flagship facilities, which everyone agrees is at the end of its useful life, into a sports venue fit for the 21st century. 

“While it is a significant investment for the Council, creating a detailed design would give us greater clarity about how much money we need to invest. Not only would we see a new Meadowbank but more homes would be built to meet the city’s housing needs.

“Obviously there is still a long way to go with a project of this scale if the funding is agreed but I want to assure everyone that the Council is determined to realise our dream of redeveloping Meadowbank.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener, said: “Transforming Meadowbank into a brand new sports complex would provide a modern, fully accessible high quality sports centre for sports clubs and local communities.

“The new venue will bring health and wellbeing benefits across the city by supporting even more people to become and stay active.”

The funding options and architectural design concepts for replacing Meadowbank, which was originally built for Edinburgh’s 1970 Commonwealth Games, have been developed with input from relevant governing bodies of sport and sportscotland. 

The plans would see the existing site transformed into a brand new sports centre that would serve the sporting needs of the local community as well as the surrounding region with facilities for physical activity, health and wellbeing.

A new Meadowbank would include:
  • An outdoor athletics track with seating for 500
  • An indoor 60m six lane athletics track with jumps area
  • An outdoor throws area
  • A 3G synthetic sports pitch or grass pitch in the centre of the outdoor athletics track for football, rugby and other pitch sports
  • An additional outdoor 3G synthetic sports pitch
  • An eight badminton court sports hall with 500 permanent seats plus bleachers (the same size as the current Meadowbank Hall 1)
  • A four badminton court sports hall with 500 permanent seats (the same size as the current Meadowbank Hall 2)
  • A gymnastics hall, gym, studios, changing facilities, cafĂ©, meeting rooms.

If the funding shortfall is addressed then demolition could begin in late autumn 2017 with a new Meadowbank opening in summer 2019.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

March Leader's Report

March 2016

Ensuring best value for Edinburgh 


Andrew Burns
Last month I welcomed a report by Audit Scotland, which demonstrated just how far the Council has come over the last year to address its financial challenges.

The Audit of Best Value 2016 recognised the Council's strategy for changing the way it delivers vital services while making necessary savings against an increasingly tough financial climate.

This was confirmed in a further report by the Accounts Commission last week, in which they highlighted the Council's four-year budget framework and strong leadership by elected members and officers.

Setting the budget involved some of the toughest decisions of my 17 years in local government but, in difficult circumstances, we aimed to prioritise those services that mattered most to Edinburgh residents. I am confident that we are now in a stronger position to meet the challenges ahead.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh


A new Meadowbank 


Ever since 1970, when it played host to Scotland's first Commonwealth Games, Meadowbank has served residents and professional athletes well. And while it is still a much loved facility, with over half a million users every year, it is now close to 50 years old and its facilities are tired.

A report being considered by councillors next week outlines the investment required to transform the current venue into a sports centre fit for the 21st Century. Obviously this would involve significant investment for the Council but having a detailed design gives us greater clarity about how much money we need to find.

A new Meadowbank would better serve the sporting needs of the local community as well as the surrounding region with facilities for physical activity, health and wellbeing. In addition, the surplus land available would allow hundreds of new affordable homes to be built on the site, contributing to the city's housing needs.


Edinburgh St James


The Edinburgh St James development is set to take another important step forward with the Council, Scottish Government and TH Real Estate, the developer, finalising the details of an innovative funding package.

Known as the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM), it will fund essential public realm improvements to the Picardy Place area and has been key to helping unlock £850m of private sector investment at the heart of our city centre.

Not only will it provide much needed premium retail space for the city, it will also contain 250 new homes, 30 restaurants, a multi-screen cinema and a 5 star, world class hotel - creating 1,000 jobs in the process. We anticipate demolition will begin this May with an expected completion date of 2020.


Yet more awards 


Edinburgh has been named one of Europe's best cities to do business, having been crowned a winner in the annual fDi (foreign direct investment) awards chosen by the Financial Times Group.
The win is no surprise considering Edinburgh remains a highly attractive place to do business.

Indeed, the Council's work to build relationships with other global cities was cited by the panel as a key driver for foreign direct investment into the Capital. I'm glad to see the success of the sector - and the part played by the Council - isn't going unnoticed.

There was further good news for the city when it was named one of the world's most beautiful cities, and who could disagree? We were beaten only by Paris, Florence and Rome in a Rough Guide poll of its readers.


Be Able 


I recently visited the excellent Be Able Service, part of a registered day care service for Older People in Drumbrae, and was delighted to hear that a similar service is set to open in Oxgangs. This has been long planned and will meet a gap in current provision within the area.

Be Able works with older people over a period of 14-16 weeks to improve mobility, regain and increase their confidence doing every day activities such as getting out and about and preparing a meal to help them remain living at home for as long as possible. It also offers support to people with the earlier stages of dementia.

The service has had fantastic feedback from users in other areas of the city. You can learn more about what they do by watching their short video.


ESCo incorporated 


Late last year, some of the largest organisations in the city pledged their support to our Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), which aims to transform our energy use by reducing demand and encouraging local generation - the first plan of its kind in Edinburgh.

It's great news, then, that we're now taking the next step with the creation of our energy service company (ESCo). This will be wholly owned by the Council and have a key remit for delivering the strategic energy projects from the Plan.

The development of energy projects will be crucial to its success and work is already underway to identify projects across three areas of: energy efficiency; district heating and renewables. The hope is that it could become self sustaining - delivering real environmental and economic benefits for the city.


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

Friday, March 04, 2016

March Full Council Meeting

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

... 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!