Monday, March 31, 2008

All change at the BBC?

Off to Kirkcudbright this morning ... but just quickly looked at the BBC News web-site (which I generally think is a completely fantastic source of information and am totally addicted to!) and it appears to have changed its 'format and feel' somewhat :-(

... lets hope it doesn't result in "Terminal 5-type" internet chaos :-((

... normal service will resume next weekend :-)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kirkcudbright-bound :-)

Junior and my better-half are still "out of school" for another week, so we're off on our first family holiday since last October ...

... venturing to sunny (?) Kirkcudbright for the week, from tomorrow through to Friday.

Blogging will thus be extremely light (if not 'non-existent') until next weekend - just how will you cope??

Allotment update ...

A few days ago, I promised some updated pictures of the allotment to illustrate progress-to-date ...

So on the left, we have the site pretty much as found when my better-half was first allocated the plot a couple of months ago ...

And below, a couple of shots of how the site is now looking ... the observant amongst you will spot that 6-beds are now prepared (plus fruit-cage!); with 3-beds to go :-)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

(track) Cycling Glory

Its been hard not be completely in awe of the British Track Cycling Team this weekend - 9 Golds and counting :-))

... as regular readers will know, I'm a bit of a part-time cyclist myself - have been somewhat addicted since 1982 and my first big road-tour; and completely hooked after I went to see the final day of the Tour de France in Paris in 1986.

Greg leMond was the first American to win the tour that year ... but I'd really gone in the hope of seeing Robert Millar win - the Scot had come 4th overall in 1984 (still the best any British cyclist has achieved in the Tour) but it wasn't to be :-(

Nevertheless, the atmosphere on the Champs-Elysees as the cyclists finished was electric ... the final stage of the biggest spectator event (and sport overall) in the World! I can still hear the mesmerising whir of the bikes on the cobbles as they sped past the adoring crowds :-))

... with all this track-cycling success, it does make you wonder just why the British can't seem to produce a road-racing star capable of winning the Tour de France? Robert Millar was the closest we ever got (by far) ... and that was well over 20-years ago :-((

Friday, March 28, 2008

Local democracy - not here thanks

I mentioned just a couple of days ago how the SNP/Lib coalition just ignores Council decisions and has a cavalier approach to change ... well, yet more proof of that yesterday :-(
  • have a look at the Evening News coverage of the Education Secretary's response to the imminent submission of feasibility studies on the Wave 3 schools - here
  • those studies are now submitted as of yesterday - see here
  • now have a look at a post I did in October 2007 - here - which recounts an all-Party agreed Council motion
  • DO READ that motion - almost the totality of it has been completely ignored ... NOTHING has been reported to any Council Committee about the feasibility studies whatsoever, despite the terms of the agreed instruction to the Council

It is a disgrace.

Now maybe the Nats and Libs don't give two-hoots about local democracy and are happy to completely ignore Council decisions, but surely senior officers should at least pay some attention to what the Council instructs them to do??

It is all pretty ironic coming from a bunch of Liberal politicians (in particular) who used to endlessly berate us (when we were in Administration) about how our consultation procedures were 'shallow'.

Would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

And it is serious, not just the complete avoidance of any accountability towards Council decisions/instructions, but more depressingly the Education Secretary's comments do seem to indicate that Wave 3 schools are going nowhere fast.

I would love to be wrong.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day off in Anstruther

Took a day off today (outrageous, I know!) and went on a bit of a coach-trip to Anstruther ... cannot tell you how good the weather was - amazing after the spell we've had recently.

... this is the coach loading-up in the early evening as we're about to return home :-)

Not only was there plenty of sunshine, sand and sea ... we even managed to fit in a significant amount of shopping :-))

Back to normality tomorrow ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Its the end for Obama ...

After all the excitement, anticipation, and foolhardy-predictions ...

... this just has to be the end for Obama :-((

More on Craiglockhart creche ...

I mentioned the obvious, local anger over the proposed closure of 'Craiglockhart Sports Centre creche' at the Community Council meeting last night ... I also referred to my suspicion that a fair degree of political hypocrisy was permeating the debate, and it transpires my suspicions were well-founded :-(

I've now checked, in detail, what each political Group on the Council proposed for Edinburgh Leisure's 2008/09 Grant. The various positions are as follows:

SNP/Liberal Coalition - a straight reduction of £300,000
Green Party - a straight reduction of £300,000
Conservative Party - a straight reduction of £250,000
Labour Party - an off-set reduction of £100,000*

Obviously (and unfortunately!) it was the 'SNP/Liberal Coalition' budget position that was passed, but other political parties should at least show some humility and honesty about their own complicity in all of this.

As voiced before, the sad truth is that the City of Edinburgh Council is now being 'finance-driven' and not 'service-driven'.

*Our own proposal was that the Council would pay the complete Edinburgh Leisure annual grant at the beginning of April 2008 (as opposed to splitting it over the financial year) thus enabling Edinburgh Leisure to generate additional interest receipts of approximately £100k to make-up for the grant reduction.

A cavalier-approach to change

The Children and Families Organisational Review consultation period closed yesterday - remember; that's the Review were the ruling Council Coalition have budgeted for £2million worth of savings before the start of any consultation/implementation ... so much for the promise of "real opportunity to participate in decision-making".

Worse than that, as I've mentioned before, the whole process quite clearly breaks the decision of an earlier meeting of the Education Committee back in October 2007 - further details here.

Its no way to take people with you - and re-organising the largest Department of the Council does need some buy-in! Its not so much the 'what' as the 'how'.

As is so often the case now, its the cavalier-approach that many of these issues are being dealt with that is annoying people - it will surely all come back to haunt those currently in charge?

It's best on hot-toast ...

I never cease to be amazed at the wonders of Facebook ... discovered that there's even a "group" for people who are addicted to Marmite :-)

... it's got over 55,000 members - nearly as many as the daily readers of this blog :-))

Much more seriously ... just how did people cope before the invention of Marmite??

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pay attention ... biomass-free zone

Just spotted this incisive press release ... can anyone who knows Jim Hume get him to knock some sense into his local Edinburgh colleagues' heads??

I mentioned the relevant Scottish Parliament motion last month - here - and briefly commented on the FM's Lockerbie visit - here ... clearly my local Lib-Dem colleagues are paying no attention whatsoever to this blog :-(

Craiglockhart Community Council

Craiglockhart Community Council meeting this evening.

Fair bit of discussion about Edinburgh Leisure's decision to close several creches ... and, despite the panicked changes announced over the Easter weekend, Craiglockhart Sports Centre creche is still one going to close.

Seems to me that many are conveniently forgetting the only reason Edinburgh Leisure are thinking of closing creches is because the City Council summarily cut its annual-grant by £300,000 a few weeks ago ... it's that third law of classical mechanics again :-(

Financial inquiries ...

Can't help but notice that Aberdeen City Council appears to be getting into deeper and deeper trouble ... really serious, financial trouble - and not debatable, political-trouble.

I mentioned a few weeks ago, the contrast between Liverpool and Edinburgh ... and you can now draw your own conclusions about Aberdeen's recent track record?

... one can only hope, probably in vain, that certain local colleagues may wish to quietly reflect on just how difficult it can be to successfully run a major city authority ...

Back to the grindstone ...

Not only has blogging been intermittent since last Thursday ... it's been non-existent!

But, back to the grindstone this morning after a remarkably quiet weekend - I've never experienced so few work-calls over a holiday weekend ... excellent :-)

You'll be glad to hear I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of my Easter activities, but I am bound to report that 'allotment fever' has featured strongly and to suggest you just will not believe the next round of photographs :-))

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Weekend :-)

Easter Weekend is here :-)

Hoping for a bit of a break from the usual frantic-pace for the next four days, so blogging my be a bit intermittent :-(

... normal service will resume on Tuesday at the latest!

Happy Easter ...

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Local Neighbourhood Partnership meeting this evening ... back in Craiglockhart Primary!

Agenda can be found here - two interesting presentations at items 4 and 5, but they did take up a lot of the available time and other subjects were unfortunately a bit rushed.

Some pretty obvious anger, throughout various sections of the meeting, over recent grant decisions ... unfortunately, I sense it will get a lot worse in the coming months as the full impact of what's just happened becomes fully apparent :-(

Loss of direction ...

Audit Scotland report out today on the condition of Scotland's schools.

Strip away all the commentary and I do think there's a fairly worrying tale of 'loss of direction' here?

Someone really needs to get a grip on 'infrastructure renewal' for the Scottish Government - if the Scottish Futures Trust is deemed dead (consultation is now closed, so we should know soon?) then a replacement is needed very quickly.

We've already had nearly a full-year of not one single, new contract being initiated for a school building in Scotland :-(

... not good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

School Show

Craiglockhart Primary School this evening - as a parent not local Councillor! - to watch junior's performance in 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Bi-annual 'leaving show' for all P6/P7 pupils!

... trying to put parental bias to one-side (nigh-on impossible, I know) we thought the show was absolutely first-class :-)

Excellent performances all round ...

... especially from those "winged monkeys" :-))

Biomass - "mind the gap"

Biomass again I'm afraid - do read this BBC News story from today ... then contrast it with what's going on in Edinburgh.

The gap between national rhetoric and local reality just makes me weep :-(

... mind you - maybe those Single Outcome Agreements (SOA's) will force the SNP/Libs on Edinburgh Council to do something constructive in due course??

Monday, March 17, 2008

It is a classic 'agency-model'

Been ruminating a bit more on the parlous situation that Scottish Local Government now finds itself in ... I've mentioned this extensively over recent months, going as far back as last October - see here, here and here for a flavour of my earlier thoughts.

And, the more I think on this, the more depressing I believe the situation actually is ... Scottish Local Government is slowly being stripped of all its significant autonomy, and if the current plans for the so-called 'local' Income Tax get approved as they are, then it would compound the situation ten-fold.

One can only hope the Lib-Dems in the Scottish Parliament stand by their principles (I know, don't laugh) and refuse to support anything that does not allow local variation?

But regardless of what happens to the Council Tax, we are nevertheless just a few weeks away now, as a Local Authority, from signing up to a Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) which will effectively make us an arm of the National (Holyrood) Government:
  • we'll be agreeing to deliver national manifesto commitments
  • report on the progress towards achieving those commitments
  • and having to do so in the midst of a freeze on Council Tax which has removed the last element of our fiscal autonomy
It is a classic 'agency-model' and I just cannot believe that local politicians - who should surely be defenders of local democracy if nothing else? - are being so silent in the face of this onslaught on local accountability??


Times Educational Supplement Scotland (TESS) is well worth a read this week ... most of it's NOT on-line I'm afraid, so you may have to fork out some cash :-( ... but there are numerous articles about the growing concerns around the direction of education-policy in Scotland.

... I'm bound to say, that most of them are about the removal of local autonomy from Scottish Councils - a situation that is about to get a whole lot worse if we implement the 'current' proposals to replace the Council Tax :-((

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ER addiction ...

Trip to London went smoothly - I'm a definite convert to using the 'sleeper' ... close on a year-and-a-half now without stepping foot on a plane, and I am still down in London (for work and/or visiting the in-laws) at least six times a year.

Anyhow, despite the trip being smooth, the ERS-Council meeting certainly wasn't ... I've mentioned the old factionalism within the organisation before - and it did seem to emerge with some vengeance on Saturday afternoon :-((

... but, my spirits were lifted upon my return to Edinburgh as I watched a taped-version of the 300th edition of ER (which I'd just missed live). Just about the best drama on TV at the moment I'd say :-))

Sorry, more on those grants ...

I know I'm probably getting close to boring everyone to death over this issue - so this may be the last post for a while on the topic! - but I did just want to return to 'grants' once more ...

... just to emphasise that what I posted here is merely a breakdown of the service-cuts in the Department of Children and Families - and you need to look here to get some sort of flavour of the scale of the service reductions now being 'managed' across the whole Council.

It is truly breathtaking and I'm pretty certain that very few (if any) of the 29 Nat/Lib Councillors now running the show truly realise what they have authorised.

As colleagues, and friends, know I'm generally one for 'lengthy explanations' and not too keen on simplifications ... but this whole saga does just prove to me that the City of Edinburgh Council is now being (primarily) 'finance-driven' and not 'service-driven'.

I'm also pretty certain that this will be very apparent by the time we get close to 2011/2012 - as numerous 'services' will have frankly gone. I, for one, intend to keep a close account of that and to use it as forcefully (politically) as I can ...

Friday, March 14, 2008


Off to London this evening for the quarterly Council meeting of the Electoral Reform Society ...

... back late on Saturday night; and I'm afraid there will be more thoughts on the Council meeting yesterday (and the grants saga) to follow thereafter ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Full Council meeting ...

Full Council meeting went on to 9pm this evening ... yes, 11 hours :-((

Over 20 organisations were up to take part in one deputation or another - just shows you how many groups were being specifically affected by the proposed budget cuts - and it has to be said that all spoke with incredible clarity and power. I think the Administration were pretty taken aback.

And they only have themselves to blame for so many groups coming to the main Council meeting - I've never seen so many at one meeting before; but I've also never seen the grants budgets being set at one Full Council meeting with no chance for referral to another Committee of the Council for further scrutiny :-(

And worse still, almost all of the groups had been given no more than a few working days notice of budget cuts that will force many of them to close completely.


... and there was I believing we were all "to have real opportunity to participate in decision making" :-((

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Those grants and voluntary orgs.

Back to those grants and voluntary organisations I'm afraid - sorry ... I do think exposing the reality of what's happening is rather important, especially given the opaqueness of the proposals before the Council tomorrow.

I'm just going to concentrate on the Children and Families area here - remember those ACTUAL budget-lines from the approved Lib/Nat Council Budget for 2008/09:

  • “reduction in commissioned services and grants” = £203,000
  • “efficiencies in services previously funded by earmarked grants” = £639,000

... well, the report that is going before the Full Council tomorrow only contains some £28,002 worth of "reduction in commissioned services and grants" (see Appendix 4) and NOTHING in relation to "efficiencies in services previously funded by earmarked grants".

So here's the full breakdown that many people want to keep as quiet as possible:

Reduction in commissioned services and grants (£203,000)

  • in the report savings of £28,002 are proposed
  • grants contingency of £70,153 being utilised

  • Playgroup grants - total savings of £27,345
  • Pilton Equality Project - proposed saving of £8,500
  • Volunteer Centre Edinburgh - proposed saving of £12,000
  • Counselling services on sexual health - proposed savings of £11,000
  • Scottish Adoption - proposed saving of £46,000

Efficiencies in services previously funded by earmarked grants (£639,000)

  • Adoption services - £8,000
  • Corporate Parenting - £9,000
  • European Languages - £12,000
  • Fostering and Kinship - £18,000
  • Free School Meals P1 to P3 - £8,000
  • Improving Fostering Services - £20,000
  • ISMS - £76,000
  • National Priorities Action Fund - £414,000
  • Social Work Training - £6,000
  • Student Teacher Placement - £4,000
  • Youth Justice - £55,000
  • Youthwork for Delivery - £9,000

I wonder how many of the 29 Lib-Dem/SNP Councillors realise they're about to cut these sums from all the services listed above?

Would be interesting (if not depressing) to get a true answer to that query ...

Children and Families Committee papers

Children and Families Committee papers for next Tuesday now out - check CPOL - main agenda is here.

Report of most interest is undoubtedly item 7: "Strategic Management of School Provision: Intakes for August 2008" - I touched on some of these issues a couple of weeks ago in relation to one of my own local Ward schools ... Appendix 1 of the report confirms that the timetable for any final decision on this has some time to run.

One noteworthy point contained within the report - here - is at paragraph 3.12, which shows a 3.5% increase in the P1 intake for August 2008. Does seem to go against the grain of earlier estimates about falling school rolls ...

Budget Day

Now, clearly I'm biased, so will just provide a link to the BBC's running commentary on today's budget.

Does appear to be a slight change of financial direction from previous years in the acceptance (and actual budgeting for) that borrowing will rise. That, in itself, could give some much needed (ever-so-slight) room for manoeuvre in the coming couple of years ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Consultative Committee with Parents

Consultative Committee with Parents (CCWP) meeting earlier this evening - main items for discussion were:

Had to leave the meeting just before it ended unfortunately, so missed the conclusion of the discussion on the 'Organisational Review of Children and Families' ... an issue, as I've mentioned before, is now being rushed through consultation - after months of inaction - despite the original decision being taken as long ago as last October 2007.

Lets call a spade a spade

Seemingly endless political excitement over the SNP proposals for a new form of tax - the consultation on such, launched this afternoon ... all the details can be accessed from here.

Putting all the arguments 'for' and 'against' what's being proposed to one side ... there's plenty of propaganda filling the blogosphere on that already! ... I have to say that I find the 'title' being applied to this proposed tax, just ever-so-slightly duplicitous.

It is not - by any stretch of the imagination - a Local Income Tax - it is a 3p levy on personal income that will be applied throughout all of Scotland. The monies collected would then be re-distributed to the 32 Scottish Local Authorities - see paragraphs 41 through to 44 here.

Do read those 4-short paragraphs and see if you agree that this is a national tax, that will be collected nationally, and will then be redistributed to Local Authorities. Personally, I'd respect the authors of these proposals a lot more if they just called it what it is.

If this is enacted as it stands, I'm afraid it will quite simply be another nail in the coffin of Local Government autonomy.

All rather ironic coming from Scottish Ministers who spend a fair amount of their waking-hours arguing for more fiscal autonomy for the political tier they work within.

... by popular request?

Despite my earlier protestations about "no more allotment stories", I'm afraid several readers have asked for an update on progress since my last 'allotment-post' ... so, ever one to oblige, here is the photographic proof that one border is duly edged, has some plants in it, and the paths are not yet finalised :-(

Just seven more 'beds' to go, a few paving-stones to lay, and the planting will commence on an industrial-scale ;-)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Council 'for sale' ?

Well, next Thursday's Full Council papers are out ... the individual reports can be found via Committee Papers On Line (CPOL - here) and the main meeting agenda is here.

As predicted, it's not good news for a lot of organisations, and there is the ever-increasing opaqueness about some of the recommendations - like the totally spurious claim that 'disinvestment' in organisations is only £785,000 ... doesn't alter the absolute fact that some £2.569million has been TAKEN OUT of grant budgets Council-wide.

... more to come on that, for sure.

Meantime, just after the reports were published on CPOL, every Councillor received a copy of this (anonymised) e-mail:

From: ---
Sent: 07 March 2008 11:19
To: Councillors
Subject: Civic Items

Dear Councillor

In case you don't already know, a small stock of civic items are held by the Finance Department and are available for sale to Elected Members. The items available are as detailed below:

Silver Gilt Mace Brooch - £105.75
Hamilton & Inches Silver Cuff Links - £119.85
Hamilton & Inches Gold Cuff Links - £340.75
Laings Silver Cuff Links - £44.65
Laings Gold Cuff Links - £305.50

If you are interested in any item, please contact ---

... things really must be desperate :-(

... I wouldn't mind so much if I could afford some of what's on offer, but even the cheaper silver cuff-links are outwith my budget :-((

Thursday, March 06, 2008

No children here, thank you

Well ... those chickens are coming home to roost more quickly than even I anticipated :-(

One of those budget grant-cuts was to take away £300,000 from Edinburgh Leisure ... I wonder how many of the local politicians that voted this cut through realised that it would lead to the closure of almost all of Edinburgh Leisure creches? I doubt very much if more than 1 or 2 did??

But really, you can't cut 300-grand from an organisation's revenue budget and expect things to continue as before ... and sadly, around £2.569million has been cut from Voluntary Organisation grants altogether.

There's going to be a lot more of this ... believe me.

NO MORE allotment stories or US politics

... so here's more on the "Democracy isn't Desk Bound Campaign" instead ;-)

Do visit the new web-site here and you'll be able to:
  1. Petition the Prime Minister
  2. Pledge to a consultation
  3. Write to your MP
  4. Contact your nearest PR politician
  5. Have Your Say: Governance of Britain
  6. Donate to the campaign

... and so much more.

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank

It's Obama V McCain

I just know I'll regret this - politicians making predictions; never works out! - but I've come to the conclusion that Clinton SIMPLY CAN'T WIN the 'pledged delegate' race for the Democratic nomination ...

... I'm no statistician, but looking over the remaining contests, it just seems impossible for her to do it - unless Obama does something completely outrageous (not likely, but not impossible of course) then I think he has the pledged delegate race secured.

Despite all the fuss over Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont it seems no one has really noticed that on Tuesday Clinton won 187 delegates and Obama 183 - his total lead is still around 150 pledged delegates above his rival ... Clinton would have win big in EVERY ONE of the remaining states to close that gap.

It's just not going to happen.

Thus - it all comes down to the Super Delegates (the great and the good of the Democrat Party) ... are they really going to over-turn the will of the voters and install Clinton as their candidate even though Obama will have won the popular contest? Indeed, it seems to me, she'll need to get an absolute minimum of 65% of the Super delegates to do that (unless Obama's pledged delegate lead collapses - again, unlikely). Clinton currently has around 54% of the Super delegates to Obama's 46%.

So, I've concluded the game is over - Obama will win; and Clinton should stand down now and let the fight with McCain begin proper.

... that's probably the kiss-of-death for Obama ;-)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clinton Wins!

... Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island that is.

And, overall, it looks tighter than ever now ... CNN currently has Obama at 1,257 pledged delegates and Clinton on 1,127.

Maybe it's going all the way to June after all - still remain unconvinced that will help the Democrats in their ultimate goal of winning in November ... especially with McCain now confirmed as the Republican candidate?

Obama wins!

... Vermont that is :-)

Whether he can repeat that in Texas and Ohio, in the next few hours, is a whole different story?

It could be a late night/early morning :-(

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On a lighter note ...

On a lighter note ... appears that the idea of the Invincible Donovan University is being taken much more seriously than I earlier gave it credit for - see here ;-)

... after the truly (politically) depressing events at the City Chambers earlier this morning, it may be that "transcendental meditation" is the only answer?

"Get on board or get out of our way"

What type of senior politician, do you think, would make such a statement as the title of this post in an open public debate of a major decision-making committee?

- Ewan Aitken? ... do you really think he'd say such a thing?; I've certainly no recollection of ever hearing such a statement coming from Ewan in the 9-years I've known him.

- Donald Anderson? ... bit of a reputation for speaking his mind, so maybe he would say such a thing?; well, not that I can remember in the 8-years I worked with him.

- any senior MSPs ... Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell, Alex Salmond?; nope, I just can't recall ever hearing any of these people voicing such an inflammatory statement. Not even Alex Salmond ;-)

- any senior MPs ... Tony Blair, Gordon Brown?; do you know, even at the height of debate on very, very serious national issues I cannot recall hearing such language from either.

I can recall one very senior American politician saying something similar - along the lines of "you're either with us, or against us" ... George W. Bush, of course - and Wikipedia seems to agree with that recollection.

Well, a senior member of the current Council Administration made the statement that is the title of this post, in an open public debate, of a major decision-making committee of the Council, earlier today.

For me, the whole sorry-episode just about sums up the 'style' of politics we're all being forced to suffer in the City Chambers at the moment.

And it sure as hell isn't a new politics.

Big Day in America?

I've got a nagging feeling that the Democratic race for the White House could well be all-but-over later today/early Wednesday ... despite what many pundits are saying about it going all the way to June.

... I just get the sense that the two main candidates are starting to damage their Party, and not each other - and once voting is over today, some sober reflection on who their main target should be may well be in order?

After all, only John McCain seems to be truly smiling at the moment :-((

Monday, March 03, 2008

Press speculation

I mentioned the latest meeting of 'the Forum on Children and Families Estate' a few days ago here - and the inevitable press speculation has ensued around what's going to be happening next ... nothing to do specifically with my post I should hasten to add!

I do though believe, pretty strongly, that the void will only continue to be filled in this way unless something is 'formally' taken into the 'public domain' fairly soon.

There's an Education Committee meeting on Tuesday 18th March, and I know what I'd do if in control of the agenda ...

Openness and transparency?

Here's a wee budget-test to keep you amused - go to the Council homepage here and see if you can easily find the details of the 2008/09 budget?

I have a distinct recollection that we used to ensure the budget details were up there in headlights for as long as possible on the front-page ... this year you can only find them if you delve around in the 'News Archive' section.

Surely nothing to hide??

Openness and transparency eh ... don't make me laugh.

Budget again ... sorry!

More on the local budget that's just been set - sorry, but I do feel this is all pretty crucial and could potentially have quite a negative impact on numerous 'service-providers' ... and much more worryingly, 'service-users'.

Thinking specifically about the ongoing debate around grants to Voluntary Organisations ... we know there are serious cuts in this budget area, whilst local Libs/Nats continue to accuse us of 'scare-mongering' - so how about some factual evidence:

  • have a look at the spin put on the Lib/Nat budget contained with the Evening News coverage on Thursday 21st February - here - check out paragraph 6 in particular were it says that "other savings, such as slashing grants for charities and voluntary bodies by £870,000, are set to be largely dumped. Some organisations will still see their funding cut, though the majority – including the Gorgie City Farm – will be safe." So that's the majority of the £870,000 worth of cuts to be rejected?
  • fast forward one day and look at this piece in the Evening News on Friday 22nd February - here - check out paragraph 10 in particular were it says that "Labour claimed the reduction in grants would amount to £2.6m, although the administration insisted the cuts only total £780,000. The details of which organisations will lose out has yet to be made public." So now we're getting an admission that serious cuts are to be made - just not how serious and to who?
  • now have a quick look at the Evening News coverage today - here - check out paragraph 11 in particular were apparently "It's unfortunate that Labour deployed the tactic of spreading fear that major (cuts) would be made to grants – that's proven not to be the case." So the figure of £870K was wrong, then we're told £780K and lastly we're told there will be no major cuts??

Confused - you will be after the next few paragraphs ...

Here are some ACTUAL budget-lines from the approved Lib/Nat Council Budget for 2008/09 ... I'm quoting directly and will provide a handy-total at the end; but try adding them up as you go along and see if you agree (by the time you get to the end) that 'its proven to be the case that there are to be no major grant cuts':

Children and Families Department;
- “reduction in commissioned services and grants” = £203,000
- “efficiencies in services previously funded by earmarked grants” = £639,000

Health and Social Care Department;
- "remove inflation provision for voluntary orgs / SLAs = £533,000
- "aids and adaptions" = £66,000
- “reduction in grants” = £325,000

City Development Department;
- “reduction in grants (including Capital Skills)” = £115,000

Services for Communities Department;
- “reduce grants programme” = £150,000

Corporate Services Department;
- “reduction in grants” = £338,000

- "reduce uplift to voluntary organisations" = £200,000

No - it doesn't add up to £870,000, nor £780,000 ... but £2.569million (that's nearly £2.6million!) being removed from Council grants via straightforward reduction, lack of inflation provision and 'efficiencies' (which is Tory-speak for cuts) in commissioned services provided by Council grant.

That's the agreed budget.

Only conclusion you can draw - they don't know what they've agreed??

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Another allotment-afternoon

Spent most of the late afternoon digging over the new allotment-beds ... now that the Rotavator has all but finished its work.

... not looking too bad I reckon?

Paths, border-edging and maybe even some planting next weekend!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Fingers still in place :-)

Survived the first-day of 'rotavating' (if such a word exists?) ... and, as you can see, the whole site is beginning to take shape - just :-)

Weather was fantastic all morning/early afternoon and the three of us had a great time planning out the beds and tidying up the allotment ...

... middle-age is clearly upon me :-((

More digging tomorrow!