Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The dark art of political spin

This is an absolute classic - just out this afternoon from the Scottish Government :-(

I'll quote the bit that even Peter Mandelson would be proud of:

"Since May last year, this Government has signed-off funding for seven major local authority projects" ...

No mention of this:
  • S3W-9305 - George Foulkes (Lothians) (Lab) (Date Lodged Thursday, January 31, 2008): To ask the Scottish Executive how many contracts for the building of new schools have been signed in each local authority since May 2007.
  • Answered by Maureen Watt (Friday, February 29, 2008): Local authorities procure new schools through more than one procurement route. Seven local authorities have signed school PPP contracts since May 2007, allowing building work to progress on 45 schools, almost all new builds. Those authorities, with their shares of 45 schools, are Aberdeen City (10), Dumfries and Galloway (10), East Dunbartonshire (6), Falkirk (4), Perth and Kinross (9), West Dunbartonshire (4) and West Lothian (2). With the exception of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), the Scottish Government does not hold comprehensive information about local authorities'' school building contracts.
... which was followed up thus:

So, the Minister might have "signed-off" the contracts but she hasn't been responsible for initiating a single one of the schools contained within them ...

... indeed, she hasn't initiated a SINGLE new school building contract since May 2007.

Talk about NO SHAME.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Education policy abandoned

For months and months, I've been banging on about what a miserable failure I believe the SNP have been in the specific area of Education-policy ...

... maybe things are even worse in Edinburgh than elsewhere, but from speaking to colleagues across the country, very few have anything positive to say about what's happened within Education post-May 2007. To be fair, that sense of genuine despair does not pervade every policy area that the Scottish Government is responsible for.

But it is good to see the press now putting pressure on the responsible Ministers about the detail of what they promised to deliver ... and why they are failing to do so.

It is not just on Nursery Education they should be pursued for answers ...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Austria shows the lead

Plenty of coverage of the Austrian General Election today ...

... what's not been such a huge topic of discussion in the UK, is the fact that today Austria became the first European country to lower the franchise to all 16 and 17 year olds. Some 200,000 additional individuals being entitled to vote for the first time ;-)

I'm all in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 - but the tone of debate about this issue in the UK is sometimes pretty derisory ... just check out some of the political responses here :-(

British Youth Council website has the counter-arguments ...

STV referendum victory!

I'd personally like that headline to apply to the UK - one can but dream ...

... but its from Wellington, New Zealand were yesterday an attempt to reverse a move to STV was rejected: but only just!

476 votes in it, out of a total of just over 44,000 votes cast ... that's what I call a very, very close-call ;-)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No-score draw?

Most of the mainstream UK press appear to be calling the first head-to-head Presidential candidates' debate a 'no-score draw'?

... I'm not so sure, bias admitted, I do think that Obama edged it - and the polling being reported on the BBC would seem to back up that assessment?

We'll know the overall outcome soon enough ... only 5-weeks on Tuesday, to be precise.

Time to send them a message

Just in case you doubted the basis of my condemnation of the current politicians in charge of the City Chambers, over the CAB Edinburgh fiasco, have a look at the 4th letter down (here) in today's Evening News ...

... in relation to the plan to shut 4 of the 5 CAB local Edinburgh offices, I'll quote directly from the SNP/Lib-Dem politician in charge:

"The changes mentioned in your article are as a result of operational changes on CAE's part. This was based on a decision made by the board of CAE and we were pleased to grant them an additional £15,000 last year to assist".

Oh dear, one can only assume this letter was sent to the local paper before the CAB Edinburgh (CAE) Board changed their minds under intense political pressure.

But at least we know that intense political pressure didn't come from the SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition running the city - they were happy "to assist" in the closure of 4 out of th 5 local CAB offices.

As I said at the time, the whole plan was "a totally crazy proposal" and yet it was supported by those who currently run the City Chambers :-(

It is beyond doubt time to send them a message.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hanging on the Telephone

This is really quite funny ;-)

It's definitely true that ... "what goes around, comes around" ...

... and no general election in sight?

US candidates' debate

I've tried my very best to steer clear of American politics for a bit - think my last entry on the ongoing contest was this, now over two months ago!

... but, the first head-to-head televised debate, which appears to be going ahead this evening (well, first thing tomorrow morning), has grabbed my interest again - I'm still of the firm opinion that Obama is going to win by a comfortable margin in November, but I guess tonight will be a good guide as to the current state of play in the Obama V McCain contest?

Looking forward to it :-(

Edinburgh Labour saves CAB Offices!

Is this the quickest campaign victory in the history of Scottish Local Government??
  • on Tuesday of this week, I mentioned that CAB Edinburgh (CAE) were going to close 4 out of their 5 local offices.

  • on Wednesday of this week, the Evening News ran the story.

  • on that day (do read the press coverage) - less than 48 hours ago - the SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition said they had been at an "extremely productive meeting and in coming to the decision to centralise their services, CAE gave reassurances to the council that service provision would be maintained at exactly the same level, regardless of where clients live within the city." No coalition attempt was made to reverse the decision.

  • on that day (again, do read the press coverage) - our Labour Group spokeswoman on these issues, Lesley Hinds, said: "There is no way a single centralised office can do the work of five offices."

  • on Thursday (yesterday) sustained pressure from Labour politicians across the city led to a series of frantically arranged meetings with the CAE Board.

  • on Friday (today) the CAE Board have just announced they are "suspending the closures of the Pilton, Leith, Fountainbridge, and Portobello offices pending a further consultation".

What an utter and total shambles!

The result - for now - may be positive, but do note I've emboldened the word 'suspending' from the CAE announcement.

Don't forget that one of the threatened offices was in Pilton (near the Forth Ward), and I'd be willing to take any bets that this whole issue will come back AFTER the 6th November by-election ...

... but if you ask me; the best way to ensure this type of ridiculous, local political mismanagement stops is to send a very clear message to the SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition at said by-election.

Labour win local by-election!

No - not in the Forth Ward ... not yet anyhow ;-)

... but (last night/this morning) in the Plumstead Ward, Greenwich Council ...

... and with a 6.6% swing FROM the Tories ;-))

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You decide?

"Diplomatic Silence" No.3

Economy in recession!

No, not here (not yet anyhow) but in that oft-quoted Celtic Tiger where we are frequently told everything is so perfect - a veritable land of milk and honey ...

That was the rhetoric ... here's the reality.

Ireland, yes Ireland, is indeed the first eurozone economy to go into recession this year.

- and no sympathetic Scottish Government News Release to be seen anywhere??

Ethical banking?

Very good article in the Guardian today, which is well worth a read ... its about 'ethical banking' - but don't be put off, it is an interesting read!

... I should declare my slight-bias here - I switched to the Co-operative Bank years ago, and I also use the local Credit Union for small savings and loans (which I frequently need!), and I've had nothing but excellent service from both organisations over the years I've been a member.

I do think Deborah Hargreaves makes some very telling points about the banking industry having to rebuild faith amongst its customers (very similar points can be made about politics in general) and models such as the Co-operative Bank and Credit Unions could well provide a few lessons on how to do just that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poll conundrum

There's a truly unmissable quote from our great Leader in today's Evening News ... it relates to a poll by MORI (commissioned by the Council) which found that a 'record 95 per cent' of people believe Edinburgh is a good place to live. Actually, its been in the low 90 per cents for quite some time ...

... but the same poll also found the Council's own approval rating had plummeted from 56 per cent to 48 per cent – with particular concern about whether taxpayers were getting good value for money.

The Councillor Leader is quoted as saying:

"Its odd that satisfaction with life in the city is so high, compared to the council's lowly approval rating. I would like to know why that is?"

If she honestly doesn't know the answer to that, then Edinburgh really is in deep, deep trouble ...


Another enforced home-day today, due to the ongoing industrial action, which has seen juniors school once again closed to pupils.

I have to say that I am frankly not supportive of the position recently taken by the Leaders of Scotland's Councils, and I do think that a re-negotiated settlement is achievable, and that an improved offer is possible.

Both sides need to get back round the table and recommence negotiations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CAB office closures!

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Edinburgh have just announced they are to close 4 out of the 5 local Edinburgh Branches across the city - rationalising all the services in the 1 City Centre Branch in Dundas Street!

It's a totally crazy proposal.

Can you think of any worse time to shut down 80% of the Capital City's CAB network - I mean its not as if there will be much demand for advice on financial issues given how well the global economy is currently performing :-(

... and to rub salt into the wound, the News Release announcing all of this boldly states "we will introduce an e-mail service to further extend our reach and extend volunteering opportunities" - that's okay then?

Errrr ... aren't those most in need of CAB services most likely NOT to be connected to the internet??

And just have a look at CAB Edinburgh's website - here - I'll quote what's there, just in case it swiftly disappears:

Currently our email advice service is unavailable. Please either call your local office, or visit us to make an appointment.

There won't be a local office for most of the city shortly :-((

Talk about kicking people when they are down.

If ever there was an example of the need for a bit of local leadership from the Council (who are one of the main funders of CAB Edinburgh) then this is it ... sadly, I won' be holding my breath.

Post Office closures?

Two local meetings this evening about proposed Post Office closures in (or on the edge of) the Ward ... in Shandon and Gorgie.

I know only too well that there's a wider-issue with the financial stability of the overall Post Office network (some £500million per day is being lost - that's taxpayers money by the way!) ... but there are pretty severe Post Office cuts being proposed in and around the South West area of the city.

Stenhouse only closed a couple of years ago, and now Shandon, Gorgie and Longstone are all being put forward for consideration to close. I just don't see how the remaining Post Offices in the local area - at Chesser (in the ASDA) and in Gorgie (within the Scotmid) - will cope with the increased migration of business?

Add to that the fairly radical set of cuts and service-reductions being implemented by Lothian Buses and I do feel that Post Office Limited need to reconsider.

I'll be making as strong a case as I can in my submission to the consultation - anyone else interested in doing so, can find all the relevant details here.

Brown's Manchester Speech

Managed to listen to most of Gordon Brown's speech earlier this afternoon - I thought it was a pretty competent performance under (obvious) difficult circumstances.

The BBC coverage - here - has a reasonable balance of the wide-ranging opinions that the speech evoked!

Can't help but draw a comparison with last year, when there was no mention of any opposition party, whereas today the Conservatives drew at least a dozen direct references ...

A week may indeed be a long time in politics - a year even longer.

Upgraded CC Web-site!

Just spotted that Hutchison and Chesser Community Council (CC) have upgraded their web-site.

I'm sure any additional content would be gratefully received ... you can get in touch with them via here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

25% drop in 'new house completions'

Attended the periodic meeting of the Lothian Valuation Joint Board this morning ... there was a "quarterly progress" report on the agenda, usually a fairly non-contentious update on the organisation's work dealing with Electoral Registration, Council Tax, Non-Domestic Rates etc.

Tucked away in a section entitled 'Council Tax - New Dwellings' was the shocking statistic that such activity is down because 'new house completions' across the Lothians have dropped by some 25%.

A pretty sobering indicator of the current economic climate :-(

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Leeks and leaflets :-)

Sunday and guess what I've been doing?

... okay - I admit I sneaked a few hours in the late afternoon, down at the allotment, where we dug up our first leeks :-)

... but I've mainly been leafletting in North Edinburgh all morning! I have a distinct feeling that I may well end up knowing the 'streets of Forth Ward' extremely well come November 6th :-))

Saturday, September 20, 2008

1,000th post

According to my "Blogger Dashboard" this is the - wait for it - 1,000th post on the Really Bad Blog :-))

The site has been registered now for over 4-years, but regular posting is just over 2-years old ... and I thus make that around 10-posts a week since September 2006!

... and "visits/page-views" do remain consistently healthy - not that I pay too much attention to all of that ;-)

Forth Ward candidate selected

Edinburgh Labour selected its candidate for the Forth Ward by-election last night ... Cammy Day.

Cammy was raised in Granton and brought up in North Edinburgh; and has been employed in-and-around that part of the City, as a Youth Worker, for the last 10-years.

... he is also well on the low-side of 40, and will thus reduce the average age of the Council considerably when elected ;-)

More seriously, I do know him pretty well and he'll make a good candidate, run a good campaign and would be an excellent Local Councillor.

Greenyonder Edinburgh

Old friend of ours from down South (from our years in sunny Stoke!) in Edinburgh yesterday ... took him on a 'Garden Tour' of the Royal Mile and if you haven't already tried out this relatively new Edinburgh-venture, then book on one of their tours right now :-)

... really excellent couple of hours.

Despite working right in the heart of the High Street, I visited half-a-dozen partially hidden gardens that I never knew existed ... and I learned all about the garden histories into the bargain.

... and it didn't rain all morning whilst we were on the tour :-))

151 votes in it

151 votes in it ... (Glasgow) Baillieston by-election that is ... and on a meager 22% turnout :-(

Just reinforces with me that absolutely all is to play for, in the upcoming (Edinburgh) Forth Ward by-election!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tynecastle open-evening

Given the brevity of the Council Meeting, actually managed to attend an open-evening at Tynecastle High School tonight ... junior will go there next August - I can hardly believe its come around so quickly!

Anyhow, pupils and staff at Tynecastle put on a really first-class evening of displays, talks, presentations etc.

All very impressive.

Another brief Full Council

Another fairly brief Full Council meeting today - business completed just prior to 1pm ;-)

... much as I'd like to think this is the start of a long-term trend; I have a horrible feeling that the quantity of business for October and November may be somewhat more severe :-(

After the close of Council Business, the date for the Forth Ward by-election was announced as Thursday 6th November ... a mere 7-weeks from today!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bus service cut-backs approved

There was yet another special meeting of the Transport Committee yesterday in the City Chambers ... so much for the new 'streamlined, decision-making structure' reducing the need for regular meetings :-(

... but much worse than that slightly minor annoyance, is the serious issue of the scale of bus service cut-backs now approved :-((

The actual report is not particularly clear on the real impact of what was decided yesterday, but Lothian Buses have now put up a couple of News Releases on their website which list the full scale of what is about to happen:
  • changes to general bus services here
  • changes to Night Bus services here

Please do have a quick look - but be warned, it is not pleasant viewing.

Now, I know only too well that very real pressures are prevailing on Lothian Buses at the moment ...

But, what is hugely annoying is the fact that the current Council Administration are quite happy to 'posture' on the issue of Post Offices and argue that some should be saved on grounds of social need and then do nothing about it when they have the power to do so - just look at what can be done where there is political will ...

... but they will not even properly apply the same logic to bus services, duly recognising they are of significant social need and re-allocating some additional monies to save services? They very clearly have the power to do this, but yet again no concerted action is forthcoming??

What a contrast from 3 or 4 years ago when any minor alteration to a bus service that went through a Lib-Dem ward was greeted with howls of protest - how times have changed :-((

Vacancy here ...

Just received the written answers to the 'formal questions' that have been tabled for the Full Council meeting tomorrow ... one answer, in particular, seems pretty shocking to me:

Q - What is the number of schools, across all sectors, with acting or temporary head teachers?
A - 19 out of 147.

That's nearly 13% of all Edinburgh state schools with an acting or temporary Head Teacher!

Having 1 in every 8th school in the capital city with no permanent Head Teacher currently in place does not seem like a positive indicator to me?

Local impact?

National news today dominated by the likely merger between Lloyds and HBOS - but as Robert Peston at the BBC puts it, looks more like a "rescue takeover" to me?

... I do think that some serious consideration about the very local impact (here in Edinburgh) of all that's happening to the banking and finance sector is starting to look pretty urgent and possibly somewhat overdue?

Just look at Table 19, at the top of Page 13, in this publication ... over 83,000 of Edinburgh's workforce are dependant on employment within the 'banking, insurance, finance and business services' sectors ...

... that's just short of 30% of the whole city workforce - a huge concentration in one area of economic activity that is currently undergoing a period of massive flux.

Frankly, I'm not clear what the current Council leadership's position, or views, on all of this are?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September Full Council

Full Council this coming Thursday, and most of today taken up with meetings - of one form or another - in general preparation for this monthly event ...

... that said, the actual agenda is once again pretty light and I can't see it lasting that long?

Might even be shorter than last month??

Monday, September 15, 2008


Spent most of today over in Glasgow ... my other-half and junior off for the day, due to the local holiday ;-)

Highlight of the trip was definitely the tour of the Glasgow School of Art we went on ... cannot recommend it highly enough.

Its a fascinating building from the outside, but the inside is even more glorious ... no photos were allowed I'm afraid!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pedal for Scotland

Completed my sixth-in-a-row Pedal for Scotland ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh today ... and what a contrast with the weather from last year :-))

Sunshine all the way, great organisation, nearly 6,000 riders, and probably close to £200,000 raised for a variety of charities ...

... and no, I didn't have any problems this year with my mobile :-(

Leadership results

Given my earlier thoughts on all of this, obviously very pleased that Iain Gray has secured the Leader's post and Johann Lamont the Deputy Leader's post ...

... and both results are pretty clear-cut, which I personally think bodes well for the future.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's all a matter of Parliamentary Record

I've had several nationalist-leaning friends bemoaning one of my posts from a few days ago ... their line of accusation has been:

OK, we know the First Minister is liable to occasional exaggeration and bluster ... he's a politician for goodness sake ... but that Finance Secretary is a decent bloke, not like your usual careerist Party-hack, so back off would you?

Well, believe it or not, I did think very carefully before putting up the post in question - and I concluded I should publish it because he DID speak an untruth. Whether that's his usual style, others can decide?

... but do have a look here at the relevant debate from the Scottish Parliament on the 27th June 2007 - specifically go to col 1130, and read on a bit and you'll see the Minister for Transport makes it quite clear what the cancelled tram money would have been used for: bus developments.

Now, later in that debate, said Cabinet Secretary took part and never mentioned schools - in fact, no one from any Party mentioned schools.

I'll continue to be polite about it - but frankly, it is an untruth to suggest that tram monies would have been used for schools if the project had been cancelled.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Face up to the truth

Remember that troublesome judgement on class sizes? - I included it in a post a few weeks ago ...

... well, I've just just spotted that East Lothian Council have lost their judicial review today at the Court of Session.

I feel obliged to repeat what I posted on 28th August:

"Without legislation (which would lead to the requirement for financial investment) then class sizes of 18 or less for P1-P3 are not going to happen. It's a cruel deception to suggest otherwise."

I also posted about a minor, additional problem here ... there is no planned legislation this year!

To put it bluntly, 'class sizes of 18 or less for P1-P3' is a busted flush and the relevant Cabinet Secretary should have the honesty to admit it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ministerial untruth

I don't usually accuse people of telling 'untruths' - I think I've only levelled that accusation once before ... see here

... then please read here, which explains why I felt so annoyed at the time of the first post!

Sadly, I do feel that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has today joined the dubious company of the First Minister in the telling of untruths :-(

... just look at what he says here, - I'll quote the relevant section: "Some of the decisions they have taken have been to invest in a very comprehensive tram system – investment that could clearly have been invested in schools."

This is quite simply not true and I'm sure the Cabinet Secretary knows it, and I would humbly suggest he should really refrain from transferring the 'political banter' of the street into the debating chamber of the legislative Parliament of Scotland. Such antics demean us all.

The Parliamentary Bills for tramline 1 and tramline 2 were approved long before May 2007 and finance was thereafter allocated and budgeted for. The SNP tried (fair enough) to over-turn that allocation but failed.

To suggest that failure led directly to a lack of capital for schools in Edinburgh is fatuous in the extreme. Dare one suggest it may have more to do with the failure of the fabled SFT??

... if you're still in doubt, here's a little reminder of how well our Government is doing in the school building stakes:
  • S3W-9305 - George Foulkes (Lothians) (Lab) (Date Lodged Thursday, January 31, 2008): To ask the Scottish Executive how many contracts for the building of new schools have been signed in each local authority since May 2007.
  • Answered by Maureen Watt (Friday, February 29, 2008): Local authorities procure new schools through more than one procurement route. Seven local authorities have signed school PPP contracts since May 2007, allowing building work to progress on 45 schools, almost all new builds. Those authorities, with their shares of 45 schools, are Aberdeen City (10), Dumfries and Galloway (10), East Dunbartonshire (6), Falkirk (4), Perth and Kinross (9), West Dunbartonshire (4) and West Lothian (2). With the exception of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), the Scottish Government does not hold comprehensive information about local authorities'' school building contracts.
... which was followed up thus:
So, there you have it - NOT ONE new school building contract initiated across the whole of Scotland in the last 18-months :-(

... all the fault of the trams - really??

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An answer to all our prayers?

Come on the SFT - you can do it ;-)

... a new road bridge for a mere £4.2billion!

Maybe Edinburgh Council should use the SFT to expand that tram network? Would be cheap by comparison ...

Beware - policy failure

Next chapter of the Scottish Futures Trust saga published today - the rhetoric is here ...

... the reality:
  • still no school-building contracts initiated under this Government
  • please contrast that with what went before
  • 8-years in Opposition, 18-months in power ... and all that's happened today is a 'company' has been established
  • its a company that will still happily accept the use of private monies
  • its a company that will still commit Councils to re-payments for 25-30years
  • oh, and by the way - it's costing some £17million to set up this company :-(
  • and in case you've forgotten - still not 1 new school-building contract has been initiated under this Government that will be completed by the end of this Government

It is a huge policy failure ... and that applies not just to schools, but to all other major infrastructure projects.

Second Forth Road Bridge anyone??

Boundary Commission

Stuck at the Boundary Commission local Inquiry hearing all day yesterday ... scintillating stuff, I'll tell you :-(

... that said, business was conducted so promptly, that its lasted just 1-day, instead of the timetabled 2-days! So, I should be grateful for small mercies.

Elizabeth's funeral details announced yesterday also ... its on Friday, further information here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A difficult day

Very sad, and difficult, day in the City Chambers today ...

... that said, I've been overwhelmed by messages of condolence, and huge praise for all that Elizabeth achieved.

I'll just link to a few other places where her story has been covered today:
My thoughts remain with Elizabeth's family ...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Terribly sad news ...

Have received the terribly sad news today that one of my Labour Group colleagues, Elizabeth Maginnis, died in the very early hours of this morning.

Having now spoken to all of my Group colleagues, all I can say is we're totally shocked by Elizabeth's sudden and tragic death.

Elizabeth was a member of a large and very loving family, of whom she spoke often, and first-and-foremost all our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

Elizabeth was an elected Councillor in Edinburgh for over two decades and all throughout that period she lived in, worked in, and represented North Edinburgh. She was an intrinsic part of that local community and her breadth of knowledge, experience and sheer passion for the north of this city will be frankly irreplaceable.

She also played a crucial role in the development of Early Years (Nursery) Education, during her Convener-ship of Lothian Region's Education Committee in the early 1990's ... a policy which has since been universally adopted across the whole of Scotland.

A truly tragic loss for her family, the North of Edinburgh, and the wider city.

Sunday papers ...

Browsing the Sunday papers very early this morning, and if I didn't convince you (not that I was really trying to!) last time ...

... the Sunday Observer today has, what I'm sure will be a hugely controversial, lead-article on meat production, land use and global warming.

Personally, I think Professor Robert Watson (chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) strikes the right balance in his comments within the article ...

... but interesting that the whole issue is now being seriously debated in the mainstream media?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What a crop!

Yes, you've guessed it - we were down at the allotment this afternoon, and this is just one-days harvest laid out in our hall:

- cabbages
- pumpkins
- white beetroot
- potatoes
- brussel sprouts
- peas
- various flowers

And still a lot, lot more to be dug over the coming weeks!

... not bad for the first-year ;-))

Friday, September 05, 2008

Independence - you must be joking?

I think Simon Jenkins is a secret fan of this blog ;-))

... a couple of months ago, I linked to a pretty good article he had in the Guardian about the lack of Local Authority autonomy - which I have consistently argued has actually got a LOT WORSE since last May.

Well, mix that subject up with the SNP's plan for a National (for that's what is is) Income Tax and - hey presto - Jenkins has sussed it ... "the great city of Glasgow will become an agency of the Edinburgh civil service".

Sadly, he's almost spot-on :-(

... problem is, its actually a lot worse than he thinks RIGHT NOW, because we no longer "work out what they need within agreed spending targets, but have some discretion in fixing council tax levels thereafter". Not since that 'nice' Council Tax freeze earlier this year.

Yes: the whole of Scottish Local Government is on the verge of losing ALL autonomy ... on that Jenkins is tragically right - unless, of course, the current plans are watered down to give local variability and discretion (its called autonomy!) ...

... and he's also realised the HUGE IRONY that its the Party of "Independence" who is going to remove that very same thing from the tier of Government they now control.

You couldn't make it up.

Wet, wet, wet ...

Numerous meetings today - not all in the City Chambers (more is the pity!) - as I am still trying to use the bike as much as possible for all my commuting ...

... and, I have to say, 99% of the time it simply isn't a problem. But, did I get drenched today :-(

Despite that good jacket (and other kit), it was just one of those very, very wet Edinburgh days when it seemed nothing could stop the rain :-((

Thank goodness its Friday ...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Spare parts anyone?

I'm awash with local complaints about the amount of rubbish lying at the side of the 'large wheelie bins' in the Harrison/Shandon/Ashley/ Fountainbridge area ...

... here are a couple of pictures taken today to underscore just why so many constituents are very annoyed :-(

What's making people even more angry, is that the regular-sized bins, which can be emptied by standard bin-lorries, are being collected and dealt with as usual ...

... and, wait for it, the bin-crews in those trucks are just driving past the larger wheelie bins which are surrounded by piles of rubbish - as you can see :-((

Now, I know its not the bin-crews fault per se ... but why management hasn't instructed them to sort out the immediate mess around the larger wheelie bins is simply beyond me. Surely not difficult to organise such?

And - to make matters a whole lot worse - it appears that the problems are not confined to Shandon/Fountainbridge, but spread right across the city ... all down to the lack of a few spare parts??

Clearly, no contingency plans ... and clearly, not good!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

WOT - no educatoin?

Well, to be fair ... there is a 'rural schools bill' and an 'amendment bill on the ASL Act';

... but precious little else of real substance, on the education-front, in the legislative programme from the Scottish Government as announced today.

The contrast with the previous two Scottish Administrations, who had a persistent focus on education issues, is stark.

... but, that's politics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Alarm bells should be ringing ...

Regular blog readers will remember we, as a Political Group, opposed the latest round of "Organisational Review" being inflicted on the Children and Families Department at the Council ...

... well, it all came back to the Education Committee last week and further changes were pushed through - again, against our judgement and without our support.

Interesting, if not depressing, to see that the whole saga is now making the feature pages of the Herald - I'll reproduce the pertinent points here:

... Unison and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have had angry exchanges with the council over plans to restructure children and families work, including the removal of 12 managers through redundancy or redeployment.

However Ruth Stark of BASW says she was "deeply concerned" about the plans passed by the council's Education, Children and Families committee last week.

The managers likely to lose their jobs are among the council's most experienced staff, she said, and are involved in day-to-day work with families.

Stark says: "Lord Laming, in his report on the fate of Victoria Climbie, highlighted the importance of the support and guidance needed by frontline child protection staff from senior managers and practitioners. These are not people who sit behind desks pushing paper but experienced social workers who will often be that second pair of eyes in a child protection investigation and in the work with adults to help prevent child abuse," she says.

"Their skill and expertise is vital in keeping our children safe. Given the similar findings of the Caleb Ness Inquiry in Edinburgh, it is extremely short-sighted of the Councillors in the City of Edinburgh to be discarding this high level skill and expertise in child protection work and leaving their frontline staff in a very exposed situation."

Unison's Tom Connolly adds: "Many of these staff carry some of the most complex cases. It is astonishing that the council is saying it wants to allocate all the cases that are on waiting lists, and to do this it is cutting staff."

Now, how such sentiments CANNOT be ringing alarm bells amongst those in charge, I simply fail to understand??

"The schools scrapheap"?

I've just about recovered from the sheer excitement of the Policy and Strategy Committee earlier this morning - it lasted all of 20-minutes :-((

... Evening Times today (over in Glasgow) has yet more damning evidence of the reality of trying to find your first teaching job over on the West-coast of the country - not good.

Of course, the problem could be solved very quickly if the Government actually funded its key education, manifesto-pledge to "reduce class sizes in Primary 1, 2 and 3 to eighteen pupils or less."

Do have a read at the article ... it says an awful lot about the mess that's been made of Local Government finance in the last couple of years :-(

Sit down first ...

My first meeting, as Opposition Group Leader, of the Policy and Strategy Committee later today ...

... I can hardly contain my excitement - I mean, just have a look (please sit down first, the shock might just prove to be too much) at that agenda!

The 'primary policy Committee of the Council' of the Capital City of Scotland eh?

That agenda says it all really :-(

... its all happening here :-((

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sorry, no room here ...

I don't usually link directly to other colleagues' blog posts ... other than via my side-bar of course!

... but find myself compelled to do just that for the second time today!

Given my earlier ramblings on all-things Education, do have a quick look at Elizabeth's post today - here.

Parental choice in Edinburgh being restricted in a way unheard of for a full 3 decades?

I just don't remember seeing that in the 'Education Section' of the SNP Manifesto??

All bets off

I was delighted to hear today that one of my Edinburgh colleagues, Kez Dugdale, has been shortlisted by the Party for the Glenrothes by-election.

... local membership voting on the final choice (from 3 remaining candidates) tonight!

... you just never know ;-)

The joke is on us :-(

I've had one or two SNP friends (yes, I do have them!) suggest to me that I was being just a tad harsh the other day when I likened Scottish Government Education Policy to a joke ...

... I was just beginning to think that perhaps I had let a little bit of unnecessary political bias into my thinking on all of this - until I looked at this morning's Herald :-(

I should be clear - I have no intrinsic issue with composite classes - but they are now being used, along with every other 'fix' possible, to try and drive P1, P2 and P3 class sizes down towards 18 pupils. It is NOT 'fixes' that are required, but MONEY.

And all this for what?

Not one of the three principal SNP Manifesto school-based education commitments will be met no matter what 'fixes' are applied (of that I'm certain), and would it not be better to admit this now and put an end to the ongoing cruel deception - if not bad joke - that these promises can be delivered?

They won't be.

Game of two halves ...

Back from London and the ERS Council Meeting was definitely a 'game of two halves' ...

... morning session was fairly enjoyable, with relatively good-natured debate about the merits (or not!) of AV as opposed to FPTP - I know, arcane stuff, but important nevertheless ;-)

... afternoon session was not enjoyable, with another interminable discussion about details of the Society's "Articles of Association" - honestly, it makes 'AV versus FPTP' seem of earth-shattering importance by comparison. Truly dull :-(

Anyhow, London was looking splendid on Saturday - sun shone all day and it felt more like 4,000, than 400, miles away given the weather upon my return to Edinburgh last night!