Sunday, November 30, 2008

The wider public interest?

Two senior UK cabinet members giving ever-so-slightly differing emphasis to a very serious issue today - here and here ...

... I personally think its a topic that should concern all politicians - of whatever level and whatever seniority.

Both Jaqui Smith and Harriet Harman make perfectly valid points - and frankly, very few of us have all the facts at our fingertips at the moment so any final judgement has to be reserved - but I do feel some pretty worrying principles are being potentially challenged by what's happened over the last few days.

Of course, no one is above the law - not even MP's - but all politicians have the right (and surely the responsibility?) to act on sensitive information that may be passed to them in the way that they best judge to be in the wider public interest and, of course, to do so legally.

I've always believed that to be the case, and it's a belief that has certainly been strengthened since my spell in (Council) Opposition following the local elections in May 2007. Those currently in power - at whatever level - need to remember that they also, won't always be in such a position.

Birthday weekend

Birthday weekend - junior now the grand age of 11 years ... I can hardly believe it.

So yesterday saw 'eight X 11 year olds' (plus two overly anxious adults!) undertake an hours ten-pin bowling at Marcos (within the Corn Exchange complex at Chesser), then a boisterous bus trip back to the flat and pizza served up for everyone thereafter.

Kids all had a great time and the flat appears to still be in one-piece ;-)

Friday, November 28, 2008

WWII Assembly!

Managed to escape work for a couple of hours this morning and attend juniors 'Friday Assembly' at the local Primary School ...

... the school had put on a special Assembly event, based on the 2nd World War project that the top two classes in the school have been undertaking recently. The school hall was packed-out!

Now, my judgement may be slightly biased here, but I thought it was a really first-class effort from all concerned :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Controlled Parking?

Mentioned the local parking woes last week ... well, the meeting was last night and it was very encouraging to see so many people attend. I reckon nearly a couple of hundred folk came to look at the maps and speak to officers/Councillors.

And there was a wide range of views expressed, varying degrees of support/objection very dependant on the exact location of residence!

More formal details on the whole CPZ issue can be found here ... well worth a read if you're affected by all of this, and does verify that beyond any informal consultation (like that of last night) there are still several stages before anything definite can proceed.

Buy Nothing Day?

Given my recent ruminations on all-things PBR ...

... some wag has taken great pleasure in e-mailing me details of 'Buy Nothing Day' which falls this Saturday - more information can be found here.

I'm not convinced about the timing? - and that poster sort of depicts 'Buy Nothing Day' as a dead-end?

... mind you, that "work-shop-work-shop ... " cycle looks like a never-ending spiral??

You can decide ;-))

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

City doing better - really?

Bit of local news news coverage today will have brought some festive cheer to the hearts of those currently in charge of the city ;-)

... I have to say, whilst acknowledging that certain areas (road maintenance etc.) are going in the right direction, I just fail to understand how the issue of general street cleanliness is receiving such positive praise?

I mentioned all of this last week, and I can only repeat that CIMS is a pretty limited measure and it can't hide the fact that over 40% of the city is failing acceptable standards for street cleanliness ... and my experience of stomping the streets of Forth Ward recently certainly verifies this truth.

And, of course, I feel duty bound to point out that the Audit Scotland work, on which the Council report is dependant, is based on the last three years ... I'll say no more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

To spend, or not to spend ...

Plenty of serious analysis of the Pre- Budget Report (PBR) out there today ... the Guardian is particularly comprehensive in its coverage - here.

... and, of course, Steve Bell captures it all in one picture - here.

... but, for a slightly 'alternative' take on the merits of the PBR, the BBC Magazine has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek analysis - here.

I'm saying no more ... it's just all too dangerous :-(

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre- Budget Report

All the official material on the Pre- Budget Report can be accessed here ... and some of the mainstream news reportage can be seen here and here.

Personally, I thought the Commons announcement was detailed, thorough and fair ...

Given the Tory response, I don't agree there is 'clear blue water' between the two main UK Parties - more like a clear blue ocean.

I now sense that - whenever it comes - there will be a near record-breaking turnout at the next General Election ...

Burying bad news?

A couple of hours to go before the Pre- Budget Report, which is attracting just a little political attention, and what do the Scottish Government do ...

... sneak out the consultation responses to the so-called 'local' Income Tax :-(

No matter how you spin this document, the current plans are now surely doomed and the quicker the Scottish Government acknowledges that fact, the better.

Of course, a workable alternative now needs to be put before the Scottish Parliament. - one which will hopefully bear little resemblance to the plans consulted on thus far?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

National (local) Income Tax abandoned?

I've posted frequently about the state of Local Authority finance, and plans to reform its taxation system - and I've been pretty clear that I believe the current plans for a so-called 'local' Income Tax are unworkable and should be replaced by a sensible alternative ...

... so very interesting to see that some of today's papers are basically flagging up that the current plans are about to be dropped!

If these reports are true, then I'd welcome it - John Swinney now needs to have the good grace to frankly admit that the initial proposals were a mess.

... I'll reserve judgement on what replaces that mess, until the full details are published by the Government.

New Car

Regular blog readers will know that I do try my best to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible ... and you'll also know that we do own own a small household car, which has been creaking a bit over recent months :-(

... well today, after months of uncharacteristic prevarication, we've decided to replace the car and have traded in the old Saxo for a slightly newer Fiesta.

I only mention 'prevarication' as we had seriously thought about going 'car-less' again (for the first time in about 9-years) but couldn't quite bring ourselves to take that step :-((

To salve my conscience, I will inform you that according to 'What Green Car', the Fiesta we now own has a better emissions rating than the Saxo ...

... I just hope the keys are also of better quality than the old Saxo??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Game of two halves

At half-time, I really thought Wales were going to do it this evening ... beat New Zealand that is ... but what a turnaround after the break :-(

Given England's performance against South Africa, I anticipate a huge score next Saturday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Local parking woes

I've mentioned the VERY local parking woes right on my doorstep a couple of times in earlier blog-posts ... see here and here.

Well, at long last the possible longer-term solution of extending the CPZ into the area has made it to the informal public consultation stage ... a short survey has been distributed through letterboxes, and a consultation meeting is taking place next Wednesday night in Craiglockhart Primary School.

I fully expect a wide-range of views to be aired!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It was a long day!

Unfortunately, my prediction was correct and the Council meeting lasted until just after 8pm this evening :-(

And the school closures were indeed the main topic of debate - generating 7 deputations alone, none of which (sadly) led to any change in the recommendations that were before the Council despite some very powerful points being made by those who spoke.

One point of note - I think - is the fact that during the debates on the closure of Bonnington and Westburn Primary Schools, not one single elected Member of the Administration spoke other than the Convener and Vice-Convener of the Education Committee? No one, not even the relevant local Councillors, had the good grace to get onto their feet and explain their decision to the Council Chamber. At least during the Lismore Primary School debate that did happen.

And significantly, the Council Leader never uttered a word in any of the three debates. Now, I am all for a bit of devolution of responsibility, but not to speak when YOUR Administration is closing down three Primary Schools is - for me - just a gross error of judgement.

And just to make matters worse, one of the schools was only closed because the Lord Provost used his casting-vote to push the decision through :-(

Long day ahead ...

Blogging could be non-existent for the rest of the day, you'll be devastated to hear? ...

... at the last count, there were 10 deputations coming up to the Full Council later this morning!

I sense the meeting could go on well into the evening :-((

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Street (un)cleanliness

Having spent a considerable amount of time pounding the streets of Forth Ward recently, I'm not at all surprised to see the detail within this report - which is going to the Transport Committee next Tuesday.

... it does appear that the "Cleanliness Index Monitoring System (CIMS)" is reporting an acceptable outcome - see paragraph 2.1 within the report - but read paragraph 3.1 and you realise CIMS is only based on a "50 metre transect in 10% of the city’s streets" ...

... fast forward to paragraph 4.7 (and check out Appendix 3) and you'll see the overall reality that 7 out of the 17 Wards in Edinburgh - that's over 40% of the city - have a cleanliness level which is below an acceptable standard.

This - sadly - will surprise no one in the Forth Ward.

A Fairer Scotland?

During the recent Forth Ward by-election, my new colleague repeatedly warned of the imminent threat of direct service cuts due to the massive reduction in funding for local projects that was about to happen with the move to the so-called Fairer Scotland Fund (FSF) ...

... he also highlighted the fact that the current Council Administration blatantly postponed a funding decision-meeting to AFTER the by-election in the hope of burying bad news. Thankfully the good people of Forth weren't fooled.

And, in the last week of the campaign, Cammy was repeatedly being accused of 'lying' about the cuts to local organisations.

Well, that "funding decision-meeting" took place on Monday and in one stroke over £527,000 has now been cut from local organisations in North Edinburgh. That figure will get a lot worse when staff-losses are added in, and they will be as some of the organisations are almost certain to fold given the scale of their funding-reduction ... over 50% in certain cases!

I can send anyone the full details by e-mail if you contact me.

It is nothing short of a tragedy for North Edinburgh.

Sadly, its a pattern being repeated elsewhere in ex-Community Regeneration Funded (CRF) areas ... not only here in Edinburgh, but across the country.

Fairer Scotland eh?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The myth of record debt

First class article on the issue of public sector (Government) debt up on the 'BBC News Magazine' site today ...

... really should be compulsory reading for anyone who doubts that 'you can prove just about whatever you want with statistics' :-(

Monday, November 17, 2008

'Lose-lose' situation

I posted a few days ago about the shelving of the Meadowbank redevelopment plans ... plans that would have seen some £25million worth of capital investment for sport in the East of the city.

... well, it transpires today that some £12million of revenue will now need to be spent due to the shelving of the earlier capital plans!

This is fast turning into a 'lose-lose' situation.

Full Council meeting this week

November's Full Council Meeting this coming Thursday - agenda can now be found here.

Proposed school closures likely to be the most controversial issue, by far ... see items 8.2 (a), (b) and (c). Given the undoubted deputations, I suspect it won't be a quick meeting!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Allotment update!

Haven't posted about the allotment for a while :-(

... but, been down there a bit this weekend and thought I'd report that we're still harvesting brussels, spinach and white beetroot :-)

Everything though, much quieter now - as you can see from this photo.

Still a real pleasure to be there on such a clear and sharp day as today.

Friday, November 14, 2008

ALDI comes to Hutchison?

I took some flak locally over the rejection of an ALDI planning application last year - posted about it here.

Well, the company are now planning to take on the empty Somerfield Store on Gorgie Road ... a much more sensible option if you ask me, and Hutchison will get its ALDI store within walking distance ;-)

I do hope that a better long-term use can now be found for the field in front of the Corn Exchange?

Best Scot at Westminster

Who would have thought it ...

... Alistair has just won the title of "Best Scot at Westminster"!

... at the Herald Politician Awards last night.

Now, bias admitted ...

... I do believe its well deserved praise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meadowbank shelved

As if the news on trams wasn't depressing enough, it also transpires today that the redevelopment of Meadowbank is also in trouble ...

... I'm all too aware that many people will welcome the shelving of the current plans - it has though to be a worry for everyone, that there's now a very real danger that Edinburgh will see zero capital investment for sport in the East of the city :-(

Not good.

Tram boss quits

My views on trams are well known, so no-one will be surprised that I was dismayed to hear of the resignation of Willie Gallagher today ...

... Willie may well have been the "Tram boss", and his leaving is obviously not good for the project, but he will be replaced I'm sure.

Problem is, what this project needs more-than-ever is a "Leader" and absolutely tragically (as far as I'm concerned) there is not one to be seen anywhere?

Tollcross Community Council

Tollcross Community Council meeting last night.

Very busy agenda, with surprisingly few planning issues being raised for a change?

There was though a lot of debate on police matters - and good to see two Community Beat Officers in attendance to deal with all the questions ...

... one of them even turned up on his bike :-)

And this evening (Thursday), no Community Council meetings allowed! - as it was junior's Parents' Evening at the local Primary School ...

... never a quiet moment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Edinburgh South West Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) meeting this evening, held at St. Brides Centre in Dalry.

Regular blog readers will know I have frequently posted about the development, and ongoing saga, of NPs ...

... well, if tonight's meeting was anything to go by, members of the public are fast losing patience with the lack of real decision-making being devolved to NPs.

The whole project, to supposedly devolve powers away from the City Chambers, will grind to a cynical halt if the current Council Administration don't get a grip of this :-(

Monday, November 10, 2008

Community Council week!

Second week of the month and its Community Council meetings galore ;-)

... Hutchison and Chesser Community Council this evening, where there was a brief presentation from officers on the tram project. Lively debate followed :-(

But, on the entirely positive-side, Cammy Day had his first day in the City Chambers today - very good to see a new (no pun intended!) Labour Councillor in the building.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

No rest allowed ...

I mentioned the impending 'DIY-fest' a few days ago ...

... well, in the midst of the madness that is the 'last-week' of any by-election campaign, I have also completely re-decorated Juniors room (and built all the furniture purchased earlier!) just in time for his return from what appears to have been a very successful 'school-trip week' :-)

To say that I am now completely exhausted would be a huge understatement ... roll on Monday, so I can return to work for a rest ;-))

Friday, November 07, 2008

Well done Cammy Day!

I'm absolutely delighted for Cammy Day - who was declared the winning candidate at the Forth Ward by-election just after midnight :-)

I have not the slightest shred-of-doubt that Cammy will be an effective local Councillor for the Forth Ward area. He has fought an inspired local campaign and he will translate that platform into effective local action in the months to come.

And, it has to be said, this is a very clear message to the current Lib-Dem/SNP Council Administration ... the style (and content!) of the last 18-months of their rule was rejected last night. And it will be rejected again in 2012 if they don't change direction.

And, on the wider political front, the result in Glenrothes is even (marginally) more impressive for Labour ;-))

Joking aside - I've always been open about how poor some recent electoral results have been for Labour ... Crewe and Glasgow East spring immediately to mind :-(

... and I do hope my political opponents will have the good grace to accept that last night was a good night for Edinburgh Labour and Scottish Labour alike.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A new spirit of service?

Looks like I might have over-egged the turnout prediction, and it doesn't appear Obama will quite get to the 379 Clinton watermark :-(

... but it is looking like a 364-174/Obama-McCain result, which by any standards is an exceptional outcome.

I have to say, I don't envy Obama the task now in front of him - I've never known so much hope and expectation being placed on the shoulders of one person, within my lifetime - but, I'm optimistic he'll rise to the challenge. He is surrounded by extremely capable people, and more importantly, he now has a huge body of verifiable support right-across America that will work with him.

And if you have a mere 17-minutes to spare over the next few days, then can I encourage you to watch his victory speech in full ... it does give a very clear flavour of just how he intends to govern.

Personally, I think these intentions - against much expectation - will be delivered upon.

I really do think some significant changes await the period following his inauguration on the 20th January 2009.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Parenting angst :-(

Mentioned the other day that junior was off for a week from today ...

... well, he's now departed and we won't see him again until Friday!

Having never been away from him for more than the odd day, a mild sense of panic has now set in, although I'm quite sure he'll have a marvellous time ;-)

Middle-age parenting angst is upon me :-(

President Obama

US election prediction coming up ... I just know I'll regret this :-(

No sitting on the fence, or predictions of a 'slight' Obama victory - I reckon we'll be waking up on Wednesday to a quite extraordinary result ...

Looking at most of the recent polls, and how they currently translate into votes via the electoral college, I predict that Obama is going to get VERY close to 400 electoral college votes ...

... I think he'll beat Clinton's 379 of the 1996 election, and it will thus be the most convincing Democrat Presidential victory since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Oh, and the turnout will be VERY close to 80%.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Active Sunday

Very busy day up in the Forth Ward this morning/early afternoon ...

... then local Community Centre meeting this afternoon, before finally making it back to the flat.

Looking forward to next weekend ;-)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Shopping mania :-(

Junior is away on his 'P7 school-trip week' from Monday through to Friday next week ... first time in nearly 11-years we'll have been without him, apart from the occasional night :-(

... I only mention this, as we've a cunning plan to completely re-organise and re-decorate his room whilst he's away - so, this evening we all went off to IKEA (not a place I frequent much!) to buy some new furniture. At 6pm on a Saturday night, the place was hopping - and there was me thinking it would be fairly quiet :-((

But, we escaped in one piece, and all is ready for next week's marathon DIY event ... next few days thus shaping up to be as 'relaxed as can-be', especially given my love of all-things DIY which will now be combined with the last few-days running-up to the Forth by-election!

I can hardly wait.