Saturday, February 28, 2009

Victory ... at last :-)

Result ... Scotland actually DID beat Italy - and quite comfortably as well :-)

The atmosphere at Murrayfield is always great for the big matches, but games against Italy can sometimes be a bit quieter with a much smaller crowd ... not today: a pretty impressive +51,000 in attendance!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Scotland V Italy

Whole crowd of family members, including some youngsters, invading the Burns household this weekend ... all centred around the imminent thrashing of Italy by Scotland at Rugby :-)

... as the last post (no pun intended) indicated, hope does always spring eternal.

May be a light-blogging weekend, as my Brother is staying the weekend :-((

One more Spring

More on the Craiglockhart Community Council Public Art Commission up on their website - here.

Don't want to give away which one got my first preference - but ...

That said, I do hope the Community Council get plenty of constructive feedback on all three proposals!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

FACT - The SNP in Edinburgh APPROVED the Tram Project Contracts

Sorry to return to this, but I just really dislike complete political untruths ... they do us all down - the complete political class - and then we complain when people won't trust us?

Well, there's another classic being spun about the SNP in Edinburgh's ultimate stance on trams - I blogged about it extensively just yesterday and have just added an 'Update 2' to the bottom of that post.

I'll just repeat it here:



Well, I was right in my prediction above: check the 3rd letter down - here - from today's local paper ...

Very strange that the 1st May 2008 report, which actually APPROVED the final contracts, isn't mentioned in Cllr. Cardownie's second letter - see the relevant report here, and you'll note from the minute of that meeting here that there was NO division at this contract signing stage.

Indeed, if you check out item 12, on pages 12-13 of that minute, I can even confirm that the SNP actually 'moved' paragraph 6 as an 'SNP addendum' (it was moved by Cllr. Buchanan) to the first 5 paragraphs and the whole motion was then APPROVED BY ALL 58 Councillors ... including every one of the 12 SNP Councillors.

SUMMARY - the 12 SNP Councillors in Edinburgh APPROVED the final contracts for the tram project in Edinburgh.

Talk about selective amnesia.


So, as this Post title says:

FACT - The SNP in Edinburgh APPROVED the Tram Project Contracts.

'Working towards' the year 2095

Enough of those trams (I know many of you really do think that!) ...

... in the barrage of mis-truths, I failed to highlight yet another validation that the SNP class-size pledge is completely dead in the water.

I've mentioned the 'failed status' of all the main school-based, education commitments of the SNP on numerous occasions and really there should now be a frank admission to parents that these will never be met without a huge injection of monies?

Not to admit this, just continues a cruel deception that 'working towards' means that it will all be achieved soon - it won't and that is certainly NOT what was said in May 2007.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Re-writing history

Apologies in advance - this is going to be a long post ...

... and as most regular readers will know, I do try and keep my political comment 'Party-general' and not 'politician-specific', but on this occasion I'm suspending that approach for what will hopefully become blatantly obvious reasons.

It's no secret that I'm a supporter of the tram project, have been for a long time, and I continue to back the completion of the current tram works. Yes, I've had significant doubts about the recent political leadership of the project but my basic support for the principal of trams returning to Edinburgh has never wavered.

And thus, although I currently hold no responsibility for the 'delivery' of the project, I do feel compelled to try and expose some truly astonishing mis-truths that have surfaced in the local press today ... and I guess part of my feeling 'so-compelled' is to do with the very same lack of political leadership just mentioned.

My anger stems from the meeting of the Policy and Strategy Committee yesterday, at which there was a 'B' Agenda Item (Private) on the current troubles with the tram works on Princes Street. I'm not going to divulge the detail of the (Private) report that was discussed ... but what I will say is that all Political Parties were present, and although robust questions were asked (from all-sides) there were no moves to call for a re-think on the project's long-term status.

Indeed, we even had the slightly endearing spectacle (I'm being sarcastic!) of the majority Council Coalition partners 'thanking' the junior coalition partners for their constructive attitude to the problems of the previous week.

Then this morning we get this via the Scotsman, and this (see 2nd letter down) via the Evening News.

The article in the Scotsman sees Cllr. Cardownie calling for an update report containing a full audit of the tram scheme and the implications of pulling the plug ... okay, fair enough ... but no mention of this at yesterday's meeting, and one has to wonder just how the Lib-Dems on the Council must be feeling? Especially after heaping praise on the local SNP's constructive attitude just hours before??

But what's much worse is the letter in the Evening News - 2nd one down here - as it's completely and totally factually inaccurate:

  • it mentions a Council meeting of 21st December 2006 when 12 SNP Councillors voted against the signing of the tram contract. THAT'S NOT TRUE.
  • on the 21st December 2006, there was only 1 SNP Councillor in Edinburgh - Cllr. Cardownie - and at the Council Meeting of that date there was no report on the agenda concerning the tram project contract.
  • the report on the agenda was the 'DRAFT Business Case' - you can see it here - and you can see how the vote went here: 57 votes to 1

  • The letter also mentions that the Labour administration of the council at the time refused Cllr. Cardownie's request for a referendum on this issue - AGAIN, NOT TRUE.
  • His amendment made no mention of any referendum - check it out on Page 7 here.
  • Cllr. Cardownie had of course previously been a member of the Labour Group and I can never recall any internal vote were he moved (or even spoke) against the tram project, never mind asking for a referendum?

  • and finally the letter also claims that the only party to oppose the signing of the contract for the tram project was the SNP - even that is NOT STRICTLY TRUE as you'll see below ...

So, by way of further clarification, and in order to complete the sequence of events:

  • the 'FINAL business case' came before the Council on 25th October 2007 - you can see it here - and you can see how the vote went here: 46 votes to 12
  • the actual contract acceptance wasn't approved by the Council until the 20th December 2007 - you can see that report here - and the vote here: 43 votes to 12
  • and the contracts weren't actually signed unitl May 2008 - see here and you'll note from the minute of that meeting here that there was NO division at this contract signing stage.

Now, I can understand why my ex-colleague Cllr Cardownie has rushed to put pen to paper ... Nigel Griffiths has annoyed him. I do understand that.

Yet it's one thing to claim someone is trying to re-write history - quite another to justify that claim by a litany of factual inaccuracies that must surely make even Cllr. Cardownie blush?

And frankly: looking at all the dates above, and remembering the current Lib-Dem/SNP Coalition came into existence in May 2007, you have to wonder how much longer this whole charade will go on.

Never mind the politics - Edinburgh is suffering.



Very strangely - the on-line version of Cllr. Cardownie's letter now refers to a Council Meeting on 28th June 2007? I have a paper copy with the 21st December 2006 date in it and will gladly fax it to anyone! I can only assume someone has hastily asked the Evening News to change the date, claiming a mistake?

Well, it doesn't really make a blind bit of difference to the main thrust of my post above - the minute of the 28th June 2007 meeting is here and you'll see there is still no mention of referendums, contracts or the like.

I confidently predict further attempts to justify the evident litany of untruths in that letter ...


Well, I was right in my prediction above: check the 3rd letter down - here - from today's local paper ...

Very strange that the 1st May 2008 report, which actually APPROVED the final contracts, isn't mentioned in Cllr. Cardownie's second letter - see the relevant report here, and you'll note from the minute of that meeting here that there was NO division at this contract signing stage.

Indeed, if you check out item 12, on pages 12-13 of that minute, I can even confirm that the SNP actually 'moved' paragraph 6 as an 'SNP addendum' (it was moved by Cllr. Buchanan) to the first 5 paragraphs and the whole motion was then APPROVED BY ALL 58 Councillors ... including every one of the 12 SNP Councillors.

SUMMARY - the 12 SNP Councillors in Edinburgh APPROVED the final contracts for the tram project in Edinburgh.

Talk about selective amnesia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Happy Valley' art?

Attended a Craiglockhart Community Council presentation event tonight for a Public Art Commission they are pursuing for the local area ... more details here and here.

Three shortlisted artists presented their proposals and took questions.

I felt that all three proposals were fairly impressive and would add benefit to the local area - will be interesting to see who comes through the consultation period over the coming few weeks?

Committee mourning ahead :-(

Policy and Strategy Committee meeting this morning - all the papers can be found on CPOL ... although, it has to be said, that the agenda is incredibly light once more.

I sense a lot of very difficult issues being put off until the March and April 'Full Council' meetings ...

... and, of course, when those meetings last into the early evening it will all be the fault of the feckless Opposition Groups on the Council and nothing to do with the appalling (Council) business management of the current Administration :-(

Monday, February 23, 2009

Trams on Princes Street

Most enjoyable birthday celebrations over the weekend!

Whilst I was away, the tram project appears to be firmly back on track ...

... really, talk about good timing :-(

Surely Princes Street simply cannot remain closed to all vehicular traffic if this deadlock isn't broken soon?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

30th Birthday

No - not mine ... very unfortunately :-(

It's my niece's "30th Birthday Party" this evening - so off over to sunny North Lanarkshire for a bit of a family celebration ...

... quiet weekend on the blogging-front beckons!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tram troubles

Endless coverage today of the last-minute brinkmanship being deployed by the Tram Project Consortium ...

... if ever there was a time for some really strong leadership on behalf of the Council, then surely it's now?

Instead - follow those three links above - and you'll see more of this, with this proving to be the masterstroke we all thought :-(

The truth will out ...

I've touched on some of this territory before - you know how the current political spin goes; things that are now improving in Edinburgh are absolutely NOTHING to do with who ran the city for the last 23-years from 1984-2007 ... and are ALL to do with who has run the city for the last 18-months.

Its all just sooo.. believable - and is basically taking people for idiots.

Well, bit more of the same in yesterday's local press - based on this report - and there's a handy graphical summary of what's happening here.

Glad to see that at least the Evening News leader writers aren't being duped ;-)

... I suspect most Edinburgh residents are canny enough to know the truth as well.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Say sorry now please?

The Lib-Dem/SNP Administration in Edinburgh have today got absolutely no excuse other than to say sorry (quickly) and re-introduce Biomass Heating Systems to the 5 secondary schools and 2 primary schools which they unnecessarily cancelled over a year ago.

... because, despite today's Press Coverage, the new Scottish Government Guidance is now out and Chapter 11 on "Air quality and biomass" basically repeats what was said in the London Councils report in February of LAST year.

Specifically, it confirms:

11.10 Use of abatement technology can reduce PM10 and PM2.5 emissions and, depending on the nature of the development and the type of boiler and abatement equipment, may help to ensure that there is no significant contribution to overall particles concentrations from a development or group of developments. Most larger new automatic boilers are fitted with some kind of flue gas cleaning device.

Shame on them ...

... go on, admit it was a mistake, reverse your decision and make me eat my words at the end of this recent post??

Roll on the weekend ...

Over in Glasgow for the 'morning/early afternoon' visiting colleagues in the ERS Scotland Office ... then back to Edinburgh for late afternoon catch-up on City Council work ... then our local Constituency Labour Party AGM this evening.

Nice quiet half-term drawing to a close :-(

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prices going up

I mentioned the state of streets in the general Fountainbridge area the other day ...

... and referred to the fact that charges for 'special uplifts' were on the rise once again, as part of the myriad of detail contained within last week's budget.

Well - having now double-checked - the price for a 'special uplift' is actually rising from £20 (first uplift is free) to £23 (first uplift still free) from the 1st April 2009.

That's a 15% increase.

Somewhat above the current rate of inflation :-(

Could there be a cause and affect going on here??

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Merchiston Community Council

Merchiston Community Council meeting this evening - last month's minutes can be found here ...

... and tonight's meeting was dominated by a variety of transport issues (mainly parking!) and a fairly robust debate on the Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulatory framework as 'operated/implemented' by the Council.

Never a dull moment.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dawyck Gardens

Half-term week for my better-half and junior ... so I took one day out of the office today (they'll both be annoying me for the rest of the week unfortunately!) and we all went down to Dawyck Gardens, near Peebles.

Despite the 'quietness' of the season, can't recommend the location highly enough - we'll definitely be returning.

... and the Tim Stead furniture, in both the Visitor Centre and Cafe, was simply stunning.

Back to the grind tomorrow (for some of us) unfortunately :-(

Sunday, February 15, 2009

No frogs here!

Made a very quick visit to the allotment this morning ... not a huge amount we could do, as everything was pretty much frozen solid ... just have a look at that pond!

Did though manage to get a bit of 'painting' completed - just some protective-coating on the wooden shed and wooden framework of the greenhouse.

Certainly no frogs here today ;-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

(lack of) Street cleanliness

I bemoaned the state of the streets around Fountainbridge just a few months ago - see here.

... well, if the evidence from local streets just this weekend is anything to go, things are clearly not improving at all :-(

Just have a glance at these two shots - I, sadly, could have chosen a dozen others to show.

Even more worryingly, the charges for a 'special uplift' for items of this nature were significantly increased (again) in last week's budget.

... subsequently, the situation is likely to get worse not better :-((

It really is time for a complete re-think of this whole policy-area ... the current Lib/Nat Administration, frankly, have made a right mess (sorry) of it.

Not good at all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Time for LVT?

The demise of Local Income Tax (LIT) - 'local' was always a misnomer, as it was essentially a new 'National Tax' - has hopefully opened up the possibility of a bit more lateral-thinking when it comes to manifesto commitments for replacement of the Council Tax in the run-up to the next Holyrood elections in May 2011 ...

... has got me thinking again about Land Value Tax (LVT), which I blogged on some time ago, and which increasingly seems like (at the very least) worthy of serious consideration?

Personally, I've long been a supporter - and I hope the Scottish Parliament might just surprise us all on this eventually ... much like they did with wider 'Land Reform' several years ago.

One can but hope ...

Beware - 'policy being ditched'

Being stuck in the Council Chamber yesterday - for that riveting local budget debate - I completely missed Thursday's FMQ's (sad to bother about these things, I know!) at Holyrood ...

... but, luckily, Magnus Linklater has a rather entertaining sketch of it in today's Times Newspaper - very, very funny :-)

And like all good sketches, funny because it sails very close to the truth of events.

Allotment scandal

Complete indignation is spreading through the Really Bad Blog household ;-)

... remember I mentioned those 30% rises in some school let charges, which were approved by the Lib/Nat Administration yesterday?

Well, I've just spotted that the annual fee for an 'Allotment Rental' has gone up from £48 to £54 - that's a 12.5% increase ... but it gets worse!

The budget papers clearly state this increase will be applicable from 1st April 2009 - yet we received an invoice on the 22nd January 2009 requesting the new rate of £54 for Jan'09-Jan'10, which we promptly paid several weeks ago!

Official enquiries will be called for as soon as I next meet with the Chief Executive - heads will simply have to roll ;-))

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good day to bury bad air?

About 5pm on budget-day and we've just received an electronic briefing note signifying that two more areas of the city are now failing statutory air-quality targets - you can see the information here, although nothing has been Press-Released?

Here's the crucial text:

"Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA)
The ongoing air quality monitoring work undertaken by Services for Communities has identified further locations at Great Junction Street and West Port where there are breaches of the National nitrogen dioxide air quality objectives. In addition, locations within the Central and St Johns Road AQMAs breach the hourly objective as well as the annual objective."

Call me a cynic - but a good day to bury bad air, perhaps?

more on that Budget ...

Well, guess what? ... that damned Lib-Dem/SNP budget got voted through :-(

All the usual political theatre, with the completely predictable vote at the end ... and we politicians all wonder why people are switched off from politics?

Anyhow; huge amount of detail in the confirmed budget - but here's my quick analysis of some of the main differences and some of the problems that will quickly become apparent with what they've passed:
  • both Labour (and Tories interestingly) put the 1.5% cut in School Budgets BACK INTO this year's figures ... some £2.7million would have been returned to schools. The Lib/Nats didn't, and instead allocated a paltry £250K to all of the city's schools - that's not very much for each school :-(
  • in terms of allocation of additional funding to front line services ... here's the running order: Labour £28.1million; Tories £26.9million; Lib/Nats £25.6million. So, again, even the Tories appear to care more for front-line services than the current Administration.
  • very worrying increases in the 'school let' figures - which we rejected in our proposals - with the Lib/Nats raising charges for these rentals very, very significantly. For example, to hire a general games hall goes up from £21.25 to £27.63 - that's a shocking 30% (yes, 30%) increase. In total, this area of income is going up by some £319,000 and I confidently predict real pain for many over this, and I doubt if any of the 29 Lib/Nats even realised they approved it in their budget.
  • another £350,000 taken OUT OF Community Education - that's on top of the £850,000 last year - both cuts we rejected. Again, this will lead to serious service reductions in a whole host of areas and I doubt very much if those in charge politically, realise the full impact of what they've just agreed. I reckon the 'Scouts' and 'Lothian Association of Youth Clubs' can kiss goodbye to their seconded-posts, for example?
  • No new monies for 'supported bus services' - this WILL come back to haunt them I'm sure - whilst we allocated an extra £300,000 to this area.
  • No general uplift for voluntary organisations whatsoever - we did have 'inflation provision' for these organisations in our budget.
  • No additional monies (once again, despite the avowed emphasis on 'doing things locally') for Neighbourhood Partnerships - we had put in an extra £600,000 for this.
  • No extra monies for additional local Police Officers - the Libs had consistently failed to back this initiative when they were in Opposition and continue to show no real support - we had an extra £320,000 for this in our budget, which would have paid for 10 new Police Officers.

Pretty poor emphasis on 'front-line service delivery' really, and some very serious problems will arise out of what's just been approved - much of what's above, I am sure, you will be reading lots more about over coming months ... and not necessarily here on the Really Bad Blog :-(

On top of that - totally puerile comments from both the Convener and Vice-Convener of Finance that they purposefully didn't have any pre-budget communications (or discussions) with Labour, whilst they did have with the Tories and Greens?

Now okay, all is fair in love, war and politics ... but this makes Alex Salmond more consensual than Gordon Mackenzie :-(

... and apart from that, it's not strictly true, as Gordon did speak to us about support for Economic Development - and I have the e-mails to prove it.

All-in-all, pretty shoddy behaviour, backed up by pretty weak support for front-line service delivery.

Another bad day, and poor budget, for Edinburgh :-((

A Labour budget to reverse Lib-Dem/SNP cuts

Promised yesterday to put the full details of our budget up on the blog - so, just before the meeting starts at 10am, here goes (further analysis of the actual meeting will follow later this evening!):


Reversing Lib Dem/SNP education cuts and investing in services for the vulnerable are set to be the focus of the Labour budget presented to the City of Edinburgh Council today

Labour will also ensure that all non-essential roadworks are re-phased for the duration of the current tram works; pavement repairs will be prioritised, and some £8million worth of savings will be used to deliver 2 new 'Care Homes' for the city. And all currently 'supported bus services' across Edinburgh will be protected, alongside significant new investment in bus priority measures.

In addition, vital new support will be provided for 'Economic Development' initiatives to ensure that the city is able to respond pro-actively to the current economic conditions.

Labour Leader Andrew Burns said:

“The Labour budget focuses on education and our services for vulnerable people, two areas which have been badly hit by Lib-Dem/SNP cuts.

“Under Labour 34 city schools were built and refurbished in Edinburgh. We want to put education first once again. That’s why our budget will propose providing more money to headteachers, investing in our school buildings and additional borrowing to take forward the badly needed Wave 3 schools.”

“We also propose to invest an additional £2million revenue funding in home care and respite care services, and re-phase roads funding in order to provide two new care homes. A package which will make a real difference for hundreds of vulnerable people across the city.

“Labour are also determined to look innovatively at how we respond locally to the current economic difficulties. This will include providing more apprenticeships, and working with voluntary and government partners. We’ll also look to invest in affordable housing, by investing £5million in an 'Affordable Housing Fund', helping the economy and providing much needed social housing.”

Labour’s proposals for education seek to make education once again a top priority, and build on the success of the Labour building programme that saw 34 new schools developed in the city.

Labour Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson Cllr Ricky Henderson added:

“The Edinburgh Labour budget will show that reinstatement of the 1.5% cut to devolved school budgets is not only desirable, but it is achievable. Schools have suffered dramatically over the last year dealing with the impact of the Lib Dem/SNP cuts, we want to reverse the damage caused by the Lib Dem/SNP administration.”


Labour will put forward a proposed programme (focusing on six priorities) which will include:

(a) Schools

Increased Devolved School Management (DSM) provision of £2.7m to reverse the budget cut implemented by the Administration in 2008/09; providing new resources as follows:

- £16,000 average increase to each Primary School
- £51,500 average increase to each Secondary School

The creation of a ‘£2million revenue’ schools "Energy and Efficiency Fund" - a bidding fund which will allow schools to keep any subsequent revenue savings.

The establishment a ‘£1.2million capital’ school ‘Refurbishment and Upgrade Fund’, with priority being given to school toilet improvements.

To provide funding to undertake the essential works at Wave3 schools.

The creation of a new (year 1) £12million ‘capital fund’ (which will be in addition to any remaining balance from the existing Wave3 programme) and will allow the design, planning and development stages to commence for James Gillespie’s High School with further funds being prioritised in future years to enable development of the remaining Wave3 Schools.

Charges for school lets are to be frozen, with no annual increase.

Provision has been provided to enable work to progress as scheduled at Prospect Bank Primary School, Royal Mile Primary School, Duncan Place Community Centre and Early Years Centre at Royston / Wardieburn.

And no savings from further school closures have been assumed.

(b) Economic Development

Provision of £1.3million for ‘Economic Development’ to take forward various initiatives to ensure that the city is able to respond pro-actively to the current economic conditions.

The Council will thus take a pro-active approach to leading the Edinburgh economy through the difficulties of the recession. It will take advantage of the national government’s rapid response package with measures such as:

- offering more council apprenticeships to support the increase in apprenticeship opportunities already on offer by the government.
- sharing risk by introducing a deferred payment scheme for developers willing to purchase council land taking repayments as the development raises revenue.
- working with the ‘JobCentres network’ to help every person looking for work, for longer than six months, with advice guidance and job placements and voluntary work opportunities
- creating a ‘Beautiful Edinburgh’ fund to pay for regeneration projects. This fund will make better use of existing and new funds to promote public realm small scale capital projects, lighting and green environmental initiatives.

Additional funding of £5million towards the establishment of an "Affordable Housing Fund’ for the city.

(c) Protecting the Vulnerable

The Labour Group recognises that the demand for services for the elderly and the most vulnerable have risen steeply in recent years, mainly as a result of demographic change. Taking this in to account extra resources are being allocated in the 2009/10 budget for Health and Social Care Department service provision. We welcome the additional funding for Free Personal Care and congratulate the officers in Health and Social Care who put a strong case for this extra funding to the Scottish Government.

Additional funding of over £9.8m is provided to client groups across Health and Social Care including:

- Home Care £3.8m
- School Leavers with Learning Disabilities £1.2m
- Day Care £0.9m
- Blindcraft £0.4m
- Demographic changes £1.2

With an additional £2million towards:

- ‘Home Care’ - to reinstate savings made from reablement back into the budget to increase the number of clients and make changes in the guidance to ensure adequate time is spent with clients. This guidance should also take into account the need for time for food preparation to ensure fresh nutritious meals
- ‘Respite Care’ services
- and the development of accommodation services for ‘Young People with Disabilities’

Provision of £265,000 ‘inflation provision’ to assist the valuable work undertaken by the voluntary sector, equivalent to a 2% rise in grants provision.

Investment of £8m to enable the provision of 2 new ‘Care Homes’.

Investment of an additional revenue sum of £320,000 to go towards the provision of 10 new, local Police Officers.

(d) Transport

Provision of an extra £300,000 to protect and enhance all currently ‘supported bus services’ across Edinburgh.

Investment of ‘£1.5million capital’ in bus-priority measures and enforcement of such.

All non-essential ‘capital’ roadworks to be re-phased for the duration of the current tram works, prioritising pavement repairs to a ratio of 60%/40% - equalling £8 of capital expenditure in 2009-10 on pavements and £5million of capital expenditure on roads.

(e) Local Environment

Provision of an additional £0.6m, to provide £50,000 per annum, of new monies, to each of the local Neighbourhood Partnerships to encourage local people to help decide their own priorities for allocating resources in order to make streets and open spaces cleaner.

Provision of £0.5m to the World Heritage Trust to promote its work in the city.

(f) Culture and Leisure

Investment of £120,000 towards cultural education and outreach work, benefiting organisations such as the Scots Music Group, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera.

To invest ‘£2million capital’ in parks, pitches, pavilions and play areas; including provision of: enhanced play park for Inverleith; development of Warriston Tennis Courts; development of Arboretum Playing Fields; upgrading Dalmeny Street Park and a new play facilities for Liberton Park and Burdiehouse Community Centre.

To invest £300,000 for an ‘all-weather’ pitch at Balerno High School.



Budget Day ...

... well, at least in the City Chambers of Edinburgh Council it is!

Bit nervous actually - first time I'll be supporting a budget as 'Opposition Group Leader', and very keen that our priorities are presented coherently.

All that said, as mentioned last week, there is sadly little doubt about the final result later this afternoon ... more misery for Edinburgh on the way I'm afraid :-(

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Local budget priorities

I'll put the full details of our budget up on the blog tomorrow - but, for now, here are our main local priorities which we'll be trying to promote through our proposals:

  • Schools - protect and enhance devolved school budgets, alongside the creation of a significant Schools' Energy and Efficiency revenue fund

  • Economic Development - make additional investment in ‘economic development activities’ thus providing significant new support to stimulate the Edinburgh economy

  • Protecting the Vulnerable - invest additional monies in ‘Care for the Elderly’ services, setting a budget which meets and protects the needs of vulnerable people

  • Transport - to invest enough revenue to protect all currently ‘supported bus services’ across Edinburgh; and to re-phase all non-essential roadworks for the duration of the current tram works, prioritising pavement repairs

  • Local Environment - to invest significant new monies, across the 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships, to be locally allocated towards improving street, and open space, cleanliness

  • Culture and Leisure - to invest new monies towards cultural education and outreach work, benefiting organisations such as the Scots Music Group, Scottish Ballet and Opera
In essence, the Labour budget will focus on education and services for vulnerable people, two areas which have been badly hit by Lib-Dem/SNP cuts over the last 2-years. We're also determined to look innovatively at how we respond locally to current economic difficulties - a priority for the city, which we feel has been badly led over the last 12-months.

- more to follow tomorrow ...

Common sense prevails

Well done John Swinney - there ... I've said it ;-)

... if only he'd listened to the Really Bad Blog back in July, would have saved nearly eight-months of pointless uncertainty?

Now, if he wants to do something even more positive on the eve of our local budget-setting meeting here in Edinburgh ...

... why not scrap the anti-democratic concordat while he's at it - that really would give Local Authorities across Scotland something to cheer about!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Project Allotment is 1-year old

Anyhow, important as all this political re-shuffling may be ...

... the re-shuffling (or, strictly speaking, I know I should say rotation!) of the vegetable beds down at the allotment is also under active planning now that we've passed the 1st anniversary of our plot and minds are turning to just 'what we plant where' this coming year :-)

After all, even the lowliest of us need an allotment strategy :-))

Re-shuffle mania ...

The Scottish blogosphere appears to be in re-shuffle hyper-drive ... so, thought I should add my tuppence worth ;-)

... personally, in my humble opinion, the whole episode feels a bit botched to me - why sack several Junior Ministers, thus (fairly or not) heaping all the blame on them, yet leave every one of their Senior Cabinet colleagues untouched?

When was the last time you saw a Government re-shuffle wherein ONLY Junior Minsters were moved??

And, is the almost universally accepted failure of SNP Education policy really all the fault of a Junior Minister for Schools? I think not - and I reckon most fair-minded people would probably agree with me.

Frankly, I reckon that a Cabinet Minister was supposed to be moved in today's Scottish Government re-shuffle; in the very words of the First Minister, they were "asked ... to make way to give colleagues an opportunity to show what they can contribute"; unfortunately they point-blank refused to go; and the FM has backed down and limited the subsequent shuffle.

Next meeting of the Scottish Cabinet should have a cracking atmosphere ...

Overwhelming demand ...

That News Release I mentioned the other day is now up on the Council site - here - along with further developments from just yesterday; now also on-line here ...

... rumour has it, that the official web-site for this event is struggling to cope with demand ;-)

Seriously, here is what it says under the "2009 Ride Registration" section (just in case it magically disappears):


All riders are required to pre register in order to participate in the event.

Due to high demand, we are experiencing some technical issues which we hope to have rectified as soon as possible and ask that you visit the site again soon."

The Really Bad Blog has a lot to answer for :-))

Monday, February 09, 2009

Budget week

Budget week for many Local Authorities across Scotland ... we set ours this coming Thursday at the Full Council Meeting, for which all the papers are now available on CPOL - here; and main agenda for the day is here.

Whilst the length of this meeting may be difficult to gauge, the outcome is not ... budget-setting in the City of Edinburgh Council is conducted more like Westminster than Holyrood :-(

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Scotland V Wales

Was lucky enough to get a couple of tickets for the Scotland V Wales match at Murrayfield earlier this afternoon ... not the best of games, it has to be said :-(

Atmosphere, as ever with a Welsh game at Murrayfield, was excellent but nothing seemed capable of lifting the Scots?

... still, managed to suitably drown our sorrows afterwards.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What comes next?

Spent most of today at an 'Edinburgh Labour' education-policy conference ... my colleague, Ewan Aitken, kicked off these events after the last local elections; and I think this may have been the fourth in the last 18-months or so?

... anyhow, a very enjoyable few hours spent debating many aspects of the wider educational debate in Scotland - and although there were a few (well founded) gripes about the disappointment of the SNP Government in this policy area, I was greatly heartened by the general tone which was one of 'moving on' to what we will offer in our next set of manifestos (whether local or national).

Personally, I think that although the above may seem like a minor point - it is actually significant that (at last, in many ways!) the constant 'harking-back' to pre-May 2007 appears to be finally dissipating, and a renewed vigour about what comes next is now dominating internal discussions.

Not before time ...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Returning to our past ...

Proof today that Edinburgh truly is going back in time ...

... I've banged on about this general issue before, and just how the only things that used to encourage me to visit Edinburgh in the 1970's and 1980's were the zoo and the castle and how I seriously worry that the City is actually going back to those days :-(

Well now, to add to the new-zeitgeist of a 'Modern Edinburgh', we not only have:

But also:

  • horses to run up and down the Royal Mile once again

The News Release isn't up on the Council web-site yet, but here's the text:


After a 63 year absence, The Edinburgh Riding of the Marches is to be re-launched on Monday 9th February.

The launch will involve the presentation of a ceremonial City of Edinburgh Banner to the ‘Captain’ rider by the Lord Provost at the Mercat Cross. The Captain will then ride up the High Street towards the Lawnmarket flying the Banner, flanked by his supporting riders (3 horses in total).

The event itself takes place on 6th September when three hundred riders will make their way from Tower Farm stables in Braid Hills, into the city and up the Royal Mile to the Mercat Cross."

Edinburgh truly is returning to its past ...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It's all rather aspirational ...

Anyhow, enough of debates surrounding the veracity of figures ... best quote of today concerned the veracity of election promises ...

... in answer to my colleague Ewan Aitken's question (see here) about a Lib-Dem manifesto commitment on bus fare increases, the Convener of Transport replied that:

"Manifestos are rather aspirational in nature ..."

Really - he did say it!

Now, just have a quick look at page 25 of the manifesto in question, were it clearly says:

"On public transport issues, Liberal Democrats want to ... as the main shareholder of Lothian Buses work with the company to ensure that bus and tram fare increases are no more than the rate of inflation plus 1% and aim for an all low floor bus fleet by 2010."

But it wasn't a promise, just rather aspirational :-(

Actually - you really should quickly read the rest of the document just to see the scale of their aspirations, and then contrast that with reality in Edinburgh after nearly 2-years of their rule ... depressing stuff :-((

You'll need to decide ...

Guess what - the Full Council Meeting finished at 12noon!

... and you'll be shocked to hear that the relevant Administration politician declined to simply apologise for inadvertently misleading the Council (see item 10.6 on the agenda) and instead claimed that everything she said was totally true and funding for schools was better now than in the past few years??

We'll just have to settle for parents, teachers and voters deciding on who is telling the truth about schools spending come May 2012.

Full Council today

Full Council meeting later this morning ...

... as mentioned at the end of last week, it looks like a pretty short agenda and I may even have some time for another blog entry after the meeting?

You can't wait, can you ... I know you're secretly desperate to hear the outcome of the debate on item 10.6 on that agenda :-)

Actually, I predict it will finish between 1pm and 2pm at the latest ... so should be plenty of time to get back to the computer for an update!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Budget setting

Well, we do have a National Budget set before Edinburgh City Council has to agree its own local budget next Thursday!

Lets be thankful for small mercies ;-)

In all seriousness, I've been amazed at the level of detailed dissection of every Holyrood political manoeuvre in the last 7-days ... I mean, its not as if these types of 'budget-bargaining discussions' ever happened under the pre-devolution arrangements, is it??

Really ... was there ever any doubt about this outcome, given the wider economic and political backdrop? And frankly, some genuinely good improvements have been made to the original budgetary proposals, for which all Parties can take some credit.

Shock outcome - devolution to survive.

... for now, at least ;-))

Dundee by-election forthcoming

I see one of my local political colleagues has just resigned up in Dundee ... BBC covers the story here.

Now, I am the eternal optimist but when you look at the details in that Ward from May 2007 - you can see them here - I think its only fair to say that Labour face a difficult challenge on Thursday 12th March :-(

Dundee is actually the only pure Labour/Liberal Coalition Council currently active in Scotland ... lets hope its not about to be the last :-((

Biomass saga continues ...

The use (or not) of biomass as the primary heating system in several of Edinburgh's new schools continues to become ever more byzantine ...

... don't usually copy word-for-word other colleagues' Council Questions into the blog, but one of my Green colleagues has just received the answer below which is worth printing in full:

By Councillor Burgess to be answered by the Convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee at a meeting of the Council on 5 February 2009


Given the recent findings by the Scottish Government on biomass technology, will the Administration now install biomass heating systems in those new schools for which biomass has been put on hold?


The Director of Services for Communities has confirmed that guidance from the Scottish Government is still awaited on the use of biomass boilers and our professional officers are recommending that the precautionary principle should remain in place meantime. The modelling study, published by the Scottish Government in November 2008, which I'm presuming the question refers to, indicated that in urban areas where levels of particulates are already high, the use of biomass may add to these levels.

However, I can give an assurance that consideration will be given to the use of biomass boilers in PPP2 schools, when the Scottish Government guidance to local authorities becomes available and has been properly considered."

Amazing - almost a year to-the-day after this blog entry ... we are absolutely no further forward :-(

I would love to be wrong on this one, but when the Scottish Government guidance comes out (and it will do very soon) and recommends that the air quality impacts of biomass combustion can be controlled and any harmful emissions reduced to acceptable levels, it won't make a blind bit of difference to the new schools in Edinburgh as by that time some of them will actually be open and be heated by traditional methods with the cost of conversion deemed too expensive ...

... anybody want to take a bet on that??

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Praise indeed

Now, I know the Council Press Officers really don't like it when I constantly criticise the epistles they scribe ;-)

... so thought I should warmly welcome one that came out yesterday - full text here.

All joking aside, we (collectively) as Local Authority politicians don't do enough to applaud the very difficult role that so many Social Workers fulfil so excellently ... so, very good to see this News Release yesterday!

Monday, February 02, 2009

No more school funding insanity??

Yet another fairly rapid U-turn on a Council policy proposal appears to be trailed in the local Newspaper this afternoon ...

... I mentioned that this was all likely to flare up back in early December.

Sadly, none of what's reported today alters one jot the damage that has already been done within the city's schools due to the 2008/09 budget set by the current Administration.

That said, well done to the 'Parent Council Network' for spearheading the campaign to get the Libs/Nats to back down on replicating the insanity this year ...

'Atheist Buses' in Edinburgh?

Forwarded by a colleague ...

... this version of the "Atheist Bus", the campaign being run by the British Humanist Association, raised a wry smile ;-)

UK stops moving?

The whole of the UK appears to have ground to a halt this afternoon ...

... I know the weather's not been great, but should it really have caused such chaos: no buses in London; very few tubes; planes cancelled all over the country; East Coast mainline problems; road network blocked all over the country?

Thank goodness for Broadband ;-)