Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Open and shut case?

Given the problems during the last cold-snap, I'm not at all surprised to have been bombarded, from the Council, with a wide variety of electronic communications about the weather (here's the view from my back window!) over the last couple of days.

Indeed, the Council's 'emergency blog' is in full swing - as you can see here - boldly confirming that everything is under control and that only "Brunstane Primary School will be closed today".

Rather confusingly, all elected Members have been sent a separate 'Severe Weather Update' which states that "No schools have closed due to the weather".

One has to hope any contingency plans to deploy required staff over the 'Easter-weekend holiday period' are somewhat more organised??

Hallway cleared!

Well, haven't managed to shift as many newspapers as we'd hoped - given the wonderful Scottish Spring weather!

But a truly huge number of letters have been duly stuffed and dispatched for delivery :-)

I can now actually see the floorboards in my hallway for the first time in several weeks ...

... sadly, I know only too well that it won't last :-(

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Campaigning overdrive

Bit of a localised campaigning overdrive for the next couple of days as we try and clear one series of leaflets and letters ...

... only, of course, to make way for the next series of incoming deliveries!

My hallway simply has to be cleared of some of the many piles of newspapers before April Fools Day and the imminent processing of the next round of mail ;-)

... actually, quite surprised it wasn't just all blamed on the trams?

Standing up for Edinburgh

So many reductions in local services, that Edinburgh Council is even being featured as a (bad) case-study on YouTube now :-(

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ask the Chancellors?

Channel 4 had the first of the key election debates tonight - most important one of course, not that I'm biased ;-)

... so rather than pontificate too much, I'll just provide a few links to some of tonight's coverage of the ensuing debate:
  • Channel 4
  • BBC
  • Guardian
    • Personally, I'm doubtful if tonight's debate will significantly change voting intentions - we're sure to find out in the next few days though, as the daily polls continue to churn out!

      ... with most currently still indicating hung-Parliament territory?

      Sunday, March 28, 2010

      Potatoes planted!

      A week or two earlier than last year - but not that many spare hours in the upcoming weeks! - so managed a few hours down at the allotment this afternoon and got a total of 12-rows of potatoes planted out ...

      ... a full two-and-a-half beds of tatties - and with this now being the third year of planting, hoping for an expert, bumper crop!

      Truly depressing

      You really should have a look at this post; from the relatively new 'guardianlocal' Edinburgh blog ...

      ... I find the map within that post, which basically correlates many recent front line service closures with the areas of most deprivation in Edinburgh, truly depressing.

      What a shocking indictment of the current SNP/Lib-Dem Council and the choices it is making :-(

      Saturday, March 27, 2010

      Scottish Labour conference

      Over in Glasgow today for the Scottish Labour conference - a host of excellent speeches and debates, but Gordon Brown certainly stole the show with a very assured performance ... I only hope he keeps the passion, and the general tone, that I heard today going right through the next few weeks!

      And, of course, Alistair was as steady and confident as ever - maybe someone had told him about yesterday's ComRes poll?

      For an election that's going to be fought on economic issues, the figures below have to be good news for Labour - if they can be maintained for the weeks ahead:

      Q.1 Putting your party allegiance aside, who do you trust most to steer Britain's economy through the current downturn?

      Gordon Brown & Alistair Darling 33%
      David Cameron & George Osborne 27%
      Nick Clegg & Vince Cable 13%
      Don't know 27%

      Q.2 Putting your party allegiance aside, do you think this budget will be...

      Good for Britain 18%
      Bad for Britain 12%
      Will make no difference 59%
      Don't know 11%

      Friday, March 26, 2010

      Campaigning day

      What else can I say - as if Alistair Darling's face wasn't in the press and on the TV enough, I have to look at it on thousands of leaflets as they are enthusiastically delivered to numerous doors in Edinburgh South West :-)

      The joys of election-campaigns!

      Thursday, March 25, 2010

      Canal path improvements


      The canal tow path that I use on my daily cycle to work is now hard-surfaced all the way to the Leamington lift-bridge ...

      ... what a difference it makes ;-)

      Wednesday, March 24, 2010


      Spent a few hours earlier this morning visiting a couple of Council/NHS facilities for those trying to combat alcohol and drug addiction - more details of the services on offer here and here ...

      ... two things really struck me about the morning - firstly, the staff involved are clearly completely dedicated to the difficult job they undertake and I left with nothing but admiration for their patience, calmness and professionalism.

      Secondly, and rather worryingly, after nearly 11-years as a Councillor I simply did not know that so few 'actual places' of this type were funded/offered by either the Council or the Health Service :-(

      Definitely an area where improvements are required - but thankfully not in the quality of staff currently assisting those with fairly severe support-needs.

      Keep calm and carry on

      Budget Day at Westminster ... of course, I'm openly biased, but really - would George Osborne have enacted half (if any?) of these measures today?

      I think most folk know the answer to that question - and I continue to trust they'll factor in the answer to how they vote in a few weeks time.

      Because we've still had no word whatsoever on how much Osborne would cut from spending in 2010/11?

      No word on how quickly he would halve the deficit?

      And no word on how much he would reduce the structural deficit by?

      All those questions were answered in the budget that Alistair Darling released today - the details are all here.

      Quite a contrast - bit like the calm, assured performance of the Chancellor when compared to the antics of the leader of the Opposition when replying to the budget speech. Antics that are simply not paying off in the polls - with The Sun tomorrow showing the Tory lead down to just 2-points.

      Maybe voters are really starting to think of the alternative to Alistair Darling as Chancellor ...

      ... and they know its George Osborne running the country's finances.

      It is a sobering thought.

      Tuesday, March 23, 2010

      SNP car park?

      Now, the only car you can see in this picture - of the City Chambers quadrangle - may well be that of the Lord Provost ...

      ... but I'm heartily sick of parking my bike (on the railings within the quadrangle) only to see three SNP Councillors cars in a constant state of immobility within the square :-(

      Rumour has it that an SNP Group decision has designated the quadrangle as an Nationalist car park - given the evidence of the last few months, its a rumour I could just about believe!

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      A record to be proud of?

      Another new hotel for Edinburgh, according to today's local paper - you can see it all here ..

      ... mind you, when you read it you realise the story is just what's been fed by certain local politicians and there's nothing really concrete (sorry!) behind it.

      Reminded me of one light-hearted (though serious) moment at the recent March Council Meeting when one of the SNP Councillors was quite unbelievably questioning the record of previous Labour-run Administrations; yet when challenged to list the capital programmes that her own SNP/Lib-Dem Administration had been responsible for in her right-of-reply, she failed to name a single one ...

      ... this was despite obvious, frantic activity on the SNP benches as everyone tried to think of something they had actually been responsible for building - I heard the Skatepark mentioned but sadly its not quite finished yet - and said right-of-reply just ignored the challenge.

      What the Nationalists didn't hear was one of my colleagues trying to tell them they had actually been responsible for building something - Colinton Toilets - but tragically, they didn't hear him over the noise of certain Labour Councillors who quite clearly didn't believe one block of toilets, after three years, was a record to be proud of ;-)

      Seven-star luxury hotel? - well, I'll believe that when I see it.

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      Unique amongst men

      I caught, totally by chance, the BBC1 screening tonight of the Eddie Izzard round-Britain marathon challenge (its currently on iPlayer if you're interested) ... he ran 43 marathons in 51 days (over 1,100 miles) all round Britain, and the documentary about his experiences was just totally inspiring.

      Now, believe it or not, many (and I do mean many!) years ago I ran 5 marathons in 1 year and found that challenging enough, so what Eddie Izzard completed last year - all in aid of Sport Relief - really did seem just incredible to me and I ended up in total awe at what he'd achieved by the end of the programme.

      He quite simply displayed the most absolutely amazing strength of character. Unique amongst men, indeed ...

      Friday, March 19, 2010


      Off to London tonight (by train, of course) - for an ERS Council Meeting tomorrow ...

      ... didn't prevent several hours of leafleting this afternoon, mind you :-(

      Blogging may now be light for the rest of the weekend though - normal service to resume by Monday latest!

      Thursday, March 18, 2010

      P&S Committee - will anyone be left?

      Policy and Strategy (P&S) Committee meeting next Tuesday (23rd March) - main agenda can be found here; and individual reports via CPOL here.

      You'll notice from that main agenda, that most of the reports have already been trailed via the local press and/or mentioned on this blog ... but nevertheless, some interesting (for once!) topics are up for discussion.

      One report I haven't mentioned yet, relates to the impending retirement of three of the Council's Senior Management Team - all the details are here ... well over 100-years of experience going in the space of a few months: I reckon it will inevitably create a bit of a void.

      Mind you, it's not just:
      • the Chief Executive
      • the Director of Finance
      • & the Director of Corporate Services

      - who are leaving ... the following senior managers have also left in the last couple of years:

      • a Director of City Development
      • a Director of Children and Families
      • the Council Secretary
      • a Chief Executive of TIE
      • a Chief Executive of Lothian Buses
      • the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Leisure
      • & TWO Chief Executives of EDI

      I think I should just leave others to draw their own conclusions about such a rapid exodus of senior management, in such a comparatively short space of time?

      Wednesday, March 17, 2010

      21% collapse in satisfaction rates

      I'll bet you remember those Council satisfaction rates from last year - you don't, well here's a little reminder:

      "satisfaction rates with the Council have dropped by nearly 20% in just 2-years; and dissatisfaction rates have gone up by over 15%"

      Well, today we got this year's figures and we now have a discernible pattern - check out table 7a on Page 5 of Appendix 1 here - summary lines at the bottom show that:
      • satisfaction rates with the Council have gone down by 21% since Spring 2007 (56 to 35)
      • dissatisfaction rates with the Council have gone up by 16% since Spring 2007 (21 to 37)

      Yes - you've got it - satisfaction rates with the way the Council is managing Edinburgh have completely collapsed from 56% in the spring of 2007 to 35% last autumn 2009.

      Frankly, these statistics are a terrible indictment of the discredited Lib-Dem/SNP Coalition currently in charge of the Capital City of Scotland.

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      Down the drain ...

      Whether you accept the total figure as £5.4million, or the adjusted figure of £3.1million, there's no denying that's a lot of revenue funding that could have been spent elsewhere ...

      ... it's frankly pretty poor to claim that the Department in question absorbed the cost and still returned a balanced budget - any idiot can work out that if the strike had been avoided there would be somewhere between £3.1 to £5.4million surplus that could have been spent on other services.

      It's money (revenue monies, not capital monies) down the drain, that could have funded many, many services within the city ...

      ... all the posturing in the world can't hide that fact.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      Jet-setting Council?

      I know I've said it already ...

      ... but really - the current Council Leadership need to get a grip on this sort of expenditure, as every single element of such spending is going to be magnified ten-fold over the coming months as numerous cuts and closures come to reality :-(

      Some clear instructions are urgently required!

      Sunday, March 14, 2010

      Cramond foreshore

      A very pleasant Mothers Day spent down at the Cramond foreshore, with the compulsory visit made to the Cramond Inn for some light refreshments ...

      ... nice break from the ongoing election-mania ;-)

      Thursday, March 11, 2010

      Three men and a ferret?

      The focus at Full Council earlier may well (and quite correctly) have been the 'Grant Aid to Third Parties' report ...

      ... but a story in the local paper, about three men and a ferret, did distract from the proceedings somewhat :-(

      Of course, it was all a throwaway comment, not intended to cause any trouble ...

      Full Council today

      Full Council meeting today - main agenda can be found here; and individual papers via CPOL here ...

      ... the main focus of the day is undoubtedly going to be the 'Grant Aid to Third Parties' report - which is here.

      It's not just the headline figure of £1million being removed from the voluntary sector - no one seems to have picked up on the wider ramifications ... check out paragraph 2.2 on page 1 here:

      "Financially, the leverage of other funds achieved by the grant aided projects was over £9 for each £1 of Council grant."

      You can thus multiply that £1million cut by NINE if you want to find the real cost of what's about to be pushed through by the SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition later today :-(

      Wednesday, March 10, 2010

      Portobello High School

      Nearly four-years on and the rebuilding of a new Portobello High School is still generating plenty of debate and, sadly, still not one single brick laid ...

      ... report on progress (such as it is) up for debate/decision at tomorrow's Full Council Meeting - it can be found here.

      What a tragic contrast.

      Tuesday, March 09, 2010

      Cutting their cloth?

      Two days before over £1million is cut from the voluntary sector, we now get a proposal to spend over £10,000 on a boating holiday in America ...

      ... makes the earlier trip to St. Andrews seem like a sensible decision :-(

      I can well imagine that several groups - who are facing significant financial cuts on Thursday - are far from pleased about all of this.

      Not good.

      Monday, March 08, 2010

      Hutchison and Chesser Community Council

      Hutchison and Chesser Community Council meeting this evening - lots of interest in the potential plans for the development of the old B&Q site off of Inglis Green Road ...

      ... I suspect the proposals for a larger retail facility could very well divide opinion locally - especially after the earlier refusal to allow B&Q to expand eventually led them to move out to Hermiston Gait :-(

      Sunday, March 07, 2010

      New planting started

      Started some new planting at the allotment this afternoon - ground seems just about okay now? ... famous last words!

      Broad beans this weekend, and potatoes now 'chitted' so they'll hopefully be planted up next weekend.

      And we finally pulled up the remainder of the leeks and cooked them all as part of our meal this evening - totally delicious ;-)

      Saturday, March 06, 2010

      Alice in Wonderland

      In between the never-ending campaigning, managed to fit in a brief visit to the cinema this afternoon (with Junior) to see the new Alice in Wonderland film ... very good - and the 3D effects are really excellent!

      Friday, March 05, 2010

      Grant reductions of "over £1million" confirmed :-(

      Confirmation today that over £1million has been removed from Council grant-giving ...

      ... the 'positive' spin being put on the whole sorry-saga is that funding has been preserved at 95% of last year’s level - maybe so, but this hides some painful truths:
      • check out paragraph 2.2 (on page 1) of the main report here
      • this confirms that total grant-funding for 2010/11 is some £20.6million
      • 100 divided by 95, times £20.6million = £21.68million
      • £21.68million minus £20.6million = an overall reduction of £1.08million

      ... and most inconvenient of all:


      • Council revenue funding UP by 1.76% (circa £14million)
      • Council grant-giving DOWN by 5% (circa £1million)

      Yet more proof that this SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition know the cost of everything but the true value of nothing.

      COSLA Convention meeting

      Briefly up in sunny St. Andrews this morning for the COSLA Convention meeting ...

      ... scintillating stuff, I can tell you :-(

      Thursday, March 04, 2010

      Grant reductions imminent

      Full Council meeting next Thursday (11th March), so papers for the meeting will be in the public domain tomorrow (on CPOL) ...

      ... worth repeating that no organisations have yet been told, for definite, what's happening to their funding allocations - I'm sure there will be a furious round of formal notifications tomorrow morning prior to the spun-details appearing in the local paper around lunchtime Friday.

      There will, however, be no hiding the fact that a huge amount of money was taken out of the grant-allocation pot by the SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition on 11th February - and that reduction will mean real pain (if not closure) for numerous organisations come the 11th March meeting.

      More on this to follow - sadly.

      Watson Crescent Day Care Centre

      Local MP, Alistair Darling, and I managed to fit in a visit to the fairly new Day Care Centre, located in the Watson Crescent area of the Ward, a few days ago ... just got this picture sent to me!

      Both of us were really very impressed with the services on offer.

      Excellent example of purpose built facilities providing an even higher quality day care offer than was previously available.

      Very good to see much earlier decisions of the local Council coming to fruition ;-)

      Too late ...

      Bit of a justified stooshie in yesterday's local paper about some Council staff staying in an expensive hotel prior to an Awards Ceremony ... full story can be found here.

      Well, I've noticed these pearls of wisdom were produced in response ...

      ... frankly, it's too late to "seriously consider not attending events like this" - there should already be in place (I doubt if there is, even yet?) a clear political instruction to the Chief Executive that all such spending is barred-forthwith.

      Given the Lib-Dem/SNP Council is reducing funding across a huge range of services (despite getting a 1.76% increase in its own funding) then any profligacy, anywhere in the Council, is bound to be pounced on by the press.

      Too late to complain now - and richly ironic to imply it's all the fault of Senior Officers taking decisions without reference to politicians ... Officers who are acting as if they run the Council!

      I don't even think Councillor Dawe realises the truth that she speaks :-(

      Wednesday, March 03, 2010

      Michael Foot 1913-2010

      I couldn't vote in the 1979 General Election - too young, believe it or not! - but did vote in my first General Election in 1983 ...

      ... John Smith was the Labour Party candidate (and MP) in my home constituency at the time, and Michael Foot was obviously Labour Party Leader.

      Seems like a different lifetime now, yet it's less than 30-years ago ... I wasn't politically active at the time, but knew instinctively that both those men were politicians of true principle.

      Where that there were more of them around in politics today.

      Tuesday, March 02, 2010

      Fruitmarket developments?

      The long-standing vacant land at the old ASDA/Fruitmarket site may just be about to get moving - although I'll believe it when I actually see it!

      ... a Council report was before the Housing Committee this morning - all the relevant details can be found here.

      I'd really welcome this proposal going ahead, as the site has been empty now for many, many years and is a constant source of numerous local complaints.

      Would indeed be good to see it sympathetically developed!

      Monday, March 01, 2010

      Ashcroft monies in Edinburgh

      The whole Ashcroft funding saga has mainly been a story of national significance - BBC coverage from this evening can be found here ...

      ... but it is worth having a look at the Electoral Commission's web-site here; select Conservative Party in the first drop-down menu; then enter Edinburgh Pentlands in the second box; then simply press search.

      Result - over £14,000 donated to Edinburgh Pentlands Conservatives from "Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd." (a long-standing Ashcroft company!) during the 2005 General Election period.

      This is somewhat contradictory to the assertion contained in a recent letter that a Tory MSP wrote to his local newspaper:

      "The Scottish Conservative party raises all its finance within Scotland and does not benefit from any financial support from Lord Ashcroft."

      Well, that's just not true is it?

      And one can't help wonder how many other Ashcroft-donations have now been made in Edinburgh?