Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Policy and Strategy Meeting today

Well, rather shockingly - the Lib-Dem/SNP Administration basically agreed the broad outline of an amendment that we tabled on the ABM programme at today's meeting ;-)

... a new cross-Party grouping is to be set up (Group Leaders and Group Finance Spokespersons) to oversee the ABM Programme and to ensure that, that grouping has full involvement into the intended report (outlining any next ABM steps) which will be coming back to Full Council on the 16th December 2010.

I still can't get to read that Gateway Review, but at least we will now have some involvement - between now and December at least - into the next phase of the ABM Programme ... maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to influence its direction?

Monday, August 30, 2010

ABM programme - who is in charge?

Alternative Business Models programme is up at Policy and Strategy Committee again tomorrow ... you can see the full report here.

Whole section of the report is on an 'independent' Gateway Review of the programme to date --- unfortunately, despite helpful briefings from Officers, we're not allowed to see the actual review material; and I understand that not even Administration Councillors have seen it?

Totally bizarre - we're heading towards the potential privatisation of a significant number of Council jobs and those politically in-charge haven't even read the full independent review of the programme that is driving us down that route??

Actually - I'll correct that last paragraph: those really in charge have read the documents :-(

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Allotment potatoes

Managed a brief visit to the Allotment early this evening, to pick up some pretty impressive (if I don't mind saying so myself!) potatoes ...

... probably the best crop of tatties (overall, taking the three beds together) we've dug up in the near 3-years we've been lucky enough to have the plot :-)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Campaigning Saturday

Most of this morning/early afternoon spent campaigning across Edinburgh!

... early part of the morning in Ward 9 and later morning/early afternoon in Ward 16 in the final run-up to the by-election on Thursday 9th September.

Looking forward to a bit of respite come October?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Local Transport Forum

Local South West Neighbourhood Transport Forum this afternoon - refreshingly dominated by cycling issues!

... and most of the discussion was of a constructive and positive nature: must have been the impending bank-holiday (for some!) weekend that helped set the right tone :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gathering saga

Good to see that the local paper picked up on the 'Gathering' report, which is going to next week's Policy and Strategy Meeting - main agenda here.

Whilst I am willing to accept the Council Leader didn't actually know about the one-payment that was made by the Local Authority, I do still think that serious questions need to be asked about how the Council got itself so embroiled in the failings of this project ...

... we'll still be sure to pursue certain avenues at next Tuesday's Committee Meeting.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pakistan flood appeal

Edinburgh's Disaster Response Committee decided this afternoon - thanks to an earlier Conservative motion at the August Council Meeting - to review its position on the flood situation in Pakistan and to locally assist a separate appeal which will go towards the provision of clean drinking water ...

... it seemed a very sensible decision to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STOP - no scrutiny here please

Well - at Policy and Strategy (oops! - Finance and Resources) today the 'external consultants' report was approved :-(

... more depressingly was the approval of a the report at item 13, which was - in essence - the agreement that up to £20million (yes TWENTY MILLION POUNDS) could be spent on private contractors to cover for any ongoing refuse collection disruption?

Worse than the simple implications of this, the report was before us under Standing Order 63, which means that the contract had already been signed by the Convener of the Committee without any reference to the political process :-(

Now, I understand that Standing Order 63 sometimes has to be used - but this contract commenced on 19th July, so must have been signed in early July, and there is no reason that I can see why it wasn't brought before some Committee of the Council as the issue first flared up back in April - some 4-months ago?

Just about says all there is to say concerning this Administrations attitude to serious political scrutiny ... they would rather there was none :-((

Monday, August 23, 2010

Age of austerity?

Finance Committee tomorrow ... main agenda here and individual papers can be found via CPOL here.

There's a classic statement contained within report number 22, on the use of external consultants - paragraph 11 simply says:

"The report details consultancy costs in 2009/10. There are no financial implications arising directly from this report."

... yet two paragraphs above there's confirmation that over £5million was spent in 2009/10 on revenue and capital consultancy contracts?

Age of austerity??

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Auchterarder weekend

Up to Auchterarder this afternoon for an overnight stay ...

... as is ever the case, my wayward brother forced me to drink far too much whisky than is helpful for one's good health.

Truly terrible time had by all ;-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ward 16 candidates finalised

Eight candidates now confirmed for the by-election up at Liberton/Gilmerton taking place on the 9th September:
  • BROWN, MEV Independent
  • COOK, BILL Scottish Labour Party Candidate
  • FOX, COLIN Scottish Socialist Party
  • HUNT, PHILIP Pirate Party Scotland
  • KNOX, JOHN CHRISTOPHER Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • LEWIS, RICHARD Scottish National Party (SNP)
  • McCOLL, PETER Scottish Green Party
  • MURRAY, STEPHANIE Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Further details here and here.

Meant to mention that this lampost picture was taken yesterday when we were canvassing in the Ward: I don't think that chap is the Lib-Dem candidate any longer?

One can only hope they have some Knox posters to cover this up soon??

... mind you - not certain even that will help their likely vote ;-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Canvassing, apologies and toads

I knew I'd regret that prediction of a quick meeting :-(

... dragged on until 3.30pm, with several divisions that I didn't foresee. Anyone would think that the Lib-Dem/SNP Administration knew we were all due up at Liberton/
at 3pm?! Anyhow - we did get there for 4pm and Bill Cook still got a very good reception on the doors :-)

Being more charitable to my Lib-Dem colleagues' motives, I'm pleased to report that the Council Leader gave a verbal apology for the way the recent budget-briefing was released to the Press (and everyone else!) prior to the Opposition --- and I'm willing to take that apology at face-value and welcome the fact that she had the good grace to say sorry.

Laugh of the day though came when said Council Leader explained that the stone toad (I'm not kidding!) on the Committee Clerk's desk was a present given to the Capital (by Hull City Council) and that she would try not to look at the Councillor in the Chamber whom it most resembled ...

... as she sat down, I swear I saw her glance at her Deputy Leader ;-))

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A new way of doing the budget?

Just not convinced this was exactly the form of participatory budgeting that I had in mind when I wrote my last post?

... it's not the content of these proposals - because, frankly, we haven't even seen that yet - it's the way it has all been announced, and is now going straight to the September Full Council where scrutiny will be lost in the political theatre of the Council Chamber.

No Committee involvement at all it seems ... unless I'm missing an obvious message here?

Very sadly, I think not :-(

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Full Council week and budget looming

Full Council meeting this coming Thursday - main agenda is here, and the individual papers can be found on CPOL here.

I'll regret saying this, but doesn't look like anything hugely controversial in the 'New Business' section of the agenda so it could be quite a prompt meeting?

Nothing further in the Leaders Report, this month, about the upcoming budget-process ... I welcomed the hint in June's report (see section 2 on page 2 here) that this could all be about to change and hope that we may get a further verbal update on progress ...

... stating the obvious, this upcoming budget is not going to be easy and the more all the political parties can be involved, as well as - crucially - the public, the more chance of some consensus on the big decisions which are undoubtedly going to have to be made.

Monday, August 16, 2010

COOK No.1.

The Liberton/Gilmerton by-election is now featuring on the front page of the Council website ... all the details here!

Less than 4-weeks now until actual voting day on Thursday 9th September - and any Ward 16 blog-readers have until 5pm on Wednesday 25th August to request a postal vote; and 5pm on Wednesday 1st September to request a proxy vote - details here and relevant forms here.

... oh, and Labour's candidate is COOK and a number 1 next to his name would be my choice ;-))


One of my City Council colleagues has just started up a new blog - Ricky Henderson - and all the gory details can be viewed by going here ...

... I've also added a new link to my right-hand side-bar.

Yet another 'Edinburgh Labour' blogger - its just what you've been waiting for :-))

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Restful Sunday ... not :-(

Sunday evening and the bloody hall is completely painted ... twelve and a half litres of silk emulsion for the walls and ceilings; and five litres of gloss for the various doors :-(

... unsurprisingly, I'm not too keen to see another paint brush (or pot of paint) for quite some time now!

It's definitely a case of getting back to work for a rest tomorrow :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Refuse stalemate continues ...

Local paper has picked up on the ballot-result of the ongoing work-to-rule by Council refuse workers - 84% rejection rate :-(

... I remain completely astounded that this dispute has now dragged on for over 14-months --- yes, that's right, one year and two months of working to rule!

I know it takes two to tango; but the fact this whole saga remains unresolved speaks volumes about the current Council Administration's priorities ... and one of them clearly isn't good industrial relations with their workforce :-((

Friday, August 13, 2010

Four weeks to go!

Just four weeks to go now and back on the campaign trail in Liberton/Gimerton this afternoon ... at least the sun was shining for a bit of local leafleting ;-)

Last weekend, this Saturday/Sunday, before Junior starts back at Tynecastle; so no electioneering for the next couple of days - instead, as I'm dutifully committing to some family-time over the weekend, they've lined up the hallway to be painted :-(

Those who have actually seen the size of our hallway (typical Edinburgh tenement flat!) will understand when I reckon that a bit of electioneering might be light-relief by comparison :-((

Oh joy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Local planning bid rejected

Well - excellent news on the Flower Colonies planning application ... it was unanimously refused yesterday!

I've been on the Local Authority for 11-years now and can't remember another case where the application was up for approval by Officers, but subsequently rejected unanimously by Councillors?

Quite an outcome - a real reflection on the impressive campaign that local residents have managed. They should be proud of themselves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Terrible confession ...

I've a terrible confession to make - regular readers will have noticed I've been in London quite a bit in recent weeks for endless ERS meetings etc. - and I was down again today.

Well, I've finally had to make one-leg of the journey by plane :-(

My first flight since way back in December 2006 :-((

I do take my carbon reduction actions pretty seriously - trying very hard to take a lead in living my own life aligned to what I believe and not falling foul to the "do as I say, not as I do" trap ...

... so, somewhat galling to have to take a flight - I'll just need to make sure the next one is at least another three-and-a-half years away!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Flower Colonies planning application

The Flower Colonies planning application that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is up for final determination at the relevant Council Committee tomorrow ...

... final meeting with some of the local residents this evening.

My Ward colleague, Gordon Buchan, is speaking tomorrow - I've got to be in London unfortunately - but I'm increasingly confident this scheme will be rejected by the Committee.

Here's hoping.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Paul Godzik for Edinburgh Southern

Another one of my local Edinburgh Labour Group colleagues (Paul Godzik) was selected to stand in the Edinburgh Southern Holyrood seat tonight ...

... he'll be an excellent candidate, and if the current Lib-Dem MSP isn't worried; he should be ;-)

Actually - with Pentlands being contested by two of my other colleagues (Ricky Henderson and Eric Milligan) and Ewan Aitken being candidate in Eastern and Lesley Hinds the candidate in Western; it makes a quarter of the Group standing for Holyrood next year!

I've taken a bit of ribbing about them all seeking to bail-out of the Edinburgh Labour Group ... actually, I see it in a rather different way: I've positively encouraged them all to stand, they're all good local politicians and would be an asset to the Holyrood Labour Group. I'm delighted that so many local Edinburgh Labour politicians are being selected to potentially represent the city in the Scottish Parliament.

And why wouldn't I want to have four city MSPs who had previously been Councillors in Edinburgh and had the best interests of our Capital City at heart?

Bit of a no-brainer really.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Aberdeen this weekend

Weekend spent up in Aberdeen, visiting a friend we hadn't seen for quite some time ...

... very relaxed, and enjoyable, couple of days.

And not a single Labour Party leaflet in sight ;-))

Friday, August 06, 2010

Non-stop electioneering ...

Out on the doors with Sarah Boyack again this afternoon ...

... Sarah receiving a really positive reception wherever we go; and at this rate she will have spoken to most of the constituency by early May next year ;-)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

By-election in 5-weeks!

Liberton/Gilmerton by-election now just 5-weeks away ...

... Edinburgh Labour's candidate, Bill Cook, is putting up a great campaign and is receiving a really positive response on the doorsteps.

Taking nothing for granted though, and we'll be working hard right through to 10pm on Thursday 9th September ...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

London today ...

Down in London today for an ERS Officer Group Meeting ...

... planning and preparation for the 5th May referendum is now progressing apace ;-)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Policy and Strategy Committee

Policy and Strategy Committee Meeting earlier today - main agenda can be found here; and all the individual papers are available via CPOL as usual ...

... all scintillating stuff.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Junior started a week-long canoe club this afternoon - up on the local Canal ...

... needless to say, a great time was had by all: despite several short, unplanned swimming sessions :-))