Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time to change course

Been reflecting on yesterday's Autumn Statement and today's Pensions March ... and the more I think on it all, the more I'm convinced it really could be a very significant turning-point.

The first UK General Election I could vote in, was the 1983 poll and I remember only too well the sense of  complete disunity on the left at the time and the worryingly low levels of overall public support for Labour's message --- and indeed, it took another 14 long years for that to be reversed ...

... politically, it feels (thank goodness, from my perspective) absolutely nothing like 1983 today. I sense, despite all the recent electoral difficulties, a unity in the sheer simmering anger at what's happening to ordinary working families across the UK.

Have a look at this Institute for Fiscal Studies (the IFS is not an organisation known for its left-wing tendencies!) analysis of the Autumn Statement from earlier today - take a close look at slide 10 in particular ...

... and ask yourself why virtually 10,000 people in each of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee marched today?

And if you can persist with this slightly academic piece, please do so  --- read through its analysis (follow some of the links even); and read through to its eventual conclusions ...

... Labour needs to seize the moment, just be somewhat bolder, because for me at least it's now blatantly obvious that it really is time for the UK to change course.

I suspect literally millions of ordinary working people would welcome it, because they now know that the alternative are years (if not a decade) of complete stagnation for which the lowest paid, will pay the most ... and that's just not right :-(

Pensions March in Edinburgh today

A picture often says more than words can ... this is Edinburgh earlier today.

My better-half is a teacher and is down there somewhere alongside what many consider was a 10,000-strong protest.

I looked after Junior (and several of his friends!) during the day and was astounded at the reports on the scale of the marches in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and elsewhere across Scotland and the whole of the UK ...

... I really hope those who should be listening, are doing so.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Craiglockhart Community Council

Craiglockhart Community Council meeting this evening ...

... presentation on transport and road safety issues was the main topic of the night, but was also very good to formally meet Gordon Buchan's successor (as candidate, if not yet Councillor!) - Will Searle - who is the new Tory candidate for the Fountainbridge/Criaglockhart Ward.

I suspect I may be seeing just a little bit more of him over the coming 22 weeks ;-)

Autumn Statement

Endless coverage of the Autumn Statement today - one, lesser reported aspect was the (what I think will be?) significant impact on the Liberal-Democrats in the 2015 UK General Election ...

... the BBC picked up on it a bit, but in essence, the Lib-Dems are now essentially bound to the current coalition fiscal arrangements across both sides of the next General Election.

Of course, a weeks a long time in politics, but at the moment they seem ever more enthralled to current Conservative economic plans - not for just this year, or next, but for the next 5-years ... up to and beyond not just the next UK General Election but also beyond the Scottish Referendum and the next Scottish General Election in 2016.

It really could be the 1930's all over again - politically as well as economically - for them?

Olympic tickets success :-)

Not sure I've mentioned it before now, but we've already got our main, family summer-holiday arranged for London next year ... to coincide with the Olympics of course ;-)

And earlier this year, I was fortunate to get some tickets (Hockey) via the main on-line lottery; and today was again lucky enough to get 2 more sets (football) via the on-line bidding process --- including 3 tickets for the Women's football final :-)

Hoping for a few more in the early part of next year, when the final remainder go on sale (via on-line bidding again, I guess), and really looking forward to being in London next summer!

Monday, November 28, 2011

ELREC Election Manifesto Meeting

ELREC (Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council) organised an Election Manifesto Meeting this evening and invited all the Council Group Leaders along ...

... very good opportunity to listen and was pleased to be able to do so, as well as be able to underline that our own draft manifesto is out for consultation right now.

Enjoyable evening - made all the better by the provision of good food ;-)

Green Investment Bank for Edinburgh?

Meant to flag this up at the end of last week - such a rare event these days to agree with every word of a Council Press Release! ...

... but very good indeed to see strong, joint Edinburgh-Glasgow support for the Green Investment Bank being located here in the Capital: all the details here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Busy week ahead!

More - many more! - envelopes stuffed today ...

... huge thanks to all those who gave up a large part of their Sunday to help out: it was greatly appreciated ;-)

I know I shouldn't say it, but if I see that 'Moving Edinburgh Forward' slogan just once more :-(

Back to the City Chambers tomorrow ... wall-to-wall meetings all day long, which at least means no more envelope stuffing for 24-hours ;-)

Very busy week ahead actually!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Envelope-mania is here

It is - after all - only "22-weeks to go" from this coming Thursday ;-)

... so 'mass envelope-mania' has started to infect my hallway once more!

Indeed, I don't think there's been more than a few weeks in the last 3-years when my hallway hasn't had some form of campaigning material festooning it :-(

Ah well - no elections in 2013, so maybe I'll get a few weeks respite then ... unless that referendum is called during those 12-months?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Another quiz victory :-)

Latest-leg of the Gavin Strang Quiz trophy tonight (been three previous ones, as regular readers will know) - and, guess what happened tonight ...

... yes; "Edinburgh South West" were once more victorious :-)

That's 3 out of 4 wins ... one more constituency-contest in Edinburgh East, and then its the 'Grand Final' ...

... as you can see, the South West team is eager-and-ready for the remaining challenges :-))

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Environmental Services element of ABM to be kept in-house

Council Meeting now over and can confirm that the Environmental Services element of the ABM-programme is to be kept in-house - 31 votes to 25.

Credit to the local SNP, and also Councillor Gary Peacock (Lib-Dem) for ultimately backing the in-house bid.

A clear Council-majority ... Officers, Employees, Trade Unions and Politicians (of all Parties) now need to get on, and deliver the Council decision.

One moment of light-relief came during Leaders' Question Time when 2 SNP Councillors quoted directly from our 'Moving Edinburgh Forward' document ... criticising us for sending it to Members of Community Councils and for discussing it openly at public, budget meetings?

Outrageous behaviour from Edinburgh Labour - and I really must apologise ... but, just for a moment there, I clearly thought we lived in a free and open society where the discussion of ideas was to be welcomed ;-)

Joint Labour-SNP Amendment (with Green backing)

Looks like the in-house option will get majority support today ... delighted to report that Labour and the local SNP have now agreed a Joint-Amendment, and that the Greens intend to back it.

That is a majority Council position :-)

Credit to the local SNP for getting behind this.


City of Edinburgh Council
Joint Labour/SNP Amendment

Full Council Meeting
24th November 2011

Item 8.1 Alternative Business Models Review Programme
– Environment Workstream

1. Council notes that the Alternative Business Models Review Programme would be concluded by a decision of Council and that this was commonly known by, and made clear to, all Parties involved in the process.

2. Council, having taken into account inter-alia the following …

i. The statutory duty to deliver Best Value, namely the duty to ensure the continuous improvement of services. Specifically Council notes the duty to strike an appropriate balance between quality and cost while having due regard for efficiency, effectiveness, economy, equality, human rights and sustainability including social and economic sustainability as well as environmental protection, including concerns regarding co-mingling.
ii. The statutory duty to have due regard for Scottish Government guidance and protocols including Best Value Guidance, Section 52 Guidance, the National Standards on Community Engagement and the “Public Private Partnerships in Scotland – protocol and guidance concerning employment issues”.
iii. The now acknowledged, significant workforce reduction under this element of the ABM programme with public sector jobs being lost to the City of Edinburgh and the resulting adverse economic consequences for the city.
iv. The risk to local services, and local accountability, being too great and the estimated level of savings being unlikely to outweigh the dis-benefits of this element of the ABM programme.
v. The information that was made available in the “data room” coupled with detailed analysis of some of the said information.

… all leads Council to agree that the procurement process is terminated without award of a contract.

3. Council further notes that an internal improvement plan has been developed which has the potential to deliver significant improvements and savings to in-house service delivery and:

i. resolves to apply the terms of the Environmental Services internal improvement plan and instructs the Chief Executive Officer to take appropriate steps to secure its implementation.
ii. agrees that regular reports on the progress of the internal improvement plan shall be made to the Finance & Resources Committee and/or Council and that Committee should bring any matters of concern regarding its progress to the attention of the Council in order that it can determine any course of action it deems necessary.

4. Council therefore rejects recommendations 23 a) to e) and agrees to proceed as stated above.

Proposed __________________________________ Councillor Andrew Burns

Seconded __________________________________ Councillor Steve Cardownie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"In-house Option" ballot results

Big decision on the Environmental Services strand of the ABM-programme tomorrow ... as regular readers will be aware, our preferred option is to keep these specific public services in-house.

And following on from the recent constructive response, received from the Trade Unions, in relation to the proposed Public Sector Comparator (PSC) [in-house] option, the relevant workforce members were formally balloted on their intentions.

Results, as received tonight, are very positive:
  • 70% response rate
  • with 94% of those voting in support of the PSC changes

If the Council now backs the PSC option tomorrow, then management AND Trade Unions will have an obligation to get the in-house implementation right.

With a bit of good-will on all sides, I'm confident it can be done.

Hutchison Road application approved

The mixed-use Hutchison Road application, which I mentioned earlier this morning, has just been approved (on a division) at Planning Committee.

As I said, its a vacant and derelict site - and has been so for nearly a decade - and now has permission for 100+ residential units (c40% of which will be Affordable Housing) plus a supermarket (potentially Morrisons?).

On balance, I do think it was the right decision.

Hutchison Road planning application

Significant planning application, for the Local Ward, up for decision later this morning ...

... relates to the 'old' ASDA site on Hutchison Road, which has been vacant (and derelict) for nearly a decade now; since the Superstore relocated across the road to Chesser Avenue.

I'm not usually one who is a natural supporter of supermarket developments, but later today I will be speaking in favour of the proposal for this site - a mixed use of residential development and a medium-sized supermarket (pre-let to Morrisons).

Frankly, several previous applications (and plans) for 100% residential development on the site have got nowhere and given the current economic climate I fail to see how 100% residential is going to be viable for some considerable time to come :-(

So, on balance, and to see a site no more than 2-miles from Princes Street developed, I think what's on offer is acceptable ... the Officers disagree and have the application up for refusal. Not a popular recommendation with the local community, who have generated a near-500 signature petition in favour of the current application!

I'll post again later, once the result of the Planning Committee meeting becomes clear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Group Meeting this evening ...

In preparation for Thursday's Council Meeting, had our usual monthly, Group Meeting this evening ...

... main item of debate was, unsurprisingly, the ABM-report which was delayed last month. You can see the position we took last month, here. And if you go here, you can see all my blog-posts mentioning ABM.

I'd hope you'll see a consistency of approach from those posts - and the many links therein. In essence, going right back to the local Budget in February 2009, we've been clear and consistent in our opposition towards the privatisation of front-line Council services.

We've also tried hard, especially in recent months given the potential gravity of these decisions, to publish our Amendments a couple of days prior to the relevant Council Meeting --- and I'll re-produce our provisional position for Thursday below ...

... would be good to see the other Political Groups do likewise?


City of Edinburgh Council
Labour Amendment

Full Council Meeting
24th November 2011

Item 8.1 Alternative Business Models Review Programme
– Environment Workstream

1. Council notes that of all the manifestos presented to the people of Edinburgh in the Council elections of 2007 only one specifically advocated the privatisation of Council services.

2. Council regrets that greater public consultation was not carried out on this issue and believes that entering into the proposed contract a mere six months before local government elections is anti democratic.

3. Council also notes, with serious concern, the now acknowledged, significant workforce reduction under this element of the ABM programme with public sector jobs being lost to the city.

4. Council considers that the risk to local services, and local accountability, are too great and the estimated level of savings are unlikely to outweigh the dis-benefits of this element of the ABM programme.

5. Council therefore simply notes recommendations 23a) through to 23d) but does not agree to them.

6. Council further notes recommendation 23e).

7. Council finally notes that the Public Sector Comparator has been developed which has the potential to deliver significant improvements and savings to in-house service delivery.

8. Council thus agrees to focus attention and resources on the further development of the in-house Public Sector Comparator element (of the ABM programme) towards a conclusion and to implement this when fully finalised.

Proposed __________________________________

Seconded __________________________________

Monday, November 21, 2011

Full Council week

Full Council Meeting this week - on Thursday ... main agenda can be found here, with all the individual reports available via CPOL here.

Apart from item 8.1 on the Alternative Business Models programme (report here), there's not much else of huge controversy - amongst the main reports!

There are several interesting Motions, on the main agenda, and I suspect they'll take up a fair bit of debating time ... anybody would think there was an election imminent :-(

Sunday, November 20, 2011

sunny Salsburgh, fog and leaflets

Over to sunny Salsburgh today to visit my parents ... weather was really quite pleasant when we left Edinburgh, only to be confronted by a wall of fog and mist as we approached the highest point in Central Scotland :-(

But, despite the outward gloom, a pleasant afternoon was had by all.

Back in Edinburgh and leaflet distribution continues apace ... less than 24-weeks to go now ;-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Consultation event

Thoroughly enjoyable consultation event on our Moving Edinburgh Forward document earlier today ...

... some excellent input, especially via the workshops, and plenty of food-for-thought as we move towards re-drafting our proposals early next year.

Many, many thanks to those who gave up most of their Saturday to attend :-)

We'll keep the website updated as the document develops!

Friday, November 18, 2011

COSLA, meetings, the weekend!

COSLA Leaders pre-meeting this morning ... not as heated as a couple of months ago, but still a myriad of unanswered questions about the draft Local Government settlement.

I suspect final answers just won't be forthcoming until the Government's final announcement in early December :-(

Series of other meetings this afternoon in the City Chambers and managed to escape at a reasonable hour - need this evening to get properly prepared for tomorrow's Edinburgh Labour, consultation event!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Youth Unemployment over +1million

Acres of coverage on the truly depressing youth unemployment figures out yesterday :-(

Over +1million,16-24 year olds were jobless in the last quarter. Whatever your politics, it's a human tragedy that surely needs much more urgent attention.

Larry Elliott was scathing in today's print-Guardian ...

... his analysis won't cheer you up, especially if you're aged 16-24 :-(

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leadership choices ...

With the recent rule-changes to the Scottish Labour Party elections, there's now the unbridled joy of local Councillors being able to submit supporting-nominations for the 'Leader/Deputy Leader' candidates ...

... the deadline was 12noon earlier today, and I've thought long-and-hard about whether to submit such supporting-nominations and decided to do so.

My backing - for what its worth! - has gone to:
  • Johann Lamont MSP for Leader
  • Lewis Macdonald MSP for Deputy Leader
I should explain, briefly, my rationale for these choices.

For the 'Leader-candidate', on balance, I believe that Johann Lamont will be the more politically effective as an Opposition Group Leader. I supported her back in August 2008 when she was elected as our previous Deputy Leader, and I'm just not convinced that either Ken Macintosh nor Tom Harris will cope with the huge difficulties that will undoubtedly face the new Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. The challenge is frankly immense - and I reckon Johann will cope with that. I also happen to like what she is saying on the campaign trail.

For the 'Deputy Leader-candidate', the choice was actually much more straightforward for me as I know Lewis quite well - having worked with him during my Transport-days when he was a Transport Minister at the Scottish Executive. I like Lewis - in my view, he held Ministerial Office competently. I also happen to think its important one of the Leadership roles is occupied by someone from outside of Scotland's Central Belt - as an Aberdeen politician, Lewis fits that bill.

The other candidates have their qualities, and Ken Macintosh/Anas Sarwar will certainly get my second preferences, but my first-choice for 'Leader/Deputy Leader' will be Johann and Lewis, for the reasons briefly explained above.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Living Wage for council workers

Now I know you will have noticed (!) that our recently-launched consultation document had a commitment to introduce a Living Wage for council workers thus ensuring that all employees are paid a fair wage ...

... well, earlier today, I was thus more-than-happy to sign up to the Edinburgh University Labour Students 'Living Wage' campaign.

I'm pictured here with Stephen Donnelly, Secretary of Edinburgh University Labour Students who later commented:

"I'm delighted that the Labour Group have backed a Living Wage for council workers. The individuals working tirelessly for our city deserve the dignity of a decent wage, and with the announcement that Glasgow City Council is to pay its staff a Living Wage, it's time Edinburgh followed suit. Edinburgh Labour Students have made this their priority for the year, and won't rest until poverty pay is stamped out in our city"

Hear, hear!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Budget preparations begin!

Well, back in sunny-Edinburgh, having survived the weekend: just! Good time had by all, but am suffering from a slight lack of sleep today :-(

Anyhow, onwards ...

... and, believe it or not, serious discussions now commenced (senior Officer meeting/s today) on our 'Opposition Budget' for 2012/13 - it will, after all, be set on Thursday 9th February which is a mere 12-weeks away!

Challenging times ahead for sure.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Off to North Yorkshire!

Mad rush to get down to North Yorkshire this evening :-(

Regular readers will remember that a group of our friends celebrated 25-years of 'gatherings' back in May ...

... well, such a good time was had by all (dodgy jumpers and Chilean spirits included!) that there was an overwhelming demand for a repeat event this Autumn :-)

So, off down to the very same bunk-barn for a bit of rest-and-recuperation over the weekend.

SWNP Transport Sub-Committee meeting

South West Neighbourhood Partnership (SWNP) Transport Sub-Committee this afternoon ...

... 2 good presentations from Officers (on Road Safety and Trams) with lots of debate ensuing afterwards ;-)

Also considerable debate around the 'missing' surface, pedestrian-crossing on Calder Road - which was to be part-funded from a local development (that has indeed happened) but a claimed funding-gap now appears to be preventing any progress at all?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ABM/Privatisation 'Public Debate'

Attended the hastily organised so-called 'Public Debate' on the ABM/Privatisation proposals this evening ...

... despite a very healthy turnout - I'd say around 100 people - there were still a dozen or so empty seats and plenty of people outside who would (I'm sure!) have liked to attended.

Some local reporting of the event can be found over at STV-Edinburgh, and I reckon none of the politicians present could have left thinking there was much support for this process to be taken any further forward.

Its just a tragedy that more effort, time and (frankly) money hasn't been spent on the in-house bids ... as I'm increasingly convinced that will be what's supported at the Full Council Meeting on the 24th November.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tollcross Community Council

Tollcross Community Council meeting this evening - haven't managed to make it along for the last few months, so good to be able to get there tonight ...

... main agenda can be found here, with the previous minutes here.

Most debate did centre around the presentation on the 'Tollcross Improvement Plan', with entirely understandable frustration at the lack of any implementation of the main tenets of the proposals.

I'm certain these issues will feature strongly in many local debates over coming months.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Policy and Strategy Committee

Policy and Strategy Committee this morning - you can see the main agenda here, and all the individual reports on CPOL here ...

... the meeting, as you'll likely guess from that agenda, was extremely brief and the only report to even generate a modicum of serious debate was the one on the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) project.

Sadly, the report - in essence - highlights yet more delays in this project and the whole thing has the air of so much else about the Council at the moment: indecision, delay and drift :-(

Monday, November 07, 2011

Live blogging?

Spent a couple of hours this morning taking part in an Edinburgh Reporter live blog!

You can still see the subsequent debate here ... but I should warn you, there are some truly worrying mug-shots contained within that link ;-)

Good range of questions - and was pleased to see much of the focus on the ideas within the consultation document we launched last Thursday.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Politics, Pentlands and fireworks ...

Excellent, if not depressing, analysis of the current state-of-politics by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer this morning ...

... tried to cheer myself up with a bit of walking in the Pentlands this afternoon, with the completely co-incidental visit to the nearby pub at the end of a truly strenuous hike ;-)

Even managed to fit in a family fireworks display this evening, at which the entertainment thankfully lasted more than 50-seconds :-(

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Here we go again ...

Here we go again ...

... I mentioned when we launched the Moving Edinburgh Forward document, last week, that we had 150,000 pieces of literature being delivered across the city: well, my own local Ward delivery started today!

As friends and colleagues know, I do rather like elections ... but it really does feel like we've been involved in full-on campaigning now since September 2009 and the start of the UK General Election campaign; swiftly followed by the Holyrood campaign; now even more swiftly followed by the Local Council campaign!

And colleagues wonder why I'm obsessed about counting-down the days :-))

Friday, November 04, 2011

Telfer Subway CCTV-petition

Spent a bit of time this afternoon with Sarah Boyack MSP, and Councillor Donald Wilson, gathering signatures on a petition (online version now here) arguing for the installation of CCTV at the Telfer Subway ...

... Sarah has been campaigning on this issue for many, many months now, and recent events have really highlighted the need for some action.

I'm not someone who instantly believes that CCTV will solve all-ills, but its quite clear that there is a very specific problem along this location - and, at the moment, the Police need to depend on CCTV from surrounding shops, which don't adequately cover the sight-line of the actual subway.

There really is a need here for a dedicated camera monitoring the pathway --- and I hope the petition will help to finally make the case.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Local Branch Meeting this evening

Very well attended local Branch Meeting this evening ...

... with lively discussion, centred around a host of local issues, followed by a good debate on the Consultation Document we launched earlier today.

Been a very positive day, all round ...

... and everyone I've met and spoken to in the last 24-hours (and that's a lot of people!) is completely focused on keeping it that way for the next 181-days.

Great :-)

Consultation document launched

The Moving Edinburgh Forward consultation document was successfully launched this morning ... just for all you real political anoraks out there, here are my speech notes from the event ...

"I’m sure the observant amongst you will have registered the fact that today marks six-months to go until polling day, next year on Thursday 3rd May 2012.

Now, many of my colleagues think I’m somewhat obsessed with the countdown to the next local government elections – and I have to admit that they are basically correct.

That 6-months translates to 26 weeks or, to be more precise, 181 days, 20 hours and 30 minutes until the polls open at 7am on Thursday 3rd May 2012.

It cannot come soon enough for us.

We’re determined to use every one of those 181 days to work tirelessly to bring real and lasting change to Edinburgh’s City Chambers.

And whilst I really don’t want to dwell on the negative this morning, I think it has to mentioned that not only I, not only Edinburgh Labour, but many, many individuals and organisations right across Edinburgh think our City Council has failed in the last 5-years, and our city – our home – has stalled.

Ultimately, Edinburgh voters will be the final judge on that – but for this morning, I want to primarily focus on what Edinburgh Labour is offering as a vision for a better Edinburgh.

And over the summer months – since the Scottish Elections back in May – we have worked very, very hard to ensure we’ve arrived at this position, here today, a full 6-months out from our own local elections: we have all 23 of our candidates selected and in place to fight every one of Edinburgh’s 17 multi-member wards.

I do believe we are the first local authority political group in Scotland to have reached this position – and I certainly have no recollection, in the 20-years of my political activism, of candidates being in place so early.

It is a statement of our intent, and of our seriousness to move Edinburgh forward, at the next Local Elections.

As well as many of the candidates being here today, we are also launching a new website, Twitter feed, Facebook page and a whole series of candidate blogs – all of which can be accessed from

We have our first piece of city-wide literature being delivered to 150,000 households right now.

And we are actively telephoning and door-to-door canvassing in a major drive to engage with Edinburgh voters, to talk to them about our ideas to take Edinburgh forward.

And that does bring me to the key document on your chairs this morning – the ‘Moving Edinburgh Forward’ consultation document and accompanying Co-operative Council article.

I and my colleagues are utterly convinced that politics-as-usual is simply not an option and we’re taking a bold step today in throwing open to public dialogue our ideas and vision for moving Edinburgh forward, some 6-months before the election. I think it’s a completely unprecedented move.

And we will listen to all the feedback we receive over the coming months, and our eventual manifesto will reflect the dialogue we’re about to have ... Lesley, as our Transport Spokesperson, will specifically ensure that relevant transport groups, professional bodies and individuals are consulted in detail; Paul as our Education Spokesperson will do likewise for Education groups, professional bodies and individuals; Maureen as our Social Work Spokesperson likewise ... and so on.

I’ll highlight some of our ideas, all underpinned by the principle of developing a Co-operative Council – a Council that does things with its communities, rather than doing things to its communities.

So, to that end:

  • We’ll investigate and promote the development of a city-wide child care co-operative to help parent’s access affordable childcare.
  • We’ll aim to expand housing co-operatives as a way of expanding affordable housing and providing tenants with a bigger say in their community.
  • We’ll help households generate green electricity by promoting energy co-ops like the Edinburgh Community Energy Co-op – and we’ll make sure Council property is also used to generate green electricity as well
These are just three co-operative ideas – there are many more in the detail of the document.

We also plan to radically shake up how we engage with communities more generally:
  • We’ll establish a proper Budget Committee to ensure we have an open and transparent budget process, where everyone has the right to be heard.
  • We’ll discuss the role of Parent Councils and how they interface with the main Education Committee.
  • We’ll introduce a new ‘petitions committee’ which will allow citizens to highlight their priorities.
Again, these are just three new ideas – there are many more in the detail of the document.

The consultation document also has a host of innovative ideas concerning the local economy:
  • From developing and promoting apprenticeships, to ensuring that such apprenticeships are a key component in Council contracts.
  • From developing and promoting local suppliers, again directly assisting them through the imaginative and consistent use of local supplies for as many Council services as feasible.
  • From working closely with house-builders, ensuring high quality and fast delivery to market, in return for the development of ‘first-time purchase’ properties.
Again, just three ideas – there are many more in the detail of the document.

We will also press the Scottish Government to let Edinburgh keep a bigger share of our local businesses rates. We’ll lobby for fairer funding for Edinburgh housing and other needs. And we’ll spend our time doing what the city needs, not chasing centrally-set Government targets.

And if Edinburgh Labour is the largest party on the Council next year, we will get the city moving forward again and actively involve every party in Council decisions. We’ll make officials accountable to the city’s needs, not to rules made to suit them or the Government.

We will stop the tick-box target culture and focus on what people really want, empowering frontline staff to have a say in budget decisions, squeezing value from every penny.

Above all, we will not shrink from real city leadership.


  • Our candidates are selected and in place.
  • We are actively campaigning and engaging right across the city, right now.
  • Our vision and ideas for moving Edinburgh forward are now in the public domain.
  • We will undertake a significant exercise in facilitating dialogue on these ideas, and we will listen to - and act on - all the feedback we receive.
  • We are ready, if trust is placed in us, to play our part in moving Edinburgh forward."

6-months to go ...

The countdown has begun :-)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Moving Edinburgh Forward

Just a few hours until we launch our Consultation Document outlining our vision and ideas for Moving Edinburgh Forward ...

 ... all the details can now be found on our revamped website, with a new twitter and facebook account to follow as well ;-)

But, more important than all the new-media stuff, is the fact that from tomorrow we'll be working flat-out to have a constructive dialogue with as many individuals and groups as possible about their thoughts on our ideas.

And, in due course, that will all feed into the final production of our local manifesto for next year's elections.

Finance Committee yesterday ...

Finance Committee meeting yesterday morning - main agenda here; and all the papers can be found via CPOL here ...

... one report of interest was item 14 on the "Strategic Spending Review 2012/13-2014/15", the detailed text of which you can find here.

Well worth looking at Appendix 1 of that report - landscape page, right at the end - which basically confirms that Council Officers are having to adjust their Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) to acknowledge the fact that the Council Tax Freeze is part of the grant-allocation this year, and is not being provided as truly 'additional monies' (as per the previous 4-years).

The line entitled, "Change in estimated level of Government Grant funding ..." makes the point.

Fairly surprising that more press attention (applies to the whole of Scotland) hasn't picked up on this?

The team to move Edinburgh forward ...

I've had quite a few requests to list all of the Edinburgh Labour candidates who are now formally selected - as I mentioned a couple of days ago.

So here goes ...

... the full list of Edinburgh Labour candidates standing for the 3rd May 2012 Local Government elections (in numerical Ward-order) is:

Ward 1 - Almond Ward: Billy Fitzpatrick

Ward 2 - Pentland Hills Ward: Ricky Henderson

Ward 3 - Drum Brae/Gyle Ward: Karen Keil

Ward 4 - Forth Ward: Cammy Day and Vicki Redpath

Ward 5 - Inverleith Ward: Lesley Hinds

Ward 6 - Corstorphine/Murrayfield Ward: Tom McInally

Ward 7 - Sighthill/Gorgie Ward: Eric Milligan and Donald Wilson

Ward 8 - Colinton/Fairmilehead Ward: Eric Barry

Ward 9 - Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Ward: Andrew Burns

Ward 10 - Meadows/Morningside Ward: Paul Godzik

Ward 11 - City Centre Ward: Karen Doran

Ward 12 - Leith Walk Ward: Angela Blacklock and Nick Gardner

Ward 13 - Leith Ward: Gordon Munro

Ward 14 - Craigentinny/Duddingston Ward: Joan Griffiths and Alex Lunn

Ward 15 - Southside/Newington Ward: Ian Perry

Ward 16 - Liberton/Gilmerton Ward: Bill Cook and Norma Hart

Ward 17 - Portobello/Craigmillar Ward: Maureen Child and David Walker
More details about each over the coming days and weeks ...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Co-operative Council?

Local newspaper have covered our arguments for moving Edinburgh towards being a Co-operative Council in the last couple of days: yesterday in a news-piece here, and today in an opinion-piece (from myself) here.

For ease of reference, I'll repeat the text of the opinion-piece below ...

The future of local services should be more Co-operative

Edinburgh is a mere six months away from the next local government elections, which take place on Thursday, May 3.

On that day, every voting resident of Edinburgh will have their chance to pass judgement on the previous five years of the current SNP/Lib Dem coalition that has run Edinburgh City Council.

I’ll leave that judgement for residents to make in due course, but here I want to outline some of the thoughts that Edinburgh Labour has for moving our city forward.

There is no doubt that the next few years will be exceptionally tough for local government, yet looking towards the local elections I and my Edinburgh Labour colleagues are determined to engage with residents on the kind of council they want to see. Unlike the Lib Dems and SNP, who pushed ahead with the Alternative Business Model scheme, we want to have a full and proper consultation. So on Thursday, we’ll launch a public consultation document on our ideas.

Central to our vision for moving Edinburgh forward, Edinburgh Labour wants to work towards being a co-operative council.

I do recognise that day-to-day challenges will remain, whether they are debates on how we actually deliver public services or on the completion of major infrastructure projects. But striving towards being a co-operative council could radically alter the way we – citizens and politicians – approach how we deal with, and solve, the challenges which will continue to face our city.

At their best public services have a fundamentally positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities. High-quality and responsive public services can improve the quality of a person’s everyday life, empower communities and maximise life chances. However, the public sector can only continue to make this positive difference if it responds to two major challenges we now face.

The first challenge relates to the type of relationship we need to create between citizens and public services. Increasingly communities and the state are recognising that the public sector cannot “do it all” and that citizens need to be part of the solution to the challenges our increasingly complex and diverse communities face. Underpinned by co-operative values we want to forge a new relationship locally between public services and citizens. This new relationship will enhance the way in which public services are provided and will ensure that they are increasingly designed around the needs of our citizens.

The second challenge is how we can deliver services which meet local need in a period of tighter funding. The recent severe recession has opened up a huge hole in the nation’s finances. Councils will be expected to do more with less. However, we recognise that it is all too easy to get distracted by meeting savings targets and balancing the books without thinking of the wider social costs. In Edinburgh we are committed to ensuring that any decisions we take around financial savings must be guided by a clear set of principles and values. I want to outline some of that thinking here, but space constraints do mean I can only scratch the surface of our proposals. Much more detail will be contained in the document we launch on Thursday.

However, we all know that too often this council says “consultation” when it’s just not listening, and its members already have their mind made up. It is time to work alongside local communities – they usually know best. So we’ll find a genuine way to collaborate with communities, giving local people more control of the services they use, and the places where they live, by putting council resources in their hands. A new “petitions committee” will also allow citizens to highlight their priorities, with the city budget set transparently.

Secondly, we’ll press the Scottish Government to let Edinburgh keep a bigger share of our local businesses rates. We’ll lobby for fairer funding for Edinburgh housing and other needs. And we’ll spend our time doing what the city needs, not chasing centrally-set government targets.

Thirdly, if Edinburgh Labour is the largest party on the council next year, we will get the city moving forward again and involving every party in council decisions, and ensuring positions on powerful scrutiny committees are allocated properly, with members of the public invited to attend. We’ll make officials accountable to the city’s needs, not to rules made to suit them or the government.

And fourthly, we’ll insist on breaking down barriers and bureaucracy because the resulting slowness exasperates individuals and businesses alike. We will stop the tick-box target culture and focus on what people really want, empowering front-line staff to have a say in budget decisions, squeezing value from every penny. Above all, we’ll not shrink from real city leadership.

This idea of a co-operative council draws inspiration from the values of fairness, accountability and responsibility that have driven progressive politics in this country for centuries. It is about putting the resources of the state at the disposal of citizens so they can take control of the services they receive and the places where they live.

In key policy areas such as childcare, energy and housing, we’ve seen co-operative and mutual solutions work elsewhere, and we believe they can work here too. Yet, the co-operative council is also not just about changing the council, it is about building more co-operative communities and realising that, for too long, the council has stood in the way rather than supported this development. A co-operative council seeks to do things with its community rather than do things to the community.

I hope, as a first step, residents will look at our detailed document when it’s launched on Thursday. We will listen to all the feedback received and ensure that our local manifesto for next year’s elections reflects the discussion we have over the coming months.