Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Group Meeting with a budget focus

Group Meeting this evening, and we obviously discussed this Thursday's Full Council Papers ...

... but most of the debate was taken up (as planned) in finalising our alternative budget proposals for next Thursday's Budget Council Meeting.

As per previous years, we do intend to publish the final draft of our proposals in the run-up to the debate next week: watch this space.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Forget and smile ...


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

by Christina Rosetti, 1862

Full Council this Thursday

Full Council Meeting this coming Thursday (2nd Feb), with Budget Council Meeting next week (9th Feb) ...

... going to be a very busy couple of weeks :-(

This Thursday's agenda can be found here, with the individual reports accessible via this link.

The Managing Absence a Work report is up - Labour having referred it from last week's Policy and Strategy Committee. I'm still hoping that an outbreak of common-sense might prevail and the report will indeed be continued for another cycle --- it's what we originally asked for (and where refused), but if the local Administration concede that on Thursday it would be very welcome nevertheless.

We've also got a question down about the final costs of the abandoned ABM programme - will be interesting to see the total figure expended on the near 3-year project?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Allotment update!

Well, survived the two Burns Suppers over the weekend ... both were very enjoyable events :-)

Managed a brief visit to the Allotment late this afternoon - fencing project still ongoing, but you can see that half of one side is now down, providing much better views over the adjoining plots.

First weekend in February and the other side is coming down - then the 're-fencing' will commence!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Haggis overload

Third Burns Supper of the season tonight - Scottish Labour Students event at Teviot ... giving the Immortal Memory!

One more to follow, tomorrow evening, at Tynecastle High School, and then that's it --- no more veggie-haggis until 2013.

There's only so much of it one can eat :-(

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Audit Committee

Audit Committee earlier --- main agenda here, and individual reports can be found here ...

... main item of debate and discussion was, unsurprisingly, around the Tram Update Report. All just for noting, with one omission being acknowledged - that being the lack of presence of 'Transport Scotland' at the Committee?

Wouldn't like to be too 'machieavellian' about their absence, but they do now have several staff working on the project (at long last!) and I hope that some of them will attend the next Audit Committee which looks at the projects progress.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scottish Government consultation

Would be trite not to acknowledge the significant events of the day --- following the UK Government's earlier consultation launch (which I mentioned here), the Scottish Government has launched its referendum consultation paper today.

The former has a closing date for submissions of Friday 9th March ...

... the latter, a closing date of Friday 11th May.

I hope both papers receive a significant number of well-considered responses - as what follows next, whatever your constitutional viewpoint, is of huge importance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Managing absence at work?

Policy and Strategy Committee earlier - main agenda here and full set of papers here ...

... item 5 (specific report here) on managing attendance/absence at work resulted in a bit of needless (in my mind, at least) debate :-(

Trade Union-side and Management-side, clearly have a disagreement on the 'trigger points' within the new, propsed procedures ... but it was obvious from the Deputation and ensuing discussion that there isn't a million-miles between them on the main tenets of the proposals.

So --- we suggested a month's continuation to hopefully sort out the differences and ensure workforce buy-in to the changes; but no, because it was a Labour suggestion it was swatted away and we've ended up having to take the issue to February's Full Council in the (further!) hope that some common sense might prevail meantime.

Lets hope so.

Monday, January 23, 2012

100-days to go

A mere 100 days to go :-)

Next, significant (local) campaigning milestone, will be the release of our re-drafted Manifesto - based on the feedback we've had to date ...

... first week in February and it should be good-to-go :-)

Final document to be published in early March after a few more weeks of public consultation.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Edinburgh South West Burns Supper

Edinburgh South West's Annual Burns Supper this evening ...

... another successful event, with excellent speeches from Rachel Reeves MP, Lewis Macdonald MSP and Johann Lamont MSP. And all very ably chaired by Alistair Darling MP and Sarah Boyack MSP.

What a line-up :-)

And, to make the night even more enjoyable, one of my long-suffering sisters won the main raffle prize :-))

Friday, January 20, 2012

Coalition reflections

No - not the UK Coalition, but our own more local variety :-(

Been reflecting a bit on recent events in the Council Chamber (and also those of November) and I'm left wondering if there really is anything of political value, other than the naked retention of power, that the local Lib-Dems are now achieving via their 'so-called' partnership with Edinburgh's SNP Group?

Of course, I'm resigned now to the pairing stumbling through to the 3rd May ... but really, despite good people being present in both Groups, Edinburgh does deserve a better local leadership.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Joint Labour-SNP Amendment, with Green backing

Full Council Meeting later today and it looks like there should be a joint Labour-SNP Amendment, with Green Group backing, to support the in-house option for Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) services --- the text of which should be pretty much along the lines that I outlined a couple of days ago ...

... a majority Council position which,  in essence, is a repeat of last November's meeting (on 'Environmental Services' outsourcing) - and again, Officers, Employees, Trade Unions and Politicians (of all Parties) should simply get on, and deliver on the eventual Council decision.

Time to move on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Policy and Strategy Committee next Tuesday

Policy and Strategy Committee meeting next Tuesday - and the main agenda can now be seen here; with all the individual reports available via CPOL, as usual, here ...

... the reports numbered 7, 8 and 9 are laying the final scene for the upcoming 2012/13 budget-setting meeting on Thursday 9th February; all of which I mentioned earlier.

Item 10, on the developing Commissioning Plan for Treatment and Recovery from alcohol and drug dependency also makes fascinating reading ... large sums of money are spent, by the Council, in this area with potentially very significant impacts on many peoples' lives.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Privatisation proposals

More privatisation proposals coming up for decision at that Special Council Meeting this Thursday ... main agenda can now be found here; and individual reports via here.

Two further elements are being reported: Corporate and Transactional Services (CATS) are being recommended for retention in-house --- we'll support that; and Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) services are being recommended for outsourcing ...

... following our Group Meeting this evening, I can now re-produce our draft Amendment (see below) opposing that outsourcing.

The Labour Group have opposed this whole Alternative Business Model (ABM) work stream since its inception in the February 2009 Administration Budget.

All the evidence, which we have carefully considered - and our Statutory Duty to deliver best value and balance quality with cost - indicates to us that this procurement process should be terminated right now and that these public services should be retained in-house.


City of Edinburgh Council
Labour Amendment

Full Council Meeting
19th January 2012
Item 4.1(a)     Alternative Business Models Review Programme
– Integrated Facilities Management

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.
                                                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 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 Integrated Facilities Management 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 9.1(i) to 9.1(iii) and agrees to proceed as stated above.

Proposed                   __________________________________       

Seconded                 ___________________________________

Monday, January 16, 2012

Budget preparations

Amidst all the Local Elections planning, and endless referendum discussions, normal Council business continues --- with the 2012/13 annual budget for the Local Authority about to be set on Thursday 9th February 2012: only a few weeks away!

Of course, that budget will be inherited by any incoming Administration after the 3rd May Council Elections --- so, the whole process has taken on an added-significance this year.

Our Group has plans well advanced and, as in recent previous years, I will publish the detail of our Opposition Budget as soon as possible --- and certainly before we actually get to the 9th February.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Salsburgh birthday!

Spent most of this afternoon/early evening over in sunny Salsburgh ... whole family gathered for my Dad's 84th Birthday celebrations :-))

Lots of cake; masses of externally-provided catering (huge take-away!); and plenty of robust debate about bicycle helmets and referendum/s ... all in that order of importance, of course ;-)

All very enjoyable!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Labour Group Away Day

Labour Group Away Day (well, afternoon!) at the 'Engine Shed' today --- nearly 4-months since the last one, and a lot of detailed work for the 2012 Elections has been completed in the intervening weeks ...

... of course, all our candidates are selected and our draft manifesto is out for consultation; and focus now shifting to the finalisation of plans for the last few months of the campaign!

Less than 16-weeks to go until the polls open ;-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Westfield Court Nursery to close, shock!

Well, comes as no surprise I'm afraid, but the Council have just announced that Westfield Court Nursery School is to be closed permanently :-(

It was - and those in charge now this fine well - closed for all intent-and-purposes nearly 2-years ago; and then announced as a temporary measure back in October 2010.

As I said back then, I think parents at this Nursery School have been treated disgracefully and someone, somewhere should have had the decency to be honest about the original closure-intentions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finance Committee meeting

Finance Committee meeting next Tuesday - main agenda can now be found here; and individual reports here.

Despite the length of that agenda, there's not really anything of huge contention amongst the papers ... but you never know!

Believe it or not, this is the penultimate Finance Committee Meeting before the Council Elections on 3rd May ... indeed, there is only ONE Transport Committee Meeting left on 21st February before we next go to the polls. I'd expect plenty of 'long agendas' in the coming weeks :-(

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scotland Office (UK Govt.) referendum proposals

Scotland Office has published - just in case you hadn't heard! - its proposals for transferring referendum powers today ... relevant News Release can be found here.

The actual consultation paper - which is relatively brief - can be found here and comments can be submitted up until Friday 9th March 2012 ...

... I'll certainly make a submission in due course, but I suspect the Scottish Government may have alternative plans to be published in the not-too-distant future.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Libraries Consultation

City-wide consultation still currently ongoing in relation to the Capital's Libraries' services ... you can see outline details here and the main Strategy Document here.

The consultation runs through to the end of this month, and I'd strongly encourage Edinburgh residents to make a submission; as without change, these proposals will mean no Edinburgh Library will be open on a Sunday.

I personally think it's a short-sighted set of proposals, which is being driven primarily by finance and not by the quality or standards of service provision.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Decorations down, tree recycled

Slightly belatedly (think the 12th Night was a few days ago!) have now got all the Christmas decorations, cards, tree and assorted ephemera either safely packed away or soon-to-be-recycled ...

... you can put those trees out for collection from 7am tomorrow (Monday 9th) - details here ;-)

Here's hoping they are all actually collected before any high winds pick up again :-(

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Allotment fence renewal

That long-standing allotment fence project has been given a bit of an impetus by the recent weather conditions ...

... large sections of the old fence have now been literally blown down - as you can see :-(

So, manged to remove this whole section earlier this afternoon - recycled what I could and Junior enjoyed a bit of a bonfire getting rid of the rest ;-)

Just the simple task of renewing it all now!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Pet update

Believe it or not, I've had several bits of communication recently asking why the infamous pet menagerie isn't featuring much on the blog these days ...

... errr; just what can I say!

Well, regular readers will remember that a few natural fatalities have taken their toll; and those stick insects are now safely returned to their original school-environment: as you can imagine, I'm gutted :-(

But here's the photographic proof (above) that Smithy (the still, relatively new cat) is alive and well - along with a tank full of fish to keep him occupied ;-)

That classic shark is just to keep the cat out of the tank :-))

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Back on the campaign trail

It might only be the 5th of January, but the campaign trail was well-and-truly reengaged today --- more door-to-door literature delivery early this afternoon, followed by first local campaign-planning meeting of 2012 ...

... there are now, of course, only 118-days to go ;-)

I sense every, single one of them will be somewhat busy!

Tweets on the go ...

Tweeting certainly comes with its dangers for politicians - just ask Diane Abbot about that today :-(

... but, it can also be a great tool for disseminating information quickly and providing a near-live commentary on events as they happen: although, that said, I have received complaints about just how many elected (Labour) Councillors are now tweeting live from the Council Chamber when they should be listening to the ensuing debates? It's a perfectly fair point.

But - a really good example of how twitter can be used in a 'live' situation is surely what the local Edinburgh South West Environmental Wardens are doing this morning ... tweeting live as they do their local rounds!

If interested, you should be able to see some of what unfolded by having a quick look at @southwest_team or #edinwarden on twitter.

I think its just a glimmer of what's possible if technology were to be used to its full advantage in managing localised issues; thus helping such be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

1st weekly surgery of 2012

1st weekly surgery of 2012 this evening - at Fountainbridge Library - and the ongoing bad weather certainly had an impact on attendance :-(

Anyhow, almost back to a normal routine next week (weather permitting, of course) ...

... exception being no surgery on Monday due to schools still being closed; but regular pattern from Tuesday onwards!

Glasgow cleaner than Edinburgh?

Yes - apparently its true and speaks volumes about the current state of Edinburgh's streets ... Evening Times (unsurprisingly!) ran the story last week here ...

... crucial paragraphs are as follow:

"But this year for the first time it
(Glasgow) has scored a cleanliness rating of 70 out of 100 – one ahead of Edinburgh.

For comparison purposes, Glasgow is in the same group as Aberdeen, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

Keep Scotland Beautiful found all nine recorded scores below 75 out of 100 highlighting the problems faced by councils with high population density.

However its findings state: “Since 2003/04, there is clear evidence that the cleanliness standards have improved significantly.

Of the areas included in the Glasgow league table, East Dunbartonshire scored the highest cleanliness rating at 74.

North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire both scored 73, Dundee and Falkirk, 72, Aberdeen and West Dunbartonshire 71 and Edinburgh 69."

Bottom of the urban cleanliness-league for the Capital :-(

Again unsurprisingly, the Council (here in Edinburgh) have produced no Press Release trumpeting this great achievement ... unlike the many that are churned out every time Keep Scotland Beautiful produces any figure that shows the slightest glimmer of progress :-(

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! to one and all ...

... managed to survive the 'in-law' Christmas dinner ;-)

Hope everyone managed to get some rest and relaxation over the holidays.

2012 appears to have got off to a bit of a stormy start - with Edinburgh and Salsburgh (can't remember it ever happening before?) being mentioned in the same paragraph of a BBC News story: click on the attached for the evidence!

Fair bit of damage around the city with lots of trees down - Council's Forestry section may well be able to help (if its required) and can be contacted on 0131 311 7074.