Friday, April 26, 2013

May 2013 Leader's Report


May 2013

A tribute to Tom Buchanan

Like everyone at the Council, I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of one of our most experienced councillors, Councillor Tom Buchanan, last month. Tom brought unstinting energy and enthusiasm to his role as Economic Development Convener, particularly to the Council’s Strategy for Jobs. My thoughts, and the thoughts of all those who worked with him, are with his family and friends at this very difficult time. 

He was incredibly passionate about the health of the economy, especially when it came to creating opportunities for young people, and he will rightly be remembered for it. 

As a lasting memorial of Tom’s work, a scholarship is to be established in his name and I will be reporting the details of this in future issues of my Leader’s Report.


Foster Care

I was recently very moved when I met a group of foster carers who took the time to come to the City Chambers and explain what they do, what some of the challenges are and the huge satisfaction they get from providing a loving home for children who need it. I know it is not for everyone, but I would urge everyone who can to consider becoming a foster carer.

I am also very grateful to Council staff for their commitment in recruiting such a dedicated team of carers for the city.

Property Repairs

Consistent with the pledge in our Contract with the Capital to resolve issues surrounding the Council’s Property Services, two reports commissioned by the Council have now been published.
They make uncomfortable reading in parts but the issues raised in the reports have been addressed and the Council has approved stronger governance arrangements that seek to eliminate the risk of such situations happening again. 

Whilst this is a complex issue and there are ongoing legal implications, it is quite clear that the public has been let down. It is important to say, however, that the overwhelming majority of Council staff are honest and professional and work hard to deliver services for the people of Edinburgh.

I know that Council staff have put a great deal of effort into developing the new service and it is essential that we continue do everything possible to ensure that the public has confidence in the Council whether on property conservation or any other issue.


Tram Update

Following the successful handover of the airport to Gogar section of the tram route in March, the project continues to progress well and remains in line with the revised schedule and budget. 

Contractors have been carrying out overhead cabling work along the route and on-street works in the city centre are moving along well. By the end of summer much of the road and track works will be finished and we now know that all construction works are programmed for completion by the end of the year. Beyond that a rigorous programme of system testing will take place.

See the latest pictures highlighting the progress on the Council website. You can also get regular updates by following @edinburghtrams on Twitter.


Bedroom Tax

A range of Welfare Reform measures has been introduced from April this year and we are particularly concerned about the measures to reduce housing benefits for some tenants of local authorities and housing associations.

The Capital Coalition has forged a “no eviction” policy in response ... (I should add that the local Green Group on the Council have been very helpful/supportive in the formation of this policy position) ...

This will mean that tenants subject to the under-occupancy charge, who build up arrears because the housing benefit no longer covers their rent, are not going to be evicted. They will have to show that they have done all that can be reasonably expected of them to avoid falling into arrears and we will pursue collection of those arrears but we will not evict. If you or somebody you know is affected, there is information on our website or call 0131 469 5000.


Community Planning

As Chair of the Edinburgh Community Planning Partnership I am pleased to report strong progress in our key areas of economic, health, educational, and social issues in the city. 

The Partnership has focused all actions on delivering its vision for the city: “Edinburgh is a thriving, successful and sustainable capital city in which all forms of deprivation and inequality are reduced”. Key examples of partnership action include the Edinburgh Business Gateway Partnership which, through its one to one support services, is making it easier to do business in the city. This support is focused on business growth, access to finance and developing entrepreneurship amongst women and young people, the sharing of facilities to improve the accessibility of services and the launch of a new Entrepreneurial Spark “hatchery

Local IT/training initiatives are helping mitigate issues faced by residents affected by Welfare Reform and we have secured the support of financial institutions in schools to ensure our young people have access to bank accounts. 

The Family Nurse Partnership supports young first-time mothers to develop skills as competent, confident parents, engage in activities to support bonding with their child, delay weaning and become more physically active. 

These are just some of the ways the Edinburgh Partnership is making a real difference to our communities.


National Performance Centre for Sport

I was delighted to hear that the bid submitted by Heriot-Watt University with support from the City of Edinburgh Council has been short listed for stage 2 of the process to become the home of the new National Performance Centre for Sport. The stage 2 submission will have the full support of the Council and we will be working closely with colleagues from the University to ensure we submit the best possible final bid. The deadline for the stage 2 application is 5 July 2013 with an announcement on the preferred bidder scheduled for late summer.


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