Thursday, October 31, 2013

Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

November's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee coming up on Tuesday 5th ...

... all the papers are now published: main Agenda can be found here; and the individual reports are all up on Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) linked from here.

Quite a few substantive issues being decided - not least of which, the update of the 'Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)' Policy, which you can access in full here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

More democracy here please!

I've got a short, reflective article on democracy, the referendum, and what's really important --- for me, anyhow! ---over on the relatively new 'The 2016 Wish Tree' website ...

... most of it won't be new to regular readers of this blog, but thought I'd flag it up, and post the text below:

More democracy here please!

Whatever result arises from the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, my one-big-wish for the period following the next Holyrood elections, in May 2016, would be exactly the same …

… I would wish to wake up on Friday 6th May 2016 in the midst of a much more deliberative democracy than the one in which I live in at the moment.

And by deliberative democracy, I basically mean that decisions should be arrived at by more than the simple aggregation of preferences that occur when we vote. Before final decisions on public services are made, there should be much more direct-deliberation, by the very citizens who are the recipients of those same public services.

And frankly, I don’t believe a specific yes or no result, in the September 2014 referendum, is more or less likely to ensure such an outcome.

I say that as someone who has now been an elected Councillor for over a decade, and latterly having been Council Leader in Scotland’s Capital City for over a year now.

But I’m no careerist politician and did not get involved in frontline politics until I was in my late thirties, having spent well over a decade before that being very directly involved in a whole host of civic campaign groups and organisations.

So – rather sadly – I have thought about these issues over several decades now, from both inside and outside the mainstream political arena, and remain wholly convinced that a more deliberative democracy is primarily about political culture and not political structure.

I guess I first became involved in the wider, democratic reform movement back in late-1990 when I joined Charter88 (as it was then) when I lived and worked in Stoke-on-Trent, and shortly thereafter attended the Charter88 Manchester Convention in November 1991. It was a complete turning-point in my political awareness and a period of a few months for which I will be forever grateful. If anyone involved in organising that Convention is listening – you changed my political life.

Shortly after, during late 1991/early 1992 I think it was, I joined the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), and in 1993 I moved back to Scotland (Edinburgh to be precise) and went completely native within the devolution-movement and the imminent 1997 referendum campaign, eventually being elected as a Local Government Councillor in Edinburgh for the first time in 1999.

Back then, in the early 1990’s, it is true that the political structures of the wider United Kingdom were very, very different from today – here’s what didn’t exist back then:

• A Scottish Parliament
• The use of proportional representation (AMS) to elect that Scottish Parliament
• A Welsh Assembly
• The use of proportional representation (AMS) to elect that Welsh Assembly
• A Northern Ireland Assembly
• The use of proportional representation (STV) to elect that Northern Ireland Assembly
• A Greater London Authority (GLA)
• The use of proportional representation (MMP) to elect that Greater London Authority
• The use of proportional representation (Regional List System) to elect the European Parliament
• A House of Lords free from hereditary peers
• The Freedom of Information Act (England and Wales)
• The Freedom of Information Act (Scotland)
• The incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into British Law
• The use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect Scottish Local Government
• I’m one of 1,222 Councillors in Scotland now elected by STV :-)

It’s not a bad list of achievements within a 20-year timeframe … and we all too readily forget it.
And these hard won reforms are not enough for me, and come 2031, I’d like to see the list above added to by the following:

• The implementation of fixed term Parliaments at Westminster
• The use of proportional representation to elect English Local Government
• The use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect the House of Lords
• and yes, the use of proportional representation to elect the House of Commons
• Votes for those of 16-years of age, for all levels of Government
• The formation of Regional Assemblies in England
• All as part of a federal-settlement for the United Kingdom
• All contained within a Written Constitution

Do I really think these things can be achieved in the next 20-years?

Yes I do. The evidence of the previous two decades proves that these seismic constitutional changes can be won, with hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn lessons and keep going in the hardest of moments.

I do thus remain an old-fashioned UK-(con)federalist, and will vote no next year.

But I also have a shocking acknowledgement to make – I don’t think the sky will fall in, if Scotland votes yes … life will go on; the earth will continue to turn; the sun will rise.

Of course, the actual result will have a profound political impact on the country we live in. But neither possible result – and I only wish more politicians would honestly admit this – will be a panacea for all of Scottish society’s ills.

I completely accept that others, have arrived at a different decision – many of them may have settled on supporting Scottish Independence via a similar, constitutional (and political) trajectory to my own … that’s fine by me; I respect their view; and hope they respect mine.

But, to return to my earlier point – such changes to the current UK constitutional set-up, or even a move to outright Independence for Scotland, would not guarantee of themself a more deliberative politics.

And you really would need to be inhabiting a wholly different world from the one I live in, if you weren’t aware that trust between the electorate and those of us either elected, or employed, to serve that electorate, has broken down badly. It’s no different here in Scotland, to the rest of the UK. Or, to the rest of the democratic world, for that matter.

And we need more than structural change – much more – to fundamentally alter that reality of our current political narrative.

The good news is that all sorts of deliberative techniques and models exist; enough to fill a whole, further article. Anyone interested could do worse that take a quick glance at Participedia: (an open global knowledge community for researchers and practitioners in the field of democratic innovation and public engagement) which will give a quick flavour of just what is possible.

Sadly to date, few Governments, of any political persuasion, have implemented a full-scale programme of such change to ‘the way we do politics’.

But I remain the eternal optimist that such change will come … and regardless of whether there’s a yes or no result next September … I might just wake up on Friday 6th May 2016 in the midst of a much more deliberative democracy than the one in which I live in at the moment.

Councillor Andrew Burns is the Leader of the City of Edinburgh council, and a member of the Labour Party. You can follow him on twitter @AndrewDBurns

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter as well @2016wishtree


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Allotment (+running) update

Last of this year's potato crop lifted late yesterday afternoon ... need to start getting the leaf mould dug into those beds now!

Other crops still going strong (as per the picture):
  • lots of beetroot (with more to come)
  • first brussel sprouts stalk lifted (lots more to come!)
  • some spinach (lots more still growing)
  • last few raspberries
  • and lots of cuttings/flowers :-)

Won't get down to the Allotment for a couple of weeks now, with a weekend in London, then a weekend in Aberdeen coming up.

P.S. running update: trying to keep the running on blipfoto, but can't help note that I managed my first half-marathon in 30-years this morning :-)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Scotland Loves Anime

My all-too-brief visit to the World Cafe, was due to having tickets to go and see one of the 'Scotland Loves Anime' films at the Lothian Road Filmhouse ... Fuse - Memoirs of the Hunter Girl.

Film was thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family.

Plenty more anime films on at the Filmhouse over this weekend, if you're interested!

North Edinburgh World Cafe

Managed to briefly visit the North Edinburgh"World Cafe" last night - details as per the flyer above - which has occasional 'multi cultural buffet evening' events ... of course, the food was nothing to do with why I went along ;-)

More seriously, the evening was really well attended and there was a very positive message behind the good music and event better food.

Many thanks to all those who made me so welcome.

P.S. their Facebook page is here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Council Leaders Report - October

October 2013

Cooperative Council


Andrew Burns My Capital Coalition colleagues and I realised when we took office that we had to have a fresh think about how we do business so that we could put the public back at the centre of decision-making wherever possible.

And so, having made some pretty bold commitments 12 months ago, it was heartening to earn praise from 'critical friend' and leading cooperative consultant, Martin Meteyard, at our recent 'one year on' event.

We have made some significant strides towards becoming a 'Cooperative Capital', including the complete revision of the budgetary process to allow meaningful public input (please do take the opportunity to have your say, if you haven't already) but we do also appreciate that much work remains to be done.
Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh


Learning from past mistakes


The issues facing the Council's former Property Conservation service are well documented and we continue to make good progress towards closing these off.

The replacement 'Shared Repairs' service introduced in April has been successful but remains limited in scope. Moving forward, there is a balance to be struck between providing a broader service, for which we know there is clear public demand, and ensuring that we learn from previous mistakes. We will be debating the future development of the service (PDF) at next week's council meeting.

We have a responsibility to protect Edinburgh's unique built environment and the reintroduction of an enforcement service could go some way to achieving this - but not at any cost.


Economic sense


I wrapped up an excellent event marking a year into the Council's Strategy for Jobs at the Usher Hall on 11 October.

Following the announcement by my coalition colleague, Cllr Frank Ross, that funding of up to four million pounds could be secured to provide loans for up to 1000 small and medium-sized businesses - great news - we heard from Joe Montgomery, Chief Executive of the Urban Land Institute. Joe spoke very highly of the city's achievements in recent years and of the projects and initiatives we are working on to unlock future investment.

We all have a part to play in communicating Edinburgh's successes - it's easy sometimes to forget just how lucky we are to live and work in such a great city.


Tram project latest


It's been another big month for the project, which continues to progress well. This week will see the city cleared of tram works for the first time in six years - a significant milestone and a great relief, I'm sure, for local residents and traders.

Testing between the Gogar Depot and Edinburgh Park Station is now underway, meaning that nearly 5km of track is now in use. This is a crucial phase of the project, with 800 tests and checks to be carried out before we go live next May.

We will shortly begin the process of recruiting members on to the Transport for Edinburgh board. There will be representation from the Council and Lothian Buses but we are also keen to take on external expertise that can help us as we develop the city's transport network.
You can keep up-to-date with the latest tram news by following @edinburghtrams.


Speak up, speak out


We are reaching out to residents to ask them to speak out if they are being harmed or know someone who might be, as part of the city's biggest ever public protection campaign. The 'Speak up, Speak out' campaign was launched recently with our partners NHS Lothian and Police Scotland. It calls for those who are affected by abuse to come forward and find out about the wide range of support that is available to them.

I would encourage anyone who is worried to get in touch with Social Care Direct. They work with the Police, NHS and voluntary organisations to make sure that people are safe while they receive the support they need.


Edinburgh blossoms


And, finally, some blooming marvellous news to share with you. Edinburgh has won Gold in the 'UK City' category of the prestigious Britain in Bloom awards for the very first time.

I'm told that the judges were very impressed with the 'excellence, enthusiasm and ethos' that they witnessed at every stopping point and along the route - but, most of all, with the tremendous efforts of the numerous community volunteers and Friends of Parks groups that work tirelessly to support the Council's Parks and Neighbourhood teams in maintaining and enhancing our wonderful green spaces. Well done all.


Stay in the picture


Keep yourself in the picture with our news section online. Watch live full Council and some committee meetings on our webcast. Join the debate on Twitter #edinwebcast

If you wish to unsubscribe please email us.

October Full Council Meeting

October Full Council Meeting is next Thursday the 24th ...

... main agenda is now available here; with the full set of Reports accessible via this link.

Quite a bit on the agenda this month: tram, political management arrangements, webcasting, Shared Repairs Service, Tron Kirk - to mention but the obvious.

I'll also put up my monthly Leaders Report in a separate blogpost just now.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Co-operative Capital - "One Year On" review meeting

Have had a "Co-operative Capital - One Year On" review meeting in the City Chambers today ...

... very well attended event - with a good mixture of praise for progress made, mixed with constructive criticism of how we could 'do more/do things better'.

Will all now inform an Update Report to the November 2013 Full Council Meeting.

For those interested - the relevant News Release is reproduced below; and far below - my (short) speech notes:

Date  10/October/2013

Status  For Immediate Release


Edinburgh is on track to becoming a ‘Cooperative Capital’, according to a leading co-operative consultant.

Speaking at a seminar in the City Chambers today, Martin Meteyard, of the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, praised the commitment shown by the Council in taking forward plans outlined 12 months ago in its Framework to Advance a Cooperative Capital 2012/17.

The council aims to encourage communities, partners and those using its services to become more involved in how these are planned, managed and delivered, with a particular focus on developing more co-operatives to deliver energy, housing, social care and child care services.

Mr Meteyard said: “Co-operatives are a tried and tested business model going back 250 years. We now have a billion members worldwide, providing over 100 million jobs.

“Edinburgh has led the way in Scottish local authority terms and the level of commitment shown continues to be very encouraging.

“Maintaining this commitment in terms of resources is going to be challenging, particularly in the context of continued cuts to the council’s budget, and so building stronger relations with ‘anchor institutions’, such as universities and hospitals, will be key.”

Council Leader, Cllr Andrew Burns, and Chief Executive, Sue Bruce, also spoke at the event, which was attended by 80 councillors, officials and stakeholders.

Cllr Burns said: “We realised when we took office that we had to have a fresh think about how we do business as a local authority so that we could put the public back at the centre of decision-making.

“This has already resulted in some very positive actions, including the creation of the first Petitions Committee, direct parent representation on our Children & Families committee and the complete revision of the budgetary process to allow meaningful public input and debate before any final decisions are made.

“Only last week, I was delighted to receive cross-party support for our proposal to join the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network – the first local authority in Scotland to do so. I have no doubt that, by calling on the knowledge and expertise of others across the UK, we can continue the good work we have started.”

Sue Bruce said: “We were presented with a clear mandate 12 months ago and immediately set about establishing a dedicated Cooperative Development Unit within the Council.

“Since then, good progress has been made in each of the four target areas and also in council service design and procurement. In particular, a lot of time has been spent engaging with external agencies and communities to enable them to deliver the concept themselves, ensuring that their local knowledge, preferences and practical experience shapes the services in their area.”

The seminar, which also included a number of workshops, will inform an update report to be considered by councillors next month.

Key Developments

Co-operative Education
We have established an SLA with LAYC (Lothian Association of Youth Clubs) to support the Out of School Care sector, to identify and help those who wish to adopt a co-operative approach. One club is in the process of applying to the Co-operative Enterprise Hub for support, and a ‘Co-operative Charter’ is also being developed for clubs wishing to follow this route.

Social Care Co-operative
As part of our Market Shaping Strategy we are supporting the development of personalised services and self directed support to launch an Innovation Fund (£300K in 2013/14 and £100k in 2014/15). We are specifically inviting applications to the Fund, launched on 1 October 2013, for a contribution of up to £50,000 towards the costs of establishing an employee owned health and social care co-operative. 

Co-operative Energy
Edinburgh Community Energy Co-op is working with CEC on a solar photo voltaic project and is currently identifying suitable locations. The aim is to make money from feed-in tariff for reinvestment to provide other community benefits.

Co-operative Housing
Proposals to support new build co-operative housing in East Edinburgh are progressing well.  Co-operative approaches to the development of social rented housing are limited by investment priorities and the available subsidy, but there may be more potential for mid market rent and low cost home ownership

Co-operative Service Design
Participatory budgeting successes such as ‘Leith Decides’ generate considerable community participation. The ongoing ‘Canny wi’ Cash’ initiative is believed to be a UK first with its focus on a community of interest rather than place. Throughout October, Edinburgh’s older generation will determine how £35,000 of small grants for enhancing older people’s services will be allocated.

Co-operative Procurement
Many examples of strong engagement with partners and service users:
o Market Shaping Strategy for adult social care services
o Commissioning Approaches for children and families services
o Homelessness Prevention Services review
o Community and Accessible Transport Review




Cooperative Capital – one year on

Good afternoon colleagues and many thanks for taking some time out of what I know are very busy schedules to be here this afternoon.

My name is Andrew Burns, the Leader here at the City of Edinburgh Council, and my job today is ‘relatively’ straightforward … as I’ll principally be chairing the proceedings.

I will say a few words by way of introduction and to set the background …

·       and we’ll then hear from Sue Bruce, the Council’s Chief Executive on progress in delivering on the Cooperative Capital agenda

·       followed by Martin Meteyard who will give an external perspective on progress and the many challenges we still face

·       both Sue and Martin will have time to take questions after their contributions; before we have a short break

·       to be followed by some workshops which will look at how we overcome current challenges and thus ensure further delivery on the Cooperative Capital agenda

·       we’ll then get some brief feedback from the workshops

·       and I’ll finally sum-up and outline next steps

·       and we’ll be done by 4pm latest!

So – firstly – by way of background …

... many colleagues in the room will remember:

1.  May 2012 election – still relatively recent

2.  Capital Coalition ... Lab/SNP: Dumfries & Galloway!

3.  Clear that we wanted new ways of working

4.  Contract with the Capital

5.  6 themes – 53 commitments

6.  May each year – main progress report

7.  November each year – interim update

8.  This October 2012:

 A ‘Framework to Advance a Cooperative Capital 2012/17’

9.  Last week, joined Cooperative Council Innovation Network

“Last week, I was delighted to receive cross-party support for our proposal to join the Cooperative Innovation Network – the first local authority in Scotland to do so. I have no doubt that, by calling on the knowledge and expertise of others across the UK, we can continue the good work we have started.”

10.             Now: ‘one year on’ event – October 2013

11.             November 2013 Full Council update

12.             And report also on the 53 coalition commitments

Sue will shortly update us on progress with the specifics of the Cooperative Capital Agenda … what it is we are actually now doing within our Co-operative Capital Approach – our content.

… I want to briefly focus on the other, crucial strand – for me - of any attempt at being a Cooperative Council … and that is that all of this absolutely has to be part of a wider, new approach ...

... an attempt to ‘do politics differently’ --- as I believe the two (CONTENT + CULTURE) are inextricably inter-twined.

Different planet etc …

... to counter breakdown in trust ...

… there simply has to be an on-going, two-way dialogue, with residents, about their role in what their Council does for the remaining 4-years.

“We realised when we took office that we had to have a fresh think about how we do business as a local authority so that we could put the public back at the centre of decision-making.

And for me, that new approach to the way we work, and the way we engage with others, has included some definite actions in making the vision of a cooperative council a reality:

1.  We have completely overhauled our scrutiny and audit function; and established a new Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee; Chaired by a Member of Edinburgh’s main Opposition Conservative Group ...

... indeed, just this morning ...

2.  We have established the first Petitions Committee, and petitions process, in Edinburgh. That Committee is Chaired by a Member of Edinburgh’s Opposition Green Group. This has all helped enable local residents to have an additional channel to raise issues of concern, with their elected representatives, and directly with the Council.

3.  We have also completely revised our budgetary process, which has led to the publication of a draft budget – for the first time in decades, in Edinburgh. We published that draft budget in November last year, and for this upcoming 2014/15 Budget we’ve just published our draft figures at the end of September; now allowing a full 3-months of public consultation prior to this Christmas, and the eventual setting of the final budget in February next year.

4.  We’ve also created a renewed focus on neighbourhoods and communities within our decision-making structures, and ‘worked-up’ proposals for the next stage in the development of our Neighbourhood Partnerships (Neighbourhood Committees) will be put before the Full Council for debate and decision within the next few months.

5.  We’ve also ensured direct, parental representation within our Education’ decision-making processes, by placing a Parental Rep. on our main Education Committee, with the same voting-rights as any other Member on that Committee.

6.  And last – but by no means least – we’re webcasting (both live and archived) all of our Full Council Meetings, and an increasing number of our regular Committee Meetings.

The cumulative impact of all these considered-changes has been fairly significant … and I would contest we have re-gained some degree of trust and a renewed sense of engagement with residents;

but, there is undoubtedly a long, long way to go – and continuing to deliver on both the Co-operative Content and on ‘doing politics differently’ are crucial not just for this year, but for every remaining year of this current Council-term …

… we know that keeping up this level of commitment will be challenging for both Elected Members AND Officers;

But --- we do need a new culture of ‘letting-go’ and, wherever feasible, of putting residents and service-users at the heart of service design and service delivery --- and that’s what we’re working – slowly but steadily – towards.

And I’m delighted to now hand over to Sue, who will expand a bit on the detail of the content that has been developed in the last year, as part of our Co-operative Capital Approach.
Many thanks.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Congratulations Peter Higgs

Many, many congratulations to Professor Peter Higgs, who has received the Nobel Prize for Physics today :-)

My colleague, Donald Wilson, has a brief tribute up on his Lord Provost blog, here.

I had the great, good fortune to meet Peter Higgs briefly when he received the 2011 Edinburgh Award - blogged a bit about it at the time.

He really did seem a genuinely humble and a gracious man.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Allotment Autumn-update

Been a busy weekend, with the Co-operative Party's UK-conference being up here in Edinburgh ...

... all seems to have gone well, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the various speeches, fringe meetings and dinner/s that I've attended :-)

Draft programme can be accessed here, if anyone interested?

Thankfully had a bit of a quieter late-afternoon today, and managed to escape to the Allotment where a riot of Autumnal-colour is still very evident - wonderful :-))

Thursday, October 03, 2013

National Poetry Day

Its National Poetry Day today --- and this year's theme is: water. 

As per the last few years, I'll reproduce my favourite poem that deals (broadly!) with this year's topic ... and I've opted below for "The Whale-watcher" by Kathleen Jamie.

Over on my blipfoto account, I've re-produced the 'poem-card' of the verse below; and I've also posted a copy of an earlier poem I wrote in April 2012, with water as part of its content ;-)

The Whale-watcher

And when at last the road
gives out, I’ll walk – 
harsh grass, sea-maws,
lichen-crusted bedrock – 

and hole up the cold
summer in some battered
caravan, quartering
the brittle waves

till my eyes evaporate
and I’m willing again
to deal myself in:
having watched them

breach, breathe, and dive
far out in the glare,
like stitches sewn in a rent
almost beyond repair.
Kathleen Jamie
from The Tree House (Picador, 2004)
Reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

UPDATE - Co-operative Council Innovation Network

I mentioned the Co-operative Council Innovation Network a few weeks ago - and also posted up the speech I gave at a recent event in Glasgow, wherein I focused on the Co-operative Council theme ...

... well, pleased to report that the City of Edinburgh Council has now taken the formal decision to join the Co-operative Council Innovation Network :-)

The specific report can be accessed here, and was approved on an all-Party basis (for which I'm very grateful) at the recent Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee.

Let's talk about saving and spending

I've highlighted the publication of our Draft 2014/15 Budget proposals on several occasions now ...

... pleased to report that there is now even more, additional information up on the Council's website - main (but not exclusive) links I'd highlight would be:

I do hope as many Edinburgh residents as possible will provide some feedback on these draft proposals - it will be taken into account prior to the final setting of the 2014/15 Budget on Thursday 13th February 2014.

Let's talk about our saving and spending
Read about the financial challenges with the Council's budget
See the proposals we have for where we spend and save
Tell us what you think

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Another 2-Party Labour/SNP Council Coalition

Very interesting developments at Dumfries and Galloway Council earlier today - BBC report can be accessed here ...

... all means that Edinburgh is no longer the only 2-Party, Labour/SNP Coalition Council ;-)

But - possibly of much more significance - I also reckon that makes 16 of Scotland's 32 Council Leaders, Scottish Labour Council Leaders? It could well mean COSLA is a lot more lively!

More seriously, at a personal level, many congratulations to my colleague Ronnie Nicholson :-))

Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

October's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee earlier today ...

... main Agenda can be found here; and the individual reports are all up on CPOL linked from here.

Expecting significant debate around several of the reports - I mentioned last month that these (Executive) Committee Meetings, whilst open to the public obviously, are not webcast like our main Council Meetings ... I do though remain optimistic that will change in the not-too-distant future, as we move to expand the webcasting service to cover most of the main Executive Committees of the Council: hopefully within a matter of months now?

Meantime, if anyone wants further detail of the outcome of any meetings, then do just go back and check CPOL a week or so after the meeting, and full minutes will be available ...

... or you can always e-mail me directly for an update!