Thursday, March 27, 2014

Allotment Update!

Better-half managed to spend quite a bit of time at the Allotment today ... I was stuck at various (scintillating, of course!) work meetings :-(

Think it's all looking pretty good - click on the picture for a better view :-)

Anyhow - still growing:
  • brussel sprouts
  • spinnach

And - newly planted:
  • broad beans
  • red onion sets

Hoping I might fit in a visit myself, over this coming weekend?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Riddle's Court and 4-6 Victoria Terrace

I've received a fair few queries about the detail of what was decided on Tuesday (yesterday) when Riddle's Court was discussed/debated  at Committee ...

... as noted earlier, you can see the Full Report via this link - and I'll just paste the actual recommendations below; followed by the Addendum that was approved by the Coalition, which thus represents the totality of the decision:

3. Recommendations

3.1 That Committee:

1) Notes the previous decision of the Children and Families and Finance and
Resources Committees to grant a 99-year lease of Riddle’s Court to SHBT at
a peppercorn rent and restates its commitment to the restoration project at
Riddle’s Court.

2) Notes that SHBT has secured Heritage Lottery Funding for redevelopment of
the property and that the area currently occupied by 6VT at 4-6 Victoria
Terrace is included in the conditions of lottery grant.

3) Further notes that the Heritage Lottery Fund has granted an extension of their
offer with a revised deadline of 31st March 2014 to meet the conditions of the

4) Recognises the value of the work undertaken by 6VT and the Board’s
preference to remain in their current premises until suitable alternative
accommodation can be secured.

5) To note the options and implications set out at paragraphs 2.4 and 2.5, and
instruct Council officers to work with 6VT to seek their relocation by 31
December 2014, ideally by mutual agreement.

6) To request officers to report to the relevant Committee on the most
appropriate mechanism to allow the resources currently allocated to SHBT to
be realigned to 6VT to support the cost of capital fit out and rent of their new

+ Addendum by the Capital Coalition


1.    Recognises the value of the services provided by 6VT and the Board’s concern about finding appropriate premises should 6VT move from Victoria Terrace

2.    Acknowledges that initial plans for the capital redevelopment of Riddles Court were clear that existing tenants (such as 6VT) would remain in situ after any such refurbishment

3.    Also recognises the value of the SHBT plans for the redevelopment of an important historical building, and that the premises at 4-6 Victoria Terrace now form part of the business plan supporting that redevelopment

4.    Agrees that any move should not impact negatively on 6VT or the services it provides

5.    Commits the Council to working with 6VT and SHBT to ensure an outcome that satisfies the needs of both parties

6.    Agrees therefore to set up a Project Delivery Group, chaired by the Council Leader and comprising:

•    The Convener and Vice-convener of Education, Children and Families
•    Two representatives each from SHBT and 6VT
•    Senior management representation from Property Services, Children and Families, and Children and Families Social Work

7.    The first meeting of the Project Delivery Group to be scheduled as soon as possible, following this Committee meeting/decision, with the aim of reaching an early resolution of outstanding issues

8.    A subsequent progress report to come to the Corporate, Policy and Strategy Committee meeting of 10th June 2014.


Understanding cycling ...

I was at a rather well-attended Spokes Public Meeting (see poster!) on Monday night ...

... was standing in for my colleague, Lesley Hinds, who had an unbreakable commitment in her local Ward.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening; and was good to have some serious (and considered) challenge to current Council practice, alongside some acknowledgement of achievements to date.

Spokes now have a fair, and balanced, account of the evening up on their website - if you're interested, you can read it here.

I've also now received quite a high number (which is great!) of e-mails following the meeting ... I will respond to them all just as soon as feasible; and will get back to Spokes with some promised, follow-up on specific issues raised on the night.

--- and with many thanks to all of the organisers of Monday's event :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

York, Perth, 16-miles & 'Stress'!

Have had an extremely busy few days ...

  • ... down in York for most of Friday, visiting the City of York Council Leader and Chief Executive
  • ... up in Perth for Friday evening, and all of Saturday, for the Scottish Labour Party conference ... spoke in a variety of debates/fringe meetings etc.
  • ... then back in Edinburgh early on Sunday morning; and ran 16-miles as part of my marathon-training
  • ... recovered just in time to attend an event on - rather appropriately? - stress (see poster)!

 Back to work tomorrow for a rest :-(

Friday, March 21, 2014

Corporate, Policy and Strategy Committee next Tuesday

March's Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee is next Tuesday 25th  ...

... all the papers are now in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here;

- and the individual reports are all up on Committee Papers on-Line (CPOL) linked from here.

Reports that may well attract debate:

Just click on any of the above links for the specific report.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Fling - 10.30am, Saturday 12th April

Sadly, I can't make this local event in a few weeks time ... but, now being over 50, felt I had a moral-duty to display the poster up on the blog ;-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More democracy here please?

I posted a relatively generic piece about the need (as far as I'm concerned, anyhow) for more deliberative democracy across the UK a few months ago ... you can access it here, if interested?

And despite the focus in that article on macro-level political issues, as all my close colleagues, family and friends know - I've no personal interest whatsoever in moving from the local-level which I've been lucky enough to serve within for four terms now.

So - with all my political bias openly admitted - I was genuinely delighted to see the Local Government section of Scottish Labour's Devolution Commission proposals earlier today (see pages 8-11) ... frankly, what a breath of fresh air.

I've been a local Councillor since 1999, and don't recall any previous "Scottish Executive or Government" offering up such devolution of powers from the Scottish Parliament to Local Government ... indeed, some powers are being offered up to be devolved straight from Westminster to Scottish Local Government!

Yes, of course the proposals have their weaknesses --- as political opponents have been only too keen to point out over the last 48-hours; but all the Parties' proposals have weaknesses, and they all know it.

There's a good ESRC-blog now up about some of the detail here ... I completely agree with this section on Local Government:

"The Labour Devolution Commission’s proposals share much common ground with the other pro-union groups, but there are also significant nuances and differences. Eye-catchingly different and rather more extensive than the others are the proposals on strengthening local government in Scotland, including ‘level-hopping’ devolution of some powers direct from Westminster to local authorities, bypassing the Scottish Parliament. There is some political point-scoring here about the perceived centralist approach of the SNP Government, but this does look like a quite radical decentralising agenda."

For me, as a Local Councillor --- and I'd hope for Local Councillors of all political persuasions --- there's a good deal to welcome in yesterday's document.

Of course I know that delivery will be key ... I'll most certainly be keeping a keen interest around the potential for implementation of these welcome proposals.

UPDATE: the full Commission Report is now available on-line here - section 7 refers to Local Government powers.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Next phase of Leith Programme?

Not my local Ward area, but obviously lots of city-wide interest in the announcement today (up at Committee tomorrow for decision - see item 7.2 here) about the next phase of the Leith Programme ...

... I'll simply re-produce the main News Release below - and you can also access it here - and the full Report being 'discussed/debated/decided upon' tomorrow can be accessed here.

draft phasing plan - showing the estimated phasing of the works and start times - is available for information on the Council's website here ...

Next phase of Leith Programme on course to get under way

Published Monday 17 March 2014

The next phase of a major programme of investment into Leith Walk is set to move a step closer. 

A report to the City of Edinburgh Council's Transport and Environment Committee tomorrow [Tuesday 18 March 2014] will detail the circumstances in which construction work on the section from the foot of Leith Walk to Pilrig Street could begin soon.

Councillors are to also consider approving some additional works as part of the Leith Programme to take account of the possibility for the tram line to be extended to Leith in future.

A number of objections were submitted during the consultation process on the Traffic Regulation Order advertised for the next phase of the £9.1m Leith Programme scheme.

Although a proportion of these objections have since been withdrawn following alterations to the programme and further consultation with the objectors, outstanding objections relating to loading restrictions in discrete sections of Leith Walk mean that the matter will require a public hearing at a later date.

However, so as not to hold up the whole phase of works for as much as 18 months while the necessary legal process for a public hearing is carried out, councillors are being asked to consider approving the Traffic Regulation Order, omitting three areas where there are unwithdrawn objections to proposed changes to loading and unloading facilities.

In addition, with tram testing and training continuing to make good progress ahead of the launch of passenger services in May, refreshed plans have now been drawn up to carry out the proposed improvement scheme for Leith Walk in a way that would minimise the impact of potential future tram works in the area.

Under the proposals going before councillors tomorrow, in addition to the planned Leith Programme works, two long-standing voids beneath Leith Walk would be grouted (ie filled).

Meanwhile, a cost effective solution would be applied to the part of the road which would house a possible tram line, acknowledging the fact that this section might require to be excavated to install tram track at a future date.

The estimated cost of the grouting and wider pre-enabling work is £1m and a report will be submitted to the Finance and Resources Committee regarding funding arrangements. Please note this is separate from the £9.1m already approved for the Leith Programme.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener, said: "I am sure many businesses and local residents in Leith are as impatient as we are to see work starting on the next phase of the Leith Programme, so I'm pleased that with this report, we can expedite the process while at the same time giving the outstanding objectors their right to a public hearing.

"No final decision will be taken on whether or not to take the tram down to Leith until we've had a chance to see how passenger services perform. However, we want to be pragmatic about this. If there is a desire to install tram tracks down Leith Walk at a later date, we don't want the community to have to go through a more lengthy and extensive works period than they have to;  better to get some tram-proofing done now while we're already investing time and money transforming Leith Walk."

The operation of the tram will be assessed following the start of passenger services, scheduled for May 2014. A report detailing tram performance and, if appropriate, the possible extension of the line will be prepared for consideration by committee/Council in late 2014.

The timescales, associated with the Edinburgh Tram (line one) Act 2006, require works to be commenced within 15 years of enactment. This means the provisions of the Act, in relation to any extension to Leith, run to May 2021.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kilomathon ... and training-update :-)

As regular readers know, I generally try and keep my current running-exploits over on the blipfoto account ...

... but, I can't help myself this afternoon: ran my first (relatively short) actual race-event this morning - and here's the fruit of my labours: a lovely Kilmathon medal :-)

And - better than that - I got a much faster time than I was anticipating, as is evidenced by this quick shot of my Garmin watch :-))

Did the 13.1km in 1hr 18min, which is pretty good for me. I would have been delighted with 'anything' this side of 1hr 30mins!

And please don't forget - if you're so-minded - you can sponsor me for the 2014 Edinburgh Marathon via my JustGiving page here ...

... and all the monies go to the truly wonderful Venture Scotland :-)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

All change at Transport & Environment ...

Was sorry to see my SNP coalition-colleague, Jim Orr, resign the whip a couple of weeks ago ... at a personal level, I wish him all the best for the future.

It does, of course, mean there's been a vacancy for the post of "Vice-Convener of the Transport and the Environment Committee", and this week's Full Council Meeting confirmed that Adam McVey will be taking on the job. I look forward to working with Adam over the coming months.

And by one of those strange coincidences-of-fate, who did I jog past on the canal yesterday ... the last-but-one, Transport and Environment Committee Convener: Gordon Mackenzie (on his bike!).

Despite our political differences, I really do think Gordon deserves enormous credit for spearheading the initial "5% of transport revenue and capital" commitment, to be spent on cycling in Edinburgh ... and our own second budget, passed just last month, saw that rise to 7% (see paragraph 1.5).

As a daily cyclist, I can see it making a real difference across the city ... I know there's a long way to go, but just imagine city-cycling without that commitment?

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Council Meeting webcast now up ...

The webcast of this week's March Council Meeting is now up on the archive site ... you can access it here.

Go on - you know you want to??

TV like you've never seen before ;-)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

March Leader's Report

March 2014

This Is Edinburgh


Andrew Burns
You may already have seen the TV or other ads included in the city's new marketing campaign, This Is Edinburgh, which was launched to great acclaim last month.

Of course, there's a very specific objective behind this: promoting our city centre as a quality shopping and leisure destination. By giving people compelling reasons to come back into town, such as brand-new events and special discounts, the campaign is projected to generate £50m for the local economy over the next two years.

Edinburgh is consistently voted the UK's favourite city - and deservedly so. The city's beauty, its people, its culture - nowhere else can beat it. 'This Is Edinburgh' celebrates Scotland's Capital the way it deserves to be. No gimmicks, no stunts - just a simple statement of pride that will remind us that our city-centre is a great place to be.
Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh

Shared repairs


The Council is acutely aware of the issues faced, and the problems caused, by the former Property Conservation Service but progress is now being made towards bringing these to a close.

The replacement Shared Repairs service that we introduced last April has been successful but is limited in scope. And, while additional features, such as the trusted trader scheme, will undoubtedly provide welcome assistance to homeowners, there is clear public demand for enforcement, particularly in the most difficult cases.

We are currently exploring how best to develop a new service, consciously balancing the council's commitment to protect the fabric of our beautiful and historic city with the need to encourage owners to take responsibility for repairs to their own homes. A report on the way forward will be considered at this month's council meeting.

Tram project latest


The return of trams to the centre of town has created quite a stir - I spotted the first daytime tram being tested on Princes Street from a window at the City Chambers and I know from Twitter that lots of other people have spotted them too.

Similarly, a public call for volunteers issued for an exercise to test crowd management at Murrayfield next week generated a remarkable response - with all 1,000 places taken up in less than 24 hours. Here's hoping demand for the service is as strong as that in May!

The next few weeks and months will give everyone the chance to become accustomed to trams and, if you haven't already, check out the series of helpful safety videos. Do also have a look at the excellent 'tram driver's eye view' video (Preview) capturing the whole route. And remember you can keep up-to-date with the latest tram news by following @edinburghtrams on Twitter.

Rent arrears


You may see some high profile adverts and messages around the city over the next few weeks encouraging council tenants in rent arrears to contact us before they get any deeper into debt. The Council can help and does have some funding available, particularly for those adversely affected by the recent welfare reforms. As long as people are making arrangements to pay their rent, we can help.

The last thing we want is for people to lose their homes but, at the same time, we rely on rental income to invest in providing cheap-to-heat, modern and comfortable homes fit for the 21st Century.

If you know of someone who is in arrears with their rent, please encourage them to contact us to get help. They can email or phone 0800 028 2786.

Speak up, Speak out


The launch of our latest Speak up, Speak out campaign took place last month to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2014.

Pupils from Drummond Community High School discussed the problem of "sexting" and being bullied via mobile phones and social networking sites in this campaign about keeping safe online and on your phone.

I was delighted to see that such an important issue received national coverage on TV, online and in newspapers and that the campaign won praise from the Scottish Parliament.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

March Full Council Meeting

March's Full Council Meeting is coming up next week - meeting starts at 10am on Thursday 13th March ...

... all the reports are now up on Committee Papers On-Line (CPOL) and you can access the main agenda directly here; and the individual reports via this link.

Of course - if you're so minded, you can watch all the proceedings live here ... or the meeting will be archived a few hours after it finishes for viewing at your leisure ;-)

How can you resist??