Sunday, September 27, 2015

first 'tatties' lifted

Managed a few hours at the Allotment earlier;

& first of the 'tatties' lifted this afternoon ...

... not too bad a haul ;-) 

** click on the picture for a better view!

Friday, September 25, 2015

September's 2nd(!) Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee

September's second "Corporate Policy and Strategy" Committee is next week; Tuesday 29th - two this month, as none in October, given half-term break etc.

All the papers/reports are now in the public domain: the main Agenda can be found here.

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

Several reports that may well attract some attention and debate:

Just click on any of those links above for access (as a PDF) to the specific report ...

... and, of course, all the Policy and Strategy Committee meetings are webcast live - and thereafter archived! All available via here --- it's TV; but not like you've ever seen before ;-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The value of local democracy

Had a short-piece about the value of local democracy in the local paper yesterday ...

... link here; and I'll just re-produce the text below for those interested:

Cost of local democracy price worth paying

Just last week, Edinburgh had its second Local Authority by-election of this Council-term. The vote took place in the Leith Walk Ward, and was triggered by the resignation of two, sitting Councillors. It was actually the first double-vacancy, in a single Ward, since the introduction of proportional representation for Council elections back in 2007.

And without making any pronouncement on who actually won the two Council-seats that were vacant, I do believe it’s worth taking time to pause and consider the true value of our local democracy.

As many of our daily experiences have some interface with the Council – whether it’s the pavement or road we travel on; the bus we ride on; the school our children attend; the social care services our elderly relatives receive; the sports facilities we visit; the Council House we might live in; the parks we spend our leisure time in; the general cleanliness of our streets; the collection of our waste; the monitoring of the restaurants we eat in; the library books we borrow … the list goes on-and-on.  And all of these services are, to some extent or another, the responsibility of the Local Council.

So electing local Politicians, who will have ultimate responsibility for these services, is a very important process. And it’s a process that costs money; some £50,000 is required to stage a by-election, but that cost has to be judged against the huge value of the numerous public services listed above.

And just to give some idea of the scale, and logistics, involved in a single Ward by-election; here are some facts about that operation: over 25,000 Poll Cards have to be printed and sent out by mail; some 4,000 Postal Vote ballots have also to be printed and despatched; around 10 Polling Places (some are schools) have to be hired and fully staffed from 7am right through to 10pm on polling-day itself. And after the Polls close, the actual counting of the vote has also to be staffed; and then there is the added requirement to ensure smooth logistics (delivering all the ballot boxes from Polling Places to the Count-Venue) in a timely and secure fashion.

And as many will be aware, during the count-process, dozens of political Party Members (from across the political spectrum) will be carefully scrutinising what goes on – physically, looking over the shoulders of the counting-staff. It’s a process which does get tense. Yet, in the numerous election counts I’ve attend throughout my 23-years in Edinburgh, I have never once heard a complaint from a member of the counting staff about the detailed scrutiny they come under? Indeed, I’m endlessly amazed at how calm, collected and polite they all remain.

At the end of it all the result has to be agreed with the numerous political Parties taking part – last week there were ten separate candidates/parties on the ballot-paper; and the whole process has to be seen as fair, thorough and professional … and the result thus accepted by all concerned.

So yes, local democracy in the shape of by-elections, does have a very real and tangible cost … and we do need to acknowledge that fact. But it came to us at a far greater cost, one that we should all try to remember as we choose our local representatives.

That opportunity we all have to choose, to select - or not - those who want to stand for public office to represent us, is something that really is impossible to put a value upon.

And whatever our politics, we must never take the importance of that democratic opportunity for-granted.

Cllr Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council

Sunday, September 13, 2015

September Leader's Report

September 2015

 A warm welcome awaits in Edinburgh 


Andrew Burns
No one could fail to be moved by the tragic stories that have emerged over recent weeks as a result of people trying to flee the conflict in Syria.

The Prime Minister has announced the UK's intention to accept 20,000 additional refugees over the next five years which followed the First Minister's earlier announcement of Scotland resettling 1,000 refugees in the coming year.

Working with statutory and voluntary sector partners, the Council will play its part by applying to resettle 100 refugees this year and, we hope, more in the future. You can play yours by supporting our disaster and emergency partner Mercy Corps in their ongoing work in Syria and Europe.
Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh


On the right track 


I was delighted to be one of the guests to travel on the train for the official launch of the Borders Railway this week. The event was the culmination of many years of partnership work with colleagues in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders along with Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise.

The new rail link will be a welcome addition to the tourism offering of the region, will help grow the economies of areas along the route, while also greatly improving the connectivity for commuters coming in and out of Edinburgh.

With a last train leaving Edinburgh just before midnight, it will be a great opportunity for those outwith the city to enjoy our pubs, restaurants and attractions.


A wheely great event 


Being a keen cyclist I was delighted that some of the world's most celebrated sportsmen on two wheels set off from Holyrood Park for the fourth stage of the Tour of Britain on Tuesday.

It was a fitting and spectacular backdrop as the stage took in some of the capital's most famous landmarks such as Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.

Cycling is on the increase in the city and having the tour here with such icons of the sport as Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish will only encourage more people to get on their bike!


Festivals go out with a bang 


It was another record-breaking summer for Edinburgh's festivals. No other city enjoys such a variety of theatre, street performance, music, dance and comedy on the scale we do and this year's offering was bigger and busier than ever. The opening event at the Council's Usher Hall was a spectacular sight and the Virgin Money Fireworks Finale was watched by more than 250,000 people.

At a time when the Fringe is selling twice as many tickets as it did 10 years ago, the Council is increasingly joining up the city's ability to cope with the festivals. This August, we employed late night bus and tram services and additional resources to ensure our streets remained clean and tidy.

We remain the 'world's festival city' and it is fantastic to welcome visitors from all over the world to join in with the celebrations. I'm pleased to see the city's calendar remains packed with world-class events as we move into Autumn.


New Councillors elected 


Congratulations to Lewis Ritchie and Marion Donaldson who have become the city's two newest Councillors having been elected last night following the Leith Walk by-election. They will have their first Council meeting on 17 September representing the needs and opinions of the ward's residents.

While it was no doubt a momentous occasion for them both, the by-election was also a historic event for the city. For the first time two councillors were elected at a by-election under Single Transferable Vote (STV), allowing voters to list as many candidates as they want in order of preference.

I now look forward to working closely with Lewis and Marion to deal with matters both city-wide and on a more local level. Leith Walk is a vibrant and diverse ward, with an exciting future, and I am certain they will both serve it well.


City Region deal bid submitted 


It's very encouraging that we have now submitted our bid for a £1bn Edinburgh and South East of Scotland City Region deal to the Westminster and Scottish governments.

This is our first major milestone and we worked closely with our partners, East Lothian, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian councils to develop a proposal which will accelerate growth in the region.

Our recent business breakfast was a great success and to date almost 100 businesses have registered their support. I look forward to bringing more detail forward as we aim to have a deal in place for early 2016.


Stay in the picture 


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The City of Edinburgh Council

September Full Council Meeting

September's Full Council Meeting is coming up - next Thursday (17th) ...

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

Of course - as ever, 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!

Allotment-mania is spreading ;-)

Managed to get some brief-time at our Allotment this morning; and plenty of produce still being cropped ...

... as well as these pictured apples and courgettes, we also got a healthy amount of broad beans, blackberries and raspberries to take home :-)

By all accounts, a certain other politician - much in the news recently - has a passion for Allotments ... see point 3 here !

... maybe there's hope after all ;-)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Congratulations Jeremy Corbyn

Congratulations seem to be the order-of-the-day at the moment ... and it would, of course, be remiss of me not to congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his election to Labour Leader earlier today ...

... it's no secret that he wasn't my first-preference, but I simply don't get those who are bailing-out of potential shadow-cabinet posts even before the shadow-cabinet has been announced? They need to get a grip.

Frankly, not one of us is more important than the wider Labour Party, and personally I'll now be putting my 100% effort into helping ensure a successful Corbyn-leadership.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Congratulations Marion Donaldson

Edinburgh Labour secured one of the two By-Election vacancies in yesterday's Leith Walk Ward poll ... many congratulations to Marion Donaldson; and also to Lewis Ritchie (of the SNP) who secured the first-spot. I'm now looking forward to working with both Lewis and Marion, as part of the Capital Coalition.

I'll re-produce the relevant News Release below, and the links therein contain more detail on the result for those so interested ...

... needless to say, I'm delighted with the result and Marion's victory is indeed very well-deserved: I've rarely seen a local candidate work so consistently and tirelessly throughout a campaign - she'll be an excellent local Councillor :-)

Leith Walk Ward By-Election results announced

The Leith Walk By-Election results have been announced at Waverley Court.
The announcement was made on Friday, 11 September 2015 by Returning Officer for Edinburgh, Andrew Kerr.

Two new Councillors have been elected to the ward following the election, which is the first time the Single Transferable Vote system has been used to select two members.

The following two candidates have been duly elected to serve in the City of Edinburgh Council as members for the Leith Walk Ward:

Marion Donaldson, Scottish Labour Party

John Lewis Ritchie, Scottish National Party (SNP)

Returning Officer, Andrew Kerr, said: “I would like to welcome the two newest Councillors to the City of Edinburgh Council and look forward to working with them on matters affecting the Leith Walk Ward and the city as a whole.
“I also want to thank our elections team for all the work they have put into ensuring this by-election runs smoothly.”

The turnout for the by-election was 25.1%.

For further details of the results and the Leith Walk By-Election, please see the Elections section of the Council website.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Allotment glory ...

I'm biased, I know ...

... but the Allotment was looking *completely* stunning, in the early evening sunshine just now :-)

Here's a couple of quick snaps to prove my point!

(click on either, to enlarge)

Saturday, September 05, 2015

all aboard the Borders Railway :-)

I had a very pleasant duty earlier this morning, seeing off the 'Golden Ticket' winners on the first Borders Railway passenger service :-)

... even got to unveil a small plaque with my name on it :-))

Much more seriously, I've got no doubt whatsoever that the new railway is going to be a phenomenal success ---

--- and I look forward to it playing a significant part in the ongoing economic success of the Capital City, Midlothian and The Borders.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Council Leader appeals for support for refugees

Europe’s escalating refugee situation has been reaching crisis point over the past few days. 

Council Leader Andrew Burns today (4 September) pledged the continuing support of the City of Edinburgh Council as he appealed for donations to the city’s charity.

mercy corps logo1

The world watched, several months ago, as thousands of refugees set up makeshift camps in desolate, far-off spots after fleeing their war-torn homelands.

Since then, we’ve been watching the reports of people living in horrendous conditions at the port of Calais as they desperately attempt to enter the UK.

Everyone has an opinion on how to react, from stopping anyone from coming here because we don’t have the resources or the room, to opening up the borders and welcoming those desperately in need.

Before, we could just turn off the images with a flick of the TV remote control – but the image of the body of a tiny, lonely child washed up on a beach in Turkey this week will haunt many of us for a long time. It summed up the desperation of those who are running for their lives.

How desperate must a person be to squeeze themselves, and their children, into airtight lorries, or on to open boats without life jackets, to make extremely dangerous and often futile journeys? We may struggle to imagine that feeling, here in the western world, but the horror of that photo has affected us all.

We may be far away, but there are still ways in which we can help. In May of this year, having learned that close to four million people had already fled the country, the City of Edinburgh Council decided to get involved in the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

The scheme will allow us to welcome a number of families from Syria, all of whom will have been identified as being in the utmost need by the United Nations. The scheme prioritises help for survivors of torture and violence, women and children at risk, and those in need of medical care.

Participants will be housed here in the capital for the duration of the programme, with access to employment, health care and education.

Initial conversations have taken place within the Council (housing and social work) and with NHS Lothian and Police Scotland, who have confirmed their willingness and capacity to support Edinburgh’s involvement with the project. Initial talks have also taken place to examine potential for wider social support through Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary and Cities for Sanctuary networks.

The key measure of success will be that the number of refugees moving here will integrate successfully into the city in terms of their home, social and professional lives.

Let’s not forget – the families taking part in the relocation scheme don’t want to leave their homes behind. Imagine being forced out of your country and everything that is familiar to you, because life has become too dangerous for you to stay?

This is the humanitarian course of action. We are helping, in a very small way, amongst the most vulnerable and needy people in the world at this moment. Let’s try to stop any more needless deaths.

Our Edinburgh-based charity partner, Mercy Corps, is already on the ground helping Syrian refugee families, and other families in crisis around the world, get the food, water and shelter they need to survive.

Visit the Mercy Corps website to find out more about their work and to donate to their Humanitarian Response Fund. Please help them to rush lifesaving aid to people suffering in Syria and around the world.

Councillor Andrew Burns
Council Leader