Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Edinburgh's newest allotment site

Great to see - especially as an 'Allotmenteer' myself - some new allotments being opened in the City ...

... relevant News Release available here, and I'll simply cut-and-paste the main text below as well:

Cutting the ribbon on Edinburgh's newest allotment site

Edinburgh’s newest allotments have been officially opened on the site of a former bowling green in Leith.
Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, was joined by members of theFederation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Garden Associations(external link) (FEDEGA),Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society(external link) (SAGS), community councils and plot holders to mark the event at Victoria Park on Wednesday (31 August).
The area was transformed earlier this year after a local consultation found that some form of community garden would be welcomed on the site of one of the bowling greens, which was deemed as under-used.
There are now 16 ‘mini’ allotments on site, along with a toilet and communal storage unit, plus a community plot for use by pupils of the neighbouring Trinity Academy, encouraging education in food growing, biodiversity and nature.
Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “We have worked closely with the local community to ensure the redevelopment of this site benefits as many people as possible.
“I am delighted to see the allotment plots are already well used, and that the garden is helping to teach local young people more about sustainable food growing and nature.
“I look forward to  seeing the positive impact that other projects to transform underused bowling greens have had.”
In 2014 it was proposed to redevelop a number of Council-managed bowling greens due to a significant drop in users over previous years. Other bowling greens have since been turned into tennis and petanque courts, growing areas and in one case a school playing field.
Victoria Park allotments, which came into use earlier this year, have been designed to be easily accessible for people of all abilities, and were offered to both local residents and those on the Council’s allotment waiting list. 
The facility cost £50k to develop, funded by the Council’s Parks and Greenspace Department, and has been created to be in-keeping with the surrounding environment. 
Find out more about Council allotments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August Leader's Report

August 2016

Exam results success

Andrew Burns
Congratulations to all those pupils who were successful in their exams this year. Once again, the city achieved record results - testament to the commitment of our teaching staff and hard work put in by pupils that results have yet again exceeded expectations.

A total of 39,884 results were awarded for 8,007 candidates in more than 80 subjects, ranging from Accounting to Urdu. Of particular strength is the success of pupils by the end of S5 and S6, where strong levels of attainment have either been maintained or improved at all stages.

I wish every success to those young people who are embarking on the next stage of life's journey whether that is at university, college or in work. Well done to you all!

Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh

Back to school - on time

I'm delighted that all schools affected by recent closures have now reopened in time for the start of the new term. It has undoubtedly been a very difficult few months for everyone affected by the closures and thanks must go to parents, staff and pupils for their understanding and patience.

The revised exam arrangements, in particular, worked well and (as above) all five affected high schools saw improvements in their results - in common with other schools unaffected by the closures.

We pressed the Edinburgh Schools Partnership to ensure the schools opened on schedule so I'm pleased we have achieved this. All the relevant safety paperwork has been published on our website having been reviewed by an independent expert on behalf of the Council.

Now we must establish what went wrong when these schools were built. The independent inquiry, being led by respected construction and procurement industry expert John Cole, has already started and my intention is for it to be completed by the end of the year with a full report coming back for councillors to consider.

Reducing speed, increasing safety

On 31 July, the Capital became Scotland's first 20mph city, with the lower speed limit coming into effect in the first phase - Zone 1 - of a citywide rollout. Streets across rural west Edinburgh and the city centre are now 20mph, with key arterial routes in the zone retained at 30 or 40mph.

Edinburgh is following several European and UK cities in bringing traffic speeds down. Slower speeds encourage better sharing of road space, encourage active travel, make us feel happier spending time in an area and - most importantly of all - they greatly reduce the risk of being fatally injured if hit by a vehicle.

While around half of our city was already 20mph, as a driver and cyclist myself, I know it'll undoubtedly take time before it becomes second nature for people to go more slowly in the new zones. A map of the 20mph network and implementation timetable is available on our website.

Edinburgh workforce top of the class

The percentage of the Edinburgh workforce with a degree level qualification or equivalent is higher than any other major UK city and has risen again, to 55%. This has gone up from 46% in 2013.

This is one of the many facts about the city in our latest Edinburgh by Numbers, published at the end of last month. Edinburgh also continues to be the most prosperous city outside London and has created more jobs through foreign direct investment than any other major UK city outside London.

The document also highlights that more waste was recycled in Edinburgh from April 2013 to March 2015 than any other major Scottish city and that almost two-thirds (65%) of people in Edinburgh use the internet on the move.

Another exceptional August

Here we are almost 70 years on from the first Edinburgh Festival and, once again, thousands of performers, directors, artists and producers are in residence making some of the best creative work in the world. And, if the early signs are to be believed, August 2016 is set to be one of the most inventive and successful yet.

The tourism benefits are, of course, huge. We know the festivals position the city as a leading international destination but this year's Impact Study proves 94% of people believe the festivals make Edinburgh a special city.

Re-affirming our position as the World's Festival City, the research also proves festival events support the equivalent of 5,660 full time jobs and generate a massive economic impact of £280m locally and £313m in Scotland. A truly exceptional performance.

Award recognises Council's caring side

This month we were proud to receive 'Carer Positive-Engaged' status, something which recognises the work we do here at the Council to support those who provide unpaid care to an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner.

With people working later in life and our population getting older, it's inevitable that more of our employees will become carers at some point. Those who provide unpaid care play such an important role in society and, indeed, the lives of the people they care for, so it is essential that we recognise their needs.

By working closely with employees to ensure a flexible atmosphere, the necessary leave and to provide information and support where needed, I am certain that we will create a comfortable and productive workplace for everyone.

Arise, Lord McInnes

My fellow councillor, Mark McInnes, was appointed to the House of Lords in the outgoing Prime Minister's Dissolution Honours List.

While I tend to take the old-fashioned, democratic view that the Second Chamber of the United Kingdom should be elected by the people and am not a fan of the discretionary honours system, on a personal level, I do want to pass on my congratulations to Mark on being awarded the peerage.

I've been on the Council at the same time as Mark for over a decade and I've no doubt that he'll take an effective approach to robustly scrutinising legislation in the House of Lords.

My final term

Finally, readers may well already be aware that I confirmed this week I don't intend to stand for potential re-election next May. I have published a personal blog-post explaining my decision.

I simply want to focus on other (non-political) interests in the next few years of my life. Nothing more, nothing less. It's an entirely personal decision.

Of course, I will continue to fulfil the duties in my role as Council Leader - to the best of my ability - right through until next May. Back in 2012 I committed to a five-year term, and I intend to complete that term and finish the work that both myself, and the current Coalition, have a mandate to deliver upon.

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The City of Edinburgh Council

August Full Council Meeting

Edinburgh schools are now back, and the summer-recess is over ...

... so, the August Full Council Meetings is now approaching - takes place at 10am this Thursday (25th) ...

... 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!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thank You Edinburgh

... and with huge thanks, in particular, to the residents and voters of what was the 'Moat Ward' between 1999 and 2007; and subsequently the 'Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Ward'; between 2007 and 2017; for electing me on four consecutive occasions. 

It's been the political, and professional, privilege of my life to represent those local Edinburgh residents for nearly two decades now.

Nothing I've done in my life beforehand, and I'm sure nothing that I'll do with my life in the future; will match the hugely enriching local experiences I've had over those two decades. 

But today, I'm confirming that I won't be putting my name forward for a fifth consecutive occasion, and thus will not be standing for potential re-election in 2017. 

As those close to me know full well - I'm not someone who has ever envisaged my whole working life being in politics --- indeed, for well over a decade from the mid-1980's and into the 1990's, I worked in a variety of private sector environments and it wasn't until relatively late ... at 35-years of age ... that I entered front-line politics; first being elected in 1999.

I'll thus be 53-years of age in a few months time; and would be - if successfully re-elected - over 58-years of age at the end of the next Council-term in 2022 ... 

... and I'm sure it won't come as a shock to close friends, family and colleagues; when I simply say I want to now move on; to focus on a different phase in my life. A phase that once again will not involve front-line politics, in any shape or form - whatsoever

And as my family and friends also know ... whilst I can indeed be a political-anorak of the highest order, I do also maintain a wide and diverse range of personal interests outside of formal politics. Indeed, I like to think that that breadth of outside interests has helped to keep my feet on-the-ground in recent years, and also enabled me to keep my political-roles in some sort of perspective. 

And I simply now want to focus on some of those personal interests in the next few years of my life. Nothing more, nothing less

But I will always be grateful for the privilege of being in Elected Office over these last near, two-decades. Since first being elected in 1999, I've been witness to the complete transformation of politics in the UK - I think for the better - it's a subject I've blogged about before - see here in particular.

And obviously, the specific privilege of being the Council Leader, of the Capital City, of my home-Country, for the last 4-years, has been something I will always cherish. 

In those 4-years, as Council Leader, I've experienced a pace of political events that's been somewhat breathtaking ... here is a short list of the most obvious:
  • forming the only, two-Party, Labour/SNP Coalition, in the whole of Scottish Local Government, after the May 2012 Local Elections 
  • it still is the only such local Coalition 
  • and doing so from, and after, being in Opposition for only one term 
  • openly publishing a new 'Contract with the Capital'; and putting those local Coalition pledges, and their independent monitoring, into the public domain 
  • instigating the open webcasting of the vast majority of all Council Meetings 
  • then successfully seeing a new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a Ward by-election in June 2013 
  • seeing through a European Election in June of 2014 
  • working through the Scottish Referendum in the September of 2014 
  • quickly followed by the UK General Election of May 2015 
  • successfully seeing another new local candidate, from my Party, elected in a second Ward by-election in September 2015 
  • then the Holyrood Parliament Elections of May 2016 
  • that all quickly followed by the European Referendum in June 2016 
  • and throughout all of that, leading the local Labour/SNP Coalition and running the Capital City, with three different SNP Group Leaders (thus three different Council Deputy Leaders) within that 4-year period! 

Now, not for one second would I claim that policy and delivery mistakes haven't been made - of course they have; both collectively and personally ... and it would be wholly wrong of me to personally assess our overall political performance - that is most certainly a task for others to do, in due course. 

But, I am personally proud of the last 4-years ... and when it comes to local policy delivery, all I would ask is for a relevant amount of focus to be paid to, for example
  • Educational attainment for all our students 
  • Transport-mode usage figures 
  • Particularly, growth in cycling spend and general usage
  • Economic performance statistics; specifically local employment figures
  • The overall quantum of Social Care being delivered 'at home' 
  • 'Edinburgh Festivals' growth and success over recent years
  • The number of 'Housing completions' in recent years
  • The localised delivery of Services and Budgets, to communities 
  • Not to mention delivery of the Living Wage and settlement of Equal Pay issues

... to mention but a few areas.

And for more than these last 4-years; I have actually been the local Labour Group Leader for over 8-years now ... and I am unreservedly proud of being re-elected as such, at 9 consecutive Labour Group AGM's. I am extremely grateful for the trust, support, help and assistance; given by all of my Elected Labour-colleagues over those years.

I'm also very proud of the various Election Agent (and other) roles that I've undertaken for my Party at both Westminster and Holyrood levels since 1999.

And beyond the Capital City, it has also been a huge privilege - over recent years - to Chair both:

Of course, in my role as Edinburgh Council Leader, I will continue to fulfil all of these duties - to the very best of my abilities - right through until the first Thursday in May of next year.

Back in May 2012 I committed to a five-year term, and I intend to complete that term as Council Leader and finish the work that both myself, and the current Coalition, have a mandate to deliver upon.

I will not though be seeking re-selection this Autumn, and will not thus be a candidate in next year's Local Government Elections.

And most importantly of all - as I referenced at the start of this post - it really needs no repetition; but the biggest privilege has been serving local Edinburgh residents, at a Ward level, for coming up on 18-years now. 

I will be forever grateful for the opportunities this most beautiful City, and its wonderful local residents, have given me. 

So yes indeed ... Thank You Edinburgh.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome to Edinburgh, one of the world's friendliest cities!

Edinburgh has been voted one of world's top 20 friendliest cities

CouncilLeader Andrew Burns has welcomed news that the Capital is the only UK City to make it on to a shortlist of the world's friendliest cities.

Edinburgh took 11th place in the countdown by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine, with only five other European cities making the list (Dublin, Galway, Krakow, Bruges and Reykjavik). 

In its article revealing the top 20 friendliest cities for 2016, the magazine said of Edinburgh: 

" A “great mix of ancient and modern” with “great energy” - be it on a typical Tuesday or during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. One reader in particular shared this lovely story that seemed to sum up Scotland's capital city: “Just down the Royal Mile from the [Edinburgh] Castle we happened on a little restaurant with eclectic/offbeat décor, interesting food, and presentation. After luncheon, when we left, my husband was jostled and fell - several people stopped to help, were very concerned about his well-being. They even offered to drive us back to our accommodation - what great people!” "

Cllr. Burns said:

“Another tremendous – and richly deserved – accolade for Edinburgh. To be the only UK City to make it into this countdown of the world’s friendliest cities is a huge tribute to the warmth and kindness of the people of this great city. With our packed calendar of exciting events year-round, and especially during peak festival season in August, we always go above and beyond to give a wonderful welcome to visitors from all over the world.”  

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Really Bad Blog's "10th Anniversary" :-)

I can't quite believe it --- but today marks 10-years of the "Really Bad Blog"!

Someone pointed out to me last week, that I've been consistently posting really bad blogs since the 17th August 2006 ... and this link proves they are absolutely correct :-)

Celebration all-round :-))

Monday, August 15, 2016

Festivals-season is upon the Capital

Festivals-season is indeed most truly upon the Capital ... reminded me to re-post this brief article I had in the local Newspaper a few weeks ago (direct link via here), which does underscore the very real economic benefits that come to Edinburgh:

Festivals-season is upon the Capital

There is just no doubt that tourism more widely, and the Edinburgh Festivals in particular, are of huge importance to the Capital City, and to Scotland as a whole.

And, as Edinburgh is about to fully enter the 2016 Festivals-season, it’s worth reflecting on the huge, overall value (in every sense of the word) that this time of year provides to our home City.

As the current Council Leader in Edinburgh, I do understand the importance to our local economy of tourism, and specifically of the Edinburgh festivals – I know that Scotland’s capital city is one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Europe, welcoming an astounding 4-million individual visitors a year … that’s 8 times the current resident-population of the whole City.

And Edinburgh also acts as the gateway to Scotland, with around 60% of visitors spending time in the Capital before seeing other parts of the country. The world-class cultural offer in Edinburgh is also a vital stimulus for the wider City Region’s significant creative and service industries.

Edinburgh’s cultural offer now centres on its 12 major festivals, which have unrivalled international appeal, and the year-round cultural infrastructure (providers and venues) which enable the festivals to thrive.

Indeed, just this week research has been published which confirms the huge contribution that Edinburgh’s Festivals make to the quality of life, international reputation and economic vitality of Edinburgh and Scotland.

This latest ‘Impact Study’, which surveyed 29,000 people during 2015, shows that Edinburgh’s Festivals continue to be Scotland’s world-leading cultural brand, delivering significant attendance numbers through their unrivalled cultural programmes.

Key findings from the study show that Edinburgh’s Festivals are now attracting specific audiences of over 4.5-million, which puts them on a par with the Football World Cup, and being second only to the Olympic Games. That’s right – last year, Edinburgh’s Festivals were the same size (in audience terms) as the Football World Cup; and there’s no reason to believe that this year we will see a similar, if not larger, audience attendance right here in Edinburgh.

And most crucially, this level of activity acts as a significant economic driver for Edinburgh and Scotland. Last year’s impact study showed that the Festivals generated some £280million for the local economy; and a further £313million was generated for the wider Scottish economy.

That economic activity provides a very real benefit to literally thousands of families here in Edinburgh – now supporting the equivalent of 5,660 full time jobs … with a further 6,021 full time jobs being supported Scotland-wide: all directly due to the Festivals.

The impact study also looked in detail at visitor’s impressions of Edinburgh as a result of their Festivals’ experience – key findings from this section of the study show that some 94% of respondents believe that the Festivals are part of what makes Edinburgh special as a city.

It’s also very clear that the Festivals create a sense of ‘civic pride’ with 89% of audience members agreeing that the Festivals increased their pride in Edinburgh as a city.

Amidst these visitor statistics, it really is crucial to remember that the Festivals also attract a huge number of Edinburgh residents as audience members.

For nine years now the Council – via an independent market research company - has undertaken a wide-ranging Edinburgh People Survey (EPS) to gauge the feelings of residents by asking quality of life issues.

Last year’s 2015 Edinburgh People Survey found that some 63% of residents had participated in the Festivals, which were the most common cultural activity for local citizens, while also showing that those participating in cultural activities were more likely to have a positive view of the Capital City.

All of this is obviously positive news as we approach 2017, and the 70th anniversary of the birth of Edinburgh as a Festival-City.

This 2015 ‘Impact Study’ (echoed by the findings of the 2015 Edinburgh People Survey) really do underline the very real value that our Festivals provide to our City; and remind us that our distinctive cultural offering remains the absolute envy of other cities around the world.

Cllr. Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Allotment Update ;-)

Some major 'compost re-organisation' at the Allotment this evening ...

... was a really glorious evening weather-wise; and it all spurred me to shift close on a ton of soil in just a few hours!

Also got a good crop of potatoes, broad-beans, raspberries and blackberries :-) 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Edinburgh Schools Update

Confirmation today that all 17 closed schools have re-opened ahead of schedule - full News Release is available via this link, and I'll re-produce the main text below as well:

Closed schools open ahead of schedule

All 17 closed schools have reopened ahead of schedule with the final two handed back to the City of Edinburgh Council today (Thursday 11 August).
Remedial works on Drummond Community High and The Royal High have been completed by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership which means all pupils will be back in their own schools as normal for the start of the new session next Wednesday (17 August).
In total 17 schools were closed with 7,600 pupils affected as the Council put in place a huge logistical plan to provide alternative arrangements. More than 5,000 children were educated at over 70 different schools and education facilities during the three months up to the start of the summer holidays.
Council Leader Andrew Burns said: “I’m delighted that all of our pupils affected by the closures will be back in their own schools next week as we promised parents we would try to achieve this. We stressed to the Edinburgh Schools Partnership that they should bring forward school reopening dates where possible which has happened.
“Our priority has always been the safety of our pupils and staff and we insisted that ESP and their contractors ensure all our schools are 100% safe to reopen. All the relevant paperwork has been published on our website having been reviewed by an independent expert on behalf of the Council.
“I want again to thank parents and pupils for their patience and understanding and teaching staff for their commitment and flexibility during these difficult past few months.
“The next steps now are to establish exactly what went wrong with these schools. The Council has appointed respected construction and procurement industry expert John Cole CBE to lead an independent inquiry.
“Clear and thorough terms of reference set out exactly what we are aiming to achieve through this inquiry. We want to find out what went wrong and are determined to see what lessons can be learned, not just here in Edinburgh but across Scotland and the UK.”
Correspondence from ESP and their contractors providing safety assurances has been regularly published on the Council website(external link) as each school reopened. 
The independent inquiry has already started and is expected to finish before the end of the year.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Exam results success for Edinburgh pupils

Very good to see continuing improvement in Edinburgh's exam results today - full News Release available via this link, and I'll simply re-produce it below as well:

Exam results success for Edinburgh pupils

The nervous wait is finally over today (Tuesday 9 August) as thousands of pupils across Edinburgh receive their exam results.
Exams results
Candidates in Scotland's Capital have once again exceeded expectations from previous years and there have been notable improvements in several key measures.
A total of 39,884 resulted awards were certificated for 8,007 candidates in more than 80 subjects, ranging from Accounting to Urdu.
A particular strength is the attainment of pupils by the end of S5 and S6 where strong levels of attainment have either been maintained or improved at all stages.
Highlights include:
  • By the end of S4, 43% of the S4 roll achieved 5 qualifications at National 5 level which is an increase of 4 percentage points from last year.
  • By the end of S5, 37% of the S4 roll achieved 3 or more Highers – a 2 percentage point improvement on last year and an 8 percentage point improvement since 2011.
  • By the end of S6, 66% of the S4 roll achieved one or more Highers – a 3 percentage point increase on last year and an 11 percentage point improvement since 2011.
  • By the end of S6, 25% of the S4 roll achieved one or more Advanced Highers – a 3 percentage point increase on last year.
Twins Thomas and Adam Anderson, 16 years, both sat 5 Highers at Liberton High School this summer.
Thomas said: “Some of the exams like the Science ones were quite tough but teachers at Liberton were really good. I’m interested in politics so I’m wanting to do law at University.”
Adam said: “I’m taking Advanced Highers next year in Physics, Maths and Computing Science so I’m hoping to go to the University of Edinburgh to study Physics and become a physicist.”
Councillor Paul Godzik, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, welcomed today’s results. He said: “SQA exam results show that 2016 has been another really positive year for our pupils, with performance rising yet again. It’s a real achievement to have not only sustained but built on the successes from previous years.
“This year’s results are very encouraging with a year on year improvement since 2011, resulting in our best ever results and by the end of S6 an impressive 66% achieved one or more Highers - a 11 percentage point improvement since 2011.
"I want to congratulate all those who sat exams this year, and thanks must also go to all our staff who have been working extremely hard. Our pupils should be very proud of themselves too – all their hard work has certainly paid off and praise should also go to parents who have supported their children over the past year.
“Another key aim is to make sure all school leavers enter a positive destination of employment, training or further education. Initiatives such as the Edinburgh Guarantee are going a long way to making this a reality for many of our former pupils.
“With 92% of our young people achieving and sustaining a positive destination this is a real success story. We will be looking to build on this in the future and I look forward to seeing many more placements and positive results.”
All candidates will receive their results by means of the traditional postal delivery on Tuesday 9 August. Those candidates who have activated their MySQA accounts, through which they can choose to receive their exam results by text in addition to their results certificate, will also receive these by 9am on Tuesday 9 August.
Additional information:
1. This is provisional information at this early stage with no national or comparator information available.
2. Analysis:
Results by end of S4
5+ awards at level 5 or better – 43% (4 percentage points more than last year).
Results by end of S5*
1+ award at level 6 or better - 59% (1 percentage point more than the previous year; continues a five year improving trend and a 9 percentage point improvement since 2011).
3+ awards at level 6 or better - 37% (2 percentage points more than the previous year;  continues a five year improving trend and an 8 percentage point improvement since 2011).
5+ awards at level 6 or better - 18% (1 percentage point more than the previous year, an improvement of 4 percentage points since 2011).
Results by end of S6*
1+ award at level 6 or better - 66% (3 percentage points more than the previous year and an 11 percentage point improvement since 2011).
3+ awards at level 6 or better - 46% (2 percentage points more than the previous year, a continuing improving trend and a 6 percentage point improvement since 2011).
5+ awards at level 6 or better - 32% (maintaining last year’s good result and a 4 percentage point improvement since 2011).
1+ award at level 7 - 25% (3 percentage points more than last year and an improvement of 5 percentage points since 2011).
*based on the percentage of S4 pupil roll.