Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Leader's Report

October 2014 

Edinburgh's budget challenge

Andrew Burns

How would you balance the city's books? Where would you spend; where would you save?

With four months to go until we set next year's budget, we have launched a new online tool to help encourage as many residents as possible to have their say on where money should be invested and saved in 2015/16 and beyond.

The budget planner, accompanied by a short explanatory film on our website, highlights the range of services the Council provides and the challenges we face over the coming years.

The consultation period runs all the way through until Friday 19 December, and we will consider all feedback prior to setting the final 2015/16 Budget in February.
Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh
Council
  

 

Doing the important things well


Very much with the above challenges in mind, 12 months ago councillors instructed our Chief Executive, Sue Bruce, to consider how we can improve performance, productivity and customer satisfaction.

In short, we don't have any choice; we must do things differently. Edinburgh is the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland and we are facing an ever increasing demand for our services against a backdrop of rising demand but stand-still or falling budgets.

Having established an overall approach to change in the council, Sue has now set out her vision for the future. Her report describes how we will plan to change the way we deliver services by focusing on priorities and outcomes in the city's neighbourhoods. This will allow us to deliver best value services for residents, reflect local needs and work together as efficiently as possible.


 

Edinburgh Befriending Consortium


My coalition colleague and Deputy Lord Provost, Deidre Brock, recently hosted the official launch of the Edinburgh Befriending Consortium (EBC) here in the City Chambers.

Made up of three organisations - CrossReach, The Broomhouse Centre and Children 1ST - the consortium provides much-needed support to young people who are affected by substance misuse in their family and who may be particularly isolated and unable to take part in activities.

Thanks to funding from Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, Partnership Drugs Initiative, the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership and the Council, EBC is now on a much firmer financial footing.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please visit the Children 1st website for further information.


 

City blossoms at Entente Florale


I am delighted to report that our parks, streets and gardens have been awarded Gold at the prestigious Entente Florale competition, Europe's biggest environmental awards.

Following on from our success in Britain in Bloom, this is a huge accolade for Edinburgh and proof that we have some of the finest green spaces in Europe. It's also testament to the huge amount of work carried out by the Council and the many volunteers and partners across the city.

We will receive a bronze plaque recognising these achievements, which will go on display later this year.


 

Gold standard communications


Congratulations also to the Council's Communications service, which was named Outstanding In-House Public Relations Team at the CIPR Scotland PRide Awards held last week.

The award recognises a diverse range of campaigns, aimed at both internal and external audiences. Judges cited a "superb team and a worthy winner", praising its consideration of a broad range of audiences through its campaigns.

The Council also won silver for Scottish Public Sector Team of the Year, and was finalist in a further two categories - Best Public Sector Campaign and Best Use of Social Media.


 

Democracy at your finger tips


I have high hopes that the significant interest, and turnout, in the Referendum will translate into greater engagement with local politics - and we're already doing what we can to encourage this.

Last month, we expanded our ability to broadcast council business, with the Dean of Guild meeting room now fitted out with cameras and microphones to stream nine additional committee meetings.

This is a another step forward in ensuring transparency and raising awareness of how the democratic process works and I am delighted that we now have further opportunities for residents to access and understand the local decisions that affect us all.

You can register to receive alerts detailing the agenda of the meetings which are available to view online six days in advance. Find out more about our webcasts from our website and join in the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #edinwebcast.


 

Stay in the picture


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Saturday, October 18, 2014

October Full Council Meeting

The October Council Meeting is coming up - next Thursday (23rd) ...

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!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Take the budget challenge

Take part in Edinburgh's budget Challenge!

I mentioned last week that our Draft Budget figures were now in the public domain ...

... well, much more detail is now additionally available via this link; and a budget-planner is also available, for everyone to have their say as to what services they would spend or save resources on?

And I'll just re-produce the relevant News Release below:

=======

Take the budget challenge




New online tool enables residents to have their say on how the Capital invests and saves

With more than four months to go before the Capital's 2015/16 budget is set, the City of Edinburgh Council has unveiled an innovative online tool to help encourage as many residents as possible to have their say on where money should be invested and saved in 2015/16 and beyond.

At a meeting of the Finance & Resources Committee earlier this week (Tuesday 30 September), councillors approved a report on the draft budget, along with a set of budget proposals for public consultation over the coming months.  

The budget engagement period, which runs until 19 December 2014, begins today [Friday 3 October 2014] and is this year supplemented for the first time by an interactive online budget planner, the first time such a feature has been used by a major city in Scotland. 

The budget planner, together with a short film on the Council's website and YouTube channel, highlights the range of services the Council provides and the challenges it faces over the coming years in deciding which ones to prioritise against a backdrop of rising demand but flat or reducing resources.

Members of the public can take virtual control of the City's finances by using the planner tool to decide how they would balance the budget, discovering how increasing spend in some areas would impact on other areas.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, Finance Convener, said: “It is very important to us that we hear and respond to what the people of Edinburgh are saying. By publishing our draft budget proposals months in advance of the February deadline it gives the public an opportunity to tell us what services they want their Council to spend more on and to help us to shape them in a way that will improve the lives of all our city’s residents. 


“This year we have introduced a number of new initiatives to make it even easier for people to tell us how the Council should spend its money. As a result, we are hoping that more of you let us know your views. It is important that people know that we are listening and responding to what they have to say.”

Councillor Bill Cook , Vice Convener, added:  “We want you to be part of this process and we need you to put forward your views whether it is by using our online planner, phone, letter, email, social media, or other means. Everything you say will be considered as part of the budget process and this invaluable feedback will inform the final budget proposals we’ll be putting to the Council in February 2015."

The full budget proposals, the budget planner and short film can all be accessed at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget.

You can have your say by:

- completing the online budget planner to have your say on what services you would spend or save money on in 2015 to 2018

- commenting on the 2015/16 proposals

You can do this by:

email
phone on 0131 200 2305 (8.30am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, 8.30am to 3.40pm Friday)
writing to us at Freepost, RSJC-SLXC-YTJY, Budget, Council Leader, City Chambers, High Street Edinburgh EH1 1YJ
speaking to your local councillor

Thursday, October 02, 2014

National Poetry Day

Hooray! --- it's National Poetry Day 2014 ;-)

... and this year's theme is; "Remember".

As per recent years, here are a few lines, with the annual theme in mind:


Remember

Still
today I remember
in the quiet
but amidst the noise
too, nothing drowns
out the silence
of emotion.

Calm
now, as the day
begins anew
each moment special
every breath cherished
and yet
the silence.

On days
it can deafen
all else swept
aside, as memory
seeps through every
pore, each detail
clear, warm.

Not
for me the choice
to forget, but to
remember
for what else
can one do, before
the silence.

------

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Allotment-update ... at last :-)

Good grief ... I do believe my last Allotment-update was back in mid-July ... that #indyref has a lot to answer for :-(

Luckily, my better-half has kept things ticking over; and given this was the first weekend I've had free for months - we did actually manage to spend several hours down there this afternoon ...

... with the picture on the left showing that there's still plenty of colour left in the flower-beds ;-)

Dug up more potatoes (still another, whole bed to lift), with a reasonable crop forthcoming; and the snap below shows that several other crops:
  • leeks
  • sweetcorn
  • parsnips
  • kale
  • rhubarb
  • and beetroot

    ... are all still growing strongly :-)
Lots more digging to do!

(just click on either picture for a closer view)


Friday, September 26, 2014

Draft 2015/16 Budget-proposals now available

Whilst most national media-attention (rightly so) has been on the recent Independence Referendum; the life of Local Government has been proceeding apace ...

... and, as per last year, we still had a clear commitment to publish next year's (2015/16) Budget-figures by the end of the preceding September i.e. this week!

Pleased to be able to confirm that those figures are indeed now in the public domain - they will be initially debated at next Tuesday afternoon's "Finance and Resources" Committee: all the reports/agenda are available via here; and the main report in question is directly accessible via here - 2015/18 revenue and capital budget framework.

Initial details on the budget consultation (for 2015/16) are now here - but much more will be up via that link around 3rd October. Please do re-visit that page, and ensure you have your say on these draft proposals ...

... and don't hesitate to contact me directly if you have any specific queries meantime.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Corporate, Policy and Strategy Committee next Tuesday

As mentioned at the end of August, there are two 'Policy and Strategy' committee meetings this month - with the second being this coming Tuesday (30th September) ...

... all the papers/reports 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 some attention and debate:
Just click on any of the above links for access (as a PDF) to the specific report ...

... and, wait for it, from next Tuesday's Meeting onwards all of the Policy and Strategy Committee gatherings will be webcast live - and thereafter archived! All available via here ;-)

Friday, September 19, 2014

September Leader's Report


Leader's ReportSeptember 2014

Business as usual

   

The dust is still settling following the outcome of the Scottish Independence Referendum, announced earlier today at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.

The media attention on Scotland, and on Edinburgh in particular, has been unparalled and I am delighted that, as ever, our city shone. Credit is due to the many hundreds of council, and other, staff who played their part in making this possible - both at Ingliston and elsewhere across the city.

Of course, whatever the result, Edinburgh was still going to remain Scotland's capital and a wonderful place to live and work - and, crucially, to do business.

We are in the unique position here in that we have a Labour-SNP coalition running the city - something that will continue at least until the next local council elections in 2017. We have successfully kept constitutional debate out of the Chambers for the first half of our term and there is absolutely no reason at all why that can't continue.

I can assure you that our focus will remain on running the city in the fairest and most efficient way possible and on keeping to the pledges set out in our Contract with the Capital two-and-a-half years ago.
Councillor Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh
Council

 



First 100 days of trams

Sunday 7 September marked the 100th day since Edinburgh Trams began passenger services and we were delighted to report that 1.5 million people travelled by tram in that period. The numbers are very much in line with predictions and with the business model and while it's obviously still early days, it's certainly been an encouraging start.

It's also very welcome to see the increase in passenger numbers at Lothian Buses. The most recent Census in 2011 told us that the Capital was bucking the national trend in having more people using public transport, walking or cycling to commute and it definitely appears as though this trend is continuing.




Harlaw Hydro

I am delighted that work has now begun to develop a hydro electricity generation scheme at Edinburgh's Harlow Reservoir, a community led initiative that will harness enough energy from the water to power more than 50 homes.

Due to be completed by the end of the year, the project aims to save more than 129 tonnes of carbon dioxide and produce 260,000Wh of green electricity. It has the backing of 240 shareholders, myself included, with around 70 per cent from the local Balerno, Currie and Juniper Green communities. Further investment is still required and the project is calling for additional backers.

As I've said before in this report, we are aiming to become a more Cooperative Council through, amongst other things, promoting the development of cooperatives and other social enterprises. Please visit the Council website for further information.




APSE awards

Congratulations to the three Edinburgh projects that made it to the finals of this year's Association for Public Excellence (APSE) national awards. The shortlisting of the Muirhouse Community Shop, the Moredun/Hyvots Bank regeneration scheme and the Smarter Rehab project meant that we were also in the running for 'Council of the Year'.

Even though they weren't successful, it was a great achievement for Edinburgh, and despite increasing pressure on budgets and resources, it demonstrated that our frontline services continue to ensure that the people are well cared for and looked after.

I would like to congratulate all staff across the Council for their hard work and dedication to providing excellent services for residents which led to these nominations.




Have your say on 20mph plans

Following a successful pilot in South Edinburgh, a 20mph speed limit is now proposed for many city streets including the city centre, main shopping streets, other main roads with more pedestrians, and residential areas. A network of roads in suburban areas would keep a 30mph or 40mph limit.

A consultation is now live to help draw up plans for new 20mph speed limits across the capital. We've been delighted with participation so far - we received more than 1,000 responses within just two weeks of promoting the survey.

You can take part via the Council website or by attending one of the planned public meetings, roadshows and drop-in sessions being held across the city over the coming weeks.




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September Full Council Meeting

Well - the referendum may 'only just' be over ... but Council business continues apace, with next Thursday (25th) being our September Full Council day.

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!


Edinburgh Council Leader: 'Our City Shone'

Council Leader Andrew Burns speaks following the Referendum result



"The dust is still settling following the outcome of the Scottish Independence Referendum, announced earlier today at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.

The media attention on Scotland, and on Edinburgh in particular, has been unparalleled and I am delighted that, as ever, our city shone.

Credit is due to the many hundreds of Council, and other, staff who played their part in making this possible – both at Ingliston and elsewhere across the city.

Of course, whatever the result, Edinburgh was still going to remain Scotland’s Capital and a wonderful place to live and work – and, crucially, to do business.

We are in the unique position here in that we have a Labour-SNP coalition running the city – something that will continue at least until the next local council elections in 2017. We have successfully kept constitutional debate out of the Chambers for the first half of our term and there is absolutely no reason at all why that can’t continue.

I can assure you that our focus will remain on running the city in the fairest and most efficient way possible and on keeping to the pledges set out in our Contract with the Capital two-and-a-half years ago."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

YES or NO - on Friday, we all need to work collectively

I will vote NO tomorrow, as variously explained over recent months and repeated in this blog-post from earlier, but whether the result is NO or YES; come this Friday, we are all going to need to work collectively together ...

... and here's a reminder of that plea I made on September 17th last year.

I'll certainly be keeping these thoughts at the forefront of my mind over coming days and weeks. I hope you can too.


------





The morning after ...


* Friday 19th September 2014? *

A year to go until the referendum.

I've a shocking acknowledgement to make - I don't think the sky will fall in, if Scotland votes yes next year ...

... even more shocking - I don't think the sky will fall in, if Scotland votes no next year either.

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.

Now, it won't shock anyone to hear that I'll be voting no.

Just type 'devolution' in the top-left, blogger search-box; and scan through the results, and you'll quickly realise that I'm a (relatively) unusual - but hopefully consistent - unreformed, Labour Party (con)Federalist.

If I was to pick out one post, to illustrate my thinking, I guess I'd choose this one (and the links therein); but there are many more if you're inclined to undertake the suggested search ;-)

I have thought (rather sadly!) about these issues over several decades now, and basically remain fully committed to the cause of a Federal UK.

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.

366-days from now, regardless of the result, we'll wake up and the sky won't have fallen in; the earth will still be turning; and the sun will have risen ... and we'll need to collectively get on with attempting to make our country a better place to live in, for as many of its inhabitants as possible.

The vast majority of the people I know, on both sides of the referendum debate, are working to do just that today ... they'll be doing just that tomorrow; in a months time; and in years time.

Wouldn't the next 12-months be a little more interesting, and engaging, if we could all just keep that in mind as we move towards the morning of Friday 19th September 2014?



Referendum tomorrow ... it's a NO from me

It probably hasn't escaped your attention that there's a referendum here in Scotland tomorrow!

Huge amount of attention here in Edinburgh - not only will the Capital City result be counted/announced here, but the overall Scotland-wide result will also be collated/announced at the Edinburgh Count-Centre out at Ingliston.

I made a bit of plea, over a year ago, for all sides to keep the campaign in perspective ... because, come what may, this Friday morning/afternoon we'll all need to collectively get on with attempting to make our country a better place to live in, for as many of its inhabitants as possible. The vast majority of the people I know, on both sides of the referendum debate, are working to do just that.

In a moment, I'm going to re-blog that post, as my last entry before the polls open ...

... before that - here's a reminder of a much earlier post I put up; from way back in September 2011, before the referendum had even been finally decided upon - it really explains why I'll be voting NO tomorrow, whilst I remain completely respectful of anyone who takes the opposite-view:


------





Back to the backbenches
 
Now, my local political opponents shouldn’t get too excited as I’m not talking about the City of Edinburgh Council ;-)

No, I’m referring to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) ... as regular readers will know, the ERS AGM was held a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t report on events then as the election of Officers (of the ERS Council) was postponed for a couple of weeks due to a few absences from the meeting in London on the 3rd.

So, this Saturday’s Council Meeting had the task of electing the Officers for the next 12-months.

And yesterday, I stood to remain Chair and lost the vote by the narrowest of margins – 1.

And I should start these reflections by congratulating the new Chair – John Ault – and wishing him all the best in the role for the coming 12-months. He’ll have my 100% support.

I’d taken the decision before the meeting, not to contest any other Officer post if I didn’t get the Chair’s position – as the title of this blogpost indicates, I’d concluded it was either Chair or ‘back to the backbenches’.

And that’s where I’ll now be for the next while on the ERS Council. Less trips to London, a lot less e-mails and possibly a bit more time to spend on that allotment ;-)

Inevitably the events of Saturday have led me to reflect on the state of the democratic reform movement as we move on from last May’s referendum defeat and into a new phase of campaigning. I’ve not engaged in the endless post-mortems about last May and that deeply disappointing result ... and I don’t intend to dwell on it here, given the acres of print already expended on the subject. Suffice to say, all of us involved in that campaign have to accept a degree of responsibility for what went wrong.

But I do want to reflect on wider issues and put May’s defeat into some sort of context.

If I had a pound for every time (since May) I’d heard someone argue that the democratic reform movement was dysfunctional and had achieved nothing, I’d be a rich man :-(

Of course, the ERS – and all the other non-Party Groups – have their problems ... as do all the major and minor political Parties in this country. Stick a bunch of disparate activists together in a campaign (non-Party or Party) and an element of dysfunctionality is beyond certain ;-)

Democracy, properly practiced, with real people, is messy, difficult and bloody frustrating.

And thank goodness for it.

But it’s the claims of ‘just what has the democratic reform movement ever achieved’ that have become just a tad annoying for my liking. I want to explain just why I think that.

I guess I first became involved in the wider 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, first being elected to the ERS Council in the mid-1990s and eventually being elected as a Local Government Councillor in Edinburgh for the first time in 1999.

Back then, in the early 1990’s, many of the newly elected Members of this year’s ERS Council would still have been at Primary School and here’s what didn’t exist:
  • 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.

If you never experienced it, I can understand it’s probably hard to imagine what the UK looked and felt like prior to these reforms – what can I say ... politically, it was a pretty dispiriting state of affairs for any genuine democrat.

But 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.

Just ask those involved in that first 1979 Scottish Referendum how they felt in the months after defeat?

But, many of those very same people were still involved in the later-1997 Referendum Campaign that led directly to the formal establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

Regular readers will know that I'm not really one for heroes - but looking back, if I do have any 'political heroes' it’s those people – some of whom I was lucky enough to work with in that 1997 campaign – the ones who kept the flame of constitutional reform alive after the darkest of days. And, eventually they did indeed achieve what they aspired for.

And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the new Members of the ERS Council – and the many others who are working tirelessly for meaningful democratic reform – will see further achievements in the next two decades.

It may not seem likely right at this minute, but history tells me it will indeed happen.

But not if we spend any more time feeling sorry for ourselves or asking ‘just what has the democratic reform movement ever achieved’.

It’s achieved an enormous amount - literally having transformed this country’s politics.

But there’s some unfinished business and, for me, we simply now need to get on and complete the job.

Just like those 'political heroes' of 1979 did.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Change is coming; yes or no ...

The state has tried to control too much from the centre for too long

The Scottish referendum is now just a couple of days away, but it’s already clear it will have a profound effect on the UK whatever the outcome.

The status quo is no longer on offer – the choice is between the gamble of separation or an unprecedented transfer of powers to Scotland within the UK. But this plan for more powers is only the start of the change we need in exactly where power lies.
 
Regions right across the United Kingdom, individual communities and the households and individuals that make them up, all feel excluded from power over the decisions that affect them day to day. The game is up for top-down decision-making based in Whitehall as people make it clear they want big change. The risk facing Scotland is that Alex Salmond’s plan to replace centralised Whitehall control will just result in a new top-down centralisation based in Holyrood.

Labour is developing ideas that have the potential to deliver the change that’s really needed. Andrew Adonis’ proposals for powerful city-regions will shift decision-making over transport, housing, regeneration, infrastructure and elements of welfare and the economy closer to the communities they affect. This is a start that will go further in future, and it would benefit the Scottish cities and regions just as much as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Ed Miliband’s radical call for a people-power revolution in public services would see more power placed in the hands of those who use public services, rather than leave them subject to decision-making by the organisations that run them. In an age when people experience so much more control over their lives and their choices as consumers of goods and services, and with the age of deference long dead, it’s simply unacceptable that so many public services are offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis by those who tell us they know best. For too long now, government, at all levels, has done things to peoplewhen we should be doing things with people.

The state has tried to control too much from the centre for too long, whether that power is based in Whitehall or the town hall. We need to shift power as close as possible to the people it affects if we want to restore trust in the political system. Parents need more control over schools, patients need a bigger say in their treatment, tenants need more control over how their homes and estates are managed, victims need more power to help stop crime. That way we can harness the insights of individuals and communities to make public services more effective at doing the things people really want to see, and force organisations to work together in local partnerships that focus on local priorities and prevent problems from happening rather than try to manage failure.

We need to accept, too, that different places will do things differently. We should welcome that as the way to let innovation flourish. We can strengthen civil society, rebuild broken relationships within communities, and give people back the self-reliance they need to aspire to a better life by involving them in the decisions that affect them. All of this works best if the United Kingdom’s family of nations remains together, giving us the strength we need to support each other in a fast-changing world even as we devolve power down as close as possible to the people it affects.

Whatever the outcome, there can be no doubt that this referendum has changed Scotland. But it has not just changed Scotland; it will change Britain, because the thirst for democratic and economic change that has been heard from the Scottish people is shared by people throughout Britain. We need more power for every nation, region, community and individual in our country as part of a revolution that will change Britain for good.

Steve Reed is the Labour MP for Croydon North and former Leader of Lambeth Council.
Andrew Burns is a Labour Councillor and Leader of Edinburgh Council

(First published at the New Statesman 16/09/14)

 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Craighouse Hearing

I think it's fair to say that most local people (not to mention those further afield) where pretty stunned at the final outcome of last Wednesday's "Craighouse Hearing" meeting ...

... I had to leave the Hearing, having spoken in objection earlier, to get over to Glasgow for the early evening; and couldn't quite believe events as they unfolded before me, via twitter :-(

Given that the meeting was taken in the Main Council Chamber, the whole +7-hour event was webcast/recorded; and after some frustrating delays, the whole video is now up on the Council's archive site - here: http://www.edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/145532

... if you're so interested, you can hear me speak, from here: http://www.edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/145532/145532/webcast/start_time/8929000

Just for the avoidance of any doubt, I'll list the vote - as cast and evidenced on the webcast - at the bottom of this post.

And I'll re-produce immediately below, the note I had before me, when I spoke to to the meeting ...

... and I am most definitely minded to support calls for this application to now be called-in by the Scottish Government. To that end, I will - as a local Councillor - write to the Minister for Local Government and Planning, within the next few days.

===

Application 12/04007/SCH3 (Scheme 3)
 
Planning permission and listed building consent for the proposed Craighouse development (12/04007/SCH3) should be refused as;
 
The proposals have been assessed against the relevant provisions of the development plan and it is concluded that they do not fully accord with development plan policy.
 
The proposed development is contrary to local plan policy to a greater or lesser extent in terms of:
 
·        the impact on the setting of the listed buildings
·        the impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area
·        the impact on landscape character and views to and from the site
·        the loss of trees
 
·        and the loss of open space, namely
  1. policies Des1
  2. Des3
  3. Des10
  4. Env3
  5. Env6
  6. Env11
  7. Env12
  8. and Os1 of the Edinburgh City Local Plan 
·        Further, it is contrary to Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019 policies aimed at increasing modal share for active and sustainable travel

And crucially, I believe the new-build elements of the proposal do not meet the definition of enabling development, either within Scottish Planning Policy; or within English Heritage Policy ...
 
While there is no specific local plan policy relating to enabling development Scottish Planning Policy states:
 
"142. Enabling development may be acceptable where it can be clearly shown to be the only means of preventing the loss of the asset and securing its long-term future. Any development should be the minimum necessary to achieve these aims. The resultant development should be designed and sited carefully to preserve or enhance the character and setting of the historic asset."
 
English Heritage Policy
 
There is no specific Scottish guidance in respect of enabling cases and therefore it is considered appropriate to consider the English Heritage guidance 'Enabling Development and the Conservation of Significant Places'.
 
The English Heritage document states;
 
"Enabling development that would secure the future of a significant place, but contravene other planning policy objectives, should be unacceptable unless:
 
a) it will not materially harm the heritage values of the place or its setting
b) it avoids detrimental fragmentation of management of the place
c) it will secure the long-term future of the place and, where applicable, its continued use for a sympathetic purpose
d) it is necessary to resolve problems arising from the inherent needs of the place, rather than the circumstances of the present owner, or the purchase price paid
e) sufficient subsidy is not available from any other source
f) it is demonstrated that the amount of enabling development is the minimum
necessary to secure the future of the place, and that its form minimises harm to other public interests
g) the public benefit of securing the future of the significant place through such enabling development decisively outweighs the disbenefits of breaching other public policies."
 
So, in conclusion:

·        I believe the Scheme 3 proposals are self-evidently contrary to numerous development plan policies
·        They do not meet the definition of enabling development, either within Scottish Planning Policy; or within English Heritage Policy
·        And there are therefore no material considerations which indicate that the development should be granted

I ask the Committee to refuse this application.

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VOTED FOR GRANT
VOTED FOR REFUSAL

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Find out where, when and how to vote ...


All the information you could possibly need on where, when and how to vote - via this one handy link!

And not a single mention of yes or no :-)

Whichever way you're thinking of voting - PLEASE DO VOTE.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Tony Benn: Will and Testament

A special event screening of Tony Benn: Will and Testament followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A.

Tony Benn: Will and Testament is a unique autobiographical feature-length film - an intimate and personal reflection on life, work, love and loss from one of the UKs most influential and charismatic political figures - Tony Benn.

In the film Tony presents his own personal reflections on his childhood and youth, marriage and family, political career and retirement through intimate, confessional interviews wonderfully illustrated by his personal photographic and film archives.

Tony Benn was very proud of his Celtic connections. His mother was born in Paisley, one Grandfather was a Clyde ship worker and another an Irvine steeplejack.
It is therefore fitting that the “Will and Testament Town Hall Screening Tour” should come to the City of Glasgow:


The Grand Hall, City Halls, Glasgow
Film starts at 7.30pm. Doors open 6.45pm