Tuesday 8 March 2016

Wester Hailes Community Trust - a new creation

I managed to get along to the information event held on Saturday at Wester Hailes Library to discuss the creation of the new Wester Hailes Community Trust, launched to support local people and help them make real community decisions that will shape the future of Wester Hailes. Planning for the WHCT began after the success of the Open Space event in April 2015 which brought local people together to discuss what mattered most to them and what they could do to address these issues. After the event several local people, community organisations, the Council and NHS staff working together to raise funding to address the Open Space action plan. This work was successful and resulted in an award of £65k a year for the next 3 years from the STV Children's Appeal. This is a significant amount of financial support and could deliver a lot of positive outcomes for the local community. I look forward to working with the new WHCT in the future.

Friday 4 March 2016

WEGARAH - end of an era

It may not have hid the headlines, but last week's meeting of WEGARAH (West Edinburgh Group Against Racial Attack & Harassment) was the end of an era. A multi agency and community engagement group, we meet every 8 weeks or so to discuss local incidents that may have included a racial element to talk about support for victims and the responsiveness and policies of our public bodies. Obviously, the Police have a key role to play in the discussions but the Council's Housing and Social Care services are also involved as well as local housing association, Prospect. The Procurator Fiscal's service is also represented which has proved to be particularly interesting and helpful in recent discussions.

I've had the privilege of chairing this group since its inception 16 years ago, following discussions between the late Superintendent Jinty Kerr and local activist Ijaz Ashraf.

Due to a change in the funding relationship between the Council and WEGARAH's parent body, Scorescotland Ijaz's time at the organisation has come to an end. His support and commitment to WEGARAH has been significant and while I am hopeful that the group will continue to meet and discuss Ijaz's influence will be missed. Our next meeting will consider what arrangements need to be put in place to ensure that this opportunity for open discussion continues.

Thursday 28 January 2016

16,000 New Homes !

I was delighted to attend the signing ceremony of an agreement between the Council and our RSL Partners (Registered Social Landlords e.g. Housing Associations) earlier today that commits us, in partnership, to deliver 16,000 new affordable and low cost homes in the city over the next 10 years.

Pledge signing
Historic Signing
We've already got an excellent working relationship with RSLs and a shared desire to tackle the lack of affordable housing In Edinburgh so it was good to agree a strategic partnership approach that will involve joint working to identify and unlock brownfield sites that have lain derelict for various reasons. It will also mean working with other public agencies to free up publicly owned land that could be used for new homes.

More detail is available within the Council's press release on this link.

Tonight is one of the regular "Meet the Politicians" events in my ward. Organised by the local community councils and the Currie and Balerno News at Balerno Parish Church, it's a chance to report back and answer questions from local residents. Tonight we are joined by our MP and an MEP so that should mean that we are in for a varied and rich discussion.

Monday 25 January 2016

Health, Social Care and Housing Committee 26th January

Image result for social careWell, the budget was passed last Thursday during a lengthy and subdued meeting at the City Chambers. I suppose nobody really enjoys debating a budget that comes with £85m of cuts.
Tomorrow is the first Health, Social Care and Housing Committee of 2016. It's a fairly lengthy agenda and we're expecting several deputations. You can access the agenda and reports on this link to the Council's CPOL (Council Papers On Line) page.

And of course you can always watch live on the webcast if you are so inclined. Or just catch the highlights package later......

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Council Budget 2016/17

Now that the blog has been resurrected, we may as well dive right in with this year's Council Budget which will be set tomorrow. Things are looking pretty grim financially for Councils across Scotland with Edinburgh alone needing to cut £85 million from this year's spending.

As per recent years we published a draft budget last September and consulted with the Edinburgh public until mid December.

Council funding is broken...
Most of the financial cuts will be achieved through losing staff, about 2000 jobs. Many have left and more will follow through the voluntary schemes available. We want to protect front line services as far as possible but there has to be some impact from cuts that are so deep.

Council funding is reducing while demand for services is increasing. And local government's share of the Scottish Government's budget is also reducing. We're clearly not a high enough priority. Doing more with less is the current mantra but the credibility of such an approach is becoming stretched.

Local government funding is broken and that was also the conclusion reached by the Commission on Local Tax Reform . It now falls to the political parties of Scotland to come forward with workable, understandable and supportable alternatives for funding local services. I've argued for some time that we need to have a debate about what local services we want in our communities and how will we pay for them. The time for that debate is now and we need a decision on the changes very soon.

This is not a budget that we want to be agreeing and is easily the most difficult that I have faced in 17 years as an Edinburgh Councillor.

Further detail i.e. the Council reports and the various motions to be debated tomorrow can be accessed on this link to the Council's CPOL page. 

The Blog is Back

Image result for daybreakHaving awoken from my social media slumbers, in truth, during last year's election this responsibility was passed to the campaign team and I just haven't bothered to pick it up again, it's time that the blog made a much needed re-appearance (in my humble opinion).As before it will mostly focus on local political and community issues, with a bit of comment and personal stuff thrown in by me from time to time.

As ever, I welcome feedback and constructive criticism, if well intentioned and I agree with it !...

Thursday 5 March 2015

The Big Bethany Sleepout

In a recent interview on STV's Fountainbridge Show I agreed, in principle, that I would sleep out to raise funds for one of our local homelessness organisations. 

As expected, I received an email shortly after taking me up on the offer. Therefore, I have agreed to give up my bed for the night on Friday 20th March and attend the Bethany Christian Trust Big Sleepout 2015.

The event is to raise funds funds which will help homeless and vulnerable families. I understand that Ewan and Hayley from the Fountainbridge Show have agreed to join me and give the event some much needed coverage.

Last year in Scotland it is estimated that there were around 70,000 homeless individuals and families living without a permanent home.

Bethany works with homeless and vulnerable people across the whole of Scotland giving them practical help, accommodation, equipping them with skills and supporting them as they move on. They help around 6000 homeless people each year but I want to support them to reach out to even more. There are currently around 38 people using the Bethany emergency winter care shelter in Edinburgh every night.

Please consider a modest donation and help me to raise vital, live-saving funds. You can donate on-line through this link -

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Learning the Six Ways

It was a great privilege to say a few words before the performance of "A Clean Sweep" by the Pluto la Vie Theatre Company at the Festival Theatre this week. The performance was part of the Council's ongoing work to make Edinburgh a Dementia Friendly City. There's lots of good work going on involving businesses and communities, more details can be found via the Council website on this link. 

There you will find out more about the six ways to help a person with dementia and help them to feel included, -
  • Learning more about the facts 
  • Show patience, for example if someone is having problems with their words 
  • Include them in conversations 
  • Being kind and show respect 
  • Helping them to join in 
  • Be a friend
The performance itself is a visual Clown play. Dustin and Walt live in an absurd world full of brooms and brushes. They try their best to understand and control this world. They fail - but, as clowns do, in their generosity they share their failure with the audience.

People with Dementia still have a personality, a sense of rhythm, music and humour. A Clean Sweep engages on these levels. With simple objects and a simple activity, Dustin and Walt reveal their dreams, passions, obsessions, disagreements and above all their humanity.

The audience loved the play and after we adjourned for tea and a scone in the magnificent glass fronted first floor bar area of the Festival Theatre to chat and enjoy each other's company. The actors Ian Cameron and Tim Licata (above) and their musicians very generously joined us and helped to serve tea and keep the entertainment flowing.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Broon, HRH and Queen of Hearts

Ann Budge & Robbo unveil an unlikely free transfer signing...
What an interesting few days ! I imagine the rest of the campaign won't be as exciting but this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday has been memorable on lots of levels.

On Monday I attended the Scottish Labour Press Event / manifesto briefing. It quickly became clear that the mystery guest speaker was none other than former PM Gordon Brown. After opening contributions from Kez Dugdale and Jim Murphy, Gordon provided more detail on the latest commitments for providing more powers to the Scottish Parliament. Among other things, I think the proposal with the most potential is to devolve Housing Benefit. It makes sense to have housing policy and investment decisions in the same place as the main benefit source (1.8bn in Scotland) and I think it's possible that more progress could be made in accelerating the provision of affordable housing across Scotland.

On Tuesday I made my apologies and left the Finance and Resources Committee slightly early to head for our Technology Hub Centre at Firhill where new technology is made available to people with disabilities and those recovering from strokes, brain injury and other conditions. The occupational therapists there do some wonderful work with some mind boggling kit. HRH Princess Anne was paying a visit in her role as Patron of the College of Occupational Therapy. The visit went very well with staff and service users meeting HRH and discussing how different devices had made a real difference to their lives.

Yesterday saw a joint business breakfast, hosted by the Council and Heart of Midlothian FC at Tynecastle. The aim was to make the case for payment of the Living Wage by local employers. Keynote speakers included Ann Budge, Chair of Hearts and Cllr Frank Ross, Convener of the Economy Committee. 

Cllr Gordon Munro, Vice Convener of the Economy Committee, chaired a panel discussion with Ann Budge and local businesses Standard Life, Bluebird Care and Rabbie’s. All speakers made a compelling moral, social and economic argument in favour of the Living Wage but all also stressed that they felt it had been beneficial to their business.

Gordon's Q&A session was very interesting and there was some good natured banter in view of his well known allegiance to Hibernian ! I was chuffed to get my photo taken on the pitch after with Ann Budge and John Roberston.

By the way, the current UK Living Wage is £7.85 an hour (minimum wage for 21 years and over is £6.50).

Sunday 1 February 2015

Ready To Go...

I am delighted to have been selected as the Labour candidate for Edinburgh South West in this May's General Election. I consider it a great honour to represent the Labour Party in any capacity so I'm delighted and eager to get the campaign underway.

Alistair Darling will be a difficult act to follow but with hard work and a team effort I am confident that we can keep this seat Labour and help to evict David Cameron from Downing Street.

I'd like to reiterate my thanks to the many members who I spoke to over the selection process, we have a great mix of talent and enthusiasm throughout the constituency, and to everyone who took part in yesterday's final hustings meeting.

I also want to record my thanks and best wishes to the other candidates, who all ran impressive campaigns and will continue to contribute to Labour's cause.  

The meeting itself was pretty nerve wracking, hustings always are, but there was a great turn out and a good atmosphere. After 5 minute speeches from each candidate we took questions from the floor and then the business concluded and ballot papers were issued (to add to the postal votes already submitted).

After a nervous wait, I was delighted to be declared as the successful candidate.

Photos and phone calls followed and then a positive avalanche of texts and tweets and, - eek ! - I'm already being followed by the Labour Whips office at Westminster!

Very grateful for all the messages of congratulations and support and its been a busy day today talking to party colleagues and starting to make plans.

I'll do my best to update the blog regularly although I am expecting to be quite busy in the next few months !!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Drink, Drugs and Committee Business

Health, Social Care and Housing Committee this morning. Busy agenda and some serious items issues were considered. The full meeting papers are available on this link.

Most discussion centred on two specific reports. Firstly, New Psychoactive Substances , sometimes referred to as Legal Highs although "Legal" should not be misinterpreted as safe, quite the opposite in fact. We heard that many of these substances, whose ingredients are not always clear, have been implicated in recent deaths and other incidents that are causing great concern to the Police and NHS. Bizarre and dangerous behaviours can follow their consumption / injecting leading to harm to the user and others. Some of the anecdotal evidence is truly frightening. Committee agreed an addition to the recommendations as follows –

“ Committee is concerned about the harmful impact of NPS in Edinburgh.

In addition to the ongoing work being carried out by Police Scotland, NHS, EADP and other agencies, Committee requests that the Leader of the Council writes to the Scottish and Westminster Governments seeking meetings to discuss the legal framework within which public agencies are operating and looking at ways of overcoming existing legal barriers to controlling NPS and preventing harm.”

The second report referred to a strategy being produced on behalf of the Edinburgh Partnership looking at reducing the negative impact of alcohol in the city. One of the headline stats was "Approximately 7,000 children in Edinburgh live with parents with some level of problematic alcohol use" - a sobering thought, no pun intended. Committee agreed the recommendations and added - 

“ Committee supports the work of the strategy group established by the Edinburgh Partnership to produce a higher level strategy on alcohol to underpin the delivery of the SOA 2015-18 and requests that the group’s findings be shared across all relevant service areas within the Council to ensure an effective Council wide approach.”

Drink, drugs and growing demands on public services is not a good combination. Further work to follow and solutions need to be found.

Juniper Green Community Council this evening at the Village Hall. Going to keep one eye on the weather, snow is forecast overnight that might make travelling tomorow difficult.

Only 70 Years Ago....

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Back to it.... and upsetting Boris

Well, the New Year derby wasn't a classic but we'll take a draw and happy to remain the only unbeaten senior team in the UK ! 

I held a brief, informal event at St Martin's Community Resource Centre in Dalry on Sunday for Labour members who are eligible to take part in the Edinburgh South West selection process. It went well and I was delighted to receive so much support and encouragement. 

Back to work now though and other than popping in during the holidays to clear the decks, my first task was to head for Our Dynamic Earth to hear Jim Murphy's first speech of the new year on Monday, effectively the opening contribution of the General Election campaign. It was a steady, confident start in my view and I'm looking forward to the debates ahead. One announcement that did cause a bit of a stooshie after was Jim's confirmation that one of Labour's manifesto commitments would be to use the Scottish share of the proceeds from a Mansion Tax to fund the recruitment of 1000 NHS nurses. Decent headline grabber one might think, but also seemed to provoke Boris Johnston into a lather accusing JM of "punishing" the south east of England, - by redistributing conspicuous wealth into front line public services, presumably. I thought Jim's response that the strength of the UK was all about pooling and sharing resources was sound and why Dianne Abbot decided to weigh in is not entirely clear. You can see the speeches and get more detail on the Scottish Labour website.

Then back to the City Chambers, via the Serenity Cafe, for the usual run of Monday meetings and confirmation that the long awaited draft Health and Social Care Integration Scheme will go to the next meeting of Policy and Strategy on 20th January. The clarification we were seeking from the Scottish Government has now been provided and makes for interesting reading. I'll post the report here once it goes public. 

Both surgeries at Clovenstone and Currie were quiet apart from one case that I thought had been resolved. Further work required...

Thursday 1 January 2015

Happy New Year !

Happy New Year to one and all. We ventured up town last night to experience the Edinburgh New Year Street Party. Great atmosphere, cosmopolitan and good natured. The music stage at the top of the Mound was particularly popular and resembled an outdoor club night. As is our tradition, we left way before the bells to head home and watch the remainder of the celebrations from the safety of the armchair !

Man in a kilt !
Thirty minutes on the treadmill this morning (I promise !!) and now looking forward to the challenges of 2015. I sent out the message below to Labour members in Edinburgh South West as part of my campaign to be selected as the candidate for the general election. Work on that will continue apace for the next few weeks.
The Apple Beggars are playing later at Tanners so we're going wander up there for some new year Beatles style covers.

The New Year is the perfect time for reflecting on the year just past and looking forward to the year ahead. For me, it is always a positive time and I feel a real sense of renewal. It’s a good time for planning ahead but this year more than most, there are real grounds for looking forward to the future and very good reasons for putting plans in place. Eighteen weeks from today – May 7th 2015 – the General Election takes place. And Labour has to win, particularly in Scotland.
It would be a huge mistake to think that Edinburgh South West is a safe Labour seat. If the recent opinion polls are correct and remain unchanged in the weeks ahead we will lose Edinburgh South West to the SNP.
While the Nationalists may have more money to spend, more activists to call on, we have the values and policies that will make the UK and Scotland and Edinburgh South West fairer and better, especially for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
I believe that we need a credible local candidate with a strong track record of success to retain this seat for Labour. I have lived, worked and brought up my family in this part of the city for the last 35 years. In addition to the dozens of organisations I have worked with and the hundreds of constituents I have helped through being a local Councillor for 16 years I also have a campaigning record to be proud of.
•Between 2007 and 2012, I increased the Labour share of the vote in my ward by 9%.
•Even in 2011 (not a good year for Scottish Labour) as the Scottish Parliamentary candidate in Pentlands I increased the Labour share of the vote by 2%.
We can and must hold this seat and help return a Labour government. But we can only do it if we do it together: your contribution, whether that’s time, campaign ideas or both, will be vital. The General Election is going to be as hard, maybe even harder, than the referendum. But we pulled together and we got a good result. We can and will do it again this May. That’s why I am optimistic going into this new year.
I hope that you had an enjoyable festive season and that you too are starting 2015 with the same sense of optimism and determination that I feel.
Best wishes,
Ricky Henderson
p.s. I hope you can make it to our idea-sharing session on Sunday. If you can't make it along I'd be happy to chat any other time and can be contacted on 0771 549 0859 or on this email address - ricky.henderson@btinternet.com

Check out my blog at 
or follow me on Twitter @henderson_ricky

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Compliments of the Season

This does seem to be the appropriate moment to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year. Regardless of beliefs I hope everyone gets some time off and manages to be with family or friends for a while.

2014 was fairly momentous, the Referendum, Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, some significant and worrying developments on the international stage, an increase in social inequality at home and an increase in the presence, and use of foodbanks. On a positive note, Hearts came out of administration and continue to build on firm foundations.

2015 is promising to be just as challenging. Council budget pressures will dominate my attention for the first couple of months with Health and Social Care currently projecting a £5.3m overspend ! Not good, but a timely illustration of the pressures on health and social care services. Basically the demand for care services is overtaking the resources that we have available.

I've also announced my intention to stand for selection as the Labour candidate in Edinburgh South West now that Alistair Darling has decided to stand down after 28 years at Westminster. The selection process is underway and that might occupy a fair bit of time and energy in the next few weeks too.

Clovie youngsters receive awards
Of the numerous commitments in recent weeks a few stand out as worthy of mention. The Youth Awards event held at Clovenstone Community Centre was terrific and its great to see youngsters achieve awards that go towards their formal qualifications and help to build confidence and prepare for the challenges ahead. The project work is based at Clovie Community Centre but is backed by Wester Hailes Education Centre.

I was delighted last week to support the festive campaign against domestic violence. It was pleasure to meet Superintendent Liz McAinsh from Police Scotland and Hibs Captain Liam Craig and Hearts striker Osman Sow to get some photographs taken for the local media.

Sadly, incidents of domestic abuse increase at this time of the year, hence the need for the campaign. The Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is available 24 hours can be contacted on 0800 027 1234.

Finally, amongst the festive duties it was a great pleasure again to support the Currie and Balerno Round Table's annual Santa Runs. I joined the Currievale route this year but many of the guys do numerous shifts throughout the month in the local area. They raise thousands of pounds for local good causes and have great fun doing so. What's not to like ? The Balerno Christmas Market was a great success again and myself and fellow judge Alistair Darling MP took on the onerous task of judging the Christmas Tree festival. Over 30 magnificent specimens were on show and I think we just about managed to award 4 prizes that seemed to meet with general approval !

Thursday 13 November 2014

Clowndoctors and Elderflowers

I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend the 15th birthday celebration of Hearts and Minds last night at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the High Street (a great venue by the way). From their website an explanation of what they do -

" Hearts and Minds is a Scottish arts-in-health charity. We aim to improve the experience of people in hospital and in hospice, residential and respite care by using the performing arts to encourage communication, interaction and laughter.

We achieve our aim through two specialist creative programmes; The Clowndoctors, who work specifically with children, and The Elderflowers, who work with elderly people with dementia.We raise smiles all across Scotland, from Inverness down to the Borders."

All their "Practitioners", as they are referred to, are actors who spread joy and laughter, sometimes improvised, to people young and old who are facing a difficult time and frightened of what the future may hold. Expertly led by Magdalena Schamberger the organisation has grown from an idea and modest beginnings to a well established and respected organisation that helps to develop young acting talent but more importantly makes a huge difference to the lives of people who are very vulnerable. It should be noted that care staff, NHS staff etc do a fantastic job caring but they don't always have the time to add that wee bit extra. In any case, I'm not sure if they would be suited to the anarchic, slap stick antics of the Practitioners.

Part of the birthday celebrations was a performance by singer songwriter Carrie Mac, followed by a film of the Clowndoctors and Elderflowers in action. It was excellent. It made me cry.

Monday 10 November 2014


Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy
Remembrance Day commitments went well yesterday. Was honoured to lay a wreath at Balerno Church during a service that had a strong anti war theme throughout. The minister stressed the point to some children in the congregation that we learn (hopefully) through mistakes of the past not to repeat bad decisions in the future. Also heard a recital of some wonderful poems from the First World War writer and padre Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. I wasn't aware of him or his work before but you can access his biography and some of his poems on this link. His poems are very powerful.

Then, back into town and down to the Royal Scots Club at Abercromby Place for the annual McCrae's Battalion Trust Lunch. An excellent afternoon of reminiscences, remembrance, football talk and good old fashioned knock about humour, provided this year by Tam Cowan and Jimmy Stirling. Both were superb. Good to catch up with numerous friends who are involved with the Trust and the football club and even managed to last the pace until the proceedings concluded at about 6.30pm.

The Health, Social Care and Housing Committee meets tomorrow, the papers can be viewed on this link to the Council Papers Online service.

Friday 7 November 2014

Integration in action

Wester Hailes HLC
After a busy week I was looking forward to our visit to the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre this morning, as part of our programme of visits to Health and Social Care services and facilities across the city. The process of putting in place the necessary arrangements to comply with Scottish Government regulations in relation to Health and Social Care Integration continues and its quite a complex piece of work. Therefore, while we plough through the seemingly endless, dry process of governance and structures it was refreshing to see and hear the benefits of joint working across NHS, Council, and third sector organisations actually delivering better services for local people. From learning disabilities to children and families and home care and re-ablement to addictions services and support for cancer sufferers, the teams of professionals based at the WHHLC are, after settling into their new surroundings, pressing ahead with very impressive joint working that gives us a real picture of what Integration can achieve. Much of this can and is being done without the need for legislation but where barriers have been identified we need to take this on through the new Integrated Joint Board (IJB) and try to assist these colleagues to make further progress. The construction of the Strategic Commissioning Plan, which will come next year, will be a real opportunity for this and hopefully we can move from the bureaucracy to real service change and delivery.
Sir George McCrae

Remembrance Sunday this weekend and I'm honoured to have been asked again to lay a wreath at the service at Balerno Parish Church and am then looking forward to attending the McCrae's Battalion Lunch at the Royal Scots Club.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Climbing, Currie, Clovie and the Clash - just another Saturday

Festival time at Clovie
Very busy but thoroughly enjoyable day yesterday. My first commitment was to visit the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) Family Fun Day at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. Basically, the idea is that the kids get taken off to go climbing or other activities, while parents get the chance to have a coffee and browse the information stalls set up by various organisations who provide services to deaf children and their families. I'm told that accessing relevant information is sometimes an issue so this was a great opportunity to get info and advice and possibly chat to other parents facing similar challenges. It seemed to be going very well.

Currie - going like a fair.....
Then off to the Currie Community Fair which has been resurrected by the new Currie Community Council, all of whom had put in a great deal of time and effort over the past few months to make the event possible. Well, the good folk of Currie rolled up in their hundreds and good day was had by all. 

I was delighted to do an hour or so on one of the gates and draw the raffle towards the end of the afternoon but not before nipping down to Clovenstone to visit the opening of the new community garden there as part of the Edible Edinburgh initiative. Great turn out from all ages, bumped into a few local activists and we exchanged some Yes/No banter. There was food and live music on the go as well as topping up the raised beds that will be cultivated in months to come.

Helped to clear up a bit at Currie, don't often spend my Saturday afternoons with a litter picker in my hand but it had to be done. 

Then it was off to the Citrus Club last night for a charity gig in aid of the Sick Kids Foundation. Three tribute bands played, David Bowie Sound and Vision were excellent, the Livi Clash Rockers were tremendous and the Underground Jam were outstanding. I slept well last night...