Sunday, 30 October 2011

Suntrap Campaign takes another small step forward

I was delighted to get my motion on the Suntrap campaign unanimously agreed at Thursday's Council meeting. A small deputation from Save Our Suntrap attended as a deputation and it was good to be able to get the message over to all Councillors and agree for a report to look into the wider ownership issues and options for future management arrangements.

The Best Lyrics Ever ?

John Prine, "Grandpa was a Carpenter"

" Grandpa was a carpenter, he built houses, stores and banks,
He chain smoked Camel cigarettes and hammered nails in planks."
Aye, they don't write them like that anymore. Superb. Check out John's other stuff at YouTube.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Group Meeting

Labour Group meeting last night, 6.30 - 9.30pm, main issues, as expected, the ABM debate, Gaelic Medium Education and the ongoing Property Services investigation, all of which will dominate the business at tomorrow's full Council meeting. And of course my motion on the Suntrap Garden at Gogar ! Pleased to see it on the agenda and I believe it will be dealt with at the Council meeting rather than being referred to a committe. Expecting a deputation too which will be a good chance for all elected members to understand the issues, even if they may be distracted by some of the other business. Some interesting comments being attributed to the SNP group today about preferring to support the in house option rather than the ABM contract with Enterprise. Can they really support this process every step of the way, spending millions on the ABM propcess only to perform a U turn at the eleventh hour ? We shall see.... Juniper Green Community Council meeting tonight, hope its not a late one.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Where were they ?

Went along to the Unison hosted public meeting last night at Appleton Tower to discuss the Council's ABM process ahead of Thursday's Council decision on whether or not to privatise Environmental Services (refuse collection etc). It was firmly but fairly chaired by Evening News columnist Martin Hannan whose good humour helped to keep the contributions on track. It was well attended (200 ?) and there were a lot of good points made and arguments thrashed out. It could have been a much more informative event though if the Council Administration had turned up. My understanding is that the SNP and LibDems had agreed to attend, along with a senior Council official but all cancelled at short notice for various reasons. Very disappointing, and the audience, most of whom were Council workers I think, will draw their own conclusions. The panel of Peter Hunter from Unison, Andrew Burns (Labour) and Jeremy Balfour (Conservative) more than filled the void left by others and had a good debate with each other and the audience about the merits or otherwise of the process and the decisions that lie ahead. It would be fair to say that I don't think Jeremy won over many people to his pro-ABM stance but at least he was there to make his points and listen to others.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Hardest Hit

I went along to the "Hardest Hit" rally (covered in the scotland on sunday ) at the Ross Bandstand in Prince's Street Gardens. I've never seen so many guide dogs and wheelchairs in one place before. It just shows how strongly people with disabilities feel about the impending changes to be imposed by the Welfare Reform Bill and that they are prepared to mobilise and make their voices heard. There were some very moving testimonies from the rostrum about the challenges faced by people with physical and mental health problems and the fairly self obvious fact that a little bit of support from us all, via the state, can make a huge difference. The speeches were rounded off with a excellent contribution from Iain Gray. It does seem an injustice that the Condem coalition's efforts to revitalise the economy requires an attack on the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Sir Harry Burns
Last night was the Edinburgh South West Labour Party AGM. Good attendance and good to see many of the main officerial roles and responsibilities taken on by women. I was replaced as Political Education Officer which is obviously a bit of a set back to my career but I'll just have to get over it ....

This morning, as requested, we got a briefing on the Property Services investigation, which is to be reported to the Council meeting next Thursday. As has now been covered in the media, what the report doesn't say is probably more significant than what it does say. Essentially, investigations are ongoing, including the police inquiry so there's an understandable reluctance to reveal too much information until several strands of work are complete. Not terribly satisfactory but at the least the report does provide some options for re-establishing a property services / statutory repair function.

Then it was off to the CoSLA Convention meeting at their new offices (hadn't realised they'd moved) at Haymarket. It was started by a brief presentation from Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns. He was characteristically direct in his assertion that the country's collective efforts at tackling health inequalities, or inadequacies as he referred to them, are failing miserably. Compared to other European countries and indeed some English regions we are simply not seeing positive results from the various public health campaigns. In particular he targeted adverse events in a child's first three years as having a significant effect on their future health, well being and ultimately life expectancy. Sobering stuff indeed and while many delegates agreed with his analysis there wasn't much in the way of incisive ideas to shake us out of the current malaise. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Alternative or just old fashioned privatisation ?

Myself and Sheila Gilmore MP sign
Unison's call for more consultation
Alternative Business Models have dominated the last week and look set to do so for the next 3 months. Decisions are now due on Facilities Management and CATS (Corporate & Transactional Services) - don't worry about what they are, I'll explain later - have been postponed until November and December respectively. The most imminent issue is a recommendation, to be published tomorrow, that the Council "privatises" its Environmental Services division. That's refuse collection, grass cutting, litter picking etc, and the workers affected be Tupe'd to a new employer under a service contract that will last for a minimum of 7 years. Now, using private sector companies to deliver public services is nothing new and sometimes its necessary to secure specialist expertise that may not easily be provided from within the Council. Not necessarily an argument that applies to this service, but you get my drift.

Among numerous other concerns, one issue stands out as the Council prepares to make far reaching and irreversible decisions about public services in the city. And that is - do the public actually agree with this approach ? Well, we don't know, because they haven't been asked. However, there is a perfect opportunity to test this question with the public and that's next year's Council elections. Those parties who advocate the ABM approach can put it clearly in their manifestos and those who disagree and can make that position equally clear. Simples.

Sadly, life's never that straight forward and instead it is likely that decision will be imposed on the next Council regardless of the political make up of the Administration or views of individual councillors or members of the public. Pretty scandalous and undemocratic in this day and age.

Karaoke has never sounded so good !