Tuesday, 29 November 2011

From Panda to Mink

Never in my wildest dreams when I got elected as a Labour Councillor almost 13 years ago did I think I would be lobbying colleagues about the control of Mink. Well I am now, today's meeting of the Council's TIE Committee will consider a report on this very issue. It's an interesting read and can be found on this link . As it turns out, I have received a few reports of Mink taking hens and other animals in and around the Water of Leith / Bavelaw Burn at Balerno. In short, the report says "It's a big problem, it would be very expensive to solve it, note the report and move on." 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Big Fat Panda

Ska, fitba', campaigning, lost my twitter virginity, and a few beers into the bargain, all in one day ! Just about got blown away in Ratho delivering newspapers and new survey forms but got a good bit done. Then on to Tynecastle to see Hearts record a deserved if unexpected (by me anyway) victory. Good goals from Rudi and Eggert. Then to the UAF Ska night at the Wee Red Bar at the Art College. Wasn't sure if I fancied it but glad I went. Highlight for me definitely Big Fat Panda. There's something compelling about Scottish Ska bands and I think I'll check out BFP again. Sax player wore a tee shirt that bore the legend "Nick Griffin is a Wanker", 'nuff said. And.... finally taken the plunge into tweetland. Time will tell....

Friday, 25 November 2011

Local Libraries Hit

More cuts reported by the Evening News this week. No great surprise but very sad to see the Library service bear the brunt of such reductions. Until recently Libraries in Edinburgh were developing more as community hubs with a few even winning awards for their work with young people. Add to that, internet access, printing / photocopying services, free access to newspapers, magazines and reference books, childrens reading clubs and homework sessions, story times, community news and meetings etc and you can see how libraries could become more of a community resource. However, almost by definition, wider access and use has to be enabled by longer opening hours. Clearly that's now being reversed, which is a mistake, in my view.

And another thing.... it might just be how the story is reported in the article but on the one hand we are told users are to be consulted and on the other we are told exactly which Libraries will be affected and how their opening times are to be reduced. Looks like the consultation might be a pointless exercise.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Another Step Towards Moving Edinburgh Forward

We held the first of many consultation events on Saturday to discuss the consultation document which as previously reported can be found in full at www.edinburghlabour.com It was a good meeting with plenty of constructive input, and a few challenges, which was good as it opened the sort of debates we need to have if we want to take some of these ideas forward. In the afternoon Margaret Curran MP joined us having been at the Co-op party local government manifesto launch earlier. Again plenty of debate about the sate of the Labour Party and ideas to take us forward and learn from recent past experiences.

The serious business out of the way it was time to repair to Bannermans in the Cowgate and catch Rab Howat's band doing their usual Saturday afternoon slot. If you like Stones, Who and Primal Scream covers get yourself along to Bannermans on a Saturday about 4.30pm. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Paying Off The Debt

Council's Audit Committee met this morning. Most of the discussion was in connection with Audit Scoptlands report on the Council's Finances (2010/11). You can read the report here . It covers virtually every aspect of Council activity so there was plently of scope for debate. It confirmed that the Council's debt currently stands at an eye watering £1,300,000,000 ! The bad news is that its due to increase by a further £231m once the tram borrowing requirement is secured and in the system. That will take the city's total debt to more than £1.5bn. Of course we won't get a bail out by the European Central Bank or any other such body. Edinburgh tax payers will be paying it off for decades to come, currently at the rate of atround £100m a year (that's £100,000,000 every year. That's about 10% of the Council's Revenue budget. If, as looks likely, the Council's grant from the Scottish Government continues to decline then the proportion of our budget required to service the debt will increase thereby putting more pressure on already stretched front line services. Don't mean to be unnecessarily alarmist about this but if the scenario above was played out within your own household budget you'd be pretty worried. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Billy Bragg

Went to see Billy Bragg last night at the Queens Hall. Brilliant. Just Billy, a guitar and a cup of tea and banter with the crowd and a great collection of songs, old and new. "Never Buy the Sun" was a particular highlight.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


The somewhat nomadic Haymarket Remembrance Day service took place this morning in Grosvenor Street. An big turn out, helped by the fine conditions no doubt. The service was excellent as usual but its clearly not satisfactory to hold a Remembrance service in the middle of a street where poppy wreaths are laid against a Heras fence with a small banner with a picture of the Haymarket clock on it. The people at Macrae's Trust and the Haymarket Memorial Committee have shown remarkable patience over the last couple of years by putting up with various ad hoc arrangements. Not sure why the club felt that the event had to moved away from the stadium where it had worked particularly well in the last two years.


Retro 70s Bingo night was a hoot. Sausages on sticks, Skol lager, crap prizes and cheesy music. Brilliant night ! Brought to you courtesy of the wodenrful people at Edinburgh North & Leith Labour Party. I think it might just catch on.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Moving Forward Right Enough

Attended a mandatory candidates briefing this morning. Heaps of information to digest and its a sobering thought to realise how much work lies ahead. Immediately. This afternoon was spent in Currie delivering the first batch of the Edinburgh Labour newspaper and a local leaflet. Went well and it was a nice afternoon for it. Tonight, its off to the Bingo. No..... really.

Follow The Money

First of numerous budget consultation meetings the other night, co-hosted by the Pentlands and South West Neighbourhood Partnerships at the Gorgie Parish church, next to Tynecastle. Went reasonably well with a brief introduction by Gillian Tee, Director of Children and Families at the Council followed by a comprehensive but not impenetrable presentation by Chief Financial Officer Karen Kelly, before breaking into groups to come up with ideas for maintaining and improving Council services, taking into account the current financial climate. Certainly a bit more inclusive than the loaded question, electronic voting effort last year. Karen's presentation did clarify one thing for me. The current / ongoing Council Tax "freeze" is no longer fully funded by the SNP Government. Instead its included within our "flat cash settlement" i.e. no extra funding but the freeze remains. For Edinburgh this equates to about £7m shortfall year on year. That means, bluntly, by clever sleight of hand, services face more cuts in order to deliver a SNP election promise. Frankly, I'm surprised this hasn't come under greater scrutiny. People seem distracted by the one question, two question, Devo Max vs Indie Lite argument and the real current issues seem to have been left behind.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Clovie and Balerno

The Clovie LS Twirlers
Clovenstone Community Centre AGM the other night followed by the Clovie LS Twirlers who were in fine form and then the traditional Clovie Fireworks, which went with a bang. Then off to the November meeting of Balerno Community Council. Busy, as usual, and a lovely tribute from Tom McColl's daughter who I don't think had been to BCC before but wanted to acknowledge how much his involvement with the Council and planning matters had meant to Tom who passed away peacefully in his sleep, aged 91, after the October meeting.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Consultation Launched

Team Labour with our brand new consultation document
It's now just less than 6 months until next year's Council elections and we got our campaign underway yesterday with the launch of our consultation document which will eventually produce our 2012 Election Manifesto. Much hard work lies ahead but all our 23 candidates are now in place and keen to get on with the campaign. The launch event was very well attended with most of our candidates present, MPs, MSPs, several party members and more press and photographers than I had expected. Good speech from Andrew Burns followed by a fairly in depth question and answer session and then some photos outside in St Columba's by the Castle sun drenched garden. Aah, they say the sun shines on the righteous ! Andrew's speech, the consultation document and more candidate details can be found at our new website edinburghlabour.com/ and some comprehensive coverage of the proceedings by STV Local here . We genuinely want as much feedback as possible so will welcome comments over the next few weeks on the website and at the facebook page as well as a series of meetings with stakeholder groups around the city.