Saturday, August 25, 2007

Well - I've just about calmed down - or at least stopped shaking with rage at the hypocrisy of it all. Yes, I'm talking about last Thursday's Full Council meeting. Supposed 'Liberal Democrats' and SNP denying the citizens of Scotland's Capital City their traditional right to address all the councillors on a subject as important as our children's education and the centres in our communities! ....And all the time talking about citizen participation and increasing involvement of people in decisions of the council!! In the first few minutes of the meeting I found myself bouncing to my feet to contradict Lib Dem assertions that deputations had been spoken to and had agreed not to speak preferring a 'more appropriate forum' - not true. The public gallery, the European room and the quadrangle were full of angry parents, an MP and an MSP who had come along with speeches prepared and were not allowed to. As the Evening News said they left angrier than they arrived. 'Point of information Lord Provost' (with hindsight I suppose it wasn't really a point of information but I was too angry to care at the time) I shouted 'that's not true - there are deputations here now in the gallery waiting and wanting to speak'. Other than the obvious I was angry because this had undone in a single blow everything I and the previous administration had tried to do, creating Local Development Committees and then the new Neighbourhood Partnerships, to increase citizen participation in the affairs of the Council. An 'affront to democracy ' as Andrew Burns rightly puts it.

All this is before we even begin on the proposal to close 22 school and community centres. Along with my colleagues I spoke at length on how these cuts did not make any sense. Click here to see what I said. Taking the Gorgie War Memorial Hall as an example, I said, you can't sell it or close it because it is a War Memorial. It gets a tiny grant from the council for all the varied work that it does with the local community and it doesn't even have a single full time community education worker! So why is it on the list for closure. The whole report is poorly thought out. No one has talked to the staff or visited the places on this list. I ended by calling it a 'disgrace'.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's amazing how the summer holidays from the school fills up with other things to the extent you wonder how you ever managed to fit it in! In my case of course the school holidays are just an opportunity to concentrate on the council and constituency stuff. Also the opportunity affordes itself to do major renovations on the house. I feel a growing sense of urgency to get it all fitted in before the 20th of August when the school starts back all be it I am only part time.
Renovations took an ugly turn when on my way to bed I heard a rustling and saw a dark mouse sized object shooting along the exposed under floor pipes. Sigh - why do these things always happen just as you are off to bed?
I have just done a couple of updates to the Labour Groups new vision statement 'Labour's Priorities for Edinburgh'. It was poorly received at the Council (as you might expect) from the other parties but we had hoped they would see past the old adversarial politics and take it for what it was - a completely positive look at what we would like to see for the city. This is us being serious about the new politics. I have always believed that citizens are not interested in politicians just contradicting each other for the sake of it but want us to work together to find solutions to the problems we all face. I know this is naive given that we work within a party political system but I also believe that there is an opportunity here with the new system to be less adversarial and more positive.
Speaking of communications the Labour group will be producing a Labour Group leaders report roughly every month (to coinside with full Council). Jenny Dawe is reviewing the official 'Leaders Report' which we brought in and has made it plain she is not really in favour of it. I think anything that lets the people know what we are doing is a good idea. If you would like to be emailed a copy of the Labour Group report let me know on .