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 !...