Wednesday, 3 September 2008

No use complaining

Tonight it was the turn of Royston/Wardieburn Community Centre management committee and more depressing news that the rebuild project is stalled for another interminable internal Council reflection...I remain hopeful the project will proceed but have agreed to put a question down at Council for a 'state of play' update. Like me, the management committee are fed up with the palaver.

Surgery was busy today. The numbers of enquiries rise exponentially and eat into my (very) scarce time. I share a secretary with 3 other councillors and I get a quarter of her time. This is not a lot of help for a ward 4 times the use complaining though...nobody would listen anyway.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

In search of the sun

Another day, another AGM...

Last night it was Muirhouse Housing Association; tonight West Pilton & West Granton Community Council...unusually, not the same faces two nights in a row ...and both meetings interesting, well conducted and well attended.

In a couple of days I am off in search of the can't come soon enough.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Labour - the party of choice

Chasing up a constituent's enquiry today, I make an astonishing discovery: her 4 year old has been denied a place in Davidson's Mains and even though she is 1st on the non catchment list there are already 3 more children in the primary 1 intake than there technically should be. To avoid an overcrowding problem further up the school the authority is hoping that 3 children will leave by 'natural wastage' by the end of Primary 2. A long shot, I should think, since D. Mains primary is very popular and once there, most children are assured a place at the Royal High. I had to tell my constituent it was unlikely her daughter would get in.
'A victim of the cuts then?' she asks.
Sadly, yes, since in this case her two older sisters already attend the school - it is now a family educationally divided...nothing astonishing about that, though.

However, In the course of my enquiry I discover that this is the first time in 30 years that Edinburgh Education Department has refused more P1 out of catchment placements than it has granted. In 1980, Alex Fletcher, Tory MP for Central Edinburgh persuaded Thatcher to legislate for 'parental choice' on the basis of his experience that in Edinburgh, parents wanted more choice in their children's school.

For a decade, Labour fought its effects then accepted - in the face of overwhelming evidence - the conventional wisdom that choice was important to parents. Nobody would really argue with that now.

Today, the Lib/SNP coalition, as a result of budget cuts, an artificial class size ceiling in years 1 & 2 and - if I may say so, a director and convenor who plainly don't know enough about Edinburgh's education history, have managed (in less than 15 months) to set the city back 30 years. And this is before the ratchet effect of further school closures. It won't be long before parents waken up to the fact that education choice in Edinburgh almost certainly means back to the sterile 'private' or 'public' debate.

History has truly turned on its head - the risk of a city again divided by what school your child goes to ...and Labour now the party arguing for choice...

Friday, 29 August 2008

when funding arrangements leave kids at risk...

A parent from a local PPP school visits to tell me parents are up in arms. The grounds are not being maintained, the grass is long and local junkies are discarding their paraphernalia in the grounds. Children go there to play and are at risk from the hidden danger.

I phone the school: the headteacher confirms the facts: indeed one child has been pricked and sent for urgent treatment: the school, following procedures, has reported (several times) to both Amey (PPP company) and C+F department requesting urgent action...without success.

I phone Mike Rosendale who understands the implications immediately, kicks arses and the grass is cut this morning along with a series of other management actions... the picture is complicated though: the grass is Amey's responsibility, the shrubbery is the school's and I imagine there will be future arguments as to who is responsible for what...I'm not in principle against PPP schools but when a convenient funding arrangement leaves kids at risk then serious questions have to be asked...

The Gala

A full house at last night's West Pilton Neighbourhood Centre's AGM and everyone very supportive of guest speaker, John Loughton, who aims to spearhead a Community Gala for all 5 North Edinburgh neighbourhoods.

We discover that the orginal wooden throne of the Gala Queen is still in existence...and is to be resurrected. Could this be the very same throne a very young Eleanor McLaughlin once occupied when she was Queen of the Gala?

Congratulations too, to Angela Cusack who won the West Pilton Rose Bowl for her contribution to Children Inc. and to the community in general. She seemed genuinely overcome.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Not funny at all

Yesterday I visited Colin Hunter at Waterfront Edinburgh who provided a full briefing on the current situation and his future plans - Colin, I suspect, was a boy who knew how to turn bad news into good, able to see the silver lining in any dark other words he is a good lateral thinker with an optimistic outlook. If his new vision comes to pass he will have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and will have done Granton and Edinburgh a very good turn indeed.

On the very same day I am learning of new ideas to rescue Granton' s Waterfront, Forth Ports application for renewal of the docklands is heard at the Planning Committee. I am told my Liberal Ward colleague Elaine Morris (widely gossiped as the wannabe chair of planning) asked many (negative) questions and prolonged proceedings to such an extent that Cllr Cameron Rose eventually lost patience and asked that 'the question be put' . I am pleased to say the outline application was passed unanimously.

Later she is heard to berate him for disrespect in truncating the debate which is, if I may be so bold, a bit rich coming from the chair of the political group which brought 'traffic lights' to the Council Chambers!

Then, even later, I am a guest of the Chamber of Commerce at the Mela Dinner where my other ward colleague Steve Cardownie is host for the evening. Mine host's duties include announcing the winners of a very extensive raffle draw. He invites various sponsors to draw envelopes from the box. Nathan Thompson, on behalf of principal sponsor, Forth Ports, takes an envelope from Steve who quips, 'This is a first...Nathan taking an envelope from a councillor...usually it's the other way round...'
Not funny, especially on the day Forth Ports gets its planning permission - not funny at all.
Cardownie should watch his mouth.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Idle hands

Missed the C+F committee today as a) still without my car and travelling quickly about town not easy and b) had a special PEP Board meeting to attend...staff hours being cut as a result of dismal, uncertain financial situation ...however most staff seem phlegmatic if not exactly upbeat. I am not exempt from the hours/salary cut so I will have more time on my hands. Just think of the mischief I can get up to...idle hands and all that...