Edinburgh Green Councillors’ Report For January

Here is the monthly report from your Edinburgh Green councillors:

Full Council Meeting 22nd December

Leith Waterworld
A green motion proposing to keep Leith Waterworld open until the Commonwealth Pool reopens, and requesting an equalities impact assessment, received no support from any other party. Leith Waterworld was shut on 8th January and the site is on the market, with a large supermarket in the frame as the likely buyer. Green councillors have submitted a motion for the council meeting this week asking for the closing date to be extended to allow a community buyout to be developed.

The Mountgrange Caltongate development fell through when they went out of business, but a new South Africa-based consortium has now asked to buy the council land just behind the Royal Mile. A Green amendment calling for a rejection of the sale of council assets to these developers (wishing to take forward the original Mountgrange proposals including demolition of listed buildings to make way for a five star hotel and conference centre in the Old Town) was defeated. This is worse than Mountgrange developing the site as now there is no planning control over phasing of the development and no profit share for the Council.

Management Reporting Arrangements
This somewhat dull title masks the Chief Executive’s proposals to restructure Council departments. We seconded a Labour amendment calling for further discussion because of a lack of consultation. We also have concerns that transfer of Director of City Development, to Economic Development, and his oversight of planning and transport going to Services for Communities, puts greater emphasis on economic growth over sustainable development.

Edinburgh Airport Sale
We were successful in getting the Administration to agree to a Green addendum adding to the key messages in the prospectus for potential new owners of the Airport that Edinburgh Council has a duty to act to reduce climate change emissions including from aviation.

Leader’s Question Time
Steve Burgess questioned the Council Leader on why the line “Edinburgh is a city in which energy use and carbon emissions are reduced” had been deleted from Edinburgh Partnership’s Single Outcome Agreement outcomes. The Leader couldn’t say, but assured us that the Council was committed to reducing emissions.

Special Council Meeting on Alternative Business Models, 19th January

There was a debate on the second and third components of the ABM, or privatisation, programme; that which deal with Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) and Corporate and Transactional Services (CATS).

The report prepared for the Council recommended the selection of Mitie as the preferred bidder for IFM

but not to award a contract for CATS. As has been our consistent position, we voted against the IFM bid along with Labour and the SNP (and one brave LibDem Councillor!). Because the administration split, the LibDems and Tories (who voted for out-sourcing) were again defeated, as they were last November over ABM for Environmental Services. The CATS ABM bid was unanimously rejected because the claimed savings could not be guaranteed.

The privatisation of all three areas of work has now been rejected, which is excellent news.

Policy and Strategy Committee 6th December

Transient Visitor Levy (Tourist Bed Tax)
A Green motion calling for agreement in principle for introduction of a visitor levy was remitted to P&S Committee from November’s Full Council. As a result there were several deputations to the committee from heads of hoteliers associations all speaking against a visitor levy. However, following a lively debate the administration heavily amended the Green motion but still agreed to call for a report on the introduction of a visitor levy. Only the Tories opposed this.

Because of it’s controversy the issue was widely reported in the media – including a live head-to-head with hoteliers representatives on Radio 4’s ‘You & Yours’, and a supportive editorial in The Scotsman. However, Scottish ministers have said in subsequent public statements that the Council can’t introduce a levy without legislation, which they have no intention of introducing.

Management Reporting Arrangements
Greens and Labour supported a Conservative amendment calling for the Chief Executive to consult with opposition parties on proposed changes before bringing a more detailed report. This was defeated by the administration. The Chief Executive has still to bring a report to full Council.

Same-Sex Marriage
Greens spoke in favour of a Labour motion calling for the Council to respond positively to the Scottish Government consultation on same-sex marriage. This was defeated by the administration and the Tories saying that this was a moral issue that Council could not take a collective view on.

Policy and Strategy Committee 24th January

Managing Attendance Procedure
Proposals to change the rules on sickness absence for council staff were agreed by the administration but Green and Labour councillors combined to have the matter referred to full Council on 2nd February. The main concern for unions is the move to reduce absences triggering managament investigation from 10 days to only 6 days a year.

Sustainable Procurement Policy

A Green addendum calling for an update report in a year’s time on the performance of the new policy was agreed.

MIPIM Property Development Conference
Greens supported Labour in opposing the Leader attending this event in Cannes as a number of officials are already going. We lost, but after questioning by Greens the Leader pledged to investigate going by rail rather than flying as there is a direct TGV connection.

Transport and Environment Committee 29th November

Air Quality Progress Report 2011
This was an alarming report showing that many more areas of Edinburgh are now failing to meet WHO/EU safety standards for air quality. A Green amendment calling for the introduction of Low Emission Zones and introduction of an integrated land use and transport model to manage cumulative impacts was rejected 17 t o1. However, Council are proposing to investigate LEZs to reduce vehicle pollution.

Health, Social Care and Housing Committee 13th December

The City’s housing strategy for the next 5 years has been approved, which includes the housing supply target of 19,500 new homes over the next ten years. Work is underway to ensure that fuel poverty is considered as a priority focus of work, and that student accomodation issues are monitored and discussed (in conjunction with HEIs and FEIs).

Finance and Resources Committee 17th January

Corporation Tax Avoidance
The F&R Committee ruled a Green motion on companies that avoid paying corporation tax incompetent, because apparently it is outwith the remit of the committee to discuss such things. The administration clearly have no idea of the impact that such tax avoidance is and will continue to have on public service provision.

Meadows And Morningside Ward

Alison Johnstone met with the Convener of Transport and local residents to discuss priority parking proposals (charging for a limited period during the day) in South Morningside, an issue that has polarised the local community and generated a fair amount of correspondence. This issue will be decided at Transport Committee on 21st February.

Alison spoke at the Planning Committee in support of Marchmont Community Council and residents seeking minor amendments to the rebuild of James Gillespie’s High School, ably supported by Community Councillor Melanie Main and Councillor Steve Burgess who suggested an amendment. We have received very positive feedback from local people and lots of thanks for our efforts.

On the 21st January, Alison, along with several other local members, went on a site visit of Craighouse Campus and hill, to better appreciate the impact of a development proposal for 200 houses (some in existing listed building, but also a high volume of new build) on the hill. We will continue to work with campaigners on this issue, seeking a sensible proposal which preserves this wonderful community asset. The Woodland Trust are supportive of this campaign as it would negatively impact on woodland.

Southside and Newington Ward

Following a meeting of ward councillors and officials with the new operators of the Crags, the lease agreement for Crags Sports Centre, which include protection for community access, has been agreed.

Controversy about the NHS closing access gates to Astley Ainslie Hospital, which has meant parents having to take a less safe route to school, continues with the NHS refusing to review their decision to block access.