Here is the monthly report from your Green Edinburgh Councillors:
Full Council Meeting 24th November
Alternative Business Model
At the full Council meeting on the 24th November there was a(nother!) debate about the first of three components of the Alternative Business Model (ABM), dealing with the Environmental Services Workstream. The report prepared for the Council recommended the selection of a company called ‘Enterprise’ as the preferred bidder. As has been our consistent position, we voted against this along with Labour and the SNP. Because the administration split, the LibDems and Tories (who voted for out-sourcing) were defeated. This is excellent news for the city, but we wait to see what happens next month when we consider the Integrated Facilities Management and the Corporate & Transactional Services workstreams.
In consultation with several members of the Occupy Edinburgh (OE) group in St Andrew’s Square, we submitted a motion in support of the vision of OE. This motion was not acceptable to the administration, but their amendment did include recognition of the aims of the Occupy movements worldwide, and reasserted the Council’s commitment to redirect economic decision-making towards the poor and disenfranchised of society. Because of Green leadership on this, Edinburgh Council is the first governmental body to back the Occupy Movement. Only the conservatives voted against this.
Scottish Friends of Bhopal
A Green motion welcoming the setting up of the Scottish Friends of Bhopal in Edinburgh, highlighting that adequate compensation is still sought from Dow Chemical and that a memorial service will be held at Greyfriars on the 27th anniversary of the disaster, was passed unanimously.
Transient Visitor Levy (Tourist Bed Tax)
There has been much speculation since 1997 about a levy on hotel nights in the capital which has the potential to raise as much as £10million per year, yet nothing formal has ever come before Council. Greens tabled a motion calling for the Council to agree to a levy in principle and seek a report from officers on how this could be implemented. The Green motion was referred to Policy & Strategy Committee for consideration.
Companies and Organisations Wholly Owned By The City Of Edinburgh Council
This motion intended to ensure that the democratic and managerial problems associated with Tie Ltd were not repeated anywhere else in the Council. The administration amended the motion, but the thrust remains the same, and there will be a report on how best to deal with such companies/organisations going to the Policy & Strategy Committee in January 2012.
New Boroughmuir High School
We tabled a Green addendum regarding the potential future site for Boroughmuir High School and asked that no biased steer towards relocation over refurbishment of the existing building be given in advance to the consultation, in line with the wishes of parents who spoke as part of a deputation to the City Chambers.
Policy & Strategy Committee 8th November
The Committee heard that the Council’s promotion of several infrastructure projects through the novel Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) has received a blow with Forth Ports being bought by Arcus, who have shelved plans for housing in favour of renewable energy industry at Leith Docks. A link road between Seafield and the docks is still being promoted under TIF.
Education Committee 15th November
Greens seconded a Labour amendment on restructuring of secondary school management structures. The Council are hoping to save £2.4million in staff budgets by removing Principal (subject) Teacher posts and adopting a ‘Faculty’ model. The local authorities that they cite as ‘evidence’ that this model is successful have not made the massive cuts to their education budget that Edinburgh has.
This amendment, which called for evidence of the educational benefits and further details regarding the potential savings, was successful as the 5 members of the Education Committee who are not councillors (but teacher and religious school reps) also voted for it.
Alison Johnston proposed her own Green amendment on a report entitled ‘Positive Destinations’, which suggested that children whose entry to primary school is deferred are more likely to drop out before taking any exams. This and similarly negative statements on deferral (rates of which the Council is trying to reduce as more parents in Edinburgh defer than in other local authorities) were not supported by evidence. The committee, with the exception of LibDem and SNP members, voted for the amendment calling for further research including from countries where school starting ages are later than our own, and the amendment was passed.
Audit Committee 17th November
Greens questioned how those staff charged with internal audits are coping with the current high volume of work in the face of reduced staff numbers. The internal auditor confirmed that there are risks involved, both in financial terms and in reputational damage to the Council if insufficient resources are available to ensure proper scrutiny of Council activity and finance. This is an area we will continue to monitor.
Culture And Leisure Committee 22nd November
Reports at this meeting focused on the performance of the City’s Festivals. Greens called for clarification of the Fringe figures (which reported a record year despite decreased figures – a matter of calculation formula and one which will be improved by next year) and for details of legacy plans following the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
Fewer adults are accessing Edinburgh Leisure facilities, a consequence of the recession and a concern when obesity in Scotland has led national news broadcasts. A further cut to the Council’s grant to Edinburgh Leisure is expected in February’s budget.
Public Meeting On ABM 10th November
Steve Burgess represented Green councillors at a hastily-convened public meeting on the Alternative Business Model (ABM), in lieu of any real public consultation on the issue. The meeting got quite heated, largely over the lack of consultation on ABM.
Strike Action 30th November
All of the Trade Unions recognised by the Council will be on strike on Wednesday 30th November. Greens have publicly supported such action. Other than Labour, ours is the only group that has done so.
Local Action Against Privatisation
All three of our Green councillors have supported local community groups organising against the privatisation and outsourcing of Council services, including Greater Leith Against The Cuts, the various Neighbourhood Partnership public meetings that have been held, and other groups.
Meadows and Morningside Ward
Greens attended Morningside, Merchiston and Marchmont and Sciennes Community Councils where discussions have included the Council’s privatisation agenda, the Craighouse development proposal, low capital spend on cycling and the ongoing statutory notice investigation. We have supported the Save Our Craighouse petition.
Greens have continued to press officers to finalise the lease agreement for Crags Sports Centre, which includes a clause giving access to the community.
Recently the NHS have closed access gates to Astley Ainslie Hospital, which has meant parents having to take a less safe route to school. Steve Burgess has writted to the NHS asking them to reconsider.