Councillor report

Green councillors’ report for August 2020

News from the Green Councillor group in Edinburgh for August.

Former SNP councillor Derek Howie has agreed to work more closely with Green group of Councillors.

Cllr Howie resigned from the SNP in July 2020 and has joined the Scottish Green Party. Derek will remain an independent councillor for the remainder of this term, ending in May 2022, but Green councillor group have been in discussions about shared aims and priorities and how we might work together.  In our constructive discussions with Derek we have identified ways in which we can work together, whether at meetings of all councillors or at neighbourhood level. The arrangement will not change the formal Green Group of Councillors as elected in 2017.

Cllr Howie said:

“I’m looking forward to working more closely with my new Scottish Green colleagues on areas of common interest such as inclusion, high quality public services and use of public space. I recognise that being originally elected from another political party means that my relationship with those new colleagues will be different. But nevertheless I can see a lot of overlap in our areas of interest.”

In the past Council business stops for a month in the summer to give everyone a break. However, this year fortnightly meetings of the Policy and Sustainability Committee, taking on all council business has continued straight through July and August. Agendas have been long as the work to resume services, including the controversial return to school and the adaption and renewal programme starts to take shape. Council Committees are being brought back from the 1st September as we move to a new normal, but councillors and staff continue to work from home and meetings are on-line.

The Group held an EGM and agreed that Melanie Main and Alex Staniforth would continue as co-conveners for the Green group until May 2021.

Some highlights from the past month

Mary Campbell has continued to support community centres in their fight to gain access to their buildings to continue supporting the most vulnerable in the community

Claire Miller won support for an amendment at full council which means we will measure any “traffic evaporation” that occurs as a result of the tram works road closures. While this sounds very technical, it’s an important effect which happens when road space is removed, and overall volume of traffic decreases along with all the environmental benefits that brings.

In the Intergration Board Health and Social Care, Melanie Main saw the strategic commitment to Edinburgh’s 2030 Carbon Zero target taking a step forward with agreement for the first new GP surgery in Edinburgh to be built to Passive Haus standards; and the Green manifesto pledge to pay Living wage to all Edinburgh care workers agreed, not without controversy as the Scottish Government reneging on funding.

In Council, Melanie secured a commitment for a review of the operation of public conveniences across the city and an agreement to install pelican crossings, (cycles and pedestrians) rather than pedestrian only crossings whenever appropriate and possible.

Susan Rae is working with the Unite Black Cab branch and we hope to set up meetings with cycling activists to create a better understanding of each other’s issues, and with the Equalities Working Group, specifically around mobility and the difficulties faced by wheelchair users.

The Council’s Annual Performance Report came to Policy & Sustainablity committee, where Steve Burgess secured a mini-report on improvement plans for 27 areas in which council performance is declining.  Steve also won agreement that incremental targets for reducing climate-changing pollution to net zero by 2030 be developed.

At full Council on 25th, Steve Burgess secured a Green motion that criticised Scottish Government handling of the recent school exam fiasco and agreed to push for ‘more credible’ systems of assessment to be in place, should senior school exams not take place next year.   Council also agreed a motion of condolence for Covid nurse James Harrison who was tragically killed while cycling to work at the RIE in July, and which included agreement on a new ‘Vision Zero’ road safety plan.

On Planning Committee, Alex Staniforth has been pushing for action from the council in response to Andy Wightman MSP’s recent report on Short Term Lets in the city.

In Housing Committee, Chas Booth has been pushing for those with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’, who have been found accommodation during the Covid-19 crisis, to be given continued support and accommodation once the crisis is over.

At full Council Gavin Corbett secured support for a review, with Scottish Water, of surface water drainage, following the dramatic electrical storms of 11 August.  At the same meeting he also pressed the council on use of the herbicide glyphosate, use of which has reduced by 75% in 2020.  And in the Edinburgh Evening News, as a director of Edinburgh Solar Co-op, he highlighted the current second phase community share issue.

And in the wards…

Susan Rae has been working with residents in Rosslyn Crescent following the Lothian Buses’ sale of the Tramsways Bowling Club to an as yet unknown party. Whilst the residents were unsuccessful in their bid, we are currently waiting for information on the purchasers.

With Leith Choose, she has met with council officers to find a new approach to the event under Covid restrictions

Susan continues to monitor the situation with tramworks, walking them weekly, and have attended weekly sessions at the Leith Police Box, which is a great opportunity to meet constituents to discuss a range of issues and take part in pop up ‘events’.

Melanie Main brought community groups, and parent councils together to input to SpacesforPeople projects on the high streets. Draft plans for the renewal and renovation of Newbattle Terrace, a project Melanie instigated for street residents, including electric car charging, tree planting and improvements for walking and cycling have been put out to consultation, getting back on track after Covid. Melanie continues to support St Oswald’s Church community buy out, which took another step forward by winning the formal support of the Council.

Mary Campbell supported parents and secured an investigation after pupils received the wrong exam results. Read more in this article from the Edinburgh News.

In Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart, Gavin Corbett has been campaigning for a new footbridge over the Water of Leith to connect Chesser and Longstone. Read more in this Edinburgh News article.

In Leith, Chas Booth has been working with the community council and the tram team to try to avert the threatened destruction of the ‘Discovery Garden’ near Ocean Terminal.

The city centre community councils are meeting online, so Claire Miller attended both New Town & Broughton CC and the Old Town CC and spoke with them about the plans for Edinburgh’s Christmas this year – which will be a lower impact event than in previous years.

In Craigentiny Duddingston, Alex Staniforth has been fielding questions on the Piershill cycle path returning to construction. Work resumed mid-August.

South East Edinburgh Greens held their AGM, elected new officer bearers and discussed future plans including the possibility of organising a Burn’s Supper fundraiser in January.

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