30 December 2010

1 in 5 to Hit Century

Longevity is the  main theme of today's posting. The news that one in five of current UK residents will live to be 100 years old is staggering. We have massive demographic challenges ahead of us because while  that one in five may have longevity on their (our hopefully) side the chances are that these 10 million people will be frail and that presents a public policy headache. How do we provide services to help maintain the quality of life for so many frail people with dwindling resources? This has been a recurring theme of my time in administration - making what little we have go a very  very long way.The problem will just get more and more acute not least because every school leaver in the near future is going to have to work in the care sector just to look after those who need care.
The death of Jazz legend  Billy Taylor was announced today. Taylor was the composer of I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free an anthem for the US Civil Rights Movement so perfectly articulated by Nina Simone. It was also the theme tune for Barry Norman's Film shows on the BBC for many years. 

Billy Taylor died at the age of 89 with a string of lifetime milestones. What strikes me about jazz is the longevity of composers and performers many who live well into their late 80's. I am especially struck by the ability of Jazz drummers to play such a physical instrument well into old age. Now I accept that there are exceptions to this but compare the life expectancy of a major Jazz star to say a comic. British comedy is stacked with greats who never saw 60. I do wonder if the freedom jazz gives its performers might be the key to this.  It is very much an art form that empowers its performers. Improvise is very much the name of the game. There is evidence that empowerment is very good for your health.

As usual I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

20 December 2010

Deep Freeze Edinburgh, Year End Winners and Journalism Loses a Great

Edinburgh is  still in the midst of a very cold snap. We had a bit of a thaw last week but not enough to completely melt the residual ice and snow or to allow the clearing of all of the snow bound streets and pavements.

We had a heavy fall yesterday and the rest of the week is going to be just one big freeze! The problem is that  with the heavy falls followed by very cold nights the ice becomes difficult to shift. One street in my ward too  a digger and 4 men to clear it and after half a day they still hadn't finished. Like concrete bonded to the asphalt.

I understand that tonight in spite of temperatures of minus 15 degrees centigrade Manchester City are still determined to play their league match against Everton.  I really wonder why  anyone would want to endure an outdoor event like that in such cold temperatures.  No wonder Tevez wants to leave but at least he is being paid for it.

Since my last posting we have had an 11 hour council meeting, the tuition fees flip flops by all sides with Alan Johnston, the Labour Minister that introduced fees,  admitting to "Champions League inconsistency".

We have had winners galore of the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing  and the Apprentice.  The latter three were evidence, according one  story in today's papers, that TV has never been more popular. When it is minus 20 outside and the alternative is a frozen stroll to the pub even Alan Sugars outpourings seem more palatable!

Lastly I cannot let the passing of Brian Hanrahan go without comment. He was only 61 and established himself as a great of the journalistic world  with his dispatches from the Falkland Islands during the 1982 war there. His observation about the numbers returning from an air raid that he "counted them all out and I counted them all back" is a great quotes from a great journalist. That Trade had lost a real giant.

11 December 2010

Bethany Brings Homeless In From The Cold

The Edinburgh Evening News carried this excellent feature on the work of the Bethany Christian Trust. 


The Bethany Shelters are not funded by the Council  - though we do have a number of services we commission from them. They are therefore paid for by their shops, donation and the sale of  Christmas trees. 
This year as in previous years I will not be sending Christmas cards but will be making a donation to Bethany when I go and get my tree later this week.

I am sure any family, friends and colleagues reading this will not feel slighted.

8 December 2010

Here's looking at You Kid

For the last nine years I have been  proud to serve on the Board of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  

I have had the joy of working with so many talented and creative people. It has always been a Board of the highest calibre  whose members have more  fingers in pies than fingers! 

The Festival  has recently morphed into the Centre for the Moving Image by merging with the Edinburgh Film House, the UK's most successful art house cinema and Edinburgh's best Cafe/Bar by a mile. After nine years as a Director and with the new structure beginning to take a real shape the time has come to call it a day. 

It has been a blast. I have enjoyed it all immensely and the new replenished CMI board  has so much talent and enthusiasm I am sure that they  will go from strength to strength.

So good luck to all at the Festival and Film House and I'll see you at the pictures!

Funding for Domestic Abuse Saved

I am really proud of what we have achieved in cutting crime and anti social behaviour in Edinburgh but one  area which  has stubbornly plateaued is that of domestic abuse. When I heard from Shakti and Edinburgh Women's Aid that the SNP government were going to cut their budget I was only too pleased as a Council Convener  to write to the Scottish Government  in support of their work.

I was delighted to learn yesterday, all be it from a Labour source, that Alex Neil, the Communities Minister, had announced in the House that the funding was secure.  

I think that is the right decision.

3 December 2010

Public Steps Up to the Plate to Beat the Big Freeze

The weather has dominated the week. Blizzard conditions have been the norm. I can't ever remember seeing so much snow and certainly not in November. 

I have been very impressed by the  efforts of the  general public but I am particularly impressed and proud of our council staff. I dropped in the Fords Road Care Home to learn how they were coping. Staff had largely managed to travel to work but the Manager had stayed over on Sunday night just to be sure that  there was some one there in the morning.

We have also started to deliver food parcels to vulnerable people  who have no relatives, carers or neighbours who can help them with shopping. I visited the team up at Firhill Day Centre who were putting these together. They were in excellent spirits in spite of each having to walk an hour to work. 

An ironic aside - the cafe in the Day Centre had run out of snowballs  on Tuesday just when the snow was at it's deepest! 

We don't know how long this freeze is going to last but everyone is doing their very best in trying circumstances.

2 December 2010

Right To Die Bill Falls

The Scottish Parliament threw out  Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill  yesterday by a comfortable majority.  The vote went  85 against with 18 for and two abstentions.  The voting split across party lines. There was a rare free vote in Holyrood with MSP's I know, like and respect voting in different ways. 

The Right to Die Bill, as it became known, tried to address one of the last taboos namely whether some one has the right to decide if they can die when their quality of life deteriorates to a level that they can no longer bare it. 

While I have heard is compelling arguments on both side I have not been in  a position to review all of the evidence. I simply do not know what the right answer is on this issue. I do think that being able to discuss this issue in a mature fashion for the first time is a major step forward. We have yet to have anything like this discussion at Westminster. All too often people who raise issues such as this have their heard knocked off when they raise them above the parapet.