30 January 2011

GPS Device Helps Students Learn To Travel

On Thursday I attended the press launch of our latest Telecare initiative.  The  Council has become the first local authority in Scotland to use GPS  technology to train pupils who have some special needs. Its success builds on previous pioneering Telecare initiatives, which have helped hundreds of older people in the Capital remain independent in their own homes. 

Traditionally some pupils being taught to self travel are done so by teachers who have to accompany them over an average eight week period as they travel from their homes to school.

However, thanks to the SkyGuard GPS device, the need for staff to accompany them is eliminated and training is completed a lot quicker, with teachers able to train more pupils.

The pupil carries the hand held device whilst the teacher is able to rely on the computer system to tell them the exact location of the pupil, with the added reassurance of two way communication and an SOS facility.

This initiative is terrific. It helps the user gain confidence and Independence and really opens doors  for them as many people can't get college placements etc if they can't self travel.

The scope of what we can do with this technology can be  widened to help maintain the  independence of others such as people with dementia.  All in all it is  a very exciting time for our telecare team.

26 January 2011

Captains Taylors Ship Refloated on a Sea of Coffee

This morning saw me visiting the newly opened Captain Taylor's Coffee House to support  our partners Streetwork in their new social enterprise. Streetwork are one the  charities who deliver our homelessness strategy and the new coffee outlet on South Bridge is there to help them get people back on their feet and into work again.  The event went off very well and all seemed very happy.  I am told the coffee is excellent  - I am a tea drinker and coffee isn't something I am an expert on!  Best of luck to them.

From there to the NHS Board meeting all be it a little late. The Chief Exec  seated next to me  told me he had given councils glowing praise for our performance on Delayed Discharge over the years. He has a point. In 2005 there was something like 512 people blocking beds across Lothian. That figure is now around a fifth of that now at worst.

Lastly I attended an event at the Art College on Design and the Build Environment. One of the speakers was Edinburgh University Vice Principle April McMahon who has just caused a stir by being appointed Principal of Aberystwyth University. In spite of being multi lingual and speaking Gaelic no less various Welsh Language Groups are up in arms. So much for Celtic solidarity.

At the time of writing Rangers are two up against the Mighty Hibernian. My mantra of "Thank god for Hamilton" is wearing a little thin as  Hamilton  are not that many points below us in the league. I fear that out lovely completed stadium will be the best ground in the First Division next season! Time to bring back Laurie Reilly and Eddie Turnbull.

25 January 2011

Oscar Nod For Edinburgh Film

I was delighted to see that the Illusionist  has been shortlisted for the Best Animated  Film Oscar. The film based on a Jacques Tati  script and  made by French animator Sylvain Chomet was his "love letter" to Edinburgh and would be a worthy winner.

I am about to speak at the opening of consultation event for the Western  Edinburgh Neighbourhood Plan. We have achieved so much working at a neighbourhood level over the last three years in areas such community safety, young people, the environment and transport. It will be interesting to get residents perspectives and to see what their priorities are over the next few years.

Sadly this means that there will be no Burns supper for me tonight save from the vegetarian haggis and turnip I have waiting in the fridge for later. I don't do original haggis  - I know what is in it - a good vegetarian one is very nice even if butchers dismiss it as broth mix!

Child Protection Improves In Capital

This morning I spent  mainly sitting in on the Children Families and Education Committee of the Council.

Most of the  meeting was taken up with a lengthy discussion about improving access for sports and community groups to our schools after hours. What quietly slipped through though was a report into how well our Child protection services are performing compared to when we took over administration in 2007.

Much credit goes to our capable Head of Department, Gillian Tee, and our  excellent Chief Social Work Officer, Michelle Miller. They produced a radical set of proposals to reform the management of Children's Social Work in Edinburgh in  2008.  Much credit also should go to the Committee Convener Maryline MacLaren who bravely pushed these necessary reforms through in the face of stiff opposition from Labour and the Unions.

There are still improvements to be made to our Child Protection Services  but we have come so far  in the last three years.

23 January 2011

Rock Superstars Bound for Murrayfield

A bustling week continued with  the fist meeting of the year of the Corstorphine Community Council. Local resident  chewed over a number of issues ranging from planning applications  to local policing.  

Kings of Leon bound for Murrayfield
Thursday saw me attending one of the  occasional meeting between residents and  the Scottish Rugby Union at Murrayfield Stadium. 

The main issue here was the two concerts , Bon Jovi and the Kings of Leon, planned for June. There is always  real nervousness on the part of the residents and local councillors  regarding concerts at the stadium after two visits by Oasis  in the past which resulted in some very anti social behaviour. The Council and Police work very closely with promoters to prevent disturbances. All are hopeful that these scenes will not be repeated and that concert goers will be able to enjoy themselves without feeling the desire to trash the area. 

On the sporting front all were very keen to see our National side do well in the forthcoming Five Nations  and World Cup.

I finished off the normal week with a  visit to the North West Reablement Team in Corstorphine. This was an opportunity for the team to show how they have implemented this  excellent  policy initiative and they did not disappoint.  

No one now can see a down side to this project though Labour and Green Councillors, astonishingly, opposed it early on. It has delivered better quality of life for frail older people and better value for money allowing us to reinvest the savings made and  begin to really tackle the strain on our care system caused by demographics.

19 January 2011

Dog Bites Man - Hibs Out of Cup

If the Mighty Hibernian ever are going to win the cup they need a coalescence of good fortune and a  little skill.

One of these would be Celtic and Rangers being drawn together at an early stage. Another would be the third placed team of the year being knocked out. Lastly we would  need a ridiculously easy draw against  say first or second division clubs. If all of those things come together then maybe,  just maybe, they would stand a chance...assuming that the the team actually turned up and play like footballers and not a bunch of haddies.

We had all of the above this year and for the second year running we were bundled out by a team from a lower division. Someone else will raise the famous trophy this year. Another town  will enjoy the open topped bus ride by their victorious hero's (assuming that it isn't the Old Firm who win too often to merit it). Scottish footballs underachievers 109 year wait before they lift the cup again will be at least 110 years and probably 130 at this rate.

18 January 2011

After 30 Year Wait - Drum Brae Library Sod Cutting

(Clockwise from the left Margaret Smith MSP, Paul Edie, Cllr Phil Wheeler, Cllr Jenny Dawe and Cllr Robert Aldridge)
I was delighted to attend the ground breaking ceremony for the new Drum Brae Library and Day Centre this afternoon. It was a very well attended event with a Minister, Councillors for the area and our new Chief Executive making her debut.  

More info can be found about the project on the official press statement:

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/324/breaking_new_ground_at_drum_brae_as_work_starts_on_pioneering_library_and_day_care_hub

The site was in my council ward for 13 years  and along with my Lib Dem colleagues we campaigned for the library for many more years than that!   I am so pleased to see this  terrific project getting underway.

Credit has to go the staff at Hub Co. who have are rightly basking in the glory of their first project in the South East  getting underway and also our excellent West  Local team who have put so much into this. Both groups can be so proud today can't wait to see the finished and operating building.

3 January 2011

Edinburgh Footballers Join Campaign Against Domestic Abuse

I was immensely proud of both Edinburgh teams who took the field of play for the New Year Edinburgh Derby. Both Hibs and Hearts were sporting white ribbons in support of Lothian and Borders Polices campaign against domestic abuse. Stats show that this time of year sees an increase in domestic abuse hence the timing of the campaign. We have made massive inroads in Edinburgh in tackling all sorts of crime but domestic abuse is the one area where these levels have remained static.  

It was terrific to see both clubs to get right behind L&B's efforts in this area.

Bye 2010 Hello 2011

Happy New Year. I am looking forward to 2011 and all it has to bring. 2010 was an extraordinary year with the events   the General election followed by the coalition discussions marking a sea change in British politics. The excitement of Liberals being in government for the first time since WWII and then the slings and arrows of being in power.

The most heart warming story of 2010 took place deep underground in a mine in Chile. For me the tale of  survival was the most extraordinary and optimistic of 2010 not least when just a few weeks later another major tragedy occurred in New Zealand with more tragic end to the story. 

2011 has started badly on the sporting front with Hearts hammering the Mighty Hibernian 1 - 0 and by the sounds of things Hibs were lucky to get 0! 


England had the Ashes stitched up by Hogmany and there are mutterings about Ricky Ponting being sacked. Ponting, a Tasmanian, has led Australia through the one of their most successful spells in their history and is one of the three top batsmen in the world over the last 20 years (according to yesterdays Observer anyway). It would be so sad to see him sacked and/or dropped. Yesterday the famous run of away from by Inverness Caledonian was finally halted. Inverness had managed not to lose a single match away from home for more than a year and lost  to a late goal at St Johnstone.  

2011 was greeted by our massive street party in Edinburgh.  I had a very quiet night in at home and  I did not choose to join my Vice Convenor Norman and MSP Margaret Smith who took part in this years "Loony Dook" in Queensferry. This involves around 1000 people taking a noon time dip in the Firth of Forth. I was the first Councillor to do this  some 10 years ago and it was freezing! Norman has done this for at least three years raising much needed funds for Queensferry Churches Care in the Community and Margaret   has done it too many times to count. Well done to all involved.

New Years Resolutions: The usual about more exercise and  I am going to stop buying biscuits and I am going to try to stop buying cheese - for a few weeks anyway.