22 February 2012

Keys Handed over to New Tenants in Gracemount

I was delighted to hand the keys over to the new tenants of the first new Council Housing in a generation.

The new homes pictured above are in Gracemount and the ones in this picture are a modern take on the colony style flats we have seen elsewhere in the city in places such as Shandon and Stockbridge.

The project is ongoing and  is to be extended to two more areas to add to the three original areas.

I am so proud that we are building council housing again.  It demonstrates the pragmatic approach to housing that the Lib Dem led administration has shown and is a huge vote of confidence in our Housing teams in the city. 

19 February 2012

Build it and They Will Come!

Lord Provost George Grubb and Robert Aldridge
Friday saw the  official opening of the new Drumbrae Library Hub.I promised to post some snaps and here are a couple.

The Hub had  been actively open for just a fortnight when they welcomed their 10 000th visitor proving if ever there was doubt that the Lib Dems had been right to campaign along side the Drumbrae Community for this marvellous facility.

Reg Kingman speaking at the opening
The opening speeches included  obviously Lord Provost Grubb and Community Council Chair Reg Kingman. Reg has been a great servant to the Community and it was great to see  his enjoyment of a facility that was so hard won.

There was also praise all round for Robert Aldridge the local Councillor who has fought so hard for the building of the library since well before his election in 1984.

17 February 2012


A Press Statement re our excellent Parks

The quality of Edinburgh’s parks and greenspaces has been recognised with a gold award at last night’s COSLA Excellence Awards (16 February).

The ceremony in St Andrews saw the City of Edinburgh Council’s Parks and Greenspace service chosen from a shortlist of three other local authorities.

The gold COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Award commends the excellent practice adopted by the Council’s parks and greenspace service. In recent years a new approach to joint working has seen Friends groups, local residents and the Council working closely together to deliver well-managed and well-maintained parks and greenspaces.

The service already has a strong track-record with improvement recognised through a variety of awards and accolades including the 2010 Beautiful Scotland “City” Award and Silver Gilt Medal at the 2011 Britain in Bloom UK Finals, a record twenty Green Flag Awards in 2011 and recognition by APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence), who judged Edinburgh the UK's Best Parks, Grounds & Horticultural Service Team in 2011.

Councillor Jenny Dawe, Council Leader, said: “Our parks and greenspaces are consistently improving year on year and to achieve this award in these difficult financial times is testament to the efforts of everyone involved.

“I am delighted that our innovative approach to delivering clean, green and safe parks for everyone has been recognised at a national level.”

Mark Turley, Director of Services for Communities, said: “The Parks and Greenspace staff who have developed this ground breaking service fully deserve last night’s accolade.

“Since 2008 we have worked hard to transform the service and through working with local communities every step of the way, this city now has an enviable reputation for having one of best performing parks and greenspaces service in the UK.”

In 2008 the Council set a target to improve the quality of every single park in the city. At that time only 55% of parks were judged to meet the acceptable standard of quality. By 2011 this had risen to 82%.

The city is also to become one of the UK’s first “Green Flag Authorities” in recognition of its innovation and leading role in greenspace management excellence.

COSLA President, Councillor Pat Watters CBE, said: “The COSLA Excellence Awards showcase and celebrate the very best of Scottish Local Government. The sheer impact being achieved by these projects is proof that Scotland’s local services are in great shape.

“Every one of our finalists have set new standards for excellence, and demonstrated innovative ways of dealing with some of Scotland’s most complex issues. Their results speak for themselves, but above all else, I have been struck by the utter determination and passion that council workers and our partners have for improving outcomes for their communities.”

The COSLA Excellence Awards celebrate and reward the most innovative and passionate developments in local government. They recognise projects that can demonstrate excellent service delivery to communities.

Grubb Opens new Library

Today sees the official opening of the  magnificent Drumbrae Library Hub by Lord Provost George Grubb.  

The Hub has been a long time coming - 40 years or so. I am really pleased it has been opened on our watch. Every Lib Dem budget since I was elected to the City council  had the Library in it.  In spite of being in power for 24 years on the old District and City Councils  Labour never proposed this library. ell in the 17 days  since it opened 10 000 people have visited it! That is extraordinary!

The team of officers who have put this amazing project together deserve so much praise but so to do the Drum Brae Community led by the admirable Reg Kingman the long serving Community Council  Chair and also local councillor Robert Aldridge who both kept the pressure up on the council over many, many, years. Well done all!

I will post some snaps of the event when I can.

13 February 2012

Sound Investment for Edinburgh

Last week was suitably eventful climaxing with the councils budget meeting on Thursday. 

Thanks to the careful husbandry of the councils finances over the last few years by Phil Wheeler and also to a more generous local government settlement that we had anticipated we found ourselves in a reasonable position for this financial year.

Rather than run up  big un-earmarked reserves we chose to invest wisely in projects such as telecare equipment and mending the roads. We also invested record amounts in care services and fixing up the school estate. There is a long and extensive list of excellent  initiatives  we have invested in which will make the lives of local people much better.

The budget motion can be viewed on this link.


8 February 2012

Tabor Cleans up at BBC Folk Awards

Well done June Tabor who has swept the boards at the BBC Folk awards. I first saw Tabor thirty years ago when she pitched up with Martyn Simpson  to support the great Silly Wizard at their Playhouse sell out concert.

With support of that calibre the main act had their work cut out for them. They did not disappoint. For my money the finest Scottish Folk Band ever here is a reminder of just how good they were.


7 February 2012

Speak Out Speak Up In Drumbrae

Last night I had the honour of doing the introduction to the first talk we have had at our magnificent new Drum Brae Library Hub

Our speaker was Eva Clarke who had come to speak as part of the Speak Out Speak Up Holocaust Memorial project I have written about in the past.

Eva's story was the most remarkable one I have heard in a very long time if ever. She told of how her parents were married in Czechoslovakia in the early days of the war before being sent of to concentration camps.   Eva was born in a coal wagon outside Mathausen Concentration Camp one week before the war ended and a few days after the gas chambers were destroyed as the guards tried to cover up their crimes.

Nothing I can ever write here would do her extraordinary tale of survival against massive odds justice.  She ended up living in Cardiff with her mother and step father. 

It struck me while looking at the old black and white photos in her presentation  they seemed so old and so long ago and yet Eva is only two years older than my oldest brother. The total contrast in their first few years of life was as stark as it is possible to imagine.

We were very fortunate to have such an accomplished speaker in Eva. She had spoken at two schools yesterday before us and was off to the Royal High this morning. We forget the suffering   that Eva and those that experienced those awful times endured at our peril.

3 February 2012

No Knives, Autism Discussions and Drumbrae hub Opens for Business

It has been another pretty intense week. My posting has not been as frequent as I would have liked. Sometimes it is difficult to decide what to post about out of so many issues going on at once.

This afternoon I took part in the launch of the next phase of the No Knives Better Lives anti knife crime campaign. 

The No Knives campaign was trialled in Inverclyde with great results and  we have rolled it out in the North of the city. Today it was extended to the Gorgie, Sighthill and Wester Hailes areas.

We do not have huge  problems with knife crime in Edinburgh but  it is still to prevalent.

My message was that carrying a knife makes you more likely to be a victim and can land you a prison sentence.

This morning I spoke at the AGM of the Lothian Autistic Society.

As a parent of children with ASD it was interesting meeting so many in the same boat as me and swapping our shared experiences.  They had often struggled with issues relating to schooling and had the same concerns  about transition from school to  adult life.

The general feeling was that Edinburgh Council do a good job in this area but it is still room for improvement.

On Tuesday the superb Drumbrae Library Hub finally opened to the public. We will have an official opening in a couple of weeks but on day one 1300 people visited.

All involved in this fantastic project are to be  congratulated. I am so proud that the Lib Dems in power in Edinburgh have delivered on this much sought after local facility.