Southside / Newington hustings on 1st May

The Hustings for the Southside / Newington ward will be held on Tuesday 1st May at 6pm at the Braidburn Inn on Mayfield Road.

The noted scholar and broadcaster Owen Dudley Edwards will chair the event.

This is your chance to ask the candidates questions and see what you think of them.

The Braidburn Inn has kindly donated the function suite and there will be sandwiches on arrival. Please indicate if you’re coming to give us an idea of numbers for refreshments.

Invited:

Steve Burgess – Scottish Green Party

Gordon Mackenzie – Scottish Liberal Democrats

Gordon Murdie – Independent

Jim Orr – Scottish National Party (SNP)

Ian Perry – Scottish Labour Party

Cameron Rose – Scottish Conservative and Unionist

No contact details found for these candidates! If anyone can help get in touch with them please contact edinburghmurdie@gmail.com

Margaret Lea – Liberal Party in Scotland

William Black – Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition

Posted in Elections 2012. Comments Off on Southside / Newington hustings on 1st May

Housing Benefit Arithmetic

Housing benefit is a much needed lifeline to those who need it – that is simply the way it is.

I have been approached by an Edinburgh citizen whose Housing Benefit difficulties are beyond understanding. How stressful does it need to get?

This friend has a 13-year-old disabled son and the Housing Benefit authorities say her flat is “oversized” because she has a spare room. Her rent is £1100 a month. The housing allowance she should be entitled to is about £600 a month. (I’ve calculated her entitlement on the council website – it should be about £600 each month, as a single parent of a disabled child over 11.) She’s not unemployed – she works 16 hours a week for minimum wage – that’s £94.88 weekly earned income.

Overall, this person’s Housing Benefit has ranged from just over £500 per month but gradually dribbled down to an amount of just over £200 per month. How would you like to cope with that on an already stretched budget? Truly dreadful.

This “housing allowance” for Edinburgh – I can’t understand how a mother with a disabled teenage son doesn’t even get enough to cover the rent of a two-bedroomed flat. They say her flat is “oversized” because she has a spare room (the penalty for “under-occupation” in the UK government’s Welfare Reform Act which wasn’t supposed to be law in Scotland yet) but the average monthly rent of a 2-bedroomed flat anywhere in the EH1 to EH12 postcodes will be over £600.

The graph below shows what the Housing Department reckon (not to use too strong a word) that this person’s “other income” is. There are 10 sets of figures upon which to expose the flawed delivery of Housing Benefit. 4 sets of the figures were produced on the same day (all different!), then 5 sets of figures produced on another day (all different!) then another figure produced this month (different again!).

Edinburgh Council Housing Department arithmetic

Housing benefit – could this be why Edinburgh Council is in 7th place out of 10 Scottish Urban Councils for “administration of benefits “– administration?

This lady’s had two threats of eviction from her landlord because of Housing Benefit being held and not processed.

But now her housing benefit has been cut again because the housing department are claiming she’s got another source of income, which varies between twenty and twenty-nine thousand pounds a year on top of her earned income.
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Newington Library celebrates World Book Day

Best wishes for World Book Day at Newington Library.

Monday is World Book Day and to celebrate Newington is giving out mystery books selected by the staff.Yes that’s right mystery books, come in to the library and ask for a specially wrapped suprise book, either it will prove to be a gateway to a wonderful new world or a source of grave disappointment and I guess that’s what will make it fun!

As someone once said “a house without books is like a room without windows”.

Nothing beats sitting down, turning the pages and getting lost in a good book – a Kindle is just not the same.

Our city’s not for sale

If you live in the Newington/Southside ward, you’ll have seen in my election leaflet that I wrote:

Who, in their right mind, would vote along party lines to spend £4 million pounds of council taxpayers money for a study into something that they had no intention of seeing through? That biblical incompetence and chronic misguided party political driven wastefulness means that the entire population of Hallhead Road (where I grew up) will be paying their Council Tax for the next 60 years just to fund that particular piece of party political shenanigans – this is unacceptable.

I’d seen the arguments about privatisation reported in the Scotsman and local blogs, with councillors slanging each other along party lines.

Fundamentally, I believe that core Council services should simply be delivered “in house” by a good, motivated, loyal workforce, an appreciated workforce, delivering the basic services within the community.

I am fond of the principle of a workforce dedicated to public service and appreciated for their efforts. To abandon something that pretty well works and go through a quagmire of term contracts, outplacement service contracts and monitoring – it would have been a difficult path and I don’t believe it would have saved any money.

Handing out wholesale service delivery to companies driven by profit would most likely end in tears and it would be a mammoth task to reverse when the experiment failed. And what would have happened to the families of the workforce of the council?

Certain pockets of necessary specialist expertise will always require to be “bought in” but I would prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule.

That would have been my starting point if I’d been on the council when the idea of “Alternative Business Model” was brought up.

As for this kind of treatment of council employees – shameful is the only word for it.

“The management put a notice up for 12 days’ overtime, which we had the option to work on our days off, but after two days they took it down and we found out Enterprise were going to be brought in.

“We actually had to find out from an agency worker rather than the management.

“The council is always on about saving money but surely it would be cheaper to pay us.”

The worker added: “The guys are thinking too much work is being handed over and the morale has really dropped because it would have boosted their wages.”

And it seems to me the campaign Edinburgh Against Privatisation was a real example of local democracy in action. A councillor should represent Edinburgh and the people of the ward that elected them – that’s what local democracy is about.

Vote for Gordon Murdie

STV, Provosts, and Mayors

On 4 May, we could have people being in key positions in our main cities as a result of behind-the-scenes bargaining and exchange between parties – that’s a worry:

Here in Scotland, if you asked your average punter who the leading lights were in any of the parties standing in Edinburgh or Glasgow, they’d be struggling. Voters are being asked to choose the parties they want to lead their local councils; we are not to be trusted with actually electing the people to lead our cities. That is a matter to be carved up behind closed doors, either as a choice from that group’s members, or possibly as a result of negotiations to form a coalition administration. On 4 May, we could have people being in key positions in our main cities as a result of horse-trading – people few will have heard of, have had the chance to scrutinise, or would have chosen if they had been given a direct vote.

In Edinburgh, the civic head is the Lord Provost (convenor of the council, also Lord-Lieutenant of Edinburgh and Admiral of the Firth of Forth). In the City Chambers you can see lists of names in gold paint of men (and two women) who have held that office since the 13th century. None were directly elected by the people of Edinburgh.

Click here for an online vote at Kate Higgins’s BurdzEyeView: Should Scotland have elected mayors?

Now about the Single Transferable Vote.

There is understandable confusion about the mathematical mechanics of this new voting system. It is intended to allow voters to give their preferences on as many candidates as they wish. A matter of consideration and choice for voters – also a judgement on past performance. If their first preference last time round has had a little calamity or two, then the system allows that candidate to become a 2nd or 3rd choice rather than no choice at all.

Apparently the parties are nervous enough of their track record to be demanding that their party members only vote for the party candidate and forsake giving any other candidate a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th choice. Oh, the playground nature of party politics! This election is about representing the people of Edinburgh, not party points scoring – I don’t forget that.

As the excellent Liberal Sellout blog advises:

We also already know there will be no majority administration. So why, therefore should you slavishly vote for a donkey with the ‘correct’ rosette? You the voter have been shorn of that duty to take the dullard in order to deliver a party majority for the ‘greater good’. So please don’t do it.

And with the Single Transferable Vote it is possible to be particularly sophisticated with that vote.

But one word of warning. Make sure that this candidate really does back your cause, this is a heart felt commitment, not a platitude on the back of a leaflet. Ask yourself this: will they commit to this policy beyond May 3rd, when it really matters?

I welcome your questions. My professional focus has been on the statutory repairs scandal for some time now – but I’m no one-trick pony.

Posted in Elections 2012. Tags: , . Comments Off on STV, Provosts, and Mayors

Right first time? Pothole.

Gina Davidson, Edinburgh Evening News, 17th February:

The trick which Jenny Dawe and Steve Cardownie have performed in the last week is certainly worthy of membership of the Edinburgh Magic Circle. Unfortunately for them, it looks likely that the public will see what their miraculous £26 million spending spree just weeks before the council elections really is – a fiscal illusion.

A straw poll of friends and relatives gave one reaction to the news that, as if from nowhere, the council had discovered millions to spend on services – it’s an election bribe.

Gina Davidson presents a strong case with the observation that this is all being funded by an unexpected £22m windfall from the Scottish Government.

In the paper itself, on the facing page, we were reminded by the transport leader, Gordon “Full Tram Route” Mackenzie, that the present Council’s “initiative” of getting road repairs “Right First Time” (yes, really) has won an award.  Seems it’s the sort of award you actually have to take time out to apply for and invariably pay a submission fee – it’s not exactly being singled out for a well deserved yet unexpected prize!

Before we all start dancing around road cones and temporary traffic lights in unbridled celebration it might be useful to dig below the surface.

At an awards dinner over in Derry/Londonderry way back in September 2010, the City of Edinburgh Council does appear to have won an award for filling potholes. The Association for Public Service Excellence did actually hold such an event. It was hosted by an Irish TV personality and sponsored by the Local Authorities Caterers Association.

No less than 300 submissions were received for a mere 22 awards and the hopefully fun packed evening was no doubt thoroughly enjoyed by the 400 people attending from Councils all over the UK – what a worthwhile night out.

You may be interested to know that Cornwall Council won the award for “Best service team – Highways, winter maintenance and street lighting” – so well done them.

Our Council got a prize for fixing potholes and presumably 278 Councils spent time filling in application forms and not getting an award at all!

I am really only half interested to know if anyone from our Council actually flew over to the Emerald Isle to collect the award and if their hotel was nice. Maybe there are some photos of the event which we could all share?

Ryanair’s booking desk awaits reservations to fly off to collect the “Most disappointing, expensive and unnecessary tram project in the world” and “most outstanding mismanagement of Statutory Repairs ever” awards.

Anyway, 8,000 extra pothole repairs it is from the Scottish Government’s £22m – all filled in under the “initiative” of Right First Time too. Surely, Edinburgh deserves more.

I wonder if any airline pilots or surgeons have taken time out to send money and fill in a form for an “award” for doing exactly what we hope and expect they should do?? Right First Time indeed.

Vote for Gordon Murdie

Posted in Elections 2012, Road repairs. Tags: . Comments Off on Right first time? Pothole.

It’s not just the trams

Alan Cochrane (Telegraph, 16th April) calls it “the policy that dare not speak its name”, “the shambolic farce” – the trams. He asks

And so, with local elections looming who is to blame for this fiasco and who should be punished in the polling booth?

and his answer is:

If I know my local politicians they’ll all say, in relation to The Trams fiasco: “It wasnae me.” But it was them – all of them, who’ve served on that council in recent years. So let’s get rid of the lot.

Least culpable, I suppose, are the SNP representatives. That party has always been against the project and, to be fair to them, Alex Salmond and John Swinney, his finance minister, tried to axe it when they first came to power in 2007. However, in those days they were outvoted by Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Those three parties, in both Holyrood and the City Chambers, are most to blame and while they all now try to heap all the ordure on each other, the voters are entitled to apportion responsibility for the foul-up fairly evenly.

That said, 2007 also saw SNP councillors going into partnership to run Edinburgh – voluntarily, it must be said – with the Lib Dems and they must surely accept a share of the blame, therefore, for the appalling descent into even greater chaos.

Astonishingly, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP have all published Edinburgh council election “manifestoes” and none have even mentioned The Trams. Incredible. To me that is proof positive of their collective and individual guilt.

National politics played out in Edinburgh have brought national shame upon our City.  As far as the trams are concerned, a laughing stock rather than a rolling stock.  We are also lagging behind in delivery of basic, fundamental services  – take home care for the elderly as one example.  Edinburgh is in 7th place out of 10 Councils. Too much time spent by the present incumbents on vanity projects, embroidering party rosettes and climbing the greasy party political pole and not enough time representing the people of Edinburgh – time for a new broom to sweep health care for the elderly into perfect shape and sweep incompetent, scandalous waste into history.
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